Understanding Energy Efficiency in Residential Homes

Posted by Tim Parker on Monday, January 13th, 2014 at 11:00am.    1164 Views

Understanding Home Energy Rating System (HERS) 

Home energy efficiency is something that many people worry about but know nothing about how to judge one property from the next.  The common method that people use is to compare energy bills, but this is not fair or effective as everyone uses energy differently.  Think how hard is it to compare a home's energy usage for the house that held a teenager who took hour long hot showers daily to the one that housed a young eco-friendly couple who only flushed the toilet once-a-day.  One will look a lot better than the other but the reality is that both are probably very similar in their built-in energy efficiency.

HERS is the standard rating method that energy companies and home constructors use to compare different homes energy efficiency.  Basically it is a scale that puts a home built to 2006 standards at a rating of 100 and rates everything about other homes off of this standard.  The scale works upward for loss of energy and downward for gains in efficiency.  For instance, a home built in 1970 that has not had the windows updated would gain points because windows used in 2006 had greater energy efficiency.

Developed by the Residential Energy Services Network  (see link below) and introduced in 2006, the HERS Index is the industry standard by which a home's energy efficiency is measured. Government agencies such as the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognize the HERS Index as an official verification of energy performance.

What are the Normal HERS Ratings?

A typical home built in 2006 would have a HERS rating of 100.  The average rating for all residential homes in the United States is 130 which means that the average residential home is 30% less efficient than homes built in 2006.  Most people understand that Energy Star is a rating used for everything from appliances to homes.  Energy Star means that this product is 15% more energy efficient than the 2006 standard, or, if a whole house, would have a HERS rating of 85.  Are you seeing that the lower the number on the HERS scale, the better the efficiency of the home?  

What is Possible in HERS Ratings for Homes?

Builders who specialize in constructing homes of high energy efficiency are seeing numbers as low as 50 in their post-construction HERS ratings.  This means that they are building homes that use half of the energy that homes built in 2006 use.  These 50 ratings also mean that these homes are 80% more efficient than the average home in America.  Could you imagine having a home that you could live exactly in the manner that you do now, but the utility bills would be 80% less than what you are paying now?  My family of 6 would drop our gas and electric bills to under $100 per month - Amazing!

Is It Worth It to Build  /Upgrade to Low HERS Numbers?

Most homes can be retro-fitted to gain lower HERS ratings and, as mentioned above, new homes can be built to low HERS numbers, but is the cost worth it?  Let's consider my house.  I currently spend just over $400 per month on gas and electricity.  We are not very energy smart in how we live, but that's our choice.  If I were to retro-fit my current home to drop my current HERS 130 to the Energy Star 85, I could save about $185 per month.  This, when calculated into a 30 year mortgage (like a refinance) and not taking into account the tax benefits offered for upgrading the efficiency of your home, would mean that I could afford over $35,000 in upgrades as a break even, which is about 35% of the value of my home.  Well worth the money.

I could drone on all day about this topic.  If you want to be further informed I would be happy to meet with you to discuss the myriad of details involved in judging a homes' efficiency, upgrading and how to pay for upgrades, possible tax benefits, marketing of and energy efficient home, builders of low HERS homes, and more.

Call, text, or email me.

Tim Parker
Call me  (614) 551-7341
or email me  

2 Responses to "Understanding Energy Efficiency in Residential Homes"

Jackson Brewer wrote: I read your article and still cannot make up my mind. Should I just have someone try to fix my house to make it more energy efficient or should i get someone to build me a new one? There is just too much to learn for me to make my own decision.

Posted on Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 at 7:55pm.

Tim Parker wrote: Jackson,
Not an uncommon situation! There are so many aspects to energy efficiency that I recommend that you seek out a bunch of specialists. To determine which appliances - talk to an appliance expert. For wall, attic, and foundation insulation - contact a local contractor who begins with an energy audit (electronic "red" readings from around the outside of your home). To find the best furnace - talk to an HVAC contractor, best windows, doors, etc. - talk to specialists for windows, doors, etc. This is a lot of work, but remember, each item affects your energy usage and, as-a-whole, you should be able to upgrade each in your existing home for a lot less money than building new.
I have contacts in a range of specialties, call or e-mail me directly and I'll set you up.

Posted on Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 at 8:05pm.

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