The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Home Energy Scoring Tool – a web-based tool used to calculate an accurate and consistent estimate of a home’s energy use – won a 2022 Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer Award. The award recognizes a team from DOE’s national laboratories for their work to bolster Home Energy Score™(Score) from a research and development model to a commercially viable software solution.
Launched in 2012, the Score provides a reliable, easy-to-understand rating system for home energy usage – similar to a miles-per-gallon rating for a car. Derived from criteria that characterizes a home’s energy footprint, the Score uses a 1-to-10 scale, where 10 represents the most efficient homes. The Score also makes recommendations for cost-effective improvements that homeowners or buyers can make to improve the home’s energy performance. In addition to estimating how much recommended improvements will reduce annual energy bills, the Scoring Tool also provides a “Score with Improvements” that reflects the home’s expected score if the recommended cost-effective improvements are implemented.
Over the past six years, the Home Energy Score team at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory partnered with researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to enhance Home Energy Score’s capabilities. The Home Energy Score has a fully functional, web-based user interface and web application programming interface (API), integrated training tools to customize dashboards for multiple user types (e.g., administrator, assessor, mentor, etc.), and enhanced data security systems.
The impact of Home Energy Score in the marketplace can be seen in the number, diversity, and steady rate of new users and scores being generated. Hundreds of home energy professionals across the country have delivered close to 175,000 Scores to home owners, buyers, and renters since 2012. Home Energy Score is a standard offering in dozens of utility programs and energy assessment business models, resulting in more than 160 commercial companies offering the Score, ranging from sole proprietors to home inspectors and small contractor firms that provide assessment services and/or energy-efficiency upgrade installations.
As the database of Scores continues to grow, its value for home buyers, sellers, owners, and renters similarly increases. In recent years, several cities have required Home Energy Scores when homes are listed for sale on their local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in an effort to increase transparency into home energy use and expected costs for buyers and renters.
In addition to providing valuable information about a home’s estimated energy use, a Home Energy Score report can help borrowers secure financing for energy-efficiency improvements or qualify for greater purchasing power. Lenders know that energy-efficient homes have lower utility costs, and the money saved on utilities can be applied to a mortgage. This increased ability to cover monthly mortgage payments can in some cases help borrowers qualify for a larger loan amount.
A recently launched Freddie Mac campaign highlights its GreenCHOICE mortgage, which helps buyers finance energy-efficiency updates to reduce utility costs. The agency requires a Home Energy Score or other energy assessment for improvements valued at more than $6,500 to qualify for a GreenCHOICE mortgage. With GreenCHOICE mortgages, borrowers can finance eligible improvements with an aggregate cost of as much as 15% of the as-completed property value and pay off existing debt on energy-efficiency improvements as part of a refinance. Fannie Mae offers the HomeStyle Energy Mortgage Loan product, which also recognizes Home Energy Score as an accepted energy report for qualifying energy improvements.
To learn more about Home Energy Score and other energy-efficiency financing tools DOE provides, visit DOE’s Better Buildings Solution Center.