3 Reasons to Get a Home Energy Score

Learn three reasons to get a home energy score: the environment, your monthly budget, and your home's value. Source: Rowan Heuval

The game is changing when it comes to home energy consumption transparency. There are a number of energy efficiency scores that homeowners can choose from, including the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Home Energy Score. In this post, we explain the label, bust the most common myths about it, and explain the three primary reasons to get a Home Energy Score.

It’s no secret that homes in the United States account for a substantial proportion of the nation’s electricity consumption. In fact, they account for about 16 percent. And home electricity consumption has increased by 15 percent over the past 30 years, with continued growth projected in the decades to come.

With those figures in mind, it’s no wonder that there’s a pressing need to improve the energy efficiency of most homes. This is especially true because, historically, consumers have underinvested in energy efficiency upgrades and programs. But this underinvestment isn’t always purposeful. In fact, it often comes as a result of homeowners being unaware of how they use electricity at home and how inefficient their homes are. 

While there’s no single solution to remedy this issue, there are many attempts to make this information more universally accessible for consumers.

In this post, we discuss one approach that the U.S. DOE is spearheading: the Home Energy Score. Read on to learn three key reasons to get a Home Energy Score for your house and cut through the most common myths surrounding this innovative home energy efficiency label.  

What is a Home Energy Score?

The U.S. DOE developed the Home Energy Score to improve consumer awareness about and investment in home energy efficiency. At its core, a Home Energy Score acts just like the ENERGY STAR label we’ve come to know and trust for home appliances and electronics. The Score is a standardized method that’s rated on a scale of 1-10. “10” represents the most energy-efficient homes. “1” represents the…. well… home with significant opportunities for energy (and financial) savings!

After conducting a professional assessment, a surveyor will use the Home Energy Score tool to provide you with a very clear idea of hwere your home might land on the energy-efficiency spectrum. It can also provide specific recommendations to cost-effectively improve your specific home’s energy efficiency.

The Home Energy Score tool incorporates many factors, including the following:

The U.S. DOE Home Energy Score incorporates a home’s attributes, envelope and equipment. Source: U.S. DOE

If you keep up with our blog, you might remember us describing the home energy audit in a previous post. If so, you’re probably wondering—what’s the difference? 

Essentially, the term “home energy audit” is an overarching term for a professional inspection of your home, which analyzes your electricity usage. It also identifies where you’re losing energy. Your Home Energy Score can be provided as part of your energy audit, but it requires a specifically certified assessor. So all Home Energy Score assessments are essentially home energy audits. But not all energy audits come with a Home Energy Score.

3 Reasons to get a Home Energy Score

There’s a very long list of benefits that go hand-in-hand with investing in a Home Energy Score for your household. But to keep it succinct, we’ll lead with the three most compelling reasons to get a Home Energy Score:

Get Actionable Recommendations for Positive Change 

Perhaps the most immediate of reasons to get a Home Energy Score is that it provides more than just a number on a scale of 10. In addition to your home’s score and maximum potential score, a Home Energy Score provides impactful changes you can make to help your home get there. For each change, it also provides projected savings from each investment. This is invaluable information in order to prioritize the home improvements you decide to pursue.

Communicate Your Home’s Energy Costs (and Relative Savings)

Customers value transparency. When you have a Home Energy Score on hand, you’re able to showcase your home’s value in a very real, tangible way. You can share that information with appraisers and mortgage lenders for energy-related financing products. Furthermore, you can share the information with potential buyers and real estate agents. According to Elevate Energy, homes listed with their energy costs consistently sell for more than the asking price. On top of that, these homes spend less time on the market than comparable homes without disclosed energy costs. Even if their energy costs were high!

Example of a Home Energy Score’s Executive Summary. Source: U.S. DOE

Become a Smart Consumer 

Being a smart consumer requires obtaining all the information possible about a potential purchase. If you’re buying a home, asking for a Home Energy Score empowers you to get a clearer glimpse at a potential new home’s expected energy use, monthly utility costs, and air quality, to name a few. Already own a home and know it needs energy efficiency investments? As we mentioned, the Home Energy Score empowers you as a consumer, because it helps you identify the most cost-effective solutions to boost your home’s energy performance (and value). 

Home Energy Score Myth-Busting: Facts vs. Fiction 

There has been plenty of pushback on Home Energy Scores. Much of that comes from misconceptions and myths that surround the Score, the process, and its impact on the housing market. We think it’s important to bust a few of the most common myths get you to the truth of what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to Home Energy Scores.

As a pre-amble to this section, take a gander at our recent article about Denver’s Home Energy Score pilot program. The pilot is helping to change the game as to how energy efficiency labels can help inform not only home buyers, but also renters! Go ahead, give it a read—we’ll be here when you get back! 

Buyers Don’t Care About Energy-Efficiency: FICTION 

This one is a huge myth. 

We can’t speak for every buyer out there. But it is generally true that today’s home buyers actually care a lot about a home’s energy-efficiency. In fact, according to data from the National Association of Home Builders, buyers are willing to pay on average an additional $8,728 upfront on a home in order to save $1,000 per year on utility bills. 

What does this mean for your Home Energy Score? If you’re planning to put your house on the market—or think you might at some point in the future—making energy-efficient changes could pay off big time in the form of a higher resale value. Sure, making changes in your home could cost you money upfront. But if you are able to boast an appealing Home Energy Score to future buyers via smart energy efficiency investments, you position yourself for a positive return on your hard-earned money. 

A Home Energy Score Makes Housing Unaffordable: FICTION

Sometimes people confuse the order of operations when it comes to a Home Energy Score. They do this by thinking that a Home Energy Score makes housing less affordable. But, ultimately, that’s untrue. Housing affordability is primarily based on supply and demand—not information or scoring. A Home Energy Score simply gives buyers and owners more knowledge about the home they’re buying or the home they own. Think about life before Zillow or other online real estate research tools. The Home Energy Score provides similar information to empower buyers and sellers, alike. Without a Home Energy Score, homeowners and buyers can’t necessarily fully understand a given home’s monthly operating expenses. With it, they can be confident they are in a home with expenses that fit their budget. 

Home Energy Score Evaluations are Too Expensive: FICTION(-ish) 

We’re tempted to outright respond to this with a big, outright nope. But we understand that expensive is a relative term and everyone’s budget is different. So, with that in mind, we will confidently say that Home Energy Score assessments are more affordable than you might think. 

It takes about one hour for a Home Energy Score assessor to evaluate a home and generate a score. Certified assessors can’t necessarily be found in every town. But if you have one in your area, he or she will likely charge between $50 and $200. The amount generally depends on where you live, the size of your home, and whether or not a Home Energy Score is required in your state. Some local incentives are also available to subsidize (or completely cover) this cost—something worth checking out in your research!

So, is a home audit cheaper than $10? No. But, is it hundreds upon hundreds of dollars down the drain? No way. For many homes in the US, the energy efficiency recommendations that they provide present the opportunity for significantly more savings in the years to come.

How to Get Your Home’s Score

A Home Energy Score assessment typically takes about an hour, and it’s relatively non-evasive. With an evaluation, you’ll get:

  • Your home’s current score
  • Recommendations for efficiency improvements 
  • Savings estimates for each recommended improvement
  • Your home’s potential score if you make recommended improvements

Check out the U.S. DOE Find an Assessor Tool to find an energy assessor who can offer you a Home Energy Score and evaluation. You can also visit the U.S. DOE Partner Map to see which organizations may have assessors in your region. 

Keep Score of your Battle Against Energy Waste

As you can see, there are many reasons to get a Home Energy Score, particularly as we seek to find room in our household budgets. By taking this step, you gain the knowledge required to prioritize impactful improvements in the way your home uses energy. You also empower yourself as a home seller (through higher potential offers for your home) and as a home buyer (by understanding how to read the score and knowing what to ask for—more on this to come in our next post, so stay tuned!).

Interested in learning more about your home’s energy efficiency potential? Want to develop a stronger grasp on easy energy-saving changes you can make to help save our planet and your wallet? You’re in the right place. Keep up with the WattDoesItUse blog for monthly updates and inspiration right to your inbox!

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