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HERS Ratings - All That And A Bag of Chips

June 10, 2015




The “Home Energy Rating Score” boils all energy use in a home down to a “miles-per-gallon” number – like a window sticker in a car.  One point equals one percent energy use up or down.  But ratings do a whole lot more than provide that nifty metric. 


In honor of David Letterman’s final show, I created my own “Top 10” list of reasons to get a HERS rating.


  • BE ONE OF THE COOL KIDS – In 2014, 43 percent of all new-construction homes had HERS ratings.  Did yours?  If you plan to buy a new home, be sure to ask for the rating AND ALL DOCUMENTATION.  I’m floored by how infrequently people get this valuable paperwork, or are even aware it’s available.


  • RIGHT SIZE – Size matters, especially when it comes to energy users and contributors in a house like heating and cooling systems, ventilation for healthier indoor air, and even solar electric (PV) systems.  You can always work with a HERS energy rater to really dial these systems in.  And then make sure that gets forwarded to the proper contractor for system sizing.


  • MAKE UP YOUR MIND – HERS ratings allow you to try out different scenarios and systems before you purchase.  ‘See a next-gen “heat-pump” hot water heater you think you may want?  Have your rater model it.  Or get sideswiped by a refrigerator sales rep during a big-box run?  See what the energy use of that fridge will do to your bills.



  • PLAY “HGTV” – If you’re doing a renovation to your home, pretend you’re the star of your own HGTV show, and look at pre- and post-installation costs and energy use of choices.  ‘Minus the drama and commercial breaks.


  • BEAT THE TAX MAN – If you build something special, you may get the added bonus of beating the tax man with the EPAct Tax Credit (2005).  To do that, your home must show 50 percent improvement over the 2006 energy codes.  And HERS ratings are the way to do that.  Ask your rater if you qualify for the tax credit, and make sure you get the documentation for that to hand to your accountant.[i]


  • ONE UP THE JONESES – HERS ratings provide for apples-to-apples comparisons.  Does your home perform better than your neighbors’?  Here’s how you prove it.  “Show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.” 


  • GET YOUR UPGRADES FOR FREE – Well, sort of.  If the rating shows the energy-efficiency improvements you want to make pay for themselves in energy savings, it's as if the difference between your utility bill minus the projected NEW one PAYS for the upgrades.  SWEET


  • TAKE THE MYSTERY OUT OF EFFICIENCY – Ratings provide a good indicator of what the heating, cooling and lighting bills may be in your home.  This is often overlooked or even obscured in home sales.  No more.  The HERS rating is one way to laser this in.  Put in a hot tub or 72-inch plasma TV, and all bets are off.


  • ADD VALUE – HERS ratings can compare the energy use in your home to … well, darn-near anything.  A code-built twin, a pre-existing home just like it, or homes in the area.  This energy savings stream over time can add value to your home in a sale or refinance.  That number often dwarfs the upfront cost of improvements.


  • … and lastly, GET GOOD KARMA & BE RECOGNIZED FOR IT – Few builders are going to provide HERS ratings on bare-minimum homes.  So if you have a HERS number, odds are you’ve got a property that’s better.  And better for the planet.  Also, there’s an on-line national registry for anyone wanting to check it out.  (Think HouseFax for energy.) 


A number of builders assume you, homeowner, don't care about any of this.  You should.  Ratings can run 100 pages easily.  And they’re every bit as important as clear title, a home inspection, and correct closing documents.


Good HERS raters can literally add tens of thousands of dollars in value to your home if they hand off the right information to you.  Make sure you ask for it. 





[i] Currently Congress has not extended this for 2015, but energy efficiency continually garners bipartisan support.  Stay tuned.


IMAGES:  HERS yard sign from RESNET.us, Green “SOLD” sign from LilacsandDreamsShoppeBlogspot.com .

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