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.

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.

Continue reading

The Powerhouse on Union Street – Green Tour Site # 1

A Creative Path To Zero Energy for Two Small Homes

The accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on this property is a powerhouse. Literally. The solar panels on the roof of this small one bed, one bath ADU, produce a “net positive” amount of energy. This means that it at the end of the year, this home nets a positive amount of energy and even nets enough energy to power the main house.

Continue reading

Zero energy home with a view-Green Tour Site 5

Page 33 - Site 5 - Woodcraft-Wetherbee

Site # 5 – 6149 Hosmer Lake Drive, Tetherow

Builder:  WoodCraft Building Inc.

Designer: Jason Offutt,The Shelter Studio

Home Performance Contractor: Earth Advantage

Preliminary Energy Performance Score (EPS): 18

Solar Electric System: 12.3 kW

3 Bedroom, 3 1/2 Baths, 3821 Sq Ft


This net-zero Mid-century modern home was built to capture views and maximize energy efficiency.

This mid-construction, Earth Advantage Platinum  home in Tetherow is an excellent example of how a large home can still be highly energy efficient if intelligently designed. Advanced framing features double wall construction with 10-inch walls and high heel trusses to take full advantage of the above-code insulation. Other features include Energy Star appliances, ductless mini-split heat pumps, 100% LED lighting, hot water recirculation system, and HRV/ERV ventilation. A 12.38 kw PV array allows this home to harnesses the sun to meet all of their energy needs while taking full advantage of Central Oregon views.

The main level includes a large open floor plan for entertaining, gourmet kitchen, theatre room, master bedroom, exercise room, office/flex space and oversized laundry/mudroom. Multiple covered outdoor areas expand the living space and connect residents to the beautiful surrounding landscape. The upper level features 2 bedrooms, both with walk-in closets and private baths. An oversized 2-car garage offers tons of storage.


Net Zero Energy Home Wins Best in Show at COBA Tour of Homes

2481 nw drouillard ave, nw crossing, bend, or

 Built by: SolAire Homebuilders

SolAire picture2

This beautiful home, located in NW Crossing features a great variety of energy saving techniques, including a Net Zero certification—meaning that this home produces all of the electricity that it consumes in a year! It also just happened to take home a few awards from the COBA Tour of Homes including the Green Building Award, Best Architectural Design, Best Kitchen, Best Interior Finish, and culminated with Best of Show in their price range!

This house also features:

  • Single level Prairie style home on South facing lot
  • Universal Design
  • Great room, dining room & kitchen are open & light
  • Passive solar,super insulated home shell
  • Bamboo hardwood and tile flooring throughout
  • Contemporary kitchen design with alder cabinets
  • Stainless steel Energy Star appliances
  • Spa-like custom tiled master shower & vanity
  • High tech LED lighting & triple pane windows
  • 8100 Watt photovoltaic system
  • Healthy home finishes & ERV clean air filtration
  • Useful storage-flex room
  • Oversize covered porch and cantilevered rear deck
  • Earth Advantage Platinum & NET ZERO & ENERGY STAR Certification
    SolAire picture

Achieving net-zero is not an easy task, it takes careful attention to detail and intelligent design. All of this home’s energy is produced on-site by an 8,100 Watt solar array. In order to get to net-zero, every energy-consuming feature has to be carefully considered, from the light bulbs to the heating and cooling systems to the windows and insulation. You will learn about energy-saving techniques around every corner in this home.

These are some of the features that this home utilizes to get down to zero energy consumption:

Capturing the Power of the Sun

Every angle and orientation of the home and within the home must be thoughtfully considered in order to allow for the optimal sun exposure.

This home is oriented from east to west, with primary living spaces on the south and the garage on the west and north side. The extra bedrooms and closets must be on the north and the large windows on the south side. There are thoughtful calculations for the depth of the eave to help promote shade in the summer and sun in the winter. And of course, the southern facing roof must be able to accommodate PV panels to reach the goal of net-zero.

Building an Incredibly Insulated, Air Tight, Durable Home Shell

In order to build a net-zero home, the house must be insulated extremely well and have air tight seals around the entire house so cold air doesn’t escape in the summer and warm air in the winter.

The walls are constructed to reduce thermal bridging and insulation was increased to R-48. The subfloor must be constructed to accept extra insulation—this home has R-48 insulation in the floor. Raised trusses accept R-60 loose fill fiberglass. The windows are triple pane, U-0.18 to U-0.20 and reach an air tightness of 2.0 ACH or less.

Reduce Energy Consumption in the Home  

Of course, in order to obtain a net-zero home, you must take control of your energy use within the home. There are many simple tasks you can do in any home so be sure to check out our Quick Tips/DIY tips or our Simple Saturday activities to reduce your energy use in your own home

In this SolAire home they ensured that the mini-split ductless heat pumps are sized appropriately with the Energy Performance Score model and Manual J modeling. Also, the hot water heater and the energy recovery ventilator are located in conditioned space inside the home. Furthermore, this homes uses 100% LED lighting and Energy Star Appliances – saving the environment and saving you money.

Model for PV System Size: “Icing on the Cake”

This specific home needs 7975 kW of solar electric panels to reach Net Zero Energy. In Bend, Oregon this translates to 9465 kW hours of estimated total annual production.

If you’ve ever considered going solar before, this is a great opportunity to learn about the tax credits and incentives that can help make your solar dream home a reality; whether it’s on your current home or a new home!

Sign up for a solar assessment while here on the Tour  and get $200 off of your installation from our partner and friends and Sunlight Solar. 

SolAire Logo for Web