Zero Energy Ready Home Certification for California

A Department of Energy (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) is a high-performance home so energy efficient that a renewable energy system could offset most, or all the home’s annual energy use. HERS Raters inspect, test and certify ZERH homes through CHEERS, a DOE approved Home Certification Organization.





Industry leading quality and standards

Leading ENERGY STAR certified home builders are looking for the next steps in superior home performance and market differentiation. ZERH takes the homeowner experience to a higher level of efficiency, comfort, health, and durability.

Requirements include:

  • ENERGY STAR certification
  • Indoor airPLUS certification
  • High performance windows
  • High performance attics or buried ducts
  • Efficient hot water delivery systems
  • LED lightning & ENERGY STAR appliances
  • Solar system or “solar ready equipment” installed

Up to a $5,000 tax credit per address

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 amended Internal Revenue Code Section 45L to provide a tax credit for new homes that meet DOE ZERH program requirements.​

Builders can receive up to $5,000 per single family new residential home and $1,000 per multi-family dwelling address.

These new 45L rules apply to homes acquired after December 31, 2022, and before January 1, 2033, for use as a residence during the taxable year.

Zero Energy Ready Homes with CHEERS

Like ENERGY STAR, independent verification is a central component of the ZERH program. HERS Raters provide third-party inspection services giving homebuyers confidence that their new home meets the stringent program requirements underlying the nation’s premier federal home efficiency program.

Here is the typical road to ZERH certification:​

Builders register with DOE as ZERH partner
Home is designed per ZERH requirements
Home is built to ZERH requirements
ZERH features are verified by a HERS Rater

CHEERS is your HCO for above code programs

CHEERS has partnered with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to implement the ZERH and ENERGY STAR programs in California. As an approved Home Certification Organization, CHEERS is your one-stop-shop for federal efficiency programs in California.​

Frequently asked questions

Most ZERH builders initially build and certify homes under the ENERGY STAR Residential New Construction program. Because ENERGY STAR certification is a prerequisite for ZERH certification, this is a good place to start.

Next, builders should review the ZERH program requirements, which include the mandatory requirements of ENERGY STAR and Indoor airPLUS from the EPA along with other requirements established by DOE. Once you understand these components, you can become a program partner by registering here. Next, find a HERS Rater to work with you throughout your design and construction process. DOE has a public list of program partners, including HERS Raters (called verifiers on the listing) here. Your HERS Rater will walk you through the process of building and certifying a Zero Energy Ready Home!

Finally, builders new to the ZERH can review program training resources on the program website.

If you’re brand new to the ZERH program, the first step is to work toward ENERGY STAR certification. EPA provides lots of resources for builders who want to get started with either a single family or a multifamily project. Take a look at the Introduction to the ENERGY STAR Single-Family New Homes Program and the Introduction to the ENERGY STAR Multifamily New Construction Program to get started.

After you have designed a home according to the ZERH program requirements, work with your HERS Rater to ensure that the home will qualify for ZERH certification based on your design. After the home’s construction, the HERS Rater will come on site to perform site testing and inspections, ensuring that the as-built home matches the modeled design and meets all ZERH mandatory requirements. If the HERS Rater determines that the home fulfills these requirements, they will send their report to CHEERS, California’s home oversight organization. After verifying that all required program documentation has been collected and verified, CHEERS sends the ZERH verified home information to DOE to be recorded. CHEERS provides the HERS Rater a ZERH certificate they then provide the builder or homeowner.

The ZERH program is designed to promote energy-efficient, high-performance homes that significantly reduce energy consumption and utility bills. To build a home that can ultimately get ZERH certified, follow these steps:

Familiarize yourself with the program requirements: Review the program requirements and guidelines on the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home website. Familiarize yourself with the required energy efficiency specifications and performance targets.

Choose a builder: Select a builder experienced in constructing energy-efficient homes and who is familiar with the ZERH program. Discuss your intent to build a ZERH-certified home with the builder and ensure they understand the program requirements.

Incorporate energy efficient designs and technologies: Work with your builder and design team to incorporate energy-efficient features, such as high-performance insulation, windows, and doors, as well as energy-efficient appliances, heating and cooling systems, and solar-ready design elements.

Engage a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Rater: A HERS Rater is a certified professional who will evaluate your home’s energy efficiency and ensure it meets the ZERH program requirements. Engage a HERS Rater early in the design process to provide guidance and ensure your home is on track to meet certification requirements.

Construct the home: Work with your builder to construct the home, making sure to follow the energy-efficient designs and technologies that you have planned. Ensure your builder uses proper construction techniques and quality materials to meet the high-performance standards required by the ZERH program.

Conduct inspections and testing: Your HERS Rater will conduct inspections and testing during and after construction to verify that your home meets the ZERH program requirements. This may include blower door tests to check for air leakage, duct leakage tests, and other performance measurements.

Apply for certification: After your home passes all inspections and testing, your HERS Rater will submit the required documentation to CHEERS for ZERH certification. CHEERS reviews and approves your submission, your home will be awarded the ZERH certification.

Remember, the key to a successful ZERH-certified home is close collaboration between you, your builder, and your HERS Rater. Make sure everyone involved understands the program requirements and is committed to building a high-performance, energy-efficient home.

Indoor air quality is important. It can help keep you healthy, reduce respiratory illnesses, and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses. The advanced ventilation and filtration systems in Zero Energy Ready Homes help make new homes even more attractive, as the residents benefit from this high standard. While each home is being built “tight” to help reduce energy loss through cracks and gaps, it’s also important to make sure the homes are vented properly and indoor air circulates well.

Yes. To meet the standards of a ZERH certified home, the verifying person must be a HERS Rater in good standing and be ENERGY STAR certified. Raters can take the CHEERS ENERGY STAR certification course to obtain their ENERGY STAR certification.

On Tuesday, August 16, 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act which significantly impacted and expanded the 45L Tax Credit available for builders who build energy-efficient homes.  Originally expired at the end of 2021, 45L tax credits have been retroactively extended under the same program through the end of 2022.  Starting in 2023 and extending through 2033, the criteria will change to align with the ENERGY STAR® for Homes and Zero Energy Ready Homes programs.

Single-family homes certified under the ENERGY STAR New Homes Program receive a $2,500 tax credit.  Homes certified under the Zero Energy Ready Homes program receive $5,000.  For multifamily homes certified under the ENERGY STAR Multifamily New Construction Program, a $500 per unit credit is available and $1,000 under the Zero Energy Ready Homes Program.