When it comes to buying cars and appliances, American consumers can shop around for the best value based on MPG (miles-per-gallon) stickers for cars and Energy Guide labels for appliances. By knowing the efficiency of the products they’re interested in buying, shoppers can make better-informed buying decisions. One area where this is lacking, however, is the housing sector. Until now that is, thanks to Home Energy Rating (HERS) Index scores.

The HERS Index is a number-based rating system that grades homes based on energy performance. A HERS Index Score is an indicator of how energy efficient a home is compared to similar homes. The lower the HERS Index Score, the more energy efficient the home, with 100 being set as the standard to qualify as energy efficient. By checking HERS Index scores, prospective buyers can finally comparison-shop for homes based on their energy efficiency, in the same way as they can for appliances and cars.

The HERS Index was created by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), a California-based nonprofit responsible for creating the national training and certification standards for HERS Raters and Home Energy Survey Professionals. RESNET’s standards are recognized by federal government agencies including the Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. mortgage industry.

RESNET has long advocated the use of HERS Index Scores as a way to provide consumers with informed buying choices for homes. They have directly addressed the lack of transparency in the housing market through their white paper, Introducing Transparency and Rationality into the Home Buying Process. RESNET’s paper calls for HERS Index scores to be a mandatory requirement for all homes financed through federal mortgage programs such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The combination of growing consumer demand for energy efficient houses and RESNET’s efforts to educate the public about home energy efficiency has led to a rise in the popularity of HERS Index scores. As a result, builders are responding by using HERS Index scores to market their energy efficient homes, while numerous Multiple Listing Services (MLS) across the country have started including them in their listings. Also, demand for energy ratings (by which homes receive a HERS Index Score) has increased dramatically. While the number of energy ratings conducted has been increasing steadily from year to year, 2013 saw a dramatic rise in numbers, up from 128,000 in 2012 to 218,000; that’s an increase of 70 percent.

Year                HERS Index scores issued

2013                218,000

2012                128,000

2011                120,000

2010                120,000

2009                116,000

2008                100,000

Energy efficient homes provide their owners with lower utility costs, increased home comfort and higher resale values. As demand for them grows, so does the popularity of HERS Index scores as consumers search for ways to comparison-shop for better homes.

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