Another good place to start when considering a whole-house energy efficiency strategy is understanding your home’s Energy Score. Um, what’s a Home Energy Score?
The Home Energy Score is a national rating system developed by the U.S. Department of Energy for homeowners to learn about their home’s energy performance to see how it compares to others in the Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas area and nationwide. It provides homeowners with recommendations for energy upgrades as well as an estimate of how these improvements can reduce utility bills and improve your Score.
The Home Energy Score, which must be conducted by an approved heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professional, is presented to homeowners in three days:
- The Score. This section reflects the energy efficiency of your home based on its structure and heating, cooling, and hot water systems.
- The Home Facts. This section provide details about the current structure of your home and its systems.
- This section shows you how to improve energy efficiency of the home to achieve a higher Score and save money.
In this post we take a closer look at the Home Energy Score and what it means to homeowners. The information presented is meant to give homeowners a better understanding of a whole-house approach to energy efficiency when working with an Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor to implement change.
When to Score Your Home
A Home Energy Score is useful if you are a homeowner looking to renovate or remodel your home, lower your utility bills, improve the comfort of your home, or reduce your energy usage.
The Home Energy Score helps you understand how to integrate energy upgrades into a renovation or improvement project, while working with an Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor who specializes in energy efficiency. It’s best to have your home scored before and after work is completed because your Score will reflect improvements and changes made.
The Score also serves as an official way to document your home, its location, physical attributes, mechanical systems, energy use, and any improvements you make. Increasingly this enhances a home’s appeal when placing it on the market to sell.
How Does Home Energy Score Work?
To produce a Home Energy Score, an assessor or energy auditor collects approximately 40 pieces of data during an hour-long walk-through of your Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas-area home. Check with the Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor you use to see if the company provides this service.
Data is accumulated while assessing:
- Space heating and cooling. It’s not just the air conditioner and furnace that are evaluated but how they interact with the physical environment of your home in the Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas area.
- Insulation and air sealing. Because your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) performance is impacted by your home’s physical environment, the Home Energy Score evaluates its “air seal,’ “building envelope,” and “tightness,” including insulation in the attic and walls and ducts, among others.
- Windows, doors, and skylights. Again, because of the relationship between systems and the physical environment, the Home Energy Score investigates the condition of windows, doors, and skylights, where air leaks drain conditioned air, negatively impact system performance, and cost homeowners money.
- Water heating. Most people don’t consider water heating as an integral part of a home’s infrastructure and energy efficiency, but it’s the second-most costly appliance behind HVAC equipment to operate.
- Appliances and home electronics. While not as wasteful and prevalent as running an air conditioner during a hot and humid Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas summer or a cold winter in North Texas, leaving appliances and home electronics plugged in adds up quickly and amounts to more energy used (wasted) and higher utility bills. Waste, at even a fraction of a penny, compound over time.
Hiring a Professional
While there are energy audits that homeowners can do themselves, a Home Energy Score needs to be conducted by skilled and knowledgable professionals with the required training and high-tech equipment.
These professionals can work for an energy audit service company in the Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas area or an Arlington, TX air conditioning service and repair contractor. In any case, make sure who you want to use is trained and experienced in conducting Home Energy Score audits.
Home Energy Score partners include various types of organizations (utilities, state agencies, non-profits, and contractor associations) that administer the Score on a local, state, and national basis. Partners (view info PDF) must score at least 500 homes a year to fulfill quality assurance requirements.
What exactly do you get with a Home Energy Score?
An assessor inputs information about a home’s physical and environmental characteristics into an energy modeling software package developed by the Department of Energy and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The software converts the estimate for how much energy will be used for heating, cooling, and hot water into a 10-point scale.
This scale accounts for differences in weather conditions by using Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas area zip codes to assign your home to one of more than 1,000 weather stations. The software was designed so that scores for different homes can be compared to one another regardless of where the homes are located or the number of people living in them.
- Here you are presented with the basic facts of your Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas-area home — the year it was built, number of bedrooms, stories above ground level, interior floor-to-ceiling height, conditioned floor area (square feet of all stories involved), and the direction the home faces to the sun.
- The size of your home matters because larger homes tend to use more energy. If two houses have the same structure and equipment but one is bigger, the smaller house will generally receive a better score.
- Your home’s estimated energy use per year is also listed — total (MBTUs), electricity (kWh) and natural gas (therms).
- An air-tightness (leakage rate) is given, as well as information about the home’s roof, attic, and foundation (including construction, shingles, insulation).
- Walls, windows, and skylights are also evaluated, including framing (wood, asbestos, fiberboard cement, composite single, masonite siding), and total window area (in square feet).
- Lastly, the Home Energy Score evaluates the systems in the home — heating (type, efficiency value), cooling (type and efficiency), ducts, and hot water.
The facts are assembled into the recommendation section for:
- Repair now: As an example, attic, increase floor attic insulation to at least R-38, with an estimated utility bill savings of $179 per year.
- Replace later: As an example, replace central air (with an ENERGY STAR model) to save $50 (or more, deeding on many variables) per year.
- With these improvements, you can reduce your home’s carbon footprint by: 23 percent.
In the Score section, which is actually the first page of an Energy Score, you are given a bird’s eye, executive summary of your home’s energy profile.
- For example, your home’s current score is 3.
- Score with improvement: 7.
- Estimated annual savings: $411.
What’s the Average Score? Just like there is no average home, there is no average Score. More important than knowing how a home compares to the national average is seeing how it compares to other homes that you might be looking at and, perhaps more important, how your home compares when other people are considering buying your’s.
Can a home score a 10? Sure, but it does not mean it has zero energy consumption and zero energy costs. It means the home uses very little energy given where it is located.
How much does a Home Energy Score cost the homeowner?
It depends on what the market allows in the Arlington, Fort Worth and Dallas area. The DOE does not control the fees charged by an assessor/energy auditor or a qualified HVAC service and repair contractor.
An energy audit often ranges between $200 and $500 but can be offered as a part of other audit or inspection services, so the cost may be built into a fee for another service. It’s best to check with your Arlington, TX air conditioning service and repair contractor regarding potential fees.
How Long It Takes to Realize Savings
The total savings estimate shown with the home’s Score reflects the annual energy cost savings that would result after completing all the recommended improvements, including servicing, repair, and/or installation of new energy-efficient equipment. Some improvements can pay off within a couple of years, while others take longer.
Energy improvements recommended by the Home Energy Scoring tool generally pay back in 10 years or less.