What Causes a Low Home Energy Score?

Is your Home Energy Score lower than you expected? Maybe you even got a dreaded “1”?  If your score’s on the low end of the 1-10 scale, you might be surprised. Results can be concerning, especially if you’ve made investments in energy efficiency. But a low number means there’s a lot you can do to improve your Home Energy Score, sometimes dramatically. The report that comes with a score includes a list of the most cost-effective recommendations for upgrades with a payback of 10 years or less.

Home Energy Scores are calculated from many factors revealed during the home during the assessment. How well sealed up the house is, insulation, efficiency of heating and air conditioning systems and water heaters, the leakiness of heating ducts, and more, more play into the final score.

Why insulation is key to a good Home Energy Score

Here in Portland, 69 percent of the housing stock was built before energy codes required insulation. While many of these older homes have had some insulation added over the years, often some part of the house was left out. Attics are easy to access and insulate, even for DIY homeowners, while walls require more work, and usually are done by professionals. So many of the walls in older homes are not insulated at all. And sometimes attics and floors or basements are completely bare of insulation too.

Why is insulation so important? Think of insulation as a coat you wear on a very cold day. The complete coat, buttoned up and with long sleeves, keeps in your body’s heat, making a cold day bearable. The same applies to your home, with the “coat” in this case being the insulation that forms a barrier around your home to hold in heated or cooled air.  When it’s a complete “coat” the walls, attic and under the floor all work together. Leave out some walls, and it’s like walking around on a 30 degree day with an unbuttoned coat that’s missing both sleeves. Burr!

Heaters, air conditioners and water heaters factor in

We also see inefficient furnaces, air conditioners and water heaters having a big impact on Home Energy Scores. Even new models that have low efficiency ratings can drag down a score. We’ve scored homes with brand new systems that score low! Systems that are Energy Star rated are the most efficient and will increase scores. All furnaces, air conditioners and water heaters must carry ratings, and your choice when shopping matters. For better scores, you may have to pay more for more efficient units, but in the long term this can really pay off.

Little leaks add up to big losses

Tiny gaps, cracks and holes in your house can drag down a Home Energy Score. These are easy to miss because they’re often hard to see and are in places where you don’t tend to look. Systematically sealing up the gaps, what we call professional air sealing, makes a difference So does sealing up ductworks. Ducts in the average house are so leaky, they lose 20 to 30 percent of the heated or cooled air before it gets to rooms! Ducts can be insulated after they’re sealed. These small efforts add up and can improve a home’s score when combined with other changes.

How home size influences the score

The Home Energy Score measures the total energy demand of the home, so larger ones tend to score somewhat lower than smaller ones. That’s because there’s more air volume to heat or cool, and that uses more energy, even with efficient systems. We’ve seen the biggest impact with the largest houses. With these large homes, as with any less-than-10 scoring home, there are always things the owner can do to improve the score.

Don’t have a score yet? Enhabit can help

If you need a Home Energy Score, booking with Enhabit is quick and easy.

Book a Home Energy Score