Asset Rating with the Home Energy Scoring Tool

The White House announced this week a new initiative to boost home energy efficiency. This is the culmination of the Recovery Through Retrofit plan, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Key components include the Home Energy Score Program, under which U.S. homeowners will be able to get low-cost energy surveys that rank a home's efficiency on a scale of one to 10 and get federally insured loans for upgrades under a companion program called PowerSave. All of this is coupled with new workforce guidelines and training offerings to ensure that home improvements are done well.

You can learn more about this initiative in the Middle Class Task Force blog from Vice-President Biden's office: Strengthening an Emerging Industry While Helping Families Save Money.

Central to the initiative is the new Home Energy Scoring Tool.

Cathy Zoi, Acting Under Secretary of Energy, explains the tool, which helps
homeowners understand how home energy systems perform. Using the tool,
consumers will find out how their home compares with others and how much
money they could save by adding insulation, sealing air leaks or making
other upgrades.

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy (Department) tasked the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) to develop this new tool within the Home Energy Saver suite. The resulting tool provides the first national asset rating method that allows all USA regions to opt into a simplified and standardized energy assessment process that complements existing advanced home energy audit methods.

The Scoring Tool is designed to provide a rapid low-cost opportunity assessment of a home's fixed energy systems (also known as an "asset rating") and provide the home owner with general feedback on the systems that potentially need more detailed attention from certified home performance diagnostics and weatherization professionals (such as those engaged with RESNET, Building Performance Institute, and the Affordable Comfort Institute).

The Scoring Tool has been designed to support the existing marketplace for energy analysis tools and services by providing a substantially lower-cost "entry level" assessment (but not a formal work scope or cost estimate), which can help the service provider establish the potential for energy savings and the value of a more comprehensive investigation and retrofit recommendation report. For a typical home, an experienced assessor can complete a Scoring Tool analysis in under an hour, while a comprehensive follow-up assessment could take several times that long.
Figure 1

Also developed within the Scoring Tool are
Application Programming Interface ("APIs") services, which third-party energy software developers can use to embed the Home Energy Score methodology into their products and business processes.


More info:


Evan Mills & Norm Bourassa

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

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Comment by Sean Lintow Sr on December 12, 2010 at 7:37pm

Norm, first thanks for the reply and I do have a lot of respect for the work you guys do, the original HES program, and have referred others to it. (hard to say much about the new one as no beta tests are available on it yet...)

Sorry, but if you want to “sidestep” any supposed "ideology" you simply don’t mention it. The way you worded it is the way political hacks do, not really appreciated, and probably mistaken on your part. It is hard to guess as you don’t state exactly what it is, and with an approx 6000+ posts, articles, tweets, etc… out there I can’t even begin to hazard a guess which few you read. (Yes, I spent some time in goverment & know the language) 

Now, unless you wrote the document referenced in the full article or VP Biden’s speech, I never said you or anyone designing the newest HES program was lying. I specifically referenced certain statements, which many others have done and shown as (choose your own phrase) lies of omission, spin control, bait and switch, not stating all the facts, obfuscation, or whatever you may like.

Comment by Norm Bourassa on December 6, 2010 at 4:23pm
Now that folks have had time to speak up, I would like to address the last issues brought up by Mitchell and Lintow.

Kent - Yes this will be another type of “green stamp” - for energy use only - using a national scoring method that is regionally self-adjusting for a consistent result. A key tradeoff in doing that is some reduction in assessment accuracy, YET doing it in a way that complements rather than compromises any subsequent investment grade audits that use full diagnostic testing. As Evan pointed out earlier in the thread, we encourage you to read Philip Fairey’s July/August 2010 article in Home Energy Magazine called “Time-of-Sale Energy Labeling of Homes: A Concept”. The concepts stated in this article were widely submitted to the DOE during the 2010 summer public input period and therefore became a general goal of the scoring method.

You correctly point out the need for low-cost “audits” in the market place, but the Home Energy Score is not intended to be a replacement for advanced building performance diagnostics that are ALREADY available in the market. With this in mind, we deliberately avoid using the term “audit” to describe this methodology. It is the market’s job to provide investment-grade audits to homeowners. Rather, this program is intended to assist the growth of the residential energy retrofit industry by undertaking leading edge home owner education and residential asset benchmarking in order to better leverage the advanced and more costly capabilities of residential building retrofit professionals. In the end the Home Energy Score program is intended to help grow residential energy efficiency retrofit services demand. Stated another way, the scoring method has been designed to support the existing marketplace by providing a substantially lower-cost "entry level" opportunity assessment (but not a formal work scope or cost estimate), which can help the service provider establish the potential for energy savings and the value of a more comprehensive investigation and retrofit recommendation report.

In addition, we designed the scoring tool with Application Programming Interface ("APIs") services, which third-party energy software developers can use to embed the Home Energy Score methodology into their products and business process. Many developers have already started work on their API links. This will further help standardize the initial homeowner contact across the country and free the market of service providers to add detailed investment grade value. Moreover, data gathered by the Scoring Tool can be used to spawn in-depth operational assessments using follow on analysis services of the third-party software developers or the links we’ve built into HES-Pro (

Sean – I am going to side step the ideological arguments you’ve injected into your post (and on many other of your posts across the internet) and focus on the building energy issues. No one is “lying”. My answer to Kent – and all of the other public documentation of the score program – is clear. The tool we developed is not presented as replacement to HERS.

Yes, the program cites “certified RESNET or BPI Auditor(s)” as the initial talent pool that will be used to recruit Home Energy Score “Qualified Assessors”. This is an acknowledgement of the good work these associations have done in providing an extremely qualified work force and our desire to support their business model. It also immediately simplifies the training and provides quality assurance to the program. Thank you to RESNET and BPI for collaborating in this important way.

You provided a link to your October 28th article comparing the Home Energy Saver web site to the RESNET method. Since the Home Energy Saver tool is an operational energy simulation and is not pegged to the same simplified and standardized space conditioning load assumptions (not to mention simplified handling of other end uses) that the RESNET tools use, many factors can therefore be the cause of over energy use prediction. However more generally, the audit method redundancy that you express concern about will not occur in practice because the new tool (which is not Home Energy Saver, but rather a related “asset” analysis version) is not being provided as a replacement to the RESNET method.

Thank you for closing with the prefect quote from the RESNET news release. It does capture the intent of this program as being a complement, not a replacement to the existing HERS Rating method.
Comment by Kent Mitchell on November 16, 2010 at 10:26am
Agree with Glen Gallo... to many assumptions and not enough accuracy to make it believeable. going to be just another loosely placed "green" stamp. With that said though there is a need for lower cost audits - technology should be able to provide that in the future...
Comment by Sean Lintow Sr on November 13, 2010 at 11:46am
Personally you guys are getting taken for a ride & while Glen might be feeling more optimistic - he made some good points. That said, I am just going to paste the part I wrote about it yesterday in the article I did on the entire Recovery through Retrofit program
I am from the government and here to help… On Tuesday, Vice President Biden announced the Recovery through Retrofit program, which they have been working on for about a year. In it, they are aiming to correct three main issues they see; reliable information, consumer financing & access to skilled workers. In this program, they are utilizing some new software for auditors to easily show people how much they can save, offer low-cost financing to help people pay for said improvements and set new guidelines for contractors to assure the public the work is done right. Well, as the saying goes - the devil is in the details & might I add, it truly shows that they really have no clue.
The new Home Energy Score label:
Seriously - consumers need reliable home retrofitting information to make informed decisions & there is no standard? First, let’s stop lying to everyone - yes there is one already, and it is called a HERS Score (Home Energy Rating System) which can be applied to any house. In fact, it is actually already used by the Federal Government for the existing ENERGY STAR program and recognized by the mortgage industry and numerous others. Secondly, per a study released in September “Driving Demand for Home Energy Improvements” and a webinar put on by the same agency not an hour after the announcement; trying to sell “energy efficiency” does not work that way. Please do not get me wrong, a walk-through survey can help some consumers (generally for quick tips, tricks, and ways to conserve) but not for what they are promoting.

Ok fine, but what about this new “Home Energy Scorecard / Home MPG by LBL?” While this Energy Survey requires a certified RESNET or BPI Auditor to complete; it is just a simple web based survey that does not require a blower door or duct testing & bases its numbers off regional averages. As I mentioned & showed in the “RESNET’s new standards for Energy Auditor’s,” the numbers done using a similar LBL program also called the HES & HESPro, are off by more than 25% to 50%. I think this paragraph from RESNET's news release sums it up pretty well:
"The Home Energy Score is not a Home Energy Rating. It is rather a tool for a home energy inspector to provide a quick and simple overall assessment of a home's energy efficiency. Such a tool is perfect for a RESNET Home Energy Survey Professional (HESP). A HESP undertakes a basic energy survey of the home that does not include a whole building analysis.
Comment by David Parker on November 12, 2010 at 3:14pm
Evan, I have used both the PG&E'S energy tool and LBL's Home Energy Saver for my clients. I like Home Energy Saver to use as a starting point for modeling the energy use of a home. I look forward to trying out HES pro, too.
Comment by Evan Mills on November 12, 2010 at 2:37pm
More discussion here by Peter Troast
Comment by Evan Mills on November 12, 2010 at 2:33pm
Glen - thanks for catching our errant use of the term "audit" in this context. Fixed. We fully agree and are actually quite vigilant (except clearly not in the initial version of this blog) in maintaining that distinction. After almost 30 years of using a word, it's hard to wean oneself of it ;).

We have been very careful in the website itself and on associated materials. We like the terms "Assessment" and "Survey." Do point us to any other instances you see of the term "audit" in association with the Home Energy Scoring Tool.

Not all uses of the term are in our control. The Vice President doesn't always ask me to review his speeches, so you'll have to take that one up with him directly....

Regarding the scale, as you might imagine, an enormous amount of effort was put into making the many decisions that underpin a process like this, particularly in defining and visualizing the scale. That said, 10 very serious pilots are already planned to see how this works in practice (including consumer perceptions and the extent to which the information compels action). There is every intent to keep improving the tool based on this and other feedback.

They Pyramid Graph comes from the referenced article by Philip Fairey and it would be best to check with him directly on his intent for it. It could be useful to post a visualization that you like here and/or in the Home Energy Ratings group for all to see and discuss.

Fully agreed re: testing. The above-mentioned 10 pilot projects are intended for just that. Try to engage in one of those. There is also a group here in Home Energy Pros to discuss that. We at LBNL aren't running the pilot testing project, so I would just encourage you to keep talking to the DOE folks about it.

The Home Energy Saver site was taken down for about 48 hours during the Home Energy Scoring Tool launch just to avoid confusion. It was brought back on-line yesterday eve. We're very glad to hear that you like it.
Comment by Glen Gallo on November 12, 2010 at 10:29am
After a couple of days of digestion I have some opinions on the matter.

It should not be called an audit. Even in your blog you show it as being In Home Energy Survey. I am probably not alone here when I say we should distinguish between the two. Certainly the audit word was thrown around by Joe and was used in every article that described the program. An audit measures many different areas we are not going off estimates. It takes time to do a good audit.

Here is a copy and paste from Phillips article referenced in your blog.

“climate location; number of stories; foundation type and insulation level; estimated wall area, type, and insulation level; estimated ceiling area, type, and insulation level; estimated window area, type, distribution, and shading; estimated heating, cooling, and water-heating system efficiency; estimated envelope leakage; and estimated heating-and-cooling distribution system efficiency.”

That is allot of estimation. Too much to be accurate information. Phillips minus 10 percent error is not accurate or fair with that much estimation. It is unfair to put such a survey as an audit, in house or not. Can it hit the mark in some cases? Sure but a broken clock is right at least once a day as well, that does not mean I want to plan my schedule on it.

In home Energy Survey I agree with but this is not by any stretch of the imagination an audit.

Furthermore looking at the scale the first perception of the online audit being on top is odd. This looks allot like the graphics used over the years like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Only this one is reverse which could only further confuse an outsider of the industry.

I also fail to understand on the graph what a diagnostic survey is.Why the HERS rating is below or above an Energy Audit depending on interpretation is also strange. Why would a report by an accepted professional organization with protocols subject to review be a rung below a private audit. I study this kind of thing and I am confused.

Now I admit my personal audits generally go further than a HERS rating. But who's to say that the Home Energy Survey guy cant go out with this program do exactly what the program does and do far less than myself and call it an Energy Audit and charge more?

Nothing. I am OK with that as a free market guy. I can present myself in such a way I hope to take the business from these types. I am not arguing that, I am a capitalist to the core, let the best company win. My problem is by this being presented in that order it appears you devalue training and experience before I get a chance to talk to John Q.

I do have a problem with that.

This software program should be made available to us in the field to test. I use Energy Pro because it is blessed by the California Energy Commission. I know RemRate is used as well as Treat and Home Gauge. If this is being rolled out why not put in the hands of auditors so they can test drive it.
I already emailed my qualifications and received a response. I will summarize the response as the following
We are not doing your area.
We have already selected those that will test the software.
Why not provide us with the program with watermarks and other this is not an official program and let us test drive it?
I had used the LBL Home Energy Saver and had pointed others that did not want an audit to it. I thought it was the best online energy survey I had seen. This looks like that program. I noticed that it is down now and not available.
Comment by Evan Mills on November 11, 2010 at 10:39pm
Comment by Evan Mills on November 11, 2010 at 5:14pm


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