The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is how a home's energy efficiency is measured. It is nationally recognized as the system for calculating a home's energy performance. The lower the score, the more energy efficient the home and the lower the utility costs. A lower HERS score can possibly result in a higher resale price and for good reason – the utility costs will be lower for the owner. For this reason, some homeowners, even before they place their house on the market, have a HERS report computed to show potential buyers.
What is the average score and how is my home calculated?
The U.S. Department of Energy has determined that a typical resale home scores 130 on the HERS Index while a home built to the 2004 International Energy Conservation Code is awarded a rating of 100. http://www.resnet.us/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/RESNET-Mortgage-Industry-National-HERS-Standards_3-8-17.pdf
The score of your home is based on a 'reference home.' This is a house which is relative in size, shape and type of house you live in. HERS reports are base on an average score of 100. Let us assume your home has a 125 HERS score. That would be interpreted as being 25% less energy efficient than the “reference home.”
Many new home builders love to promote their HERS ratings and for good reason! Many are significantly below the 100 score average resulting in savings for the new owner. When looking at new homes, or even resale, be sure to ask the HERS scores.
Five ways to lower your HERS score (and expenses)
So clearly, the lower your HERS score, the more energy efficient your home is and the lower your utility bills. Who doesn’t want that? Many people ask if solar is the way to go in order to lower their score. Solar is very expensive and even if leasing, when you go to sell your home, the new owner will have to agree to take over the lease. Although solar can help, there are many other ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home before going to the extreme cost of solar.
1. Install insulation
One of the best ways to lower your HERS score is to add insulation to your attic. You need to make sure, however, that the insulation goes all the way to top of your attic to really be efficient. If not, the heat escapes through the unused roof space. Insulation, however, should not touch the underside of the roof. Plastic or foam batting can be used to keep the material away. Also, be sure to not let the insulation cover the soffits.
2. Stop air leakage
It does not help to have great insulation and efficient air conditioners and heaters if the air is seeping out of your home through leaks. One place where leaks are common are the windows when the connection between the frame of the window and the frame of the house break down. Yes, you can totally replace them with better, energy efficient windows but if that is not possible due to costs, you can caulk the window where its frame meets the exterior siding. You should also replace the weather stripping around the windows and doors of your home. Hardware stores sell an injectable foam sealant that tends to work well on both windows and doors, but can get messy.
3. Replace your furnace, hot water heater, air-conditioners and appliances
I am going to toss another acronym at you – SEER. SEER stands for “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.” The higher the SEER, the greater the furnace’s, hot water heater’s, or air conditioner’s efficiency. Some old air conditioners, for example, has scores under 10 while some now are up to 22 or 23. Window units are usually still around 10.
I think we have all seen the yellow and black EnergyGuide stickers on appliances, air conditioners, furnaces, etc. These show the SEER rating which is usually on a yellow and black EnergyGuide sticker attached to the outside of the unit. So how much of a difference does a higher SEER rating make?
Let’s suppose your older air conditioning system had a SEER rating of 9. If you were to upgrade to a SEER 13 air conditioner (the lowest efficiency available), you would reduce your power consumption by about 28%. That can translate to energy savings up to $300 per year (depending on your usage rate and the cost of electricity). If you went from a SEER rating of 8 up to a SEER 15, that would reduce your power consumption by 49%!!! http://www.horizonservicesinc.com/reference/tips-articles/high-efficiency-air-conditioners-reduce-energy-costs
4. Use LED lightbulbs
Remember when it took FOREVER for an LED bulb to light up? You were stumbling around in the dark for 5 minutes before it finally lit up enough to see anything, especially the dog in the middle of the floor when you are trying to make it to your coffee maker in the morning, but I digress. Thank goodness bulbs have improved by leaps and bounds!
There are several advantage to using LED verses traditional bulbs. Although they are more expensive at the on-set, those LED bulbs last much longer resulting in overall them being less expensive, but also saving you time and frustration having to change the bulb.
Q: How many aerospace engineers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. It doesn't take a rocket scientist, you know.
I have high ceilings in my home so I LOVE the bulbs lasting longer because they are a pain to change! Another great advantage is that they use a lot less energy which also saves you money overall. A 12 W LED bulb uses 75-80% less energy than a 60 W traditional bulb. If you replaced five of your most commonly used bulbs from traditional bulbs to LED bulbs, it would save you about $75 a year. Imagine if you changed them all! https://energy.gov/energysaver/how-energy-efficient-light-bulbs-compare-traditional-incandescents
5. Put in programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats allow you to adjust temperatures in your home depending on when you are away, at home, awake, and asleep. When programming your thermostat, consider when you normally go to sleep and wake up. If you prefer to sleep at a cooler temperature, you might want to start the temperature setback a bit ahead of the time you actually go to bed. You can set the temperature to start to warm up before you get out of bed so the house is not quite as cold. You can lower the amount of heat in the house in the winter when you are gone, saving energy and money, and then have the heat warm the house up again prior to your arrival home. Not only does all of this sound appealing from just a living standpoint, it also can save you money.
You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting. https://energy.gov/energysaver/thermostats
As with anything, the energy savings will depend on how you install and use the item. If you have several levels in your home, it would be best to have different thermostats for each level. This way, for example, if you bedrooms are all upstairs, you may not need to warm that area up as much during the day in the winter months if you prefer to sleep in cooler temperatures. Through proper use of a programmable thermostat (using the four pre-programmed settings) you can save about $180 every year in energy costs. https://www.energystar.gov/products/heating_cooling/
These are just a few ways to make your home more energy efficient and lower your HERS score. What are some other ways you have found to save energy?
If you would like to explore your options with regard to buying or selling a home, you are welcome to text, email, or call. You may also click on the "Homes For Sale" tab at the top of the page and explore the homes that may be available.
Although I am a Colorado licensed attorney, this blog is for information only and is not to be deemed legal advise. If you have legal questions or need legal help, please contact your attorney.