MPG for Your Home?
DOE is rolling out a Home Energy Score, but may face some competition.
November 19, 2010 by Steven Castle

Consumers may soon have a way to measure their home’s energy efficiency—and compare it to others.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has introduced a Home Energy Score, which it likens to a miles per gallon (mpg) rating for homes.

“Most Americans spend between $1,500 and $2,500 each year on home energy costs,” says Cathy Zoi, the DOE’s assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “Do you have any idea what the mpg of your home is?”

Under the program, which is set to launch on nationally in late 2011, trained and qualified contractors will examine homes’ structures, heating and cooling systems, insulation levels and more. Contractors will have to be certified by BPI or RESNET, which qualifies energy auditors. The contractor rates the home with 45 data points, and inputs that into a scoring tool developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Then the contractor gives the homeowner the score with recommendations, and what level they could get if they implement the recommendations, along with the estimated annual savings. Regional climate factors are considered in the scoring.

The Home Energy Score will be on a scale of one to 10. A 10 represents a home with excellent energy performance, while a one represents a home that needs extensive energy upgrades. The DOE recommends getting a Home Energy Score before doing upgrades so you can assess your home’s energy efficiency performance.

The DOE will be piloting the program in selected communities in next few months. You can see where the programs will be tested here.

The Home Energy Score comes in the form of label that lists:

  • The home address.
  • Total energy, defined as the amount of energy the home would require, assuming certain standard conditions such as three occupants and specific thermostat settings.
  • Home size in square feet, reflecting the total interior space that is heated or cooled.
  • Whether air conditioning is used.
  • U.S. climate zone.
  • Home energy score, defined as the home’s energy performance based on its current condition.
  • Home energy score after upgrades are made.
  • The estimated annual savings in utility bills after making all recommended improvements.

You can see a sample label and accompanying energy efficiency recommendations here.

Electrical energy use is not a part of the Home Energy Score, but the program could open up business to custom electronic (CE) pros who can interface with HVAC system upgrades via home control systems.

The idea behind the Home Energy Score is to provide one universal rating system that everyone can easily understand, like mpg is for cars. You can view a video on the Home Energy Score here.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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