Frequently Asked Questions, Home Energy Score: 2019

Is the Home Energy Score really something I need?

If you’re selling a home within the Portland (jurisdiction) city limits, the answer is yes! There are a few exceptions around foreclosures and condos without their own roof (high-rises). Otherwise, the Home Energy Score is required by law, and homeowners must have the report on hand BEFORE they list their home for sale on the Portland real estate market.

What about homes outside Portland? The Home Energy Score is not required, but highly recommended. That’s because home shoppers looking for homes in the Portland metro area are starting to expect to see a Score report with every home they’re looking at. It helps them compare homes and make an informed decision. 

Do you offer home energy audits? Is an audit better than a score? 

The answer is, it depends what your goals are. There are many ways to assess the energy efficiency of a home. You can run an infrared camera outside the home to see where heat is escaping. You can look at previous energy bills or gain insight from the homeowners’ personal experience. However, there’s only one way to fulfill the legal requirement to list a home in Portland: Get a Home Energy Score from a Licensed Assessor.

Home energy audits are not standardized, and every contractor offering one will have their own set of tests they run. In addition to getting the home’s accurate age and square footage, a Home Energy Assessor has a standardized list of items they will physically check out around every home they assess. Some audits may more go more in-depth than this, but others will not. For more, check out our blog post here. We do not perform energy audits, only home energy scores.

Who created the Home Energy Score, and what’s the average Score in Portland?

The Department of Energy created the Home Energy Score to be a standardized way to look at homes through the specific lens of energy efficiency, even though all homes are different. They reasoned that this would give home buyers an idea of how efficient a home is compared to all others on the market. After scoring an untold number of homes across the country, the DOE assigned a score of 10 to those in the top 10% of energy efficiency. A 9 means a home is in the top 20%, and so on. A 5 is the median; it means exactly half of the homes in the US are more efficient and half are less efficient. 

It turns out that homes in Portland are slightly less efficient than the average home nationwide. In 2018, 8,700 homes in Portland were given a Home Energy Score, with the average coming out at 4.6.

What can I do to improve my Home Energy Score?

Improving a Home Energy Score is a little like improving your health. There are certain factors you can’t control — your genes and your age, for example. Then there are the things you can control, like diet and exercise. 

In the Home Energy Score world, the home’s age and size are pretty important in determining the Score. Those are the things you can’t change. But, there are a lot of changes you can make that are akin to putting your home on a diet or getting it a gym membership. Your Home Energy Score assessor will provide you with a report showing the suggested improvements you can make to maximize your home’s energy efficiency. We also have a whole section on this home energy score blog for improvement recommendations.

I only want to score my home once. What are other homeowners doing to improve their scores?

Good question. You don’t necessarily need a Home Energy Score first to start working on energy efficiency in your home now. We have compiled a list of the most common Priority Improvements listed on the Home Energy Score Reports generated for homeowners across Portland — check it out here.

Do these improvements really make a difference? 

Most home energy improvements are not small changes — they’re big ones like insulating an attic or replacing windows. And they do make a difference, over time. The “priority improvements” listed on your Home Energy Score report are estimated to pay themselves off in energy savings over ten years. And, Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability estimates that the average Portland homeowner can knock 20% off their heating and cooling bills on an annual basis if they implement those changes. 

The difference gets even more dramatic of you’re looking at “below average” homes — the 40% of homes scored in Portland that receive a 3 or lower. By implementing the priority improvements listed on their Home Energy Score, those homeowners could save up to 30% annually on their energy bills, which can translate into hundreds or thousands of dollars in saving very quickly.

What if I decide not to sell my home right away — do I have to get a new score before I list it in a few months?

No. Technically, the Home Energy Score is valid for eight years — but there are some caveats. After two years, you need to request a “reissue”, which recalculates the home’s estimated energy costs and carbon emissions based on the most recent information available. 

However, if you decide to make any changes to the home that could effect the home’s energy performance — something as simple as a new exterior door or HVAC system component — you’ll need to order a new Home Energy Score. 

Do home buyers really look at the home energy score report? Will it impact my home’s value if I get a very high or low score?

Buyer behavior is unpredictable, and the Home Energy Score policy is still fairly new. The Portland real estate market has been cooling this year, meaning that buyers have more homes to choose from and can afford to be a little pickier. 

However, this doesn’t mean that a low score will be a deal-killer. Generally, there is a lot that home buyers can do to improve the energy efficiency of a home if it’s important to them.

We recommend that homeowners take care of the lower-cost, high return-on-investment efficiency improvements available to them before ordering a Home Energy Score. It won’t hurt to aim for the best score possible before listing your home for sale in Portland.