American homebuyers are discovering that having the right information at hand can make all the difference when buying a home, and that’s just what an energy audit can provide.
An energy audit, also known as an energy assessment or energy survey, is a comprehensive examination of a home that identifies:
- Areas where energy is being lost
- Which systems (i.e., HVAC, ducts, insulation, etc.) are operating inefficiently
- Cost-effective measures that improve home comfort and energy efficiency
Lost energy translates into lost dollars, which is an additional cost to any home that isn’t energy efficient. It also works the other way around: energy efficient retrofits can add value to a home. According to a study published in the Appraisal Journal, for every one-dollar decrease in a home’s annual energy costs, its market value is increased by twenty dollars. That means an annual savings of $300 could lead to an increase in home value by $6,000.
While homebuyers have long been aware of the value of home inspections when considering potential new properties, the same cannot be said of energy audits. That, however, is changing now and much of the credit for that can go to the HERS Index.
Created by RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network), the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index is the industry standard for measuring energy efficiency, and is the nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home’s energy performance. The U.S. Department of Energy has determined that a typical resale home scores 130 on the HERS Index, and a standard new construction is awarded a rating of 100.
To calculate a home’s HERS Index Score, a certified RESNET home energy rater or auditor conducts a comprehensive HERS Rating on it and compares the data against a ‘reference home’ – a design modeled home of the same size and shape as the actual one. For example, a home with a HERS Index Score of 150 is 50% less energy efficient than a standard new home (construction), whereas a score of 50 means that the home is 50% more energy efficient than a standard new home. In other words, less is more.
While real estate agents initially have been slower to jump onto the energy audit/HERS Index bandwagon (something that is now changing), builders are a different story. According to Steve Baden, RESNET’s Executive Director, forty per cent of all new homes now get energy audits and HERS Index Scores. In fact, many builders use HERS Index Scores to market their properties and highlight the potential energy savings to prospective buyers. Furthermore, Baden also confirmed that RESNET has negotiated agreements with two of the nation’s largest home inspection networks to start offering low-cost energy efficiency surveys and performance audits as add-ons to home inspections.
As the saying goes, knowledge is power and as homebuyers begin to understand that the cost of homeownership is more than just the monthly mortgage bill, they start to look twice at properties that they may once have considered a great buy. Instead, through an energy audit, they’ll opt for something that’s more affordable, comfortable and environmentally friendly. As it turns out, all three points are connected more often than not. And that’s good for both the economy and the environment, thanks to RESNET’s HERS Index and energy audits!
The Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) is the independent, national nonprofit organization that homeowners trust to improve home energy efficiency and realize substantial savings on their utility bills. RESNET’s industry-leading standards are recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others.