Denver Announces Pilot Program to Raise Awareness of Energy Costs in Homes

The Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) is now offering free a Home Energy Score to sellers, buyers and recent owners with helpful information about a home’s estimated energy use and opportunities for savings and efficiency. The free pilot program aims to score 300 single-family homes that have been recently purchased, are soon to be listed, or are currently on the market.

Developed by the U.S. Department of Energy and its National Laboratories, the Home Energy Score is based on a standard assessment of a home’s structure and major energy-consuming equipment to easily compare energy use across the housing market. The Score provides comparable and credible information about a single-family home’s energy performance using a 10-point score to reflect how much energy a home is estimated to use. All Scores will be generated by a qualified Home Energy Score Assessor.

Sellers can choose to include a Home Energy Score in the MLS to highlight efficiency improvements that can make a property more desirable to prospective buyers. For buyers, the Score can offer insight on improvements that can lower a home’s energy bills. A Home Energy Score can also help buyers qualify for additional financing options. Those interested can request a Score at www.Denvergov.org/HomeEnergy.

“In Denver’s competitive housing market, home operating costs are more important than ever. The pilot will focus on uncovering the best way to highlight the full cost of owning a home by making it cost-effective and energy efficient from day one,” said Program Manager Julie Saporito of DDPHE.

Increasing awareness of a Home Energy Score also supports the City’s climate goals. Homes in Denver are a leading contributor to local greenhouse gas emissions for energy use. Helping residents understand how efficient (or inefficient) their homes are can better inform the full cost of owning a home and make home ownership more cost-effective while reducing emissions city-wide.

Through the pilot, the City will explore ways to provide Home Energy Scores with the help of new owners, sellers and buyers and seek to understand what kind of impact the information has with regards to making energy improvements in the home.

Requests for a Home Energy Score are available on a first come, first served basis for properties that have sold within the last 12 months as well as those that are preparing to list or are currently on the market.

For more information about this pilot visit: www.Denvergov.org/HomeEnergy.

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Comment by Julie Saporito on May 29, 2018 at 11:27am

I think that would be a great idea. Chicago did a study on their requirement of utility data a year or two ago, and while it appears homes close faster by just disclosing energy data (high or low energy use didn't matter), just sharing energy bills alone isn't quite enough to motivate improvements or behavior changes. It seems like you need energy data on top of tools for next steps, such as a Score with recommendations.

Comment by tedkidd on May 29, 2018 at 11:11am
In Chicago the MLS has fields for energy use. They aren't the utility.

You could make it optional rather than required.

Markets prefer actual numbers to easily corrupted proxies. Build trust in the proxies, suddenly they will have value.

Having actual numbers allows correlations to proxies that builds consumer trust in the meaning of those proxies. It also creates accountability that exposes bad actors giving clients bogus scores, dramatically reducing likelihood of fraud.

As a consumer I place very little value on these participation awards that have no tie back to consumption.

Make reporting an optional field and I bet your program succeeds where all these others are failing.
Comment by Julie Saporito on May 29, 2018 at 10:44am

As previously mentioned, how the Score is used really depends on the housing market you are in. In a buyer's market it would seem natural to see homes with higher Scores sell for more. In a seller's market you already have homes priced high, so raising awareness to the new owners is the likely the best pathway for understanding what they have purchased and how to make it cost-effective. We are not the utility therefore it is impossible to include actual energy use within the Score, but it does provide estimations of annual energy costs. I would encourage you to speak with your utility about ways to make this most accurate if you are so inclined.

Comment by tedkidd on May 29, 2018 at 10:32am
So rather than simply stating "this house uses roughly $20 a month less energy than the average house..." So buyers can factor that counterfactual into their bid, this is more "hey, this is a good house, it's better than the average house, so you should pay more for it."

Well glad this is creating employment for folks.
Comment by Julie Saporito on May 29, 2018 at 10:18am

The Home Energy Score is not meant to include individual energy use. The Score is meant to compare homes with other homes, and must rely on some estimations as well as include local weather and statewide utility rates. When you factor in actual energy use it is more about the individual home and how the occupants use energy in it, which would be even more challenging to try and compare homes against homes in that manner. Sharing a Score during the transaction of a home is meant to raise awareness about the structure's efficiency/inefficiency, with the intent that the owner will dive into how the home uses energy in real life in order to determine the best improvements now and down the line. It's important to note how you share a Score will rely heavily on the type of housing market you're in as well (buyer's market vs seller's market). You can find more information about the Home Energy Score here: https://betterbuildingssolutioncenter.energy.gov/home-energy-score.

Comment by tedkidd on May 29, 2018 at 9:56am
"“In Denver’s competitive housing market, home operating costs are more important than ever. The pilot will focus on uncovering the best way to highlight the full cost of owning a home by making it cost-effective and energy efficient from day one,”

So will ACTUAL energy use be part of this study? Or is this another "...we still can't figure out why the market places no value on our hypothetical "asset value" numbers that nobody should trust because we haven't bothered to correlate them to the real world."

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