What's your HERS?
What?? HERS??? Should you care????
You NEED to ask! Your home could save you more than it costs!
HERS is like MPG for your home; it helps you decide which home is more efficient.
Everything else being equal, you'd want the greatest efficiency, whether it's your car or your home. A more efficient car saves you money on gasoline; a more efficient home saves you money on utilities. With energy costs similar to, or higher than, gasoline expenses for many people, those savings are really appreciated. So how can you tell how efficient your home is?
The HERS (Home Energy Rating System) score was developed to provide information, similar to MPG, about how efficiently a home uses energy to heat/cool. A score of 100 is the efficiency of a home built to the 2006 International Energy Efficiency Code (IEEC). Lower scores indicate greater efficiency. A home with a HERS of 85 uses only 85% of the energy of the 2006 home, saving 15%. An older home with a rating of 125 uses 125% of the 2006 home, using an extra 25%. The lower the score, for a comparably sized home, the less you spend on utilities.
To qualify a home for an ENERGY STARTM certification, the EPA requires a HERS score of 85 or lower. "Green" certifications, like LEED and NGBS, have varying requirements, but also rely on the HERS score.
Wouldn't everyone want to know this? Shouldn't they be told? Unfortunately, you're typically going to have to search for this little piece of information. A vehicle's MPG rating is REQUIRED by the EPA. When you're shopping for a car, one of the things you want to know is its fuel economy. The HERS score is NOT REQUIRED for any home, not even new homes. This is an OPTIONAL evaluation ordered separately by the owner or builder. Any home could get a HERS score, but a score is only required when the home is to be certified. Even if a home has been rated, there is NO REQUIREMENT to post the result or even inform potential buyers. So, many times you'll have to ask!
But, don't they cost more?
High performance homes typically cost only slightly more than code-built homes. They have the same granite counters, trim, and features as the traditional home, but they offer significant energy savings that more than offset the extra cost. Say that the extra charge for performance is $2,500; your mortgage will be about $15 higher (gasp!). However, an ENERGY STAR certified home uses less energy - at least 15% less. If your average energy bill is $150 a month, you'd be saving over $20 (tax free), paying that extra mortgage, with money left over. And that's the least you can expect. Many homes HERS scores are now in the 65-70 range (30-35% more efficient).
Does that energy efficient home cost more? Is it worth the extra cost? Ask your builder or real estate agent about the HERS scores for the homes you are considering. Beyond those granite counters and crown molding there is the equivalent of an ATM machine handing out cash EVERY MONTH you own an efficient home. Savings between a traditional and "high performance" home often exceed $50 a month, and we have seen instances up to $150 per month. If the home costs more, the savings are likely to more than cover that additional cost; the rest is yours to enjoy.
Be an informed buyer: ASK for HERS ratings! Even new construction will have a projected HERS value. Ask your agent and/or your builder; they should be able to give you this key information. It's your money and you're entitled to get the most for it!