Portland Home Energy Ratings and Certification Guide

green energy scores and certifications

Buying a new home? You may be wondering what the different energy efficiency ratings and certifications mean. From EPS to LEED to HES, there are enough acronyms out there to make alphabet soup (one that’s heavy on the E’s). 

In this blog post, we’ll cover the differences between the different energy ratings and other green energy efficiency standards used in Portland, and how the Home Energy Score can simplify things for everyone. 

Energy Star Score and Certification (75-100)

ENERGY STAR for new residential construction has been around longer than most of the other scoring systems in use, so it’s one that most people are already familiar with. ENERGY STAR, a program of the US Environmental Protection Agency, is known for labeling appliances, but its home scoring system is just as helpful. Much like the Home Energy Score system that Portland uses, ENERGY STAR rates are based on percentile rankings. If a home receives a 50 ENERGY STAR score, it means that half of the homes out there are more efficient, and half are less efficient. 

Here’s where it gets confusing: Any new home can have an ENERGY STAR score, but only homes that score 75 or better get an ENERGY STAR certification. In other words, you have to get a 75+ to be a STAR. “Starred” homes are at least 10% more efficient than homes built to code, and on average are 20% more efficient than the standard home. 

Interestingly, ENERGY STAR looks at not only the expected components of energy efficiency, like air sealing, appliances and HVAC systems, but it also assesses whether the building is protected from water damage. 

Energy Performance Score (0-200)

The Energy Performance Score, or EPS, was developed by Energy Trust of Oregon in 2008. According to their website, EPS homes have “energy-saving features such as advanced framing, lighting, high-performance windows and insulation, energy-efficient appliances, heating and cooling equipment and more.”

In the EPS system, a home can score between 0-200, with 0 being the most efficient and 200 being the least. An average-sized Oregon home scores 126 on the EPS scale. There is no certification that goes along with EPS.

An EPS can be given before a home is built, and it can stand in for the required Home Energy Score report. However, that waiver is only good until the end of 2019; after that, all new homes will need to get a Home Energy Score before going on the market (you might still see some out there in 2020). EPS scores are only available for newly constructed homes.

LEED Score & Certification (40-100)

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is one of the most widely used green building certifications in Portland and across the globe. The LEED rating system was developed by the US Green Building Council, a non-profit entity. It’s been around since 1998, but the standards were overhauled in 2013. LEED’s scoring categories include sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy & atmosphere, materials & resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation. 

To qualify for LEED Certification, homes must rack up at least 40 of the available 100 LEED points. The higher the number of points, the better Certification the home gets, from basic to Platinum. One critique of the system is that it allows builders to get all the points in one category while neglecting another. So, a home with a high LEED score may not necessarily be energy efficient. 

Earth Advantage New Homes Certification

Earth Advantage is a Portland-based home energy certifier, contractor and research group focused on improving the sustainability of the construction industry. While Earth Advantage does use scores to certify homes, what home buyers will be looking for is whether the home scored high enough to get a Silver, Gold, Platinum or Zero Energy certification. 

Scoring is done in five categories: energy efficiency, healthy indoor air quality, resource efficiency, environmental responsibility and water conservation. Only new construction homes, or those that have been extensively remodeled, are eligible to be Earth Advantage certified. Certified homes use 20% less energy than a home built to code (on average). 

HERS (0-250) Home Energy Rating System

Homebuyers relocating to Portland from California might be familiar with the Home Energy Rating System, or HERS. California requires it for all new homes, and because the rating is based on an inspection, it must be done after the home is built. 

HERS ratings are based on the HERS Index, an industry standard for energy efficiency developed by RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network). The rating scale is based on 0 being a net-zero energy home. Most new homes score less than 150. 

The HERS inspection goes a little bit more in-depth than a Home Energy Score Assessment, with a blower door test and and duct leakage testing. But, overall, it takes into account many of the same factors that the Home Energy Score assessment does. 

Home Energy Score (1-10)

The Home Energy Score was developed by the US Department of Energy and is now required for most homes in the City of Portland before they can be sold. This includes new construction homes, which can receive a pre-construction assessment based on building plans.

The Home Energy Score looks at energy efficiency, using a 50-point assessment process to evaluate the physical properties of the building. Things that will change over time, like lighting, are not part of the Score. There is no Home Energy Score-based certification, there is a Home Energy Report that is created.

Home Energy Scores are given on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the least efficient. A home scoring a 5 will be less efficient than 50% of the homes out there (on a national scale) and more efficient than the other 50%. In Portland, the average score is 4.6.

Because of its simplicity and straightforwardness, the Home Energy Score report also costs a lot less than most of the other scoring services out there.

 The Score for Portland

When shopping for your next home, if you don’t see the Home Energy Score report information, ask for it! All the other labeling systems and scores are great, but they can’t be easily used to comparison shop for homes in Portland because not all homes use them. They aren’t required to! Home Energy Score is the only Portland energy efficiency assessment that makes a home energy consumption comparisons easy.

Need to get a home scored? Use our easy online scheduler today for fast, efficient and top-notch service.