Most builders now give home buyers a home energy score (HERS, Home Energy Rating System) to compete with other builders. This helps buyers project their major operating costs for heating, cooling, hot water and more. In December 2016, the Portland City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring the disclosure of home energy scores to all homebuyers (read: Portland, Oregon Passes Landmark Policy to Disclose Energy Performance to Homebuyers).
How the Home Energy Score Will Be Used
Knowing the report is required to sell your house, you know you'll be competing against other houses in the same location and price range. That should provide the motivation to improve your score … now! After all if you're going to add insulation, replace windows or seal your home, why not make those energy efficient improvements early so you can enjoy your home more, and save on utility bills.
Want to get started with small homeowner projects? Here are a few books that will point you in the right direction.
What Your Home Energy Score Will Tell You
The Portland policy requires a home energy score which I believe but haven't confirmed, will be the HERS rating. It's important to know that every home energy assessment doesn't include a home energy score. According to RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network), the creators of the HERS score, there are three types of energy assessments. They vary in time to complete and cost, although all should be done by certified RESNET home energy professionals.
- Home Energy Survey (1 hr) – is a visual inspection of your home that doesn't use diagnostic equipment. It looks at the energy performance of your home starting with the building envelope (windows, doors, insulation, etc) to what's inside your house that uses energy. This includes heating, cooling ventilation, appliances and lighting, and should include a review of your utility bills. It also covers moisture and visible health and safety issues.
- Building Performance Assessment (3 to 4 hrs, depending on house size) – covers everything in the home energy survey. It adds in diagnostic testing using equipment for a blower door test, duct leakage tester and the infrared camera that makes it easy to identify air leakage problems. With this equipment they can identify air leaks and existing/potential combustion issues.
- Comprehensive HERS Rating – covers everything above plus the software used to calculate the HERS home energy score. This includes computer simulation to calculate monthly utility costs and savings compared to houses of similar size in the same location. The software is then able to provide cost/benefit analysis for recommended home energy improvements, something the other assessments can't do.
All of these home energy assessments will offer recommendations for improving your home's energy efficiency. That presents an interesting question for Portland. If a homeowner gets a home energy score and makes some of the recommended improvements, can they use the old report … or do they have to pay for a new one?