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Close your eyes and imagine a home you would love to wake up in, day after day. It looks great, of course — but what’s even better is how it feels. It’s the perfect temperature in every room, in every season. Yet utility bills stay nice and low! It feels safe and secure, and your family feels good in it — there’s nothing to aggravate allergies, asthma, or headaches. It allows you to live sustainably and comfortably.

That kind of home, the high-performing home, pays you back dividends when it’s time to sell. But only if everything you feel in the home can be captured and communicated clearly to appraisers and buyers. Without data that compares your home to others in your area and to national standards, it’s hard to prove your home’s value.

The good news is, there exists an entire industry dedicated to documenting and marketing your home’s high performance. It’s called home certification. Or maybe you’ve heard it called home scores. And then there’s product certifications.

The point is, it can get confusing. What does each one mean — and how does each one benefit you in your homeownership journey? With insights from Pearl Certification expert Casey Murphy, we’re creating a series of blog posts to help you understand:

  • What home certification is

  • How you benefit

  • Who the major players are

  • What makes Pearl Certification unique

  • How Pearl works with other home certifications, product certifications, and scores

What is home certification?

“Certification is a process to recognize that a home meets a specific set of criteria,” Murphy says. It demonstrates that an independent third party has formally compared and contrasted a home to standards developed by experts in the field. A home that has undergone the certification process earns a certificate that announces its achievement.

You might be familiar with product certifications, such as ENERGY STAR® product certification that uses a small blue label to indicate your TV or refrigerator performs well using less energy than other models. The idea is the same for homes — but think about how many products, building features, and installations contribute to the performance of an entire house!

Related Post: How Pearl Certification Works

What kind of home features can be certified?

Murphy highlights two types of home certification. The first focuses on a single high-performance attribute across the whole home. For example, ENERGY STAR, WaterSense, and Indoor airPLUS home certifications focus exclusively on energy efficiency, water efficiency, and indoor air quality, respectively.

The second type of home certification goes beyond water or energy efficiency certification alone. These certifications define criteria a home must meet across multiple high-performance attributes. They typically incorporate energy and water efficiency, renewable energy, indoor air quality, and site location. LEED®, the National Green Building Standard, and Pearl are examples.

“As a high-performing home certification,” Murphy says, “Pearl evaluates home features that contribute to four performance attributes: energy efficiency, comfort, health, and home value. Homes can also achieve our Electrified Home Badge and Solar Badge.”

Understanding energy-efficiency scores for home certification

The criteria for each certification differ. Many, however, share a similar approach to scoring a home’s energy efficiency.

“Scores are a baseline metric for certifications,” Murphy says. “Energy efficiency is the most common score. There are water efficiency and carbon scores, too. These single scores feed into the certifications.”

Different types of home energy efficiency scores are designed to be used in new or existing homes — typically not both. Certifications are the same way. ENERGY STAR certification, for example, is only for newly constructed homes. Pearl is unique in that it works equally well for new or existing homes — one set of certification criteria covers all houses. (We’ll talk more about this in upcoming posts in this series.)

For existing homes, certifications generally incorporate one of two kinds of energy-efficiency scores:

  • Operational score: the measure of how much energy the home used over the past year, based on actual energy bills.

  • Asset score: The home’s relevant pieces and parts, including insulation, appliances, and heating and cooling equipment, are used to model the home’s expected, future energy use. The asset score is especially helpful if the home is newly built or if a new family with different energy use habits is moving into an existing home.

For newly built homes, several leading certifications incorporate the Home Energy Rating System (HERS®) Index score, developed by the not-for-profit Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET).

“Homeowners can get home energy scores separate from certifications, too,” Murphy adds. “They’re tools for learning where you’re at and what your home needs.” The Home Energy Score™ (HES) is an example of a standalone and is not commonly incorporated into certifications. This valuable tool for homeowners was designed primarily for existing homes by the United States Department of Energy and the national labs.

We’ll tell you more about each of these home energy-efficiency scores and what they mean for your family later in this blog post series.

Related Post: 17 Energy-Efficiency Measurements Every Homeowner Should Know

What are the benefits of home certification?

You can have a high-performing home without a certification. But third-party certification is needed to provide proof of the conditions inside the home and the investments you’ve made to create a healthier, more comfortable, and more efficient environment.

That’s because many high-performing home features hide from view behind your walls, and people involved in refinancing or selling homes often don’t understand their value. Certifying your home is the first step toward receiving a fair return on your energy-efficient home investments. It will empower you and your agent to communicate that hidden value.

In other words, a home certification will enable other people — including appraisers, real estate agents, and prospective buyers — to see the difference that you feel every day inside.

Overall, Murphy points out, certification is a means to an important end: living in your dream home. “What are you trying to do? Slash high bills? Improve comfort? Keep kids healthy? Grow your home value?” he asks. “As a certification and a guide for your journey, Pearl is here to help you make educated choices, achieve your goals, and communicate the value of your investment.”

Sign up below for our newsletter email updates to know when each new post in the Home Certification 101 series is ready to read. Between now and the next post, we also invite you to learn about the benefits of Pearl Certified high-performing homes or fill out our contact form to talk with a Pearl Certification team member about your end goals.


Pearl Certification is transforming the housing market. We’re making a visible difference nationwide for homeowners and the businesses that serve them.