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Green is the new black in the residential industry! About 75% of people want energy efficiency in a home, and nearly 60% report an interest in sustainability. Despite this interest, many homeowners fail to understand how high-performing improvements can improve their home’s air quality, energy efficiency, and comfort. This knowledge gap begins with a lack of understanding about the basic terminology in our industry. Pearl is here to set the record straight: Homes can perform well, even existing ones. Begin the home improvement conversation by using the right terminology:


In an industry plagued by incorrectly interchanging terms, “eco-friendly,” “green,” and “sustainable” are mostly synonymous. These terms refer to homes with low environmental impact due to a range of attributes, including land development, design, construction, operation, and maintenance practices. Eco-friendly/green/sustainable homes limit the structure’s carbon and environmental footprint.

Clean Energy

Homes that use “clean energy” optimize renewable energy sources, which don’t release pollutants or byproducts harmful to the environment. These clean sources of energy are often part of the home, such as a photovoltaic (PV) system (commonly referred to as a solar system) or solar water heating systems. However, homeowners can also purchase clean energy from their utility, which sources electricity from utility-scale wind turbines, solar, hydro, or other “clean” sources.


“Energy-efficient” speaks specifically to the home’s ability to operate both efficiently and at reduced energy levels compared to homes without these features. Consumers often think of ENERGY STAR® appliances as energy efficient, as well as LED lights, ENERGY STAR water heaters and HVAC systems, and other efficient products that consume fuel (electricity, natural gas, propane, oil, etc.). But an efficient home is more than a collection of efficient devices and appliances. Energy-efficient homes rely on doors, windows, air sealing, and insulation to keep it warm in the winter and cool in the summer, reducing the energy needed to run the home’s heating and cooling systems.

Healthy Homes

“Healthy” refers to homes designed, constructed, and maintained with the intention of fostering favorable occupant health. Healthy homes provide proper ventilation for desirable indoor air quality and respiratory health. They reduce inhabitants’ exposure to pollutants and contaminants. They have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, and other safety measures. Although not as obvious by the healthy home term, they also maintain a comfortable temperature range to protect residents from exposure to extreme cold or heat. Refer to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to learn more about making your home healthy.


The Energy Act 2005 defines a “high-performance building” as one that “integrates and optimizes all major high-performance building attributes, including energy efficiency, durability, life-cycle performance, and occupant productivity.” In other words, high-performing homes go beyond energy-efficiency and encompass all the ways in which a home “performs” to deliver comfort, durability, indoor air quality, water conservation, and more. Increasingly, “high-performing” includes new features that are growing in importance to homeowners, such as smart home capabilities, electric vehicle charging, resiliency, and being responsive to new energy pricing structures, such as time-of-use utility rates and responding to peak load events. Refer to Pearl’s High-Performing Home e-book for more information.


“Islanding” refers to equipping a home (or neighborhood) to separate itself from the utility grid. This usually entails having a distributed energy source and/or battery storage that can power the home even in the absence of external grid power. For example, a solar system paired with a home battery can power the home for extended periods without being dependent on the utility’s grid. Electric vehicles can even help “island” a home. Instead of using the home’s electricity to power the car, some cars (and charging stations) can power a home in the event of a power outage. Refer to the U.S. Department of Energy to learn more about islanding and the Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings (GEB) initiative.

Pearl Certification

Pearl’s third-party certification validates a home’s high-performing features in the areas of Building Shell, Heating & Cooling, Baseload (including indoor air quality features), Home Management (including smart home devices), and Renewable Energy and Energy Storage. Qualifying home features receive points based on how much it contributes to the home’s performance. Pearl provides Silver, Gold, and Platinum Certifications, which speaks to the home’s performance level and value. Pearl provides education and awareness to homeowners on how to make their home high-performing. Pearl also provides resources and support to make those features visible and valuable at time of sale.


“Resiliency” refers to a home’s ability to withstand natural disasters, such as storms, heat, fires, droughts, and floods. The climate risks facing a specific home largely depend on the home’s geographic location. Thanks to a partnership with ClimateCheck, a provider of climate risk assessments, homeowners can log in to Pearl’s free Green Door online platform to assess the climate risks for their particular home.


“Smart” homes optimize smart technology to better meet the needs of the occupant. Smart home devices, such as programmable thermostats, lighting, doorbells, alarms, cameras, shades, appliances, vacuum cleaners, mattresses, and toilets, use sensors to provide key analytics. The homeowner can control these smart devices for optimal efficiency, flexibility, and individual preferences.


According to a study by the National Association of Home Builders, 78% of buyers report being concerned about the impact of their home on the environment, but only 15% are willing to pay more for a home described as “environment-friendly.” At the same time, homeowners will more likely invest in “high-performing” features that contribute directly to their family’s comfort, health, energy, safety, and convenience.

Homeowners may not begin their home remodeling or home upgrade searches looking to improve their home’s “performance.” Terms like “green” and “eco-friendly” do build interest and are better known, but when it comes to helping homeowners make the right decision for their family and their pocketbook, using the right language can help everyone stay on the same page.

Improving a home’s performance begins with hiring a qualified contractor committed to exceptional customer service. Homeowners can search for contractors within Pearl’s elite Network by visiting the Green Door online app.


Pearl Certification is transforming the housing market. We’re making a visible difference nationwide for homeowners and the businesses that serve them.