The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) checks new and remodeled homes for energy efficiency. A Home Energy Rating is a measurement of a home's energy efficiency. In the United States, the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) is responsible for creation and maintenance of the RESNET Mortgage Industry National Home Energy Rating Standards, as well as certification and quality assurance on RESNET Provider organizations.
Home energy ratings can be used for either existing homes or new homes. A home energy rating of an existing home allows a homeowner to receive a report listing options for upgrading a home's energy efficiency. The homeowners may then use the report to determine the most effective ways in which to upgrade the home's energy efficiency. A home energy rating of a new home allows buyers to compare the energy efficiency of homes they are considering buying.
How the HERS Score Works
RESNET trains and licenses HERS raters to examine new homes and newly renovated homes for energy efficiency.
After inspecting the home and running the data through specialized software, the rater assigns a HERS score on a scale of 0 to 150. The lower the number, the better the score. Each one-point change in a score, up or down, represents a one percent shift in energy efficiency.
To get an accurate score, the rater compares the home to a standard Reference Home. The Reference Home isn’t an actual house—it is simply an analysis tool—but it resembles the rated home as much as possible (same size, shape, environment and climate). This means the score is relative to the type of house in a specific climate zone.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognize the HERS Index as an official verification of home energy performance.
HERS testing is required in California; usually, it is done at the time the house is originally built or when a new heater and air-conditioning gets installed. Then, the building department will force the contractor to provide a HERS rating to guarantee the work is done right and the ducts are airtight.
HERS testing is especially useful for finding hidden problems, sometimes in combination with the use of thermal imaging, such as disconnected ducts inside inaccessible areas such as wall cavities, where ducts are placed between floors of a building.See how climate zones are defined.
Help Your Clients Prepare for Better Ratings
A home is a system. As a home inspector, you understand how all the points you check during a home inspection add up to a sound, safe and usable system for living. You can help your clients achieve a low score by detecting failures in systems that increase energy usage.
Home energy raters check for places in the home where energy use may increase because of faulty or inefficient systems. A better score provides immediate cost savings to your client, improves the home’s sale value and is also an indicator of mortgage repayment reliability.
As a home inspector, you can help your clients prepare for a better energy score by identifying systems that need improvement. Indicating places for system improvements allows a homeowner to begin remediation and repairs to help conserve energy.Some of the following top concerns for raters fall under the scope of a standard home inspection:
- Air leaks in the building envelope
- Heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) distribution duct leaks
- Any combustion risks
- Air infiltration rate
Air leaks are the most common faults that raise a HERS score. Inspectors can incorporate thermal imaging to help identify these air flow leaks.As you perform your inspection, you can identify faults or leaks in the following home systems:
- Wall and ceiling insulation
- Water heating systems
- Attics and crawl spaces
Following the ASHI Standard of Practice, your inspection will identify any areas where systems can be improved. From faulty air ducts to insufficient insulation, your experienced eye recognizes systems that need improvement.
Inspection Report to the Rescue
Your report alerts clients to system calls that need remediation. As a legal document, your report serves to educate your client. They can show your findings to anyone with whom they contract for repairs.
When you call out major concerns, you help your client understand how repairs will improve the energy efficiency of the home.
Don’t be shy about spelling it out in the report. Findings are a guide to improving the home. Here are some examples:
Distribution Ducts: Monitor, Major Concern:
Disconnected heating and cooling supply air ducts were noted at the attic crawl space. It is recommended a licensed HVAC contractor be contacted to further investigate this condition.
Missing or damaged floor insulation was noted at the sub-area of the crawl space (under the kitchen, family room and nook).
Central Air Conditioning: Monitor, Major Concern:
Pet urine damage and corrosion was noted at the central air conditioning system condenser compressor unit. It is recommended a licensed HVAC contractor be contacted to further investigate this condition.
Help clients understand how air flow, leaky windows, poorly sealed doors and other sources of energy loss can increase their energy bill. As always, client awareness is part of our ongoing education efforts.
A New Revenue Source for Inspectors
As an inspector, you may want to become a Home Energy Rater. The Home Energy Rating industry is overseen by RESNET and is structured to ensure a high level of quality assurance. With that in mind, energy raters must work through a Rating Provider, who is responsible for their certification and quality assurance.
The responsibilities and requirements to be an accredited rating provider are defined in Chapter One of the Mortgage Industry National Home Energy Rating Standards.
Find certified training through RESNET. After a course of study, you must pass a core competency test, sign a rater agreement with a RESNET-accredited Rating Provider and complete probationary ratings. You must complete all training and testing requirements within 15 months.
You can then offer your service to local builders or to consumers getting their heating or air conditioning replaced.
HERS Benefits the Market
Low HERS scores are fantastic for a home’s resale value. Homes with low HERS scores and good energy efficiency can command a higher price—up to 30 percent higher than similar, less efficient homes.
Homebuyers may initially pay more for a home with a low score but, in the long term, they will save with consistently lower energy bills.
The Home Energy Rating Score is being phased in. Currently in California, it’s required for new homes, but energy efficiency is becoming a standard in more and more states. Think about how you can incorporate a focus on energy efficiency into your business.