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Try the EnergySmart Home Scale to Evaluate Energy Efficiency

By Michele Lerner

Investors in residential real estate often focus on the big ticket items that make an investment profitable: a low sales price on a higher valued home and keeping the property occupied with a renter who pays the rent on time. But saving pennies (and dollars) on a daily or monthly basis can add to the bottom line on an annual basis, particularly for owners of multiple properties.

Saving money by lowering utility bills helps investors who wrap utility costs into the monthly rent they charge, but energy efficiency can also make the property more appealing to renters who pay their own utility bills.

When choosing to make home improvements, investors can focus on a few energy efficient projects such as replacing the windows and adding insulation. For resale home purchases, investors should ask the sellers to review their utility bills and ask for proof of any green-building improvements. If buying a new home, investors should ask the builder if they are participating in the “E-Scale” project.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy division developed the EnergySmart Home Scale, known as the “E-Scale”, to replicate the miles-per-gallon system used by car buyers to evaluate performance, so that homebuyers can estimate the potential energy performance of one home versus another. The E-Scale is based on the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) developed by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET). Builders will have their E-Scale rating certified by RESNET-certified energy raters.

The E-Scale includes an estimate of annual energy use (including both gas and electricity), the average energy performance of typical existing homes in that area, a verified performance estimate for the home and a threshold number for a home to meet the “Builders Challenge”.

Builders participating in the program are committed to constructing homes which earn a 70 or less on the E-Scale. A score of 70 means that the home is approximately 30 percent more energy efficient than a typical new home built to code. A score of 60 means that the home is 40 percent more energy efficient. The eventual goal is to get to a score of zero.


Michele Lerner, a real estate expert and freelance writer with 20 years of experience, is the author of “HOMEBUYING: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time”.

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