REwatch: HERS = MPG

2014-04-20T09:15:00Z REwatch: HERS = MPGMichelle Krueger Times Columnist
April 20, 2014 9:15 am  • 

If you’re a current homeowner or in the market to buy a home, there’s an acronym you should be familiar with, especially since it’s being added to home listings across the country.

HERS stands for Home Energy Rating System, and it’s an energy efficiency score much like the MPG (Miles Per Gallon) rating for cars. The major difference is that in homes, a lower score is better or more energy efficient, while in cars a higher score is more efficient.

Beyond that, in order to obtain a rating, an independent verifier conducts industry specific tests which reveal how a car (MPG) or home (HERS) performs based on a pre-determined standard (basically a 100 HERS rating means a home is as energy efficient as a typical new home built to code).

Developed by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), HERS Index Scores show owners/buyers how one home compares to another in terms of energy efficiency. In addition, the industry-standard modeling software also shows how a home can become more energy efficient.

“We work with a number of local builders who have discovered the advantages of the HERS Index, and it’s huge for them,” Chris Schwarzkopf of Energy Diagnostics in Valparaiso said. “The new building codes are very specific when it comes to energy efficiency, and builders have a few options when it comes to meeting those requirements. I would say as a whole, the state of Indiana is split down the middle when it comes to builders taking the prescriptive path versus performance testing, but I do anticipate a measurable shift toward performance testing. So far in 2014, we have done 1,000 performance tests in three states, and we’ve been experiencing a 20 percent increase annually for quite some time now.”

As the leading independent third-party home efficiency verifying company in the Midwest, Energy Diagnostics handles more than 50 percent of the certifications in the state of Indiana, as well as a good number in Illinois and Michigan, according to Schwarzkopf.

Recent legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate to create a “Whole House Retrofit Tax Credit,” also has Schwarzkopf excited about the future.

“When you look at the fact that this particular tax credit can be achieved by a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency, there are a number of very simple and cost effective things people who own homes that are just 10 years old can do to qualify for this credit when it passes,” he said. “For some homeowners it may be as simple as cleaning and tuning their furnaces. Small changes, like switching to CFL light bulbs can result in a 1-3 percent improvement alone.”

The legislation, “Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives Act’’ (S. 2189) calls for a $2,000 tax credit for homes whose energy use is reduced by a minimum of 20 percent,, and the proposed bill would increase the credit by $500 for each five percent reduction up to a maximum credit of $5,000.

In order to qualify for the credit, the legislation requires a test in and test out by a certified Home Energy Rater such as Energy Diagnostics. It also means that existing homes will have the same story to tell when it comes to energy efficiency as new construction – one that will most likely be appearing as the HERS Index Score on all home listings in the not to distant future.

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