Is anybody out there using the DOE Home Energy Score?  If so, are you using it as a supplement to current WAP/home performance work or are you using it for some other reason?

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I'm a Home Energy Scorer in the Berkeley, CA area. In Berkeley, Home Energy Scores are required when a home is sold. The sellers and realtors I work with generally see the score as a "check the box" item they have to do when selling, and don't really seem to get engaged with it. Buyers are more interested, especially because I try to spend more time with them going over the results and showing them how energy efficiency improvements can be beneficial to them. Unfortunately, outside of Berkeley the score has not really been sought after by homeowners. If they're not forced to do it, they don't really seem all that interested. Part of that could be addressed by better marketing I suppose, but the mild climate here and an overall energy efficiency mindset that already exists in this area doesn't seem to lend itself to creating demand for the score.

Let's unpack this premise that home energy score is somehow a proxy for value that people will pay something for on a monthly basis.

How, why, would you?

How does it translate to value? Someone please show me the math?

A lower interest rate means a lower payment. I can calculate and correlate that to reality. Why would I pay more for an energy score?

Turn it around. Would you pay more? How much? For what score? What is the average? Does it even correlate to monthly energy cost, because a monthly cost lower than average I CAN value against the average.

A thing the marketplace can't quickly convert to value is unlikely to have much value. Seems obvious.

Plenty of people pay for advice that can't correlate directly to a dollar amount. I don't think that's the point.  No one doubts that adding insulation to your home will save you money, but I have yet to see any good data on specifically how much that would be.  Too many factors. In fact, it's likely that except in extreme cases most major efficiency improvements have a payback period far greater than what is generally assumed/advertised. Knowing that, why would anyone do it at all, unless there was more to it than a dollar amount?

The people I come across who seek out a Home Energy Score (where it's not required) don't do it for the score itself, but are looking for guidance. Their motivation could be saving money, increasing home value, increasing comfort, saving the world from climate change, etc. Or maybe they're just curious. The "value" to the customer takes on many shapes.

The HES is simply a tool that gets the conversation started, at least in my experience.  It's the first step of a larger process I go through with my clients. That said, if it's used solely as a standalone offering, then yes there's little value in it. For those clients who receive a score only because they have to check a box as part of a home sale, almost none seem to care about it.


In Vermont we are piloting the use of the Home Energy Score with a twist in effort to increase its usefulness to the real estate professionals. We use the DOE's tool to also populate a wedge shaped chart that displays the expected total MMBtu/year for all fuels combined, the expected cost/per year (in total and by fuel), and the HES (graphic attached below)

In our outreach to appraisers, lenders. and Realtors we are following the 7 steps of the Visible Value Blueprint:

1.Document energy efficiency features and improvements using consistent, standardized 
2.Disclose inventories of energy efficient homes to track supply.
3.Capitalize on existing [and/or create] high-quality continuing education and designation training.
4.Work with the MLS community to ensure that data about home energy efficiency improvements are incorporated into for-sale listings.
5.Ensure that the data about home energy efficiency improvements are incorporated into the appraisal process.
6.Develop standards and IT solutions that allow quicker, more  accurate, automated transfer of data.
7.Work with partner financial institutions to ensure selection of qualified appraisers.
The Blueprint is in Unlocking the Value of an Energy Efficient Home:

The HES can be a useful report that will assist appraisers in understanding the efficiency or inefficiency of the structure they are appraising and the comparables they might use to compare.  The full report is important for the appraiser to view.  It provides details that will assist the appraiser in understanding when judging quality, energy efficiency, and potential cost to cure or updates that would improve the efficiency.  The biggest drawback is that most appraisers are not given the full report - only the score.  We need full energy reports, i.e, HERS, HES, Energy Audits, or BPI reports.  Appraisers consider it "big data" when we receive the full report.  Encourage real estate agents to attach them to the listings in the MLS. That will begin to educate viewers of the records on the value of the report.

Check out the study we did - 97% accuracy to utility data

It's just like an MPG. When you buy or a operate car you need to know the MPG to determine your fuel budget.

We are considering supporting the HES more in Denver though it's unclear if audits or the HES move the needle more. Our state energy office is the administrator for HES and works to train people giving the score, though our motivation would be tied to the best timing of getting residents engaged in making improvements which is when they get into the home.

Is there an opinion on whether the HES versus an energy audit makes a bigger impact? Austin, Berkeley and soon-to-be Portland are requiring the Score but it seems that the timing (before or after listing) is key if you're trying to work with realtors. Portland will require the HES before listing whereas Berkeley requires is post.

In a market like Denver's it's tough to get enough interest prior to sale but I can see potential once they've closed and the homeowner has time to take on energy recommendations.

If anyone has thoughts on whether or not the score is better than an audit I'd love to hear.

Berkeley actually gives the seller an option of completing the report prior to sale, or deferring it to the buyer, who then has a year to complete it.  They are almost always deferred. I rarely conduct a HES for the seller - realtors are too concerned about a "bad" score affecting the sale price (they'll have to disclose the report to the buyer) and convince the seller to defer. The only scores I've done for realtors/sellers are new construction, where a good score is almost certain. Outside of Berkeley, where a HES is not required, the only success I've had in getting the HES into the sale process is to have buyer agents "gift" a HES to the new owners.  My services also include a consultation session that the buyers find helpful in understanding their new home a little better. 

I think both Home Energy Scores and audits can be useful as long as the homeowner is able to fully understand the data behind the report. Just sending a HES report with no follow up will not help.  As you point out, getting the residents engaged is the key part - how that's done is more a preference, at least in my opinion, because the data from both will typically lead to the same recommendations. 

Agreed Shawn.  I think the reason for the push-back from realtors is that they don't understand it simply provides a transparent transaction and actually reduces their liability.  We have MUCH more liability than the public is aware, and ignorance is part of that liability.  If agents don't understand the benefit if a HES or a HERS then they won't communicate it out of acting ignorant. If they are educated as to what those are and the differences, then that's a bonus for everyone.  

Thankfully the solar course by NAR, grant by DOE, will hit the marketplace for realtors next month.  The course discusses both HES and HERS.  The course is inexpensive and online, so I'm hoping more realtors will take advantage of the opportunity and take the course.  


The score is the audit! 

The Home Energy Score isn't the same as an energy audit. Are you referring to something else?


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