Housing Oriented Ministries Established for Service, Inc. (HOMES, Inc.) provides affordable and efficient housing solutions to distressed communities in Eastern Kentucky through new construction, home repair, solar system installations, and rental opportunities. HOMES, Inc. is a 501 C 3 nonprofit organization providing affordable housing solutions in the coal field region of central Appalachia.
In this month’s feature, we asked HOMES, Inc. Executive Director Seth Long to share some insight on building HERS® homes for their customers.
Q: What is special about a HERS® Rated home?
A: Seth: Building science can be complicated, if a builder gets it wrong then bad things can happen. The HERS system allows HOMES, Inc. to pay attention to the complicated systems within a home resulting in energy efficiency, as measured objectively by a third-party certified RESNET home energy rater, with the added assurance that the home will also be healthy and comfortable too.
Q: Why should consumers ask for the HERS® Index Score on homes they are shopping for?
A: Seth: Too often, home buyers do not consider the cost of energy into the affordability equation…there is a lot of consideration given to the cost of Principal, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance (PITI) of homeownership, however, little consideration is given to the U cost (Utilities). We think that the formula of affordability should include Utilities (PITIU), as Utility costs make such a big difference when it comes to long-term housing affordability. The HERS rating index score takes the guesswork of the utility cost off the table.
Q: Why does HOMES Inc. choose to have their homes HERS®-Rated?
A: Seth: One of the chief reasons we rate our homes is to continue to improve the quality and performance of our homes. Fifteen (15) years ago, we rated our first home which scored an 84. Since then we have used each build to inform the next house improving the quality and performance of our houses to where the average rating is 50 (Their rating company is Breman Energy Auditors) With the addition of solar, the last three homes we built have had scores below 0 in negative territory. We are seeking to demonstrate that Net-Zero housing is possible with an additional investment that is relatively small and repeatable.
Q: Why consumers should expect energy-efficient homes?
A: Seth: Energy efficiency requires a little more upfront investment and cost but if the consumer considers the long-term savings that can be realized, especially with the increasing cost of energy, the investment will pay for itself many times over during the life of the home. When the energy savings can be verified, the RESNET HERS score becomes equity to the homeowner should they decide to sell.
Q: How many homes does HOMES, Inc. build with HERS® per year?
A: Seth: Since the catastrophic July 28, 2022, 1000-year flood event that wiped out roughly 25% of our housing stock we have completed 8 HERS-rated homes. We are projecting to build 24 homes/yr in the future, we are committed to rating 100% of our homes.
Q: How do you market HERS® Rated homes?
A: Seth: Our approach may be a little different…as a non-profit housing developer of affordable housing we often market our HERS scores to our funding agencies and lenders. Low to moderate families often pay a disproportionate amount of their income towards their housing costs since they often live in older, less efficient housing. We have seen families move into a new HERS-rated home. We have witnessed families save nearly enough on their energy bills to pay the principal payment on their loans. Lenders can be more confident that the cost of electricity will not burden a new homeowner helping the success rates of their loan products.
Q: How do your customers feel about HERS® Rated homes?
A: Seth: Historically, energy efficiency has not been a priority in our region, there tends to be a general skepticism towards green building techniques and sustainable housing efforts. Our customers are surprised by how affordable our homes are to operate and how comfortable they are to live in. Seeing is believing, they tell their family and friends about their homes, our customers can be our best salespeople.