Performance Plus homes seek to reduce concerns about efficiency, costs

Georgia Power’s EarthCents New Home Communities

Acadia Homes and Neighborhoods: 770-319-7424,

CalAtlantic Homes (formerly Ryland): 770-587-1667,

Fischer Homes: 404-220-9951,

Heritage Construction and Development: 678-289-5953,

Intown Renewal Developers: 678-755-8894,

Jeremy Rutenburg and Associates: 404-333-1959,

JTR Prestige Homes: 678-838-0016

KB Home: 1-888-KB-HOMES,

Kerley Family Homes: 770-792-5500,

Lennar Homes: 770-575-1830,

Mountain View Homebuilders: 770-654-3435,

Paran Homes: 678-726-9646,

Pulte: 877-753-7316,

Smith Douglas Homes: 770-213-8067,

Thrive Homes: 404-474-4814,

Homebuyers conscientious about reducing their carbon footprint can work with builders in several metro Atlanta neighborhoods who are offering energy-efficient features and an energy usage guarantee.

Communities in Georgia Power's EarthCents New Home program focus on green building practices that use high-end building materials and reduce power bills (see box for list of builders). In addition, Acadia Homes and Neighborhoods launched a new Performance Plus plan that focuses on high-performance HVAC systems and air quality in homes.

“It’s not enough to simply build a beautiful home anymore,” said Michael Rosenberg, chief operating officer for Acadia Homes and Neighborhoods. “It’s the responsible thing to do for the environment and for families who purchase our homes.”

Acadia works with Atlanta-based Ensign Building Solutions, a building science company that specializes in home energy efficiency and indoor air quality. Ensign has created a high-performance HVAC system that features MERV-rated (or minimum efficiency reporting value) air filters that produce lower Home Energy Rating System scores, known as HERS. These scores are 15 percent better than homes built to standard code requirements in the Atlanta area and carry an energy usage guarantee for the first five years of home ownership, according to Acadia.

Performance Plus is available in Sterling on the Lake in Flowery Branch, The Village on Pine in Roswell, Post Oak Glen in Cumming, Enclave at Wills Park in Alpharetta, Townsend at Decatur, Townsend at Lenox Park and Townsend at Toco Hills. The program was launched after construction started in a couple of those communities. At Post Oak Glen, all homes except the two models feature Performance Plus, and at Sterling on the Lake, everything except the model and about seven homes feature Performance Plus. The cost to add Performance Plus would be about $2,000, according to Acadia.

Here are four key features in energy-efficient building, which are part of Acadia’s Performance Plus homes.

1. Energy usage guarantee: Proper installation of insulation in floors, walls and attics results in lower utility costs and a quieter home. A more efficient home means about $300-$400 in savings on utility bills annually, which adds up to thousands of dollars saved during a decade of ownership, according to Georgia Power. Acadia's guarantee promises that utility bills won't hike up during peak times in the summer and winter.

2. Cleaner air: The HERS Index has become the national industry standard for measuring a home's energy performance. A lower score is better. A standard new home has a HERS score of 90, which meets standard code requirements. Performance Plus homes receive a HERS score of 75.

3. Increased energy efficiency: Materials such as premium insulation, high-performance windows, and tight construction and ducts can increase efficiency. Design techniques, including upgraded sealing and caulk, seal holes and cracks in ducts to reduce drafts, dust, moisture, noise, pollen and rodents. Indoor air quality is improved and maintenance costs can be lowered.

4. Improved durability: Upgraded building materials last longer. Plus, windows with advanced coatings and design that keep heat in during the winter and out during the summer have an additional feature — they block ultraviolet sunlight that discolors carpets and furniture.