Home Energy Score

The US Department of Energy, spurred along by Vice President Biden, has announced a Home Energy Score program. The idea is to provide an energy score to each house. It is intended to be similar to the familiar Energy Star label – to allow buyers to make an informed choice. You can read all about it on the Dept. of Energy Home Energy Score website.

It is currently being tested in:

  • Allegheny County, PA
  • Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, MA
  • Colorado Mountain Region
  • Greater Charlottesville area, VA
  • Indiana
  • Minnesota
  • Omaha and Lincoln, NE
  • Portland area, OR
  • Texas
  • South Carolina

More details and contact information for the testing locations here.

For the technically minded this is the Google site with details of the methodology

The Overview from that site is:

“In 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy (Department) tasked the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) to develop a new tool within the Home Energy Saver suite to provide an “asset-based” analysis of single-family residential buildings. The primary goal is to provide improved and standardized energy information for home buyers and sellers. The resulting Home Energy Scoring Tool (Scoring Tool) resides at http://homeenergyscore.lbl.gov.
The Scoring Tool is a key component of the U.S. Department of Energy’s residential building energy label initiative to support the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) funded Recovery Through Retrofit plan. The Home Energy Score Program will be the first national asset rating method that allows all USA regions to opt into a simplified and standardized energy assessment process that complements existing advanced home energy audit methods.”

What does the realist think?

  • It’s a step in the right direction. Despite all the deliberate obstruction in Washington at least some part of the energy policy laid out by Obama/Biden is being put into practice.
  • It’s a very small step; only in test locations so far; it’s a simple measurement. On the diagram below the score is shown in relation to the results from other testing methods. We do full audits (at the bottom of the pyramid) and even then we can’t fully predict the energy behavior of the house. So the score gives an indication, but no more.

  • It is voluntary. There will be fierce opposition, particularly from real estate brokers, to any expansion of the program.
  • On balance – good, but it won’t save civilization as we know it.


Which brings be to one of my (many) gripes with the world in general:
The energy numbers used in creating the energy score are reduced to MBTU, or millions of British Thermal Units. Why we have to live with those ancient units is beyond me. Just to confuse everybody further the HVAC trade commonly measures boilers (the things that heat water or create steam), furnaces (the things that heat air), etc. in mBTU – where the m is an archaic form of thousands.
Don’t get me started on air conditioners – measured in tons, where a ton is 12mBTU. There is a reason, but it’s not worth explaining.
I know this is a small nit and only of interest to anal-retentive types like me. But seriously we need to go metric – it’s another factor in declining US competitiveness. Why do we put our kids (and our college graduates) at this disadvantage of having to learn an archaic and confusing set of measurements?

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