Home Energy Scores: Behind the Numbers

explain home energy score report

Your Prius-driving neighbor got a six, but your parents’ place in Ladd’s Addition got a nine. When your real estate agent first saw your West Portland home, they said for sure it is a three or under, and now you’re worried. What’s all the fuss about home energy scores?

For one, it’s a requirement (as of January 1st, 2018) that all homes listed on the Portland real estate market have a Home Energy Score prepared by a licensed assessor. The Score — which is just one of three parts of the Report — is the next big number home buyers will be looking at when they make a decision about whether to buy your home.

Of course, your Home Energy Score doesn’t change your home’s location, number of bedrooms, and other key selling points. However, the idea behind the new policy is to give home buyers a reliable method to compare similar homes based on energy efficiency. Because most home buyers aren’t home energy experts (but we are!) the Report is a simple method to get an overall picture of where the home’s energy is coming from and where it’s going.

The three parts of the standard Home Energy Report for Portland homes are:

  1. The Score. Ten is the best — the most efficient a home can be with current technology. A One means there is a lot of room for improvement! Most homes in Portland score around a Five — average energy efficiency. This section also estimates how many tons of carbon the home emits in a year. Because most of Portland’s energy comes from burning coal, home energy consumption can be weighed by the amount of carbon sent into the atmosphere! Home energy generation systems such as solar panels can reduce the tons of carbon emitted from fifteen (the highest end of the scale) to zero.
  2. Estimated Energy Costs. This is a number we can already relate to. In dollars, how much per year can the owner of this home expect to pay in utility bills? In the past, real estate agents have relied on sellers’ experience in the home to give buyers an estimate of their energy costs. However, every family has their own level of energy consumption; the Report predicts potential energy use based on the home, not the consumer.
  3. Suggested Improvements. A list of specific changes (eg. insulating the ceiling, replacing windows) that can boost the home’s Energy Score. This section also predicts what the home will score after the improvements are made, which is a nice motivator.

How does the home energy score assessor arrive at these numbers? Portland’s new policy outlines a very specific process by which they will walk through your home and find what’s going well and what isn’t as far as energy use. In fact there are over forty pieces of information they will gather about your home. They look at appliances, insulation, how the home is heated, and places where it may be losing heat such as windows and seals.

If you guessed that home sellers will be checking into and improving these areas themselves before they list their homes in 2018, you’re right. We’ll cover some DIY strategies our blog, and dive into the Home Energy Report policy itself and how it might transform Portland into the green city of the future. Stay tuned!