Almost two decades ago the Energy Star rating system was introduced to help consumers understand something about the energy requirements of one product compared to another. The idea is that even a little bit of information posted on an appliance can get people thinking about saving energy and saving money.
This labeling system has had the desired affect kicking off discussions of energy efficiency and how to think about not just the cost of the appliance, but the ongoing cost of using the appliance.
Couple that with higher and higher energy costs, there is now a desire from many people looking to buy a home to know how a home would “score” on similar Energy Star rating system. Prospective home owners want to know the quality and age of a furnace and they want to know if there is rot in the structural members. They are now starting to ask if the home has good insulation or if it has renewable energy systems like solar hot water or solar electric.
There is an Energy Star rating available for new construction, both homes and commercial buildings, and often the testing is built into the construction costs. Here is a link: Energy Star label for homes. But for existing homes the testing to get an Energy Star label is too costly for most people.
So the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has defined a simpler, less costly Home Energy Score, HES, that can be incorporated into a home inspection for existing homes. The score is based on the best analysis of insulation, air infiltration, window types and sizes, doors, and overall size of the conditioned space.
The resulting HES may also include information on what you can do to raise the score. So a great idea would be for a mortgage lender to include these improvement costs in the mortgage for the new owner. Then the new owner is paying for those energy improvements over the length of the mortgage which will generally pay itself back in energy savings within a few years.
Both NH and VT (as well as many other states) have started to create an HES label and hope to have it available in the next year or two. Hopefully this will help lenders, appraisers, real estate agents and home owners to better understand the value of that home over a similar one with a lower score.
It may take a while to catch on, but if you are in the market for a new home, be sure to ask your real estate agent if there is a home energy score for the homes you are considering. If that is not available today, you can get a good idea of the ongoing costs by asking to review the last few years of oil, propane, wood, and/or electric bills.