The Energy-Efficient Home: Do You Know the Score?

When you’re tackling any kind of home project – from buying a new dishwasher to adding a layer of insulation to upgrading your home HVAC system – you’re bombarded with ratings systems, symbols, and a bunch of numbers, and told you need to be aware of all these things.

But what are they, and what do they mean? Not all of us are scientists (though there are obviously some out there!) – and all those numbers and letters can be overwhelming and confusing. Seriously – we just want clean dishes or whatever, right?

Let’s look at three of the primary ratings systems for the energy efficient home, and break down what they mean.

RESNET HERS logo

A HERS, or Home Energy Rating Score, is a number on a spectrum that rates the overall energy efficiency of a home – like, the whole house.

Developed and maintained by RESNET – the Residential Energy

Services Network, a non-profit organization serving the mortgage industry, the scale is based on the Mortgage Industry National Home Energy Ratings Standards.

Standards for new construction homes require that they achieve a HERS score of 100, which sets 100 as the baseline for scoring. There is an inverse relationship between the score and the energy efficiency of the home.

The Breakdown

If your current home or your new home came with a HERS score, here’s what that means:

  • First, a lower score is better, meaning your home is more energy-efficient. An existing home with a score of 150 would mean that home is 50% LESS energy efficient than a new home. Homes that score less than 100 are MORE energy efficient than the average resale home. Greater efficiency can mean improved home comfort – like no hot or cold spots in the house, lower utility bills, and a greener, more environmentally-friendly home.
  • Second, you can work to reduce your score. As you make home energy improvements, your home’s HERS rating should go down.
  • Finally, homes with lower/better HERS generally appraise for a higher price than homes with higher scores.

HERS also offers an interactive, guided tour that helps you understand the concept, the system, the scale.

There’s also a directory that can help you find a HERS-rater than can test and evaluate your home.

Energy Star logo

ENERGY STAR is a joint effort between the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, offering a complete program and a well-known symbol for energy-efficiency. Since its creation in 1992, the program and its partners have helped U.S. families and businesses save more than 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 3.5 billion metric tons. (That’s a LOT.)  

Organizations and businesses of all sizes – including about 40%

of the Fortune 500 – have partnered with the EPA and ENERGY STAR to offer straightforward and unbiased information to help consumers make product choices that deliver cost savings with energy-efficient and environmentally friendly solutions.

The Breakdown

The ENERGY STAR symbol on consumer products – like dishwashers, furnaces, windows, and even some construction materials – indicates that the item has been independently certified to deliver the performance efficiency and energy cost savings that consumers need and want, while still protecting the environment.

Put simply, you want ENERGY STAR certified appliances and systems in your home.         

There are additional offerings for business and industrial applications to help them effectively manage energy in their buildings and plants.

ENERGY STAR Home Energy Yardstick

Home Energy Yardstick Logo
Home Energy Yardstick Score Graphic

The Department of Energy and ENERGY STAR have teamed up to provide their own assessment and rating system for home energy efficiency. This process will give your home a score on a scale of 1-10. It will also help determine how much of your home’s energy use is related to heating and cooling versus other everyday things like appliances, lighting, and hot water.

Finally, it will estimate your home’s annual carbon emissions. Your results sheet will provide links to resources that can help you decide what improvements to make and where to find certified professionals to work on those projects.

The Breakdown

The Home Energy Yardstick is a simple, online assessment that’s easier to use than the RESNET HERS index and doesn’t require a professional to complete. This is likely a better solution for the average consumer unless you’re looking to sell your home in the near future.

There are other indexes that can help if you’re looking at new construction for industrial, multi-use, or multi-residential properties. However, those named here are the most relevant for the average American homeowners.

And, if you have questions, you can always contact All American Heating, and we’ll point you in the right direction.

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