One City Moves to Require Home Energy Scores
September 21, 2016
The mayor of Portland, Ore., is proposing a mandate that would require all homes listed for sale there to have a home energy score. However, some in the city are opposed to his initiative, claiming it could be an impediment that delays home sales.
The Home Energy Score is a new program by the U.S. Department of Energy, in which home owners hire a certified contractor to evaluate their home on a scale of 1 to 10 and suggest energy-saving improvements that could be made. Those improvements could include actions such as adding insulation, installing new water heaters or furnaces, or patching leaky ducts.
Keeping It Green
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales wants to get more home sellers or buyers in the area to invest in more energy-efficiency improvements in their home. He says the retrofits will not only lower their monthly energy bills but also limit the carbon emissions harming the environment. City officials argue that energy-saving retrofits could potentially save home owners nearly $7,000 over seven years in energy costs.
“We think base energy costs are a significant monthly expense for homes, and right now this information is completely hidden from the market,” says Andria Jacob, a senior manager for energy programs at the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
Trust of Oregon started a similar program called the Energy Performance Score in Oregon, but it’s a voluntary system that has been slow to expand, Jacob says. That program requires a four-hour home visit and costs about $400. Home owners then receive a detailed report of retrofits they could make.
Portland officials decided that program proved too cumbersome. Instead, they wanted to adopt the national standard through the U.S. Department of Energy. The home visit would take about one hour and cost $150 to $250, in comparison.
Jacob says the Home Energy Score will make it easier for home owners to qualify for bank loans to help pay for the improvements recommended too.
Still, some in the community are concerned of the implications of requiring home owners to do such an inspection.
“I’m concerned about its negative impact on the housing market,” Jane Leo, governmental affairs director for the Portland Metropolitan Association of REALTORS®, told the Portland Tribune.
The mandate for a home energy audit has the potential to delay home sales and possibly even prevent a home buyer from securing a better mortgage rate before it expires, Leo says. Instead, she believes it should be something that buyers could request, if they so choose, during the negotiations.
Austin, Texas, has a similar mandate for homes for sale. But with only about 4 to 6 percent homes listed for sale, only a small share undergo energy-efficiency retrofits, Leo adds.
“It will not reach the goal Portland has set for itself,” Leo says. The city and county has called for reducing the carbon emissions from buildings by 25 percent by 2030. Energy-use in single-family homes in Portland account for about 20 percent of all carbon emissions in the city.
Source: “Home Listings Could Require Energy Score,” Portland Tribune (Sept. 16, 2016)
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Updated: September 24, 2018