July, 2019

Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

What’s New With The Home Energy Score


Update 1: A Calculated Move Toward Simplicity 

The DOE feels inspectors’ pain, releases easier tool.

One of the best things about ASHI’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through the Home Energy Score program is that it’s not a one-way street: The program’s facilitators want to understand the experience of what it is like to work with the Score in the field and they are willing to make changes to the program’s operations based on that feedback. Since we’ve been working closely with the DOE during the last two years, those changes have taken the form of making Scores easier and faster to complete during inspections without compromising the valuable information that is contained in the Home Energy Score report.

The national labs that provide the genius behind the “modeling” that makes up the heart of the Score—specifically, the software that determines a home’s 1-to-10 rating and generates a list of the best ways to improve it—can sometimes seem to take their time in making changes. However, the improvements they make are always worth the wait and the most recent example is no exception. 

Experienced Assessors know that figuring out wall insulation levels or assessing the amount of maintenance performed over the life of an HVAC system, for example, can be frustrating experiences in “best guessing.” Also, inspectors regularly have wished for a simple and reliable way to measure the area of attics, which often feature multiple surfaces and insulation levels. Manually making these kinds of complicated calculations can add precious minutes to an inspection.

The DOE’s recently released calculator tool makes these time-consuming experiences a thing of the past by including built-in defaults (for wall insulation and HVAC efficiency), and simple measurement functions (for attics) that bring clarity and speed to the Scoring process. These improvements will allow inspectors to pare down the 15 to 20 minutes required to generate a Score on most homes. 

Update 2: Denver’s Inspectors Are Scoring Big

Encouraging responses are pouring in from agents and homebuyers in a hot market.

As one of the most effective ways to give homebuyers control over the comfort, health and energy efficiency of their homes, so-called “energy disclosure at point of sale” initiatives have exploded across the country in recent years and that trend looks poised to continue. 

One of the more high-profile examples of this trend is taking place in Denver, Colorado, where this homebuyer-benefitting “disclosure” takes the form of the Home Energy Score as delivered by home inspectors. It’s true that some in our industry worry that using the Score can throw a wet blanket on a home sale, and become a source of displeasure for homebuyers and agents alike because not all homes “Score” well. However, the feedback from the Denver program’s first phase bodes well for both the validity of these programs across the country, and for inspectors using the Score to boost sales and customer satisfaction where these programs aren’t yet in place. 

Denver wisely made collecting feedback a key part of their program, and comments from homebuyers and agents are rolling in (see sidebar). This feedback is informing the follow-up phase in which the Score might be made part of sales on a long-term basis. That information will not only be valuable for Denver’s program, but it will also help paint a picture of a service that might be valuable for inspectors in other parts of the United States. 

Comments from Denver’s Homebuyers and Agents

“This was a great service. As a new homeowner, it was very helpful to get a baseline for my home. The inspector took the time to explain the energy usage in my home and ways that I could improve on it. It felt very personalized, and it was very informative.”

“This is a great program! At the very least, it got us thinking about energy use and how to save money and energy in our new home.”

“I enjoyed the experience. I was happy to have the opportunity to talk to a professional who shared a prioritized list of measures to consider.”

Update 3: The Apps Are a Wrap

Inspectors in both camps can now hit the easy button.

Android-using Certified Assessors™ might have felt a bit left out these last few months as their iPhone counterparts across the country started to enjoy the pared-down, smoothed-out and sped-up Home Energy Scoring process made possible by the new Home Energy Score app. The good news is that our partners at ID Energy, who developed this bit of tech magic after gathering feedback from ASHI inspectors, recently announced that the app is now officially available on all types of devices.

Assessors are reacting positively, citing many saved steps and automated functions, the ability to seamlessly integrate pictures for easy program compliance, and the ability to generate Scores quickly on site and with full co-branding built in. 

For their part, our partners at DOE view this milestone—the day when every inspector in the country carries in their pocket all the tools necessary to generate a lightning-fast Home Energy Score on site—as a major step toward making the Score an expected part of every home inspection for our nation’s homebuyers.H