Realtors and homeowners know that the outcome of a home energy assessment is the score for that home. What many don’t realize is that the Home Energy Score report also includes recommendations for cost-effective upgrade options that the homeowner could do to improve the home’s energy efficiency. These recommendations are helpful because they take the guesswork out of what improvements could pay off in saving money and energy.
But where exactly do these recommendations come from? And how does a homeowner know these upgrades are the ones that will make the biggest impact?
Let us shed some light on how to interpret this information.
First, homeowners should know that the recommendations provided in the Home Energy Score report are considered cost-effective because they are estimated to pay for themselves within 10 years through the energy savings they deliver. This 10-year Return on Investment (ROI) is only an estimate, because actual costs of upgrades vary depending on who does the work. However, armed with information about the potential ROI, a homeowner can determine both whether and when an upgrade will pay off.
The source of this payback estimate comes from the Home Energy Score software that is used by every Portland Home Energy Score provider. During or after their visit to the home, home energy assessors log all the measurements and information they’ve collected about a home into the software application. The software then calculates the projected energy savings and the estimated average cost of every applicable energy efficiency improvement. If the calculation results in a payback period of 10 years or less, the recommendation is included on the back page of the Home Energy report.
For example, say that the assessor determines that the house has been under-insulated, or lacks insulation altogether. As this information is logged, the software estimates the average payback time for installing insulation in the problem areas. If payback can be achieved within 10 years, the report will include insulation as a recommendation.
Insulation is just one of the improvements that a homeowner may receive on their Home Energy Score report. Easy, low-cost improvements like air and duct sealing will usually payback much sooner than 10 years.
Energy efficiency improvements that are estimated to pay for themselves in more than 10 years are not included in this recommendation. However, even though an upgrade may take more than 10 years for the energy savings to pay off the upgrade cost, it still could be worth investigating.
For example, windows often carry an ROI that’s longer than 10 years. However, installing windows can improve home resale value and a home’s comfort, create a healthier indoor environment and lower maintenance costs due to better durability. Our advice to homeowners is to get all the information they can about the possible impact that various improvements can make to the efficiency, comfort, safety and value of a home. With more information, homeowners can make informed decisions they feel confident about.
To help homeowners with this decision-making process, Enhabit offers a free 15-minute consult with one of our home energy advisors. During this call, our advisors provide unbiased, objective perspectives to help homeowners prioritize upgrades. We also can help homeowners find a qualified local contractor from our list of resources that have been vetted for quality and customer service standards. Enhabit also helps customers review bids to ensure that prices are fair and that the upgrades will deliver the savings they expect.
Other resources exist for homeowners to make energy efficiency upgrades more affordable. The Community Energy Project offers free workshops about DIY insulation and weatherization. Energy Trust of Oregon offers incentives for many upgrades such as insulation, windows and duct sealing.