Our company is a regional partner organization for Home Energy Score and we are getting ready to launch the program this month.  I wanted to start a thread to get some thoughts.

  • What does everyone think of the Home Energy Score software so far?  Will it be successful as a nationwide benchmarking tool?
  • To what degree do you feel HEScore is scoring homes inaccurately due to the lack of data inputs concerning occupant behavior?

These are just a couple thoughts I had so far, but I'd really enjoy some dialogue about this new and exciting program.

Tags: DOE, Energy, HES, HEScore, Home, Score

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Thoughts on the home energy score.

 

Here is a link to my blog on this topic which, I will warn you, is somewhat controversial.

Although you make some valid points, you have received some misinformation on Home Energy Score, my friend.

You state: "Chances are very good that this home inspector has never been formally trained or certified to perform home energy audits …"

This is anything but accurate.  HEScore assessors are REQUIRED to have either BPI Building Analyst or RESNET HERS Rater certifications.

You also state: "These scores also omit important facts that could affect them, significantly … such as measured air leakage, for instance."


This is also untrue - the tool has an input for air leakage in the form of CFM50, as measured by your standard blower door.  This input is optional, but it is included in the software.

As far as using it as leverage in real estate, this is of course a double-edged sword.  If you're a seller with an efficient home, you're at as much of an advantage as someone with a inefficient home would be at a disadvantage.  Of course with any tool that involves human input, there will be variations from person to person, but this is the same with any energy audit - whether it includes the home energy score or not.  This should not be a point that is used against HEScore.

James, despite the comments from Zachary, I feel your blog expresses some serious concerns. Good blog.

Zachary, to be fair, since I came to the conclusion some time ago that score would not be made available to me as an independent energy auditor, I haven't paid a lot of attention and I have avoided bashing it here as these are some of the people who created this lemon.  Sorry, that's the softest word I could come up with.  But now that you are asking and since this very expensive project is stretching its reach far beyond its capabilities I will comment.

The first question one should ask is "Who wants a score?"

1.  I haven't heard of home owners wanting to document the "bad before conditions" of their homes and I certainly wouldn't think they would want a permanent record made of such a determination.

2.  Some buyers might want to know the homes energy score, right after the results of the termite inspection.  An energy score/rating just doesn't seem to make the top ten items home buyers are looking for.

3.  Real estate agents have made it plain they don't want ANYTHING that can "sink" a deal or delay the process.

4.  Even financial institutions aren't excited about energy.

So, who wants a SCORE? 

1.  Contractors like it, because it is a foot in the door to sell home owners a long list of improvements.  It's bait.

2.  Our Government wants it, because it will "wink/wink" save energy and reduce global warming.

3.  Let's try that again.  Our Government want is because it will separate the millions of home owners (who still have some equity) from a large chunk of their nest egg that our gov needs in circulation to boost the economy and create jobs.  Better than borrowing is to FORCE people to spend their savings/equity to stimulate the economy and what a perfect opportunity to fall from the tree but one that benefits everyone.  Maybe they should spend their time explaining that "benefits everyone" phrase to people.

I assume most of us here have actually performed an energy audit.  But how many of us have done one without the full co-operation of the home owner?  And I laugh at the mention of "15 minutes" and then Oh, there is a space for the optional blower door test.  It would take more than 15 minutes just to explain what you are going to do and why.  I started out in this business with a low cost walk-through to try to point out the low hanging fruit to as many home owners as possible.  I no longer offer that service as I have learned too much.  Education, building tightness, CAZ, and more all have to come before ANY improvements are suggested or done.  It's not just the liability, it's the right way to approach energy upgrades.

As for liability, there is a value attached to any SCORE applied to a home and I for one wouldn't want to be assigning a number like that to someone's home that was determined by anything less than a fully supported extensive evaluation. 

IMO (of course all of the above is just my opinion) SCORE should be made downloadable to any certified energy auditor to be used as a pre-evaluation tool for the home owners' eyes only.  NO GOVERNMENT record of which home scored what.  If they want statistics, that can be arranged without the name and address of the home in question. 

If we want the home owners of America to get on board with the energy upgrade process, the first thing we should do is be honest with them.  Blackmailing them into an energy evaluation, "because the other homes have had one" isn't a good start and neither is promoting a 15 minute "quickie" as an energy audit.

All of this money and effort to create a tool we don't need while we still don't have the correct r-value for fiberglass insulation???

Bud

 

You make a fair point in terms of HEScore being a "quickie".  Indeed, the tool can be used in this fashion, but I do not believe it is intended to be the primary use.  The "15 minutes" time frame is more applicable to the time it would take to input the data to generate a score - not the time to do the actual home assessment.  The best use of the Score is to use it as a supplement to a standard energy audit report.

In response to your statement about realtors - this is again a fair point.  However, the fact is that home buyers are becoming increasingly concerned with the energy efficiency of a home.  Granted, it is not everyone, but the trend is definitely moving in one way and not the other.  If realtors fail to adapt by providing information to clients about energy efficiency, they will be suffer the consequences.  Sink or swim.  If homeowners demand it, realtors will have no choice other than to provide it.

Also, a home seller most likely would not want to know the "bad before" picture - unless they have an already efficient home and they want to show it off.  In this case, "bad before" becomes "already good" and can be used for leverage in a real estate deal.  The Home Energy Score is not only meant to point out the bad in an energy hog; it is also meant to point out the good in an energy saver.  In any real estate deal, one party will most likely be negatively leveraged and one positively leveraged (financially) when using the Score.  So if this factor "breaks even" in terms of value, then the implicit value in the notion of energy efficiency becomes the mark of success for the program.  As energy auditors, don't we all place value on energy efficiency due to the environmental benefits?

Also, on another note, I have done many an audit with uncooperative homeowners.  Remember, not all audits are paid for by the homeowner - many are part of subsidized, low income retrofit programs.

Bud, I haven't even been on this website in about 2 months. I've been frustrated with the Gov taking over every aspect of what we do and limiting us that are professionals from doing what we can...it's driving me nuts! 

I think, Gary, we are beginning to see the trends reversing.

Lack of participants has delayed this home energy score thing for almost a year.  BPI struggles to get it's pilot program started in hopes of selling even more credentials associated with the promise of even more government programs destined for failure.

All we have to do is say "no" and market our services like any other business ... absent of the harmful and misleading incentives that are designed to "create jobs" instead of energy efficiency.

If a blower door test is voluntary, what home energy auditor (certified or not) is going to run one considering it takes up more labor to do so?

If one house has a voluntary blower door run, and the house next to it does not, does that not make the score given to the house without the test less valid? And if so, where in the permanent record does it say that that the lack of diagnostics makes the score incomplete and not fully accurate?

Zachary ... as to the "error" you mention in my blog, let me share this excerpt from RESNET's recent press release: 

"InterNACHI and RESNET have also joined in a strategic alliance agreement to work with the U.S. Department of Energy to have InterNACHI members certified as Home Energy Professionals to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Home Energy Score program. InterNACHI and RESNET will develop an action plan for incorporation of Home Energy Survey Professionals in the national roll out of the DOE Home Energy Score Program. RESNET is working with other home inspector organizations to have their members certified as Home Energy Survey Professionals and participate in the DOE Home Energy Score Program."

No mention of any BPI certification, here.  It appears that RESNET is lending its credentials so that these folks can perform scoring on houses that they inspect for home buyers.  This is how the information is presently being conveyed by InterNACHI to its members, as well.

You will find the link to the full announcement on my blog post cited earlier.

I believe the language here is misleading.  It states that these organizations are "working with" the DOE to have their members certified to use the scoring tool.  I can state for a FACT that at the current time, assessors must be certified as a BPI BA or RESNET Rater in order to use the tool.

I can't comment on how the DOE will address these alliances in the future, but currently, these are the only two certifications that are valid.

To play devil's advocate, don't you think a Home Inspector who can also perform energy efficiency assessments is better than one who cannot?

If the RESNET press release is, as you put it, "misleading" ... it is something you must take up with them.  I didn't write it.

 

As for home inspectors performing these scores ... I think they are just as qualifed (if not more) than the Home Depot sales clerks and others who are being recruited to provide them.  My problem, however, rests upon the fact that they are NOT being provided to the home owner but, instead, to someone interested in purchasing a home.  The home owner is not being consulted ... nor has he provided consent ... to a home energy score.

I think that this is a bad idea and I have published this to warn home owners regarding it.

I don't understand why you would state that Home Depot sales clerks are being recruited to use the scoring tool.  This is simply untrue.  Assessors must be certified as BPI BA's or RESNET Raters.  Our company recruited assessors from our existing residential energy efficiency program - professionals who have been proven as successful auditors.

And what makes you think that the score cannot be provided to the homeowner?  Anyone can request a home to be scored.  If a home seller has an efficient home, wouldn't they want some sort of validation to present to potential buyers to convey this benefit of the home?  In other words, unless the homeowner has something to hide in their home, there is no reason they should be against an energy efficiency score.  Don't you think that transparency (in terms of energy efficiency) would have a positive impact on Sustainability movement?


Claiming that the homeowner does not provide consent for the Score is akin to claiming that the homeowner does not provide consent for a home inspection.  This is simply laughable.  A score cannot be generated unless an actual visit is made to the home to collect data.

As for the RESNET press release, I can only comment on what I know as a member of a Home Energy Score Partner organization - and that is that professionals who use the HEScore must have one of the two certs I listed.  Our organization is also providing quality assurance for the program - so any assessors doing incomplete or inaccurate scores will be reprimanded and potentially disallowed from using the software.  If this doesn't address your complaint about unqualified professionals generating a score, I don't know what will.

Zachary ... you obviously do not understand the home inspection process.  Home sellers consent to inspections ... not "scores" to be made a matter for record with the U.S. government.  Nor are they in the loop to recieve them, but only if the prospective home buyer decides to share them

Your statement that a "RESNET Rater" credential is required is also incorrect.  If you are certified by a RESNET "provider" ... you're in.

There appears to be a lot that you do not know about these processes, Zachary.  I wish you well as you learn more about them and the people who will be doing them with you.  Best of luck.

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