PHOENIX, March 8, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Meritage Homes has earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2013 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year–Sustained Excellence Award. The award recognizes ongoing leadership across the ENERGY STAR program, including energy-efficient products, services, new homes, and buildings in the commercial, industrial, and public sectors. An innovator in production homebuilding, Meritage was recognized for its continued leadership in protecting the environment. Meritage received the EPA's 2012 ENERGY STAR Leadership in Housing Award, the 2011 Energy Star Builder of the Year award and the 2010 Department of Energy's Building America Partner award. Meritage's accomplishments in earning these awards include being the first 100% ENERGY STAR production builder; offering the first fully EPA-certified home for ENERGY STAR, Indoor airPLUS and WaterSense; and the first Net Zero Energy production builder in the U.S. "Meritage has redefined the way homes can and should be built, setting a new standard in production homebuilding," said Steve Hilton, the company's chairman and chief executive officer. "Through our work with customers, engineers and ENERGY STAR, we've continually advanced our initiatives by giving specific consideration to all features, systems, materials and construction methods to bring homeowners unparalleled energy efficiency and both short- and long-term savings." With a variety of homes across the southern and western states, Meritage Homes integrates advanced technologies into their design and building from the ground up. Together, these technologies can save homeowners, on average, 50 percent on their home energy use, compared to standard homes. With optional upgrades, Meritage offers cost effective Net Zero Energy throughout its markets. In 2012, with more than 4,000 home sale closings, the company reduced homeowners' utility bills by more than $3.5 million every year. These homes eliminate nearly 30 million kWh of electrical demand every year – the equivalent of a 60 watt light bulb being lit for 57,000 years or the emissions from over 4,000 cars.