Have You Heard of a Home Energy Score?

John G. Swanson
April 6, 2011
THE TALK... | Design & Performance

Window & Door Dealers Alliance members are heading to Department of Energy offices in Washington, D.C., today to learn about the Home Energy Score program. In the pilot phase in a number of places around the country, the program uses specially-trained assessors who walk through homes and input information into a program that outputs a score card with a 1 to 10 energy efficiency rating and a list of recommended upgrades, estimated costs and paybacks.

 
 A DOE Home Energy Score report card

The idea is that, with this knowledge, homeowners will be more willing to make investments in energy retrofits. It is also hoped that the Home Energy Score and the estimated energy cost savings generated could spur mortgage lenders, utilities and others to help finance such retrofits.

Theoretically, more people doing these kind of upgrades should be a positive for the industry, but there hasn't been a lot of industry involvement in the development of the initiative. In fact, there simply isn't a lot of awareness. WDDA is hoping to learn more about what the score system might say about window and door replacements, and it will be interesting to hear what they report back.  In the meantime, were you aware of DOE's Home Energy Score program? That's our poll question of the week.  And as usual, we'd like to hear from you.  Do you like the idea?  Does it worry you? If your company is in a market where DOE is currently conducting one of its pilot efforts, we'd especially love to hear feedback from you.  Email me or post a comment below.  

 

Survey Results for 04/06/2011:



What do you think of DOE's Home Energy Score progam?

Never heard of it.

  

 

57%

I've heard of it, but I don't know much about it.

  

 

19%

I don't see it having much of an impact on business.

  

 

10%

I think it could have negative effect.

  

 

7%

It might have some potential benefits to our business.

  

 

7%

Given all the focus that's been placed on energy tax credits and Home Star–not to mention lead paint rules–perhaps it shouldn't be too surprising that most of our industry readers have not heard of or don't know much about the Home Energy Score program. Announced last fall with several other "Recovery through Retrofit" initiatives announced by the Obama Administration, it has been progressing quietly into the pilot stage. 

There remains much work to do still, so it is good news that the Window & Door Dealers Alliance has stepped in to ask for a "seat at the table" and that the Department of Energy seems receptive to the industry's input. 

In addition to comments, I received a couple of emails from readers on the topic. Sharon Aby, a marketing consultant who works with WDDA, wrote to tell me that in her latest blog, the Home Energy Score program has produced some market research that might be useful to window and door dealers. 

Tim Walker of R & K Building Supplies in Arizona wrote to express his reservations about government involvement in this particular arena:

I think the idea of giving homeowners an accurate evaluation of the energy efficiency of their home is a good thing. Many utility companies already have programs like this in place. I'm not confident that a "new" program from our government will be much more than a political talking point and a way to spend more money with little or no return on the tax payer’s investment. Most people realize when their homes are not energy efficient. Those who can afford to or determine that it makes sense for them to fix the problem, do so.

Hiring, training and paying specially-trained assessors to walk through a home and input information sounds impressive but how could a program like this be quickly and efficiently implemented? Remember this is a government-run program. Why not make the assessment program available online for homeowners to input their information and perform the evaluation on their own? Then you could sell the rights to add a link for local dealers and service providers that homeowners could contact if they are interested in getting quotes on energy efficient upgrades. This could actually make money and boost sales instead of wasting tax payers' money. It would also give our politicians in Washington more time to concentrate on making a budget that reduces our debt.

There are certainly good reasons to be hesitant about endorsing a government program designed to encourage average Americans to upgrade the energy efficiency of their houses, particularly at a time when government debt just seems to increase. But Walker's email reminded me of another industry blog that touched on the subject not too long ago.  In a longer piece looking at U.S. tax policy, Abe Gaskins, a self-described middle-of-the-road independent, doesn't argue for the Home Energy Score in particular, but he makes a case fo government involvement in the goal of increased energy efficiency.

"In order for consumers to be motivated to install more efficient windows, it has to be a slam dunk financial decision," Gaskins writes. "And I'm not sure that slam dunk is there myself. However, if you look at in a macro-economic sense—it is a slam dunk. If everyone installed more energy efficient windows, the nation would unabashedly be much better off.

"Herein is the rub: individually, it is debatable whether energy efficient windows have a reasonable payout, but collectively there is no question that energy conservation should play a part of our future energy solution to our nation’s needs. To be proactive, it’s going to take good tax policy to nudge us all to future in which we are not dependent on other countries. And good tax policy is going to be a contributing factor in our future manufacturing basis, which is going to fuel future jobs."

The country is poised for much debate regarding government spending and the merits of various programs.  No matter what happens with Medicare, Medicaid, debt ceilings, new taxes, etc., I don't think the government's going to get out of the energy efficiency arena completely.  So the Home Energy Score program bears watching.    

 

Comments

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this kind of housing energy score is being used extensively in Europe.

 

Most people do not understand the importance of glass. You can see through it but it must provide outstanding insulation to qualify Energy Star in our country (U4). “U” ratings are kind of like “R” factors but opposite; the higher the “R” factor in walls & ceilings the better insulated, the lower “U” rating the better. Some quality uni-sash companies create 2.6U and triple pane 1.9U doors & windows using Argon & Krypton gasses. Even though the Low E film absorbs sunlight in low winter sun and retracts high sun in summer, I prefer clear double pane uni-sash for thermal production and longevity.

Regards,

Albert Amorino

Hydrogen Homes USA®

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