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Welcome to the third post in our Home Certification 101 series. In our first post, we described the what and why of certification for your high-performing home. Next, we discussed the ins and outs of Pearl Certification. Today, we’re talking about the Home Energy Score™ (HES).

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Energy-Efficiency Certification Versus Score

First, what’s the difference between a certification and a score? Earning certification means that a home has been evaluated by a trained third party and meets specific criteria. The criteria could cover a single home performance attribute, such as energy efficiency (ENERGY STAR® certification is one example), or the criteria could cover performance across multiple attributes (LEED and Pearl Certification are two examples).

A score, on the other hand, is the actual measurement of a high-performing attribute like energy efficiency or water efficiency. “These single scores feed into certifications,” says Casey Murphy, Senior Vice President of Business Incubation at Pearl Certification. “Homeowners can also get energy scores separate from certifications.” 

Related Post: What Is Home Certification and What Can it Do for My Home?

An Important Tool for Homeowners

HES was designed by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and the national laboratories to remove a key barrier to home energy efficiency upgrades: the lack of home performance information for existing homes.

With HES, homeowners gain an easy-to-understand baseline for how their existing home uses energy. “It serves as a tool to educate homeowners on where their home is at and how they can improve it,” Murphy says.

What Does a Home Energy Score Look Like?

Every Home Energy Score comes in a three-part report to help homeowners start making energy-efficiency improvements. The report includes:

  • Score: Between 1 and 10; higher is more energy efficient

  • Home Facts: Energy use estimates and data about your home’s attributes

  • Recommendations: Cost-effective improvements, associated annual cost savings, and the projected increase in your HES if you make those upgrades

Related Post: Home Certification 101: What Is Home Certification and What Can it Do for My Home?

Home Energy Score Report Example Page 1 Sample page from a Home Energy Score Report, Courtesy U.S. Dept. of Energy

How Is a Home Energy Score Calculated?

Home energy use can be calculated in several ways. The most straightforward is to review a year’s worth of energy bills. But this relies heavily on residents’ energy use habits, not necessarily the home’s performance.

HES works differently. “Instead of looking at bills, the assessor is looking at assets in the home, such as insulation and heating and cooling equipment. They put that information into an energy modeling engine,” Murphy says. “It shows how much energy this house would use if the average homeowner was living in it. Most home certifications rely on an asset score like this to measure a home’s energy efficiency.”

“From a technical perspective,” Murphy explains, “the Home Energy Score estimates energy use in millions of BTUs. It compares the home’s total energy use to the average home energy use in that local area. It then represents it on a 1-10 scale to demonstrate where your home falls in comparison to the average score of 5.”

The DOE provides start-up materials for HES, including a sample Home Energy Score Report and this short guide to understanding your score.

An Easy Way to Understand Home Energy Score

“Energy efficiency home scores are like MPGs (miles per gallon) for a car,” Murphy says. “Specifically, an asset score like the Home Energy Score is the car’s showroom sticker that says how many MPGs it should get. There’s value in knowing that.”

Here comes the “but”: “The Home Energy Score doesn’t normalize for home size,” Murphy says. “If you have a home that’s 500 square feet, you’re going to do awfully well. If it’s 6,000 square feet, you’ll do poorly. It’s not comparing you to the same size home — it compares you across the entire housing stock in your area. So you know what MPG to expect, but you don’t have the context to know whether that’s good or bad for its size.”

Does the Home Energy Score Affect Home Value?

A 2022 study led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that HES only influences home sale prices in a meaningful way in locations where HES assessments are legally mandated. In other words, where HES is required to be a visible part of the process.

While it may not raise your home price, HES can provide buyers an incentive to choose your home. The Department of Energy explains how buyers can qualify for larger loans from their lenders if the home they want to buy has an above-average HES for the area.

Related Post: 5 Ways to Upgrade Your Home and Its Appraisal Value

Home Energy Score And Pearl Certification

So, HES by itself is a useful educational tool for homeowners, but it has the greatest meaning when it is incorporated into a home certification.

Pearl Certification considers HES when evaluating a home’s energy efficiency. “If Home Energy Score is like the MPG, then Pearl is like Carfax,” Murphy says. “We put the Home Energy Score into the home’s record with other important information. We make it visible to everyone who needs to know — real estate professionals, appraisers, homeowners and buyers. We help everyone understand what it means and why it matters.”

HES becomes part of the power of Pearl Certification — the power to make home value visible and command an average 4.75% sales premium.

Related Post: Home Certification 101: How Pearl Certification Works

How to Get Your Home Energy Score

The easiest way to get your Home Energy Score, plus ensure you get the most value from it during sale or appraisal of your home, is to login to your Green Door account and request a Pearl Certification. As a national remote service provider for HES, Pearl can connect you with an HES assessor, certify their work for quality assurance, and generate your HES, which is then included in your Pearl Certification, along with valuable documentation like the Appraisal Institute's Green and Energy Efficient Appraisal Addendum. 

Get a head start on your HES by updating your home's profile in Green Door with your energy-efficient and high-performing features. Have questions on updating assets or HES? Reach out to a Pearl team member through Green Door, and they'll be happy to walk you through the steps you need to take to capture your home's true value.

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