Home Energy Scores in Portland: 2020 FAQs

portland home energy score faq

1. What is the Home Energy Score and why do I need one? 

According to the City of Portland, “Home energy scores are a market-based solution for conveying previously unknown but critical information to both buyers and sellers of homes.” Like a miles-per-gallon rating on a car, the Score provides a quick and easy way for home buyers to compare homes based on their energy efficiency. The Home Energy Score is generated by a certified assessor, as part of a full report that includes details about how much it will cost to heat and cool the home, as well as the home’s carbon footprint. The cost often runs between $125-$200 (see our straightforward pricing guide here). 

Why do you need a Home Energy Score? If you live in the City of Portland, it’s required, and there’s a $500 penalty (that goes on repeat!) if you list your home without it. If your home is outside the city limits, you might consider getting a Score anyway. Home shoppers are getting used to having this information at their fingertips, and when it comes to selling a home, the more information you can provide, the better. 

2. Can I make DIY improvements that will increase my Home Energy Score?

Yes! The Home Energy Score report also includes a list of recommended improvements that will help make the home more efficient, but you don’t have to get the report to get started. From the thousands of Home Energy Score reports already generated for Portland homes, we know the 4 most common culprits that are killing energy efficiency in these homes. For example, most homes need to be air sealed — gaps and cracks filled. Check out our comprehensive guide to DIY air sealing! Insulating the attic is another improvement that is often recommended for Portland homes. This project can be tackled by the advanced do-it-yourselfer with a little dedication and know-how. 

If you aren’t a DIY person, we’re not judging. There are plenty of Portland professionals who are specially trained to make energy efficient improvements. Check out our list of questions to ask before you take on a DIY project, with a guide to hiring the right contractor. 

3. Who is responsible for this policy?

The European Union started the movement to put efficiency labels on homes over ten years ago, and in Germany, Denmark, and Britain the rules apply to every home in the country. In 2009, Austin implemented a policy requiring every building sold to receive a Home Energy Score, and Berkeley, CA followed with a similar requirement in 2014. 

The City of Portland voted to start requiring Home Energy Scores in 2017, and the policy went into effect on January 1st, 2018. However, the idea of giving homes a score for energy efficiency has been around a lot longer than that, and has been advocated for by policy makers who believe in market-based solutions to environmental problems. The idea is that when home buyers are given adequate information about a home’s energy efficiency, they can make good decisions about the kinds of homes they want to buy, and sellers can be compensated for making investments in energy efficient improvements.

4. Is there a good reason for Home Energy Scores?

In the early 1990s, Portland became the first city in the US to roll out a comprehensive Climate Action Plan, see Portland’s updated 2050 Climate Action Plan here. It included measures to reduce landfill emissions, take cars off the road by improving public transit, and implement green building standards across Portland. 

Over the decades, the plan has been reworked and refined, and in a 2013 assessment, the city found that Portland had so far achieved a 14% reduction in carbon emissions, despite the fact that the city had grown in that time. As Portland continues to grow, we keep looking for new ways to cut emissions, and energy efficiency in homes is just one strategy. 

Climate change may seem like a problem that’s happening “somewhere else”, but in fact, impacts are already being felt in our city. For starters, because Portland is not built for hot summer temperatures, we have one of the worst Urban Heat Island Effects in the country. In addition, the city is threatened by climate-change-fueled wildfire and smoke, which threatens not just homes but also our health. Portland’s economy also depends on a stable climate, from snow at Mt. Hood to rainfall for our farmers and streams for our salmon. 

5. How will home buyers know my Score?

After you schedule an appointment with a Home Energy Score assessor, they will come out and assess your home. Then, they’ll provide you with your customized report, both in paper and digital formats. The report is also added to the US Green Building Registry, where home buyers can enter your home’s address to pull up its Home Energy Score report. Most real estate agents will put a link to the report in the listing description for the home. 

6. Will I get a better offer on my home if I have a high Home Energy Score? 

No direct link has yet been made between high-scoring homes and higher sales prices. However, the City of Portland reports that green-certified homes sell for up to 4% more than comparable homes. On the other hand, a home receiving a low score won’t necessarily send buyers running. Studies have found that buyers prefer having the information, and place higher a value on homes that have been scored, versus those that haven’t. 

7. Is my condo exempt from the policy? Are there any exceptions for low-income home sellers? 

Some condos are exempt, and there are free Home Energy Scores available for low-income sellers. Exemptions are also made in circumstances where a home must be sold, such as a foreclosure. For more on the exemptions and exceptions to the Portland Home Energy Score policy, read our blog post here.

8. How do I know if an Assessor is qualified?

People authorized to provide Home Energy Scores in Portland are known as Home Energy Score Assessors. To be an Assessor, individuals must first qualify as a Home Inspector, or hold a similar credential. Then, they go through a training administered by the US Department of Energy to learn how to correctly score a home. Assessors must also apply for a CCB license — as a general or speciality contractor, or as a restricted Home Energy Performance Score Contractor in the City of Portland. Tip: Check out your assessor before you book your Home Energy Score assessment, by going online to the State of Oregon search tool. Finally, Portland Home Energy Score Assessors must be authorized by Earth Advantage, a local non-profit that provides assessor training and quality assurance in partnership with the City of Portland. A full list if Earth Advantage authorized assessors can be found here

9. Who should I use to score my home?

We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for Portlanders. Easy online payment and calendar scheduling, simple pricing ($125 for homes under 3,000 sq. ft. and $159 for those over), and we toss in a screaming deal on laser created professional grade floorplans (only $34 with an energy score purchase). And of course we are locally Portland owned and operated, fully licensed, bonded, and insured for the job.