A Home is Where the HERS is


When shopping for an automobile or appliance, consumers often compare energy efficiency using MPG (miles per gallon) or EnergyGuide labels. The MPG labels give you information on the car's fuel economy, fuel costs, and greenhouse gas and smog ratings. The Energy Guide labels estimate how much energy the appliance uses, compares energy use of similar products, and list approximate annual operating costs. As purchasing an automobile or large appliance can be a significant investment, this information has become an important factor in the consumer's decision making process. Another significant investment that consumers make is the purchase of a home. However, many consumers are not aware that the real estate market has a similar label they can use to compare the performance of one home to the next. It is called a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index. 

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The HERS Index was developed by RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network) to create a national standard for home energy ratings and a market for energy efficient mortgages. The HERS index is the standard for how a home's energy efficiency is measured, and for calculating its performance. The index has a score ranging from 0-150. The lower the score, the more efficient the home. The score itself is based on a number of different diagnostic tests that are conducted by a Certified RESNET HERS Rater. These tests determine the amount of air leakage in the building envelope and ducts, the effectiveness of insulation inside walls and ceilings, and a cost/benefit analysis for improvements and expected return on investment. 

Unfortunately, unlike the MPG and EnergyGuide labels that can be found on automobiles and appliances, the HERS index score is not easy to find. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that not all homes have been rated. Second, if the home has been rated, that rating may not be found on the MLS (multiple listing service) database. The MLS database is an important tool used by realtors to list, market, and find information about homes that are for sale. With the second highest cost of home ownership being energy, the real estate industry has begun to take notice. The states of Vermont, Colorado, and Florida have all recently added HERS Index Scores to their MLS databases.

So, are you curious about your score? Would you invest in a home energy audit to improve the comfort of your home, save money on your utility bills, or add potential resale value? As a buyer would you request that a HERS Index Score be a condition of the contract with the seller similar to an inspection?