Why does the Home Energy Score matter?

For more background on what the Home Energy Score is, visit our previous blog post What is the Home Energy Score and why is it in the CCAP?

Why Home Energy Scores?

The Oregon Department of Energy’s 2018 Biennial Energy Report took a deep dive into energy consumers in our state. Unfortunately, Oregon continues to see challenges faced by energy-burdened consumers. An Oregonian is considered “energy burdened” when their household’s energy-related expenditures exceed 6% of their income. In Deschutes County, 15-29% of residents earning 200% or below the Federal Poverty Level are energy burdened. Home energy scores can help consumers better understand a home’s energy efficiency, and identify simple home improvements that can mean big savings for their energy bills. (Taken from Oregon Department of Energy website).

Despite there being an obvious need for more awareness about energy use and energy efficient housing options, there has been a lot push-back on the proposal for a Home Energy Score policy for Bend. There are a lot of common misconceptions about the program–here are a few common concerns we’ve heard about HES. 

Homebuyers aren’t asking for HES. They don’t think this is important.

Just because buyers aren’t currently asking for this, doesn’t mean they don’t care—it means that they just don’t know about it yet. Considering energy use in the lifetime costs of homeownership has historically not been something that has been considered when buying a home. This is an important piece of the conversation of homeownership that has been missing that has left many in Bend searching for solutions to reduce $500/month winter energy bills. For those that do appropriately factor energy costs into their budget, think of the extra buying power that homebuyers could have when utility bills are reduced by hundreds of dollars each month.

Requiring an HES slows down the home-selling/buying process.

There is no evidence that energy disclosure disrupts the sale process. In Austin, where home energy audits have been required for ten years, realtors say the policy has not harmed the market in any discernible way. These types of policies usually require that a HES is required at the time of listing, not at the time of sale so it does not slow down the closing process. The actual audit to get a score takes about 1 hour. Timing to generate the report will vary depending on the assessor and could take a few days—this will be important ask when you are scheduling the assessment so you choose your assessor accordingly.

There aren’t enough assessors to do the work

It is true that there currently only a handful of businesses in Bend that could perform the audit to give a home an HES. However, it is something that home inspectors can easily get training in and expand what they offer for services. In Portland, new businesses have formed to meet the rising demand for services.  Earth Advantage has created a “Roadmap” to becoming an assessor that outlines the process for becoming approved to issue HES.

Energy audits are expensive

There are varying levels of information that can be collected during an energy audit or energy assessment. It is estimated to take about 1 hour to collect the 40 points of data that are needed to generate a score. It is estimated that the cost of an HES audit will be about $200, and we expect the price to go down after HES goes into effect. In Austin, where audits are required, the cost of an audit quickly fell to $125 as demand for audits rose. In the Portland market, audits are averaging about $150.

HES makes housing unaffordable

  • Knowledge is power, and home energy scores give home buyers more knowledge about the costs of operating the home they are buying. Energy costs can be a substantial monthly expense, especially for low-income households. You wouldn’t buy a car without knowing the miles per gallon. HES puts homebuyers in the drivers’ seat by revealing the full costs of home ownership.
  • Without HES, home energy performance remains hidden from both sellers and buyers – which doesn’t benefit anyone. Hiding home energy information certainly won’t make housing more affordable and isn’t smart policy. In fact, we think this “heads in the sand” approach is especially harmful to lower-income homebuyers, who stand to benefit the most from greater knowledge about the costs of home ownership.
  • The vast majority of home sellers will be able to afford the cost of a home energy audit. For those that cannot, the City will work identify ways to cover the upfront cost of the assessment.
  • HES’s benefits to all homebuyers, and to the community’s climate action goals, far outweigh any risks. For the small number of home sellers that may have difficulty complying with HES, exemptions and assistance programs can be developed to alleviate the hardship for those residents. On the whole, HES has substantial benefits to homebuyers and to the community as a whole.
  • Housing affordability is primarily a function of supply and demand. Bend faces a supply shortage. Home energy scores are information policy that do not affect the supply of housing.
  • In harder economic times, HES will have even more benefit to homebuyers. When times are tough, it is more important to understand the full cost of owning a home.

The Home Energy Score unfairly impacts poor people who may own sub-standard housing and their homes will be worth less on the open market

  • It’s not true that all lower-income homeowners will receive lower home energy scores. Home energy scores take many factors into account, including home size and total energy use. In fact, it’s bigger, luxury homes with high energy consumption (think hot tub and air conditioning!) that are likely to receive lower scores.
  • Getting a home energy score will help lower-income borrowers access special mortgage products, helping them finance energy efficiency improvements. The scoring tool we propose to use (US DOE’s Home Energy Score) gives low-income borrowers access to special home energy loans, that will help them improve their home’s energy performance.
    The Bend real-estate market is enjoying unprecedented appreciation. Low-income homeowners have benefited from this too.

These kinds of carbon policies don’t really lower emissions

  • The policy addresses residential energy use, the biggest source of sector-based emissions in Bend, according to the Community Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory.
  • This policy introduces information that is critical for buyers and renters alike to take action on their energy use. We don’t know what we don’t know and with currently energy consumption and costs masked, most residents have no idea that there is room for improvement in their home.
  • This is a long game. This is market transformation that uses a market solution, not a prescriptive regulatory one (we aren’t requiring that energy efficiency improvements be made—just that the information is supplied). It won’t happen overnight, but it will accelerate voluntary energy efficiency upgrades in the residential market over time.
  • Early indications from other communities that have scoring policies are that upgrades do follow disclosure. In Austin, as a result of energy disclosures, six percent of homes undertook energy upgrades. Commercial disclosure policies in NYC and SF are starting to show reductions in energy consumption.

If you think Bend needs a Home Energy Score policy, we encourage you to tell City Council that you think it should be included in the plan. Learn more about writing to City Council and giving public comment at a meeting here.

What is the Home Energy Score and why is it in the CCAP?

The Home Energy Score is a specific sub-action that is called out in Bend’s Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP). It states:

Energy in Buildings Strategy 3: Implement benchmarking and disclosure programs for energy performance (page 24 in the CCAP)

Sub-action: Implement a Home Energy Score program that requires every home to be scored on its energy use and energy efficiency at the time of listing.

It is important to note that at this point, the Home Energy Score is just a strategy in the Climate Action Plan. In order for it to be put into place, a separate ordinance will have to be developed and adopted by City Council. We have the opportunity to shape the program into something that works for Bend. The development of the ordinance will be a collaborative process with the community. The general assumed structure is based on ordinances from other communities across the country.

What is the Home Energy Score? 

Developed by the Department of Energy and its national laboratories, the Home Energy Score™ provides homeowners, buyers, and renters directly comparable and credible information about a home’s energy use. Like a miles-per-gallon rating for a car, the HES is based on a standard assessment of energy-related assets to easily compare energy use across the housing market. The tool is uniquely refined to require minimal data input – to save on time, money, and training for Assessors – while producing maximum accuracy for energy use predictions.

Home Energy Score will help build market value for energy efficient homes that improve quality of life by:

  • Providing homeowners and homebuyers knowledge of home energy efficiency and cost-effective improvements in order to reduce energy use and costs.
  • Encouraging use of reliable, consistent home energy efficiency information in real estate transactions to inform decisions, and build market value for comfortable, energy efficient homes.
  • Integrating energy information into financing products to help drive the market for comfortable, energy efficient homes.

Features of the Home Energy Score

The Home Energy Score Report estimates home energy use, associated costs, and provides energy solutions to cost-effectively improve the home’s efficiency. Each HES is shown on a simple one-to-ten scale, where a ten represents the most efficient homes.

  • An energy efficiency score based on the home’s envelope (foundation, roof, walls, insulation, windows) and heating, cooling, and hot water systems
  • A total energy use estimate, as well as estimates by fuel type assuming standard operating conditions and occupant behavior
  • Recommendations for cost-effective improvements and associated annual cost savings estimates
  • A “Score with Improvements” reflecting the home’s expected score if cost-effective improvements are implemented

Why Home Energy Scores?

The Oregon Department of Energy’s 2018 Biennial Energy Report took a deep dive into energy consumers in our state. Unfortunately, Oregon continues to see challenges faced by energy-burdened consumers. An Oregonian is considered “energy burdened” when their household’s energy-related expenditures exceed 6% of their income. In Deschutes County, 15-29% or residents earning 200% or below the Federal Poverty Level are energy burdened. Home energy scores can help consumers better understand a home’s energy efficiency, and identify simple home improvements that can mean big savings for their energy bills. (Taken from Oregon Department of Energy website).

A HES policy addresses residential energy use, the biggest source of sector-based emissions in Bend, according to the Community Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory and it introduces information that is critical for buyers and renters alike to take action on their energy use

Is Bend the only community considering a mandatory HES program?

Oregon’s statewide home energy scoring program is voluntary, but more local cities are looking into developing mandatory programs. The City of Portland was the first Oregon community to adopt a mandatory energy score program. In the last year, Portland has issued more than 7,000 scores. Oregon Department of Energy has also met with other Oregon communities, including Milwaukie, Eugene, Corv​allis, Ashland, Hood River, and Hillsboro.

Other Background Resources

 

Speak up for Bend’s Climate Action Plan

The Bend community needs to make itself clear to City Council: Adopt the Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP) and we’ll be a partner in getting to work and making the plan a reality.  

The Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP) is the result of a collaborative effort by the Climate Action Steering Committee (CASC) along with a broad array of community stakeholders. The CASC has completed the CCAP—a set of 20 recommended strategies and 42 related actions that consider environmental, social, and financial impacts in four key emission areas: Energy Supply, Energy in Buildings, Transportation, and Waste, and Materials. The CCAP is our plan to meet the goals laid out in the Climate Resolution that was adopted by City Council in 2016 that sets forth community-wide fossil fuel reduction goals of 40% by 2030 and 70% by 2050.

With the strategies laid out in the plan, we can reduce our fossil fuel use 49% by 2030 alone. This is no small feat and is a crucial piece of our community’s climate legacy. The CCAP lays out a pathway to achieving our climate goals that will leave a lasting legacy for our community.

Right now, we need to show City Council that the community is still willing to and committed to being a long-term partner with the City in achieving our climate action goals. We need your help to tell City Council that climate action is still a priority for our community. 

Here are some helpful resources to get started

If you have any questions, please contact Lindsey Hardy at lindsey@envirocenter.org or 541-385-6908.

Important Dates

  • Wednesday, November 6th, 5:00PM (the agenda is posted here) @ City Hall Council Chambers. City Council work session on the Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP). Public comment will occur during the regularly scheduled City Council Meeting directly following the work session. 
  • Wednesday, November 6th, 7:00PM @ City Hall Council Chambers. City Council will hold a  public comment section during the business meeting to hear public input on the CCAP which will probably start around 7:15. 
  • Wednesday, November 20th, 7:00PM @ City Hall Council Chambers. City Council Meeting. Show support for the CCAP during public comment.
  • Wednesday, December 4th, 7:00PM @ City Hall Council Chambers. City Council vote on the final Community Climate Action Plan. 

What to tell City Council

  • Immediate and meaningful local climate action is appropriate and necessary to ensure we protect our way of life.
  • The community is willing and committed to be a long-term partner in meaningful, local climate action. We all need to do our part!
  • Adopt the Community Climate Action Plan with the intent to implement all the proposed strategies, allocate resources to fulfill its commitments and goals, and use it as a guide for future decisions.
  • Include the Home Energy Score in the plan because it’s an effective way to share credible information about a home’s energy use, give homeowners the knowledge they need to reduce their energy use, and will help meet our community’s fossil fuel reduction goals.

Give public comment at City Council

To participate in the public comment section of the council meeting:

  • Meetings start at 7:00PM on the first and third Wednesday of the month. We recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before. Fill out the public comment form upon arriving.
  • On November 6th, City Council will convene in a work session that will start at 5:00 (the agenda is posted here), there will public comment section for the CCAP during the regularly scheduled business meeting. The meeting will start at 7:00 and public comment will probably start between 7:15-7:30. If you coming to the meeting just for public comment, we still recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before to get your name on the public comment form.
  • On November 20th you will sign up on the general public comment section. You will be asked the purpose of your comments: Speaking in support of passing the CCAP.
  • You will be called to the podium in the order you signed up. You will be asked to give your name and whether you live inside the City of Bend.
  • You will have three minutes to speak. We recommend that you write out your comments beforehand. Keep your comments concise–it’s better not to fill allocated three minutes than to add verbiage just to fill the time. Multiple people can come to the podium with you to show additional support for your message. Whoever signed up for public comment is the only person who will be able to speak.
  • You can leave your comments with the City Recorder. If you plan to do this, be sure that your name, address, and contact information are on your comments.  

Submit written comments to City Councilors

View a sample letter of support here. It is most impactful to customize this template based on your priorities and experiences. Send your written comments to council@bendoregon.gov.

Add your name to the community petition

Show your support by signing the community petition. We want to get 1,000 signatures by the time City Council votes on the CCAP! Remember, the most important thing you can do is share your perspective by speaking at a City Council meeting or submitting a letter of support (scroll back up!).

Share on Social Media

Customize and share the following messages on your social media accounts to promote support for City Council adopting the Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP). These are just to help you get started so feel free to pick and choose pieces from these to create your own message. You can also use one of our “I support climate action because” images and add your own reason why you support climate action. You can view and download images here (if applicable, please observe photo credits in photo names). Or use your own image that connects to a reason why you support climate action—think outdoor adventures, cozy homes, etc!

 

Open the Door to Savings with EPS

Open the door to energy savings with EPS

Experience the beauty of energy efficiency at this year’s Green Tour. You’ll find homes built for quality, comfort and efficiency, with an EPS™ to prove it. EPS, brought to you by Energy Trust of Oregon, is an energy performance scoring system that gives you an inside look at the energy impact of a newly built home and how much it costs to operate.

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Welcome to the Year of Solar + Storage

A message from E2 Solar, presenting sponsor of the 2019 Green Tour.

Solar + storage may be a new term for many, but the 2019 Green Tour marks a transition point for solar + storage in Central Oregon and beyond. You will have a chance to see, in person, solar + storage systems that allow businesses and homeowners to have resiliency in the event of prolonged power outages and decrease their use and reliance on the utility grid.

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Green Tour Volunteer Spotlight: Kerie Raymond

Our annual Green Tour highlights innovation in sustainable design while still demonstrating how everyday people can save energy at home and at work. Kerie Raymond, a naturopathic Doctor at Hawthorne Healing Arts Center, has volunteered during this event for the past five years! Kerie has personal interests that align with the Green Tour, including energy efficiency and reducing her carbon footprint. Kerie has seen the event grow beyond residential homes and new construction to more businesses and retrofits, and enjoys seeing guests learn what they can apply to their homes.

While volunteering, Kerie reflected on gaining a lot of time with different people, including builders, home and business owners, and community members. Kerie appreciates the opportunity to increase her knowledge and to be able to spread her experiences beyond the Green Tour to inspire Central Oregonians to make a change under their own roofs.

“The Green Tour is a part of the environmental influence that makes Bend, Bend,” Kerie shared.

Green Tour volunteers greet guests as they arrive at each home of the Tour, help collect information, and answer questions. Whether you’re brand new or have worked in the energy efficiency industry for decades, it’s a great way to build your network and learn what steps people in our community are taking to save energy and go solar. This year, we’re excited to showcase residential retrofits, commercial sites, irrigation systems, and electric vehicles.

Everyone is encouraged to volunteer, even if you’re completely new to energy efficiency, although most volunteers join to share their personal interests. Sign up for your shift here!

Green Tour Seeking Applications

The 19th annual Green tour will highlight positive solutions to save energy in Central Oregon and we want you to be part of it!

The Energy Challenge is seeking applicants to showcase their homes and buildings on the 2019 Green Tour on Saturday, September 28th. The tour highlights innovation in sustainable design while still demonstrating how everyday people can save energy at home and at work.

The Green Tour highlights both residential and commercial projects and will bring awareness to the opportunities that exist to build energy savings into the design of new buildings as well as how our existing building stock can be retrofitted to be more efficient.

This year the tour is seeking properties that put an emphasis on getting to zero energy use, utilizing solar plus storage, efficient ADUs, or sites that have installed or are planning for electric vehicle charging.

Home or commercial energy retrofits are an equally important part of the tour because they allow us to make a more tangible connection to the kinds of upgrades that we can make in our very own homes and offices.

Designers, builders, realtors, home performance contractors, solar contractors, and homeowners are all encouraged to apply to put a building on the tour.  Those who are interested in applying are invited to fill out a quick and easy preliminary application by Friday, August 2nd.

The tour will take place on September 28th, 2019 from 10:00-4:30.

4 Spring Cleaning Tips That Can Save You Energy Too

  1. Clean your refrigerator coils. Before your fridge starts to work extra hard in the heat of summer, give it a leg up by cleaning the condenser coils that are underneath your fridge. We are known for lots of dirt and pet hair here in Central Oregon which can build up on the coils. When they get clogged, they don’t release heat like they’re supposed to and end up working overtime. This uses more energy and can shorten the life of your appliance. You can look up how to clean your specific fridge – but for most, you will just need to unplug your fridge, remove the grill plate at the bottom, and use a coil brush to brush the coils. When you’re done, make sure to sweep or use a vacuum crevice tool to pick up any debris you knocked off the coils under your fridge.
  2. Clean your dryer vent. While you’re at it, let’s get your dryer up to snuff too. By doing so, you’re also reducing a major fire risk in your home. The US Fire Administration reports that more than 2,900 home fires are started by clothes dryers each year. The removable lint trap in your dryer does a great job of collecting lint and other debris from your clothes, but it does not catch everything—especially if you’re not cleaning it out after each use! After you’ve taken out the lint trap filter, vacuum the lint in the trap housing. Next up, you’ll need a dryer vent cleaning kit. This is important because you’ll need a long flexible-handled brush to clean the rest of your ductwork. Get step by step instructions from ACE here.
  3. Dust off your ceiling fan. Flip the switch to make sure it’s going the right direction for summer. (In the summer, you want a counter clockwise direction.) While you’re at it, make sure you’re turning off your ceiling fans when there aren’t people in the room. Remember fans cool people, not rooms.
  4. Change your furnace filter. Can we let you in on a dirty little secret? You should be changing your furnace filter every three months, and most of us are failing miserably at this. This is super important to maintain the indoor air quality in your home, to keep your furnace operating efficiently, and to prolong the life of your HVAC system. Get step by step instructions here.

Clean Up Your Furnace Filter’s Act

Want in on a dirty little secret? A less-than-pristine furnace could be costing you, big time. Furnaces with dirty filters or ducts waste energy and money, shorten the life of your furnace, and pollute your indoor air. The good news? Cleaning up your furnace’s act starts with changing the filter regularly.

Clean vs dirty filtersIt is recommended that you change your filters at least every 3 months, but the more people and pets you have in your home, the more you should think about changing your filters. Additionally, if you have a family member with allergies, it is recommended to change them more often.


HVAC
Why are they important? 

100% of the air in your home passes through a filter, typically twice every hour. Since clean, quality air filters keep the air in your home fresh, the people inside stay healthier. A quality air filters captures the harmful bacteria typically found in sneezes, coughs, viruses and molds, as well as pollutants like dust and car fumes.

Clean filters also keep your HVAC system healthy–they enable it to run more efficiently, keep repair costs to a minimum, and reduce monthly energy bills. About half of your monthly energy bill is attributed to HVAC, and keeping clean air filters is the single most effective way to improve HVAC efficiency. Clogged filters make the HVAC work harder as it conditions your home, which raises your energy bill. (And if there are no filters, the coils will clog, which is even worse for your system!)

How to do it

1. Your furnace filters will either be located in your return vents or some HVAC systems have two filters located within the actual furnace.

2. Note the filter size. This is usually printed on the cardboard frame. We recommend stocking up on new ones when you go to the hardware store so that you don’t have to run to the store each time you want to change your filter.

3. When installing your new filters, make sure to note which direction they should be installed in. To ensure proper airflow, the arrow on the edge of the filter should be pointing towards the blower motor.

Pro Tip

If you’re asking yourself when was the last time you changed your air filters don’t worry, it’s easy to forget. Your air filters are out of sight and therefore out of mind. So how do you ensure that you remember to change your filters? Try scheduling a monthly reminder to help you remember to check your filter monthly and change it when it’s dirty. The next time you go to the store, pick up a few extra filters so you don’t have to make the trip again in three months.

Energy Upgrades in Manufactured Homes

Time-limited promotion for heat pumps and ductless heat pumps could cut heating bills in half

As Central Oregonians start bundling up and turning up the dials on the thermostat, Energy Trust of Oregon, in partnership with local Trade Ally, Bend Heating, is turning up the savings and comfort with increased incentives for heating projects for eligible manufactured homes.

Increased incentives are available for Pacific Power customers who are replacing electric resistance and forced air heating systems with super-efficient heat pumps and ductless heat pumps in manufactured homes. For the duration of this promotion, which will run until March 31, 2019, the cash incentive for these systems will increase from $700-800 to $2,500-3,000 depending on the system installed. There are no income limitations for eligibility.

Heat pump technology is highly efficient and can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 50 percent or more. Rather than creating heat from scratch, heat pumps move heat. Even when temperatures dip to zero degrees, they pull residual heat out of the air and move it into your home. When running in air conditioning mode, they operate just like your refrigerator by moving warm air out of your home.

Energy Trust completed a competitive selection process to choose installation partners from their pool of qualified Trade Allies. These partners will also offer additional reductions in installation costs. As a result, manufactured homeowners could install an efficient new heating system with prices starting at $1,800, which is about 60 percent less than normal.

For Central Oregon, Bend Heating & Sheet Metal, Inc was selected to offer these increased incentives and has committed to offering discounted prices until the end of the promotion.

“We are so excited to be part of this program for manufactured homeowners. The initial study proved these systems are much more energy efficient than we even thought–cutting the heat bill in half, plus having air conditioning in the summer, is great and even more so with these generous cash incentives,” said Randall Marchington, HVAC Mechanical Estimator, for Bend Heating.

There are huge opportunities to reduce energy use in manufactured homes which usually have very high operating expenses. They typically use 70% more energy per square foot than single-family homes and represent 10% of all residential buildings in Oregon.

The Environmental Center is partnering with Bend Heating to help reach community members with information about this program because it can provide savings of hundreds of dollars a year and in some cases a month.

Participants of this special program are also encouraged to sign up for free LED light bulbs in order to further reduce their electricity bills. LED lighting uses 80% less energy than standard light bulbs.