Home energy rating system (HERS) program

by Eric Chang on April 29, 2011

Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Program

Want to market the energy efficiency of a property you’re about to sell?

Or determine that information on a prewar bungalow you’re about to buy?

Then you may be interested in the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Program. Our state’s vast stock of older, energy-inefficient housing is a primary consumer of energy, and the California Energy Commission consequently devised the HERS Program to address this.

For low-rise residential property, HERS recently has evolved to establish whole-house home energy ratings that, according to the Commission, “provide California homeowners and home buyers with information about the energy efficiency of the homes they live in or homes they are considering for purchase. The ratings also provide evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of options to achieve greater energy efficiency in those homes.”

To have a rating performed, consult the list of certified HERS whole-house raters in your area.

Once complete, the rater will issue a certificate containing, among other findings and recommendations, the property’s HERS Index efficiency rating. The index is based on a scale of 0 to 250 points:

This index rating is derived from comparing the rated home against a similar “reference home.” The HERS booklet doesn’t go into the details…though the undaunted is welcome to research the modeling methodology in the HERS technical manual.

For buyers, the HERS rating can serve to:

  • Compare the energy-efficiency of different properties under consideration
  • Assess a property during the escrow inspection period
  • Recommend future upgrades to improve energy-efficiency
  • Qualify the buyer for an Energy Efficient Mortgage

For sellers, the HERS rating can help:

  • Market the property by identifying energy improvements
  • Help appraisers who need help bringing an appraisal to value
  • Justify pricing with energy savings relative to the competition

I think a HERS rating falls under the nice-to-have stripe of disclosure documentation. An unfavorable rating shouldn’t be a transaction deal-breaker; it’s not the same as discovering a shot foundation in escrow. Older buildings distinguish our market. Any knowledgeable agent can explain to their buyers that an original condition Dimond District bungalow isn’t insulated like a San Ramon track house.

Homeowners who are simply interested in having an energy audit—versus a HERS rating—performed on their property can contact Innervation Energy. Innervation’s Arran Blattel spoke at my office several months ago. Part of their process is determining a homeowner’s unique energy consumption habits, to tailor their recommendations. They understand that air conditioning is widespread in Walnut Creek in summertime, unlike Montclair.

Innervation offers a range of services, from a standard energy audit…to computer modeling of an entire home.

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