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.

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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.

Open the door to energy savings with EPS

Experience the beauty of energy efficiency at this year’s Central Oregon 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.

With EPS, you can easily compare homes based on efficiency and find those that offer superior comfort and savings. Qualified homes are built to be at least 10 percent more energy efficient than required by current building codes. When you buy a home with an EPS, you know you’re getting a higher level of performance.

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Getting up to Speed on ADUs

Accessory Dwelling Units – A Backyard Revolution

This isn’t going to be a deep-dive into Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs–sometimes known as Mother-in-law suites or granny flats). We’ll save that for a series of future posts. To get started, we’re not the experts, so we’re going to point you to a few resources from an expert that can help you get started–listed below started with the easiest.

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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.

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Improving Indoor Air Quality: Creating a truly healthy home

Conversations about indoor air quality have long been part of building an energy efficient home. Now, increasing concerns about mold, radon, carbon monoxide, other allergens, and wildfire smoke are driving more attention to indoor air quality.

One way to improve indoor air quality is to build an airtight shell which will reduce how outside contaminants enter your home. This is a must when building an efficient home and ensures all the cracks and crevices for outside air, or even pests, to get into your home are sealed up.

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Open the Door to Savings

Energy Performance Score (EPS) from Energy Trust of Oregon can help you find the perfect home.

Experience the beauty of energy efficiency at this year’s Central Oregon 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

Transformation Awaits – Green Tour Site # 4

1639-nw-scott-henry-main-floor

 

Site # 4 – 1639 NW Scott Henry Place, Bend

This model home in the Saginaw Sunset subdivision is the first of what will be a 20-home development of high-performance custom homes. 19 more lots, set amid native ponderosa pines, await a transformation to an efficient custom home just for you! Come see the first home of this beautiful subdivision just off of College Way.

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