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Postgreen Homes Home Performance Sticker

by Nic Darling on February 15, 2011 · 26 comments

in Development,energy modeling,Energy Star,Green Programs,Marketing

We have talked about simple, mileage-style window stickers for homes before, but for some reason all that talk never led to action. We never actually created one for our own homes. Well, it’s time that oversight was addressed.

I put together a draft version of a window sticker based loosely on the specs from the recent Skinny Project. This is intended to be displayed in the windows of our homes as they are being built. Hopefully, combined with some of our other marketing tools, these signs will help teach people about the most basic differences between our homes and the rest of the market.

The sticker is based largely on the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index which provides a means of comparing relative home performance and offers an estimation of energy bills. The numbers presented are obviously just rough estimates subject to the actual behavior of the occupants, but I think they could have value in a comparative environment. Since these numbers are based on a third party standard, they should provide a useful reference when looking at performance across a variety of different homes.

I tried to keep the sticker relatively simple and display the most useful information as prominently as possible. Energy bills get prime placement with the HERS scale coming in second. I also used a bit of space to provide key specs related to performance. The bottom leaves a room for a disclaimer and logos for LEED and Energy Star. The numbers and specs above are just for demonstration purposes, but we hope to give this sticker an actual first run in the upcoming Avant Garage project.

So, what do you think? Could a sticker like this provide a useful resource to potential home buyers? Am I missing any key information? Is the effectiveness of this sign limited by the fact that no other homes will be sporting it?

Let’s talk it over in the comments.

{ 4 trackbacks }

Home Buyers to Get Performance Labels
February 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm
Green Homes to Get Performance Labels
February 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm
Mandatory Home Performance Ratings — 100K House Blog
March 4, 2011 at 10:22 am
Energy Performance Oversight and a Gas Guzzler Tax for Homes? | Gateway Construction Group
January 6, 2012 at 6:16 pm

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Aburt February 16, 2011 at 10:25 am

On my rss feed this morning… http://www.finehomebuilding.com/item/15953/kb-homes-mileage-sticker-for-household-energy-use

Guess other homes WILL be sporting this sticker (or one very close to it).

2 Tyler Hartanov February 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Perfect! I think consumers need to see information about a home so they can compare homes. Also when they see the 50$ energy cost that will blow them away and really make them think about what they are buying in comparision. Great work postgreen.

3 Michael Hindle February 16, 2011 at 3:33 pm

There is a home energy score card very much like what you have put together here that has been created by the Earth Advantage Institute in Portland, OR. My understanding is that there has been a lot of research put into it and it is more accurate than the HERS rating system. I know that The Earth Advantage Institute has brought this standard to the attention of Authorities in VA and MD and I think NJ.

So what you are talking about exists and I think we all need to get behind it, assuming it is sophisticated enough to recognize the high levels of performance that we, and you, are designing to. Here is a link:
http://www.earthadvantage.org/programs/homes/energy-performance-score/

In addition we have legislation to require energy use disclosure for real estate transactions in MD this year. We should all get behind such efforts, and ideally all adopt the same home measurement system.

Regards,

Michael Hindle CPHC

4 Michael Hindle February 16, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I might have referenced your earlier entry about rental grade as well – if we could have a similar score card for rental units and would-be renters could see the benefits, it may drive that market as well, particularly if the owners can realize some of the cost benefit of lower energy costs by recovering costs in a utility included lease where they charge more than they are paying to recover construction cost but still beat out other properties in over-all cost and deliver a far better place to live.

Not very well articulated, but seems plausible.

Michael Hindle CPHC – Baltimore, MD

5 Greenbuildingindenver February 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Once again you guys have nailed it. What’s hard to believe is that it’s taken the industry so long to realize that dollars per month (or year) is the ONLY metric that makes sense to the average consumer. The average consumer also understands that it’s a relative rating, for comparison between homes, and not the actual amount they will be paying. (35+ years of EPA gas mileage ratings tuned us in)

There’s been a good discussion of this idea at GBA: http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/community/forum/energy-efficiency-and-durability/19586/consumer-friendly-home-rating-system

One detail that needs to be tidied up: There are two types of HERS scores: Preliminary and Final. Only the final one is correct, so consumers need to be warned about possible inaccurate ratings of unbuilt homes. Once a builder has proven the ability to generate consistent final scores, then he can be certified to promote a rating for an unbuilt house.

Also, I’d like to see these ratings stay VOLUNTARY. To require these by law (like in MD and NV) creates a costly hassle requiring oversight by governments. Once this rating makes it into the MLS data system, it becomes a de facto requirement anyway, but there’s less red tape. For some homes at the low end that may be demolished within a few years, the rating would add cost but not generate a benefit

6 Michael Hindle February 16, 2011 at 5:33 pm

The rating system referenced in the GBA article is the EPS system I mentioned earlier.

I am interested in the argument that this should remain voluntary. I am agnostic, but if it were required, and the EPS system were chosen to make such efforts more consistent and streamlined, then where is the costly hassle? Again, I am agnostic and would side with whatever served our environmental goals, so I am interested in the argument.

Michael Hindle CPHC – Baltimore

7 Greenbuildingindenver February 16, 2011 at 5:59 pm

#1 is cost. The going rate for a complete HERS audit is well over $1000. There are already a lot of costly requirements involved in a home sale. Homebuyers and homesellers are adults, and a buyer can say, “well, I’m not going to look at any homes that don’t have a rating.”

I just bought a serviceable home for $40k at that price, I know it’s a leaky sieve and no one needs to spend 4% to find out.

The hassle part is dealing with the government entity that maintains these records. They have a hard enough time just maintaining the ownership and encumberance database. That’s why you have title insurance at 1/2%.

8 Michael Hindle February 16, 2011 at 6:24 pm

I get it. Still the EPS score card is less cumbersome than a HERS rating, I believe. Nonetheless, if there is to be any Gov. incentive and people hope to receive the benefits of the incentives there has to be a reliable test-in and test-out. I know that is different than mandatory disclosure. The disclosure, it seems, would not need any Gov involvement as long as the score provided to the realtor by the EPS tester directly and as long as that individual is certified to use the system.

9 Peter Hastings February 17, 2011 at 6:52 am

One small point, relating to how visual information is interpreted. The vertical linear scale for the HERS rating should be the other way up. I know it’s not how the numbers run in HERS rating, but at a quick glance you want the HIGH performance of your house to show up towards the TOP of scale. Perhaps you could also label the new top of the scale as PERFECTION…

The coloring of the scale is fine – as you move up the scale you move out of the red, both environmentally and financially.

10 Cyndi February 17, 2011 at 9:11 am

I like the score card a lot. It is informative and gives the information needed to help buyers make wise choices. Great idea, as usual! The design is very nice -simple and easy to understand- to the point. Thanks!

11 Don Mallinson February 17, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Sticker concept is wonderful. Let it be voluntary. If it catches on buyers will ask for it and even reluctant builders will have to provide it. Question: who determines accuracy of the numbers? To enlighten the great unwashed, identify HERS as a national standard. Serious Windows may take issue at triple pane windows. Energy costs change over time, so I suggest the year built/tested be added. Remember KISS. Ultimately, most home owners do care about utility costs, but not about such builder speak as R factors, ERV efficiency, etc.

12 Larry February 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Just a thought, a lot of first time home buyers don’t really have a good idea how much money it costs to operate a house. Many of those costs are buried in the monthly rent. Might be useful to include an estimated dollar amount for each HERS rating level. I like showing both the yearly and monthly cost. Big annual numbers get people’s attention. Monthly numbers make it more concrete.

13 Brian G February 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I like your idea. I would recommend yearly instead because the difference will be bigger plus the confusion winter vs summer month. I would put $ amount on your HERS index graph for ‘Energy Star’,'New Home’ and ‘Existing Home’ of similar size.

14 Greenbuildingindenver February 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Don’t forget, you can install an “excess” of PV and turn the number negative, so allow for that on the scale.

15 Jim February 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm

check out http://www.homeenergyscore.gov
new program coming out in September – Spirit Technologies, LLC-B is assisting in training, implementation and software

16 NelsonL February 18, 2011 at 10:49 am

I think that your Home Performance Sticker is great! The design is simple yet very informative. It includes the standard HERS index, the estimated monthly energy cost and a list of the major features that are behind the low index and energy cost. Very nice.

17 Ian Watson February 18, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Looks awesome. I wish all homes had this.

I agree with suggestions about having yearly cost and comparisons of costs at other ratings on the scale. Also, I would be clear about what “energy” entails. Does that include home heating? The last point is to consider what the public knows. I wouldn’t have a flying clue what “ERV” was if I hadn’t learned all about it on this site.

Great start and I hope the idea spreads!

18 Nic Darling February 19, 2011 at 11:10 am

Excellent feedback here. I think, instead of responding here, this deserves another post with some design improvement and discussion of metrics. Expect one next week.

19 Scott Sanders February 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Even with all of the feedback already, I haven’t seen the EPA’s Energy Smart Home Scale mentioned. This scale, used for Building America Builder’s Challenge program, was one of the first to try to graphically represent the energy use of a new home.
Before you make the revisions to your original sticker, you may want to take a quick look at it if you haven’t seen it before. Their color scale is a bit easier to follow and they also include the address and a date as another comment suggested.

Also, I definitely agree with Michael’s #4 post about tying this back to rental properties as well – what a great tool it would be for renters to be able to easily compare energy costs.

20 Drew February 28, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Looks like a great idea, Nic. I agree with Scott on using the EnergySmart Home Scale. Other than that, looks like a great idea, looking forward to the upcoming post about metrics.

21 Scott Sanders March 2, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Nic,

Congrats on getting on the front page of GreenBuildingdvisor.com on Wednesday 2 March! There is a picture of your home performance sticker and a link to an article referencing this blog post.

http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/green-building-news/resnet-partnerships-growing-number-and-reach

22 Nic Darling March 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm

We recently decided to stop creating new posts for the 100k (see our last post that went up today for more info) and move all our blogging efforts to the Postgreen Homes Blog. So, I just posted a revised Performance Sticker and some explanation over at the Postgreen Homes Blog – http://blog.postgreenhomes.com/2011/03/14/postgreen-homes-home-performance-label-revised/ and I hope you will all come over there to continue this conversation. Sorry for the inconvenience, but it was a move we had to make.

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