Connecticut residents are being introduced to a new tool for gauging the energy efficiency of houses they own or may want to buy.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said that Connecticut becomes the first state in the country to adopt the Home Energy Score program statewide.
Houses are rated on a scale of 1 to 10 for energy efficiency in a labeling program that’s designed to give buyers more information about houses before they buy. Homeowners benefit as well. The free inspections give them suggestions for making their homes more efficient.
DOE said that the program, called EnergizeCT Home Energy Solutions, provides a label similar to a miles-per-gallon rating for new cars that could be included in real estate listings so buyers will get a good idea of the true cost of owning the property.
Connecticut hopes to score between 12,000 and 14,000 homes per year, part of a statewide effort to weatherize 80 percent of all homes in the state by 2030. DOE said Colorado and Vermont also have signed on, with Alabama, Arkansas, and New Hampshire expected to do so in the near future.
Money to run the program in Connecticut comes from Energize Connecticut, an agency that pays for energy efficiency efforts for commercial and residential customers, underwritten with a surcharge on energy bills.
Data gathered on a brief home walk-through
Assessors take a walk-through of about an hour to collect data about the house, and then turn to the Home Energy Scoring Tool developed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in order to produce the numerical score and suggestions for improvements.
DOE says that the scoring tool takes into account “fixed attributes” of a house — walls, windows, heating and cooling equipment — and makes assumptions about occupant behavior. Appliances, lighting, and home electronics aren’t included. Recommendations and energy savings are based on national averages for specific improvements as well as average state utility rates.
Assessors collect some 40 pieces of information, but the inspection isn’t as thorough as a full-blown energy audit that would include the use of diagnostics such as a blower-door test and a better accounting of occupant behavior. But the department said that homeowners might be encouraged to follow up with a whole-house assessment later.
DOE cautions that there’s often more to it than a simple number. A home in New England with a high score (meaning high energy efficiency) may use more energy than one in southern California simply because of differences in climate. Occupants who keep summer thermostat temperatures low and never bother to turn off lights or electronics may use a lot of energy despite a high score.
Energy scores can be compared for houses in different parts of the country, but not to compare projected energy bills. The software takes into account the typical range of energy consumption in the region where you live, according to DOE.