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.
These are just a couple thoughts I had so far, but I'd really enjoy some dialogue about this new and exciting program.
Hmmm...I'm thinking about buying Facebook stock. So, perhaps what I should do it look at the NASDAQ average and go from there?
The average male suit size is 44R. Is that the suit size we should all wear?
Evan, I ask these questions in the context of the NREL finding that, as you state, "the tool predicts bills very well on average". That is great from an aggregate policy and program level. It tells me nothing valuable as either a homeowner or contractor with respect to an individual home. What does the standard deviation look like when the predicting the bills against an individual home? What do the default assumptions mean, not on average, when applied to an individual home. How does a homeowner know whether their home is actually very tight or very leaky based on an average (i.e., default) value? How about those ducts? These are but two examples of very important questions since the HES also provides recommendations on improvements and even estimates the energy savings...again not necessarily based on the actual individual home, but on estimates based on defaults. [Yes, I understand that one can even a measured air-infiltration value. But that is NOT a requirement of the score. By default the HES is generated using the, er, default, in this case.]
Does this matter? Absolutely! Any default recommendation and estimate of savings with the DOE imprimatur become one metric to measure any additional recommendations and estimates against. It sets consumer expectations. And we science-based recommendations for an individual home are different than recommendations which are generated for a home that make sense "on average", DOE has just introduced a barrier to energy-savings, a barrier that now most be overcome by whoever is actually selling the project.
It a world with limitless resources, a "light-touch" is great. The more opportunities to educate individuals about their homes the better. But in the real world, even a light-touch has cost associated with it. Worthwhile analysis by DOE--before mass deployment--would be how does the tool "grease the skids for an investment grade audit", or more importantly, how does the tool increase (or decrease!) the installation of actual energy savings measures. Only then can we answer the question of whether the HES helps or hurts, and actually quantify that so we can evaluate cost-effectiveness of the tool and the approach. Just stating it will help, or guessing isn't good enough. We need to measure.
Thanks for your thoughts. You bring up some excellent points. In reference to the tool falling short when assessing an individual home, this is definitely a concern. Particularly, here in Philadelphia, there is a minor issue with scoring homes because such a large portion of our housing stock is attached housing (row-homes and duplexes), and there is no input to account for conditioned space in adjacent properties. It seems to me the tool is better suited to assess single family detached dwellings.
But remember that the HEScore tool is not meant exclusively to replace a comprehensive audit with custom recommendations. It is intended more so to be a supplement to one. I feel that most auditors worth their salt would only rely on the recommendations made by the tool as a starting off point, and that custom recommendations and estimates would be included in a full audit report.
To build on what you said, I think the ultimate goal of the HEScore tool is to strike the perfect balance between accurate and valid diagnostic measurement and estimation with an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand tool that can be appreciated by energy professionals and laypersons alike. Some of the things you question about HEScore are certainly difficult to predict at this time - we will see how the tool affects the energy efficiency industry over the next few months and years. I'm sure the DOE is concerned with the same things you are, and will seek to amend the software as appropriate to address those concerns.
So if the tool falls short in providing meaningful and accurate data ... and the rater will be recommending a diagnositic audit to fill the gaps in it ... what is the home owner actually paying his $50 or $100 for?
How late into the game ... and after how many people have paid for their questionable scores ... do you anticipate the DOE to "amend the software" and will the people who paid for the inferior scores be reimbursed, or do they get a new number mailed to them?
I really think it would be in the best interest of the industry if the government quit trying to use it "stimulate the economy" and "increase jobs" and simply allowed the market to address the home owner's need to address his own issues of comfort, indoor air quality and energy efficiency.
Let me use an analogy...
Cars are sold with MPG ratings. We all know that the sticker MPG rating will not be represent PRECISELY how the car will perform in terms of gas consumption; it represents an estimate. Is it fair to say that MPG ratings on vehicles are worthless or harmful? I don't think so. Stating that the entire concept of the score is flawed because there will be deviation in the scores is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Also, any act that involves human performance will contain deviation. If two auditors perform an audit on the same house, there will of course be some degree of deviation. Does this negate the value of either of the two audits? I can predict your response to this point - that homeowners pay for the score but don't pay for the MPG rating. It is a fair point but I don't think it undermines mine. If cars were custom built as most homes are, it is feasible to think that manufacturers could add a charge to the purchase price in order to provide an MPG rating - that is if consumers demand it.
A typical homeowner can only extrapolate limited value from a standard home energy audit - it presents little opportunity to create leverage in a real estate transaction or even place value on energy efficiency. I agree that the HEScore is not perfect, but does that mean that the DOE should not even attempt to implement it?
The simple fact is that in a market that is affected by energy efficiency, but there are professionals who are not energy efficiency experts, an easy-to-understand tool is necessary if we ever seek to place value on energy efficiency in these types of situations.
Zachary - You inted to sell these scores and you have no choice but to defend them. I understand and respect that.
I have no interest in interfering with your potential source of income for people have, and will continue to spend their money on stupider things than a "score" to assign to their homes.
As stated before, I object to having home owners being subjected to this scoring without their consent ... and to have an official government record of it stored in a database without their knowledge or consent.
Not only am a certified energy auditor ... but I am also a home inspector. I can state for the record that no home owner consenting to a home inspection is aware of or even suspects that a home energy score is being compiled, if the buyer were to commission one. Giving consent to a home inspection DOES NOT equate to consenting to a Home energy Score.
The buyer who commissioned the score may not even buy the house being scored. In such an event, neither the owner of the home, the former prospective buyer or any future prospective buyer will ever derive even the smallest benefit from any information that might exist from that score.
It is wrong. It has the potential for harm since it can be used as leverage in negotiating a sale. I know you deny this, but it is already being done with similar information.
All this for something that can be readily acknowledged by everyone to be less than accurate. If it were a steak being served to the same client at a restaurant, he would send it back.
And as to the MPG analogy ... I have a different one.
Two guys are at the bar looking across the room at a young lady at a table. One goes over and says "My pal and I are rating women on a scale of 1 to 10. If you pay me $50, I will tell you how you rate against the other women in the bar and give you some pointers on how to raise your score."
She pays him the money. He tells her she is a "6", but could be an "8" if she got her teeth fixed and bleached her hair to blonde, because "I like blondes," he tells her.
She feels ripped off and warns the other ladies in the bar to ignore the guy if he comes to your table.
I am salaried employee of a non-profit organization. I will be making zero additional income because of HEScore. Assessors in our program will receive an extra $50 for generating a home score, and there will be no additional cost to the homeowner. I truthfully believe that the lack of transparency in the energy efficiency industry is a problem, and that by placing value on energy efficiency, the world will be a better place. ("You, you may say/I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one/I hope some day you'll join us/And the world will live as one")
That being said, you do make an extremely valid point about the ethics of consent. This is an issue that I will bring up during the next HEScore Partner conference call. Unfortunately, there will always be people who engage in unethical practices for their own personal gain. I will repeat the cliche I used in my previous post. I feel that demeaning the entire idea of the score just because of these issues is cutting off your nose to spite your face. (You probably view the HEScore as nose cancer and the nose deserves to go. We may have to agree to disagree)
James - hypothetically, if there were a similar scoring tool that had improved accuracy, increased range of data inputs, and addressed the issues of homeowner consent in these types of situations, would you still view it so negatively?
Not if it were proven to be all that you described PRIOR to charging for it and making recommendations to home owners based upon it --- and if it were not done without the consent and input from the home owner.
Understandable. I will definitely bring up both the recommendations issue and the consent issue at the next conference call, which is next week. In terms of the accuracy of the tool, I think the DOE made as many improvements as possible based on the pilot data, but there is always room for improvement IMO, and this will have to occur based on feedback from actual in-the-field use.
Thanks for beating this drum. I readily agree that homeowners must be informed and provide their consent before any rating or HEScore is performed on their home. I'm no attorney (so don't shoot the messenger!) but I think any parties involved that may be subject to business codes and/or privacy laws would be well advised to keep a record of their client's consent in case they might someday need it. This is particularly important at the time of sale (which is notoriously litigious), and probably even more so if any of the identifiable data will be "registered" with a government agency.
For example, under California law (B&P code 7195-7199.7) an "inspection of energy efficiency" or more recently a "HERS California home energy audit" may be included in a home inspection, and inspectors have a duty to provide these services with "the degree of care that a reasonably prudent home inspector would exercise".
The California Real Estate Inspection Association Code of Ethics (which is frequently cited when cases make it to court) states that "inspectors shall act in good faith toward each client" and "inspectors shall not disclose inspection results to anyone other than the client or the client's agent without the approval of the client".
So even out here in the Wild West (where inspectors remain unlicensed) one would be foolish to ignore this.
Hopefully, by the time of their big convention in July, the HES folks will have all of this figured out ... but then, they've had a couple of years and haven't really gotten too far.
In case they don't, I think we need to let the public know how to protect themselves from the Home Energy Score. http://jimbushart.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/how-to-protect-yourself-...
With RESNET sending out Home Depot check-out clerks and part time home inspectors with unusual "Home Energy Surveys" (note the HES connection) and the home inspectors with ASHI who have partnered for the actual "Home Energy Score" (same HES) in conjunction with THEIR home inspections ... there is bound to be confusion and mayhem.
Home sales will be lost. Home owners will be damaged. Consumers will need someone to help them recover their damages. Just sayin'....
For everyone's benefit, the correct acronym for the Home Energy Score or the Home Energy Score program is HEScore, not HES. Yes, there are some isolated cases where the incorrect acronym may have been used officially, but that is being cleared up as the program goes live.
HES is a related but distinctly different piece of software that should not be conflated with HEScore.
...but I really wish you hadn't mentioned this "bar rating" analogy.
Now RESNET and BPI are gonna have to come up with another designation.