Category Archives: Computer Modeling For Energy Use

And, Ladies and Gentlemen, Here Comes The Sales Pitch ….

thermal metic headerSince 2007,  all of the large insulation manufacturers and trade associations have been funding research of the Thermal Metric Project.  This project was conducted by Building Science Corporation, a respected source of independence and factually based information about energy efficiency in homes and other buildings.Batt side

The project testing Spray Foam, Fiberglass, rigid foam and cellulose. It studied batts and blown in fiberglass. You can find their final report, issued in June, 2015 on their website.  There are a lot of detailed measurements, graphs and data in the report. It is a good report that will serve well over the years.  The headlines are now beginning to show up in various social media. These are taken from the Executive Summary of the Report. When you see these in literature or social media of either insulation manufacturers trade associations, or contractors —  take the presentation with a couple of grains of salt.

So which ones will be spun for public consumption and what can one do to avoid a sales pitch. Let’s look at the main conclusions.

  • When walls are constructed with the same installed R-value in the stud space, and are air sealed, both inside and outside (i.e. there is effectively zero air leakage through the assembly), they exhibit essentially the same thermal performance regardless of the type of insulation materials used.
  • All of the tested wall assemblies were subject to thermal bridging regardless of the they of insulation material used in the stud space. Thermal bridging through the framing resulted in roughly 15% decrease in thermal performance.

There are seven more bullet points in the Executive Summary that get more technical then most builders and almost all home buyers want to know. For those that do, it is another blog post or reading the report themselves.tweet1

Here is the Tweet that I saw this morning and thought it was worth a Blog Post.

Notice the comparison is Cost.  Does this cost include the cost of proper installation and air sealing?  I have no idea. Following the links back to the website, I did find a cost of $4,000 for the batt type insulation.  Nothing about the size of the home or other details to make a reasonable comparison.

There is also no indication that batts are rarely installed according to manufacturer’s directions.  In the picture at the beginning, the batt is not installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In this area Dry Wall installers, will not warranty their workmanship if batts are installed according to manufacturer’s directions.

15aI included the Project’s second bullet point about Thermal Bridging.  Too many times, we hear references to an R-13 wall or R-19 wall.  This only refers to the space between the studs, not the wall.  Thermal Bridging represents the decreased value of insulation because there is wood in the wall.  Wood is R-1 per inch.  So each stud is 1 1/2 inches of R3.5 in a 2×4 wall.  This is the 15% decrease in performance.

The 15 percent also uses the recommendations from NAHB from their 1977 research on Optimum Value Framing. The National Association of Home Builders conducted this research to find ways to remove expensive wood studs almost 40 years ago.  Wood Studs are more expensive now, and still increasing. This IR image shows batts not installed according to manufacturer’s instructions (The Dark Blue Areas). It also shows the wood framing as a thermal bypass, mostly green with some blue on the top plates.

In the end, for the home buyer, a way to sort through all the sales pitch exists. For new homes of half of the new construction in 2013 was verified independently by a HERS Rater.  I do this in the Wichita metro area for builders and new home buyers.

Previous Blogs of Interest:

Installing Fiberglass Batts

Insulation in Your Walls

 

 

Private HERS Rated Homes

During 2013, New Home Builders in the US placed a HERS Rating on over 50% of the new homes built. Builders in most large housing markets have found that a HERS Rated Home sells faster than one that is not Rated.

Is the new home builder the only one that can place a rating on a home?  Actually anyone with an interest in the home can have a HERS Rating completed. The process is the same as when the builder completes the process.

Tonight a new home is on the page listing ‘Actual HERS Rated Homes’ .  This home is one the owner chose to have the HERS Rating completed.  It is being built in Derby, and is listed as Sold Projected. This home was planned to be lower than the standard new home. It is projected with an INDEX of 86.  It will come in lower.  The projected HERS process took into consideration the plan and the levels of insulation and equipment the owner and the builder have decided on.

HERS Rated Homes

HERS Rated Homes

The reports also show how much energy will be used in both heating seasons and cooling seasons by this home.  Several recommendations for cost effective improvements were made.  Several were based on simply lowering the annual utility bills of the home.  When the builder gets pricing for these improvements, the home buyer can make a good decision to proceed with that improvement or not.

Several of the additional insulation recommendations fall into this category. Several of these improvements were based on improving the comfort and Indoor air quality of the home. Again, when the builder has prices in hand the home buyer can make good decisions about these health and safety items. These items include improved equipment, and improved mechanical ventilation over the code required fresh air duct into the furnace.

Yes, there is no code adopted and enforced in the Wichita area requiring insulation in a new home. There is a code item that requires fresh air to be brought in. I have yet to see a new home without provision for a dryer and spot ventilation fans in the bathrooms. The fresh air is needed to compensate for these items.  If it is not provided, these fans will cause fresh air to come in where it can, not where you want.

When think of  a Heating and Air contractor, you have seen them referred to as HVAC Contractors.  The V is for Ventilation.

Remember to ask your Builder for the HERS Rating when you look at a new home. If the builder isn’t Rating his homes, you can obtain a HERS Rating for your favorite model.

What Types of Buildings Does a HERS Rater Work On?

I had an question last week.  ‘What types of homes can you put a HERS Rating on?”  A second question came along with it, “What types of buildings can you certify as Energy Star?”

These are great questions!  We usually think of homes as being a house in a subdivision or older neighborhood. It usually houses one family.  These are referred to in the trade as ‘Single Family Homes’.  Not everyone lives in one of these.  There are duplexes, four-plexes and all sorts of high rise apartment houses.  These are referred to as ‘Multi-Family Housing’. There are also buildings that have retail shops or other non-residential areas, with living units on the upper floors. These are referred to as ‘Mixed Occupancy’.

A HERS Rating is applied only to residential units. The ‘Home Energy Rating System’ was developed by the Residential Energy Network, commonly called RESNET. This non-profit organization provides guidelines for training, maintains the standards for the HERS Rating process, certifies the software used to IRS Standards, and finally enforces a Quality Assurance Program on all Ratings issued.

There is an organization that is developing a similar set up for commercial structures called COMNET.

The HERS Rating results in a score on the HERS Index. This score can be used by home buyers, realtors, appraisers, and many others in the property sale transaction. This rating is a private transaction usually between a HERS Rater and the property owner. Many HERS Index Scores are specifically used to market a property.  A HERS Rating may be completed for a new or an existing home. Lenders in some cases are requiring HERS Rating.

The HERS standard does not specify any specific products, methods or other requirements. The resulting Index Score reflects different levels of energy efficiency between rated homes.  A home with a higher score will use more energy than a home with a lower score. The index starts at Zero and goes up.  The highest score I have personally completed was 384.  Most existing homes score between 95 and 150.

A HERS Rating can be completed for single family or multi-family homes. The limitation applies to buildings that are 3 stores or less. In the trade these are referred to as ‘Low Rise Residential buildings.

Energy Star is a Brand that is promoted by the Federal Government since 1992.  It is designed to designate the top 20% of a product line with the most energy efficient features built in.  Every product line has standards for energy use. Specific tests are required on the different products.

Refrigerators are a great example.  A 25 cubic foot refrigerator is only compared to similar size units. A 10 cubic foot unit designed for a smaller apartment is not compared to larger units. there are a large number of refrigerator classes available.

Some products do not have an Energy Star qualifying standard.  Examples here would include clothes dryers and ranges, ovens and cook tops.

Energy Star Homes use a set of mandatory requirements that must be followed and a HERS Rating that must be earned. The requirements are detailed, covering 7 pages of checklists. They require specific energy related items, for example, continuous insulation. They also require things such as flashing of windows and doors for durability. It makes little sense to build an energy efficiency home that would allow water to enter the wall and destroy the insulation.

A maximum HERS Index score  is set, based on the size and number of bedrooms of a home.

Commercial buildings also qualify for an Energy Star Rating. Existing building qualify by reducing energy usage. This process, like most Energy Star certifications, is voluntary and as a HERS Rater and Thermographer, I am qualified to assist with, or to complete.

New commercial buildings qualify for Energy Star, by design and verification of the actual design being present in the completed building.  I can help with this also. Since most of these buildings have architects and other professional engineers involved in the planning, my role is more in the verification process. In the commercial area this process is called Building Commissioning. I would work primarily with the Thermal Enclosure and some of the HVAC issues.

What percentage of residential new construction cost do you think a high efficiency HVAC system should be? 5%, 10% ,15%???

This question was raised this morning on one of the professional discussion forums. Below is my response. Included is a link supplied by Richard McGrath in another response.

Let’s use a water bucket and a faucet for an analogy.

Take a page from the British Navy a few hundred years ago. They learned to tar the joints of their wooden hulled ships. Perhaps that’s why British Seamen are called ‘Tars’.

If you build your bucket with wood, you do something to stop the leaks. To use the bucket, you have a faucet to put water into it. If you put less money into the bucket stopping the water loss, you will need to put more water into it all the time, and need a larger capacity faucet. That will cost more money. The reverse is also true.

The question is ‘what should our faucet cost’? Most people would look at it and say not much! For a half million dollar house you might get answers from 2-4%. Some would say less. ??A faucet system is not just the part you see sticking out of the wall? The system includes pipe from the source of water to the house, to the various rooms where water is needed. You can’t buy a $10 faucet and claim to have a faucet system.

For this question, you can’t buy a furnace and AC unit and claim that is the system. You must have a Thermostat and some way to get the heat and cool to the various rooms of the home. For an effective faucet system, you put some thought and effort into the design. The same goes for an HVAC system.

What is the bucket in our house? Sometimes it is called the thermal envelope, sometimes Thermal Enclosure. It is formed by a continuous thermal boundary that is aligned with a continuous air barrier. ??Pretty simple in concept, Not as easy to execute. ??Put some time and effort into the design; then put some effort into the execution. If you are building with 2x4s use 24 inch centers, ladder connections for interior walls and 2 stud corners. Fill the extra room with insulation not wood. NAHB pioneered this in the 1970’s because of the high cost of framing material. ??You can install R-13 batts in those 2×4 walls, or you can use a blown in system. If you get the correct density and verify it, you can get R-15. You can choose a hybrid system with a 1 inch flash of CC SPF and blown in FG or Wet Sprayed Cellulose. R-17 or 18. ??Insulate the basement walls, crawl space walls and the above ground walls. ??Properly flash and seal the openings for windows and doors. Specify the U-factor and SHGC for the windows. Calculate the correct overhang for the eaves. You want to have them cast a shadow over the whole window at noon on June 21st.

Properly air seal the home. Install your WRB (water resistant barrier) correctly. That means following manufacturer’s directions. Wrap types mean gasketed nails, properly lapped and taped with approved products. You can use factory applied WRB to the OSB or a site applied liquid to the house. ??Air sealing doesn’t stop there. Fill each 1 inch hole the electrician drilled with caulk or foam, most wires running through those holes are about 1/2 inch. ??Then seal the joints of the wall and ceiling drywall on the attic side. Caulk or froth pac work. You can flash 1 inch of CC SPF also.

Now your house, bucket, is not very leaky. So you don’t need a big faucet. ??Big faucets relate to size of the HVAC system, they also directly relate to the cost to install. You also have the cost to operate.

After you have a well built air leakage controlled envelope, then you can consider the HVAC system. ??Two choices to start with: Hydronic or Forced Air. Forced air is most common in this area, we will persue that route.

After choosing Forced Air, you can choose gas fired heat or an electrically driven heat source. Again 2 choices. ??With a gas fired heat source you will have conditioned air leaving the ducts at 100 – 110° F. With an electrically driven source the air will leave the ducts at 85 – 95° F noticeably cooler. That will make or break many people on their choice and ultimate satisfaction with their HVAC system.

Gas fired comes in primarily Natural Gas and Propane. Availability is the key here. ??If you choose a gas fired system – go sealed combustion on the furnace and either sealed combustion or fan assisted drafting on the DHW.

If you choose to go with an electrically driven system, you can choose a Heat Pump or an electric furnace. If you choose an electric furnace, IMO you will not be pleased with your operating costs. They will be through the roof and you will invest any capital cost savings in operating costs very quickly.

That leaves a heat pump with Two Choices. You can choose an Air Source or a Ground Source. ??With a well designed and built duct system, meeting the standards for leakage and design for the Energy Star 3.0 program; a ASHP with variable speed ECM motor (which may be overkill) including actual Manual J, S, and D work ups around here will cost between 9 – 15 K. A gas fired system will be very similar in price, as would a dual fuel system.

If you opt for a typical closed loop Ground Source set up, including all of the above, wells and piping your capital cost will run between 25 – 35K. (noted for the next 27 months a 30% tax credit is available, but not considered in this article.)

In this area new construction homes range from 125,000 to 7 million. ??So the lower end is in the 7 – 12 % range. The more reasonable price of 500,000 for a high end spec home in the area results in the 3 – 7% range.

The question of percentages is silly. Builders may like them, but most homeowners will have their eyes glaze over if you bring this up. The goal is to sell homes, not HVAC systems. A home is supposed to be comfortable. Many new ones are not. This link goes into depth on this issue. http://www.healthyheating.com/Thermal_Comfort_Working_Copy/comfort.htm#.Uj9kLr7D_5o

The equation of importance is capital cost to operating cost. Those are best approached with some modeling. I recently completed a model for a 3K sf home with R-25 ICF V 2×4 16OC construction. The operating costs were in the $1,500 range for our utility rates. The HERS Score was 54.

Substituting a GSHP brought the operating costs down by $200 per year and increase the capital costs by 10K. ??The customer opted for the ASHP and ICF over the GSHP and typical construction. He chose where to put his money.

I see a trap in logic using percentages. I provided new construction pricing around here. My cousin in California deals with homes on the bottom range in the neighborhood of 500,000. That makes a hugh difference in the % equation. ??So try rephrasing the question to get some more accurate results. Leave out the percentages.

Comments on The Previous Post

A few minutes ago, I posted a Press Release on changes to the 2015 Energy Codes.  If you read the list of groups supporting this change, you will find me listed.

Energy Codes have been in existence since 1992. They require levels of insulation, other energy efficient features and address how these items are installed.  There have been adjustments to them over the years. As the cost of electricity and other forms of energy rise, increasing the levels of insulation makes financial sense. As companies develop new products, for example the green sheathing used on many new homes in the Wichita area.

Wichita / Sedgwick County have not chosen to adopt an Energy Code. There is no legal requirement to build a home or building in Wichita and install insulation.

I support this change in the enforcement of codes because it is a ‘Free Market’ approach to the problem.

When people hear a home can be legally built with no insulation, they are very surprised.  Their expectation is that government requires that.  When my daughter was looking at buying a home in 2007-08; I heard one builder’s sales person tell her: “We build Energy Efficient Homes! We used to put R-19 in the attic; now with put R-25! That is Energy Efficient!”  Yet, the recommended code at that time for Wichita called for R-38 in the attic.

A ‘Free Market’ has been defined as the price a willing and informed seller and a willing and informed buyer agree upon!  I think that is important, to have willing and informed sellers and buyers.

If you don’t have an informed buyer; you can’t have a free market.  Consumers want something they value, if they are informed, they can make a decision that meets their needs. It may be a different decision than you would make with the same information.

This proposal would allow a builder to choose to add extra insulation to a home or to install more efficient equipment to his home as they choose to meet or exceed the competition.

This proposal allows a local government to require a level of energy performance from new homes. It allows the builder to decide how he wants to achieve that level. It doesn’t not require the local government to hire any additional inspectors or add training to existing inspectors.

When you look at buying a car, you can look at the Mileage Sticker on the window.  You may or may not use that in your final decision.  With this in the code, you can look at the sticker on the electrical box.  Then you can choose to use it or not use it in your decision.

A few years from now, when a new home is resold, the sticker will be there. Consumers can look at it and make informed decisions again.

Disclosure:  Yes,  part of our business is to Rate Homes for Energy Efficiency! This proposal if adopted by local governments could increase business.  It would also spur competition. It would not stop a home builder from training one of his employees to Rate his homes.  It would not stop an independent group, for example the Builders Association, from training someone and offering Ratings services to their members. It would not stop Energy Related Subcontractors from training an employee and offering Ratings to their customers.

The Press Release with links is found HERE

Builders and Efficiency Advocates Reach New Homes Energy Code Change Agreement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press contact: Chris Potter, (202) 525-2883 x. 311, chris@imt.org

Builders and Efficiency Advocates Reach New Homes Energy Code Change Agreement ?Efficiency Rating System Proposal Would Lead to the Largest Triennial Energy Use Reduction in U.S. History

WASHINGTON (August 21, 2013) – Three energy efficiency proponents interested in stronger and more cost-effective residential energy codes have reached an unprecedented agreement with the Leading Builders of America, which represents almost 40 percent of the new single-family home market, to support a proposal that could save homebuyers about $850 annually and give builders greater flexibility to meet energy-saving targets.

Today’s announcement by the Leading Builders of America (LBA), Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Britt/Makela Group comes in advance of next week’s (Aug. 26) publication of proposals to be considered by the International Code Council (ICC) in October, when code officials vote on proposed changes to the 2015 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

Duke Energy, Air Conditioning Contractors of America, Insulate America, and Masco Home Services have signed on in support of the agreement, along with almost 90 other utilities, custom home builders, energy efficiency service providers, homeowner warranty providers, and other organizations from around the country. (To see the full list of supporters, click here).

“This agreement is an example of what can be accomplished when diverse groups work together to achieve a common goal. The result in this case will benefit literally hundreds of thousands of homeowners for decades to come,” said Steve Hilton, Chairman and CEO of Phoenix-based Meritage Homes and chair of LBA’s Energy Working Group.

The groups are supporting standards to reduce energy use in new homes by about 20 percent in 2015, taking energy efficiency to a new level and representing one of the largest triennial reductions ever under the U.S. model building energy code. The agreement gives builders the ability to use a “whole house” approach known as an Energy Rating Index (ERI), which is a consumer-friendly benchmark that will allow buyers to estimate annual energy savings and compare efficiencies between homes in each of the eight U.S. climate zones.

 

“This is the first time that the nation’s foremost home builders—both large and small—have joined forces with efficiency advocacy organizations in support of stronger building energy codes,” said David Goldstein, co-director of NRDC’s Energy Program. “This shows that builders are responding to what new homebuyers want – houses that use less energy while keeping their occupants comfortable and saving them money on utility bills.”

Under the agreement, builders who select the Energy Rating Index option would meet specific mandatory envelope and hot water (such as pipe insulation) requirements, but have the flexibility to achieve the target ERI by the most cost-effective means available. One of the most common examples of an energy rating index is the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) administered by the Residential Energy Services Network. Over the past three years, “Certified Home Energy Raters” have used the index to estimate energy consumption of well over one-third of the new homes built. LBA reports this type of approach would add only $1,300 to the cost of a typical new home compared to $3,000 for meeting the current prescriptive standard.

If the ICC adopts the code change proposal (RE188) as part of the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the HERS Index system could be used to assess compliance. The updated code would save utility customers an estimated $300 annually for a typical new house compared to the 2012 IECC, which has been adopted in only a few jurisdictions, or $850 compared to the widely used 2006 IECC.

“This would be a win-win for both builders and the people who buy new homes,” said Ryan Meres, IMT’s Code Compliance Specialist. “By using this simpler, consumer-friendly rating system, a homebuyer can understand the efficiency of the house and compare House A to House B. Meanwhile, this also would give builders more flexibility in meeting market demand for more energy-efficient living.”

For more information, see David Goldstein’s blog  or download the fact sheet.

I have written some comments in a subsequent post on the Blog, you can read here!

How does an Energy Auditor Shed Stress at the end of an Audit?

You’ve been in the attic, the crawl spaces or basement, climbed up and down any stairs several times. The have been some questions from the home owner and perhaps from the kids in the house. If you are like me, you’ve bumped your head a few times on low hanging fruit. It has been a fun, rewarding and perhaps a little stressful.

The thing I do to relieve this stress, is to depressurize. Yes, let all that built up stress just flow out the door. It’s not Yoga, or some mystic belief in spiritual forces. It is the wind and the open door.

I set up the Blower Door and depressurize the house. The air moving past me, goes out the fan, and the stress goes with it. I just have to let it go!

Now you know one reason why I leave the Blower Door until very close to the end of the audit. Now questions may pop into your head. Why a blower door test? Why depressurize the house? What is the reading of the test? Is my test good or bad? How much better a reading is my new house, than the old house my friend lives in? What can I do? What does it mean?

Ahhhh! Those are all good questions and they are ones that I get asked regularly. What is the Blower Door and what does it test for? The Blower Door consists of a fan hung in a nylon insert that is held in a temporary frame placed in the front door. The fan moves air from the inside of the home out. It measures a pressure difference between the inside and the outside. It also measures how much air is being pulled out to create that pressure difference. As the Blower Door is pulling the air out, it blows past the Energy Auditor, and I get depressurized as well!

The blower door is used to test a home, or a commercial building, to determine how much leakage is going on. You have probably felt a cold draft in the winter somewhere in a home. Some of the drafts are fairly easy to locate, such as under a door. Other places that leak air are not as easily found. Leaks do not need to actually enter the room to cause a problem. If air leaks into the wall it can soak the heat right out of the room.

The Blower Door simulates a 20 mph wind on all 4 sides of the house and the roof at the same time. If the wind is blowing on the outside, the way to simulate that effect is to place the fan to pull the wind out of the house. By controlling the amount of pressure difference between inside and outside, the Blower Door can tell you about how your home keeps the air fresh. It will show you where the fresh air is coming in.

The air is coming into your home with all the doors and windows closed, can be correlated with the size of the home and an amount of leakage determined. It is also important to record the inside and outside temperatures during the test. Some temperature differences can change the test results. In the winter, the cold air outside has more density then the warmer air inside. The leakage will behave differently if you have a hot summer day with the temperature outside at 95 or higher.

Many people say your house needs to breathe. I don’t think so. I think the life in your house needs fresh air. How you provide that fresh air is your choice. Your home should change the air about every 3 hours to provide fresh air, for those live things in your home. Live things would include plants, pets, and people. Cooking, especially with a gas range, showers, the typical gas hot water heater, and a typical gas furnace also require fresh air. Providing fresh air is one step, providing quality fresh air is a second step. Both should be taken at the same time.

What is the reading of my test? Is my test good or bad?

Energy Auditors and Building Science types, refer to the results of a blower door test as “XXXX CFM at 50”. The test is standardized to depressurize the home to a difference of 50 pascals with relation to the outside. CFM is for Cubic Feet per Minute. The measure shows how many cubic feet per minute when depressurized to a difference of 50 pascals.

What is a pascal and how much is it? A pascal is a metric unit of pressure. It is not much pressure Here is the US we like PSI (pounds per square inch) or water column inches. Some of us are familiar with a bar, or an atmosphere, or a Torr. (You can read Wikipedia to learn about those! I did! ) 1 water column inch is 250 pascals, or about 0.03 PSI.

This image of my manometer is reading 45.2 pascals with a flow of 2552 CFM.

So is my test good or bad? It is not good or bad. It is just a score. It gives a measure for your Energy Audit to determine how much the uncontrolled air exchange in your home costs in Energy Bills, and how much we can reduce it for what price?

The air leakage can be evaluated by the volume within a home. It can also be evaluated by the size of the walls and the ceiling. Until those numbers are calculated to go with the reading, it doesn’t mean much.

How do I compare to a house down the street? That is not comparing apples to apples. The house down the street is different because a different family lives there. They have over a few or over many years, modified the house. How well have the inside walls been maintained, how many coats of paint. One of the homes I tested with the least opportunity to save on Energy Bills was built in 1912.

What can I do to reduce the uncontrolled leakage in my home.

You can become a caulker! Not a clunker! Caulk or something hard that you can not blow through stops air leakage. Insulation, most types, you can blow through does not stop air leakage. Where to caulk is a different story and deserves its own post on the blog.

Thanks for reading! Thanks to @splintergirl for the idea!

Energy Mortgages Part V

Q: What are the bid requirements for improvements made from an Energy Improvement Mortgage?

A: While competition between vendors can result in a cost savings for the consumer, there are no specific requirements to use a bid process or to take the low bid. A consumer may choose to obtain only one price on a recommended improvement, or to issue a Request for Proposal to more than one contractor.

Competition is also available for HERS Ratings Services. Some Raters work for a contractor, some work independently. Using a Rater that is employed by a contractor may or may not reduce the choice you have in selecting contractors for that specialty. An independent Certified HERS Rater does not have a financial incentive to limit your choice in contractors. All Certified HERS Raters will provide a RESNET Standard Disclosure concerning payment for services, employment, and the products or services, if any, they or their employer can supply or install.

Q: Which homes are not candidates for an Energy Mortgage.

A: A home originally built to the Energy Star Standard should be financed with an Energy Efficient Loan. This home has a HERS Rating and is efficient. The Seller should receive credit on the price of the home for the energy efficiency built into the home.

A home that needs energy efficient upgrades is a great candidate for an Energy Improvement Loan. The cost of the improvements can be included in the mortgage and the cost savings covers the increased cost and may allow the new home owner an extra cushion.

Any home the buyer would like to improve would be a candidate for an Energy Improvement Loan. For example: An Energy Star Rated Home is listed four years after construction. A potential buyer is interested in adding a renewable energy source. This home with a HERS Rating of 82 in 2006, would be a candidate for a new Audit and an Energy Improvement Loan to cover the cost of a renewable energy source.

Q: How do I determine if a home was built to Energy Star Standards.

A: The seller will probably share the information with you. They would be thinking of this rating as an added selling feature. If not, check the Circuit Breaker Box. A HERS Rating Label is usually placed on the box, by the original Rater. This would also demonstrate an older home that had been audited and improved after construction.

Q: How would a homeowner, or realtor determine if a home without a HERS Rating Label is worth the time investment to pursue an Energy Improvement Loan. Is there an age, or amount of insulation, or other indicator?

A: The best indicator for an existing home’s need for an energy improvement loan would be to obtain an Annual Utility Usage Analysis. The seller can obtain from his records or from the utility company the past twelve months of usage and amounts from both electricity and gas or propane, a certified HERS Rater can apply the Analysis and the amount of use could be pinpointed.

Energy Mortgages Part IV

Q: What training is required for certification as a HERS Rater?

A: The written standards are available on the RESNET website. Training includes principals of thermodynamics; evaluation of purchased energy amounts and usage; evaluation of building components such as walls, ceilings, roof, floors, fenestrations (doors, windows, skylights), crawl space and basements, ventilation standards, HVAC equipment efficiency determinations, and other types of building science. Diagnostic Testing includes Air Pressure Testing of the building using a Blower Door, and pressure testing of ductwork using a duct fan.

Q: Are there other National Organizations that can offer the type of HERS Rating required by Lenders?

A: RESNET is the national organization for certifying a standardized HERS Rating accepted by the Home Mortgage Industry, the IRS, the DOE and the EPA.

Representatives from the National Association of State Energy Offices and the Home Mortgage Industry formed RESNET in 1995 to standardize energy measurements and energy improvements to homes. Prior efforts had resulted in varied programs in some states and not others, and some municipalities.

Q: How is an improvement to a home calculated by the software as a cost effective improvement?

A: The software compares the projected cost of the improvement to the calculated annual cost savings. If the cost of installation and materials result in a favorable rate of savings in energy cost, the improvement is generally recommended. For example, the cost of $2,000.00 to insulate the walls of a 1960 era home and add insulation to the attic resulting in R-13 in the walls and R-50 in the attic could show an $800.00 savings annually. This shows a payback of the improvement in 30 months. Many simple improvements such as insulation, shell sealing, installation or replacement of weather stripping can show immediate results. After calculating these changes, it may become cost effective to replace the HVAC equipment with newer more efficient models that are correctly sized for the improved house.

Energy Mortgages Part III

Q: What software can do the calculations for these types of mortgages?

A: The national group that works with the various stakeholders on Energy Efficiency is the Residential Energy Services Network, RESNET.

RESNET approved Software packages are available through a network of Rating Providers. These Rating Providers perform QA on all Certified HERS Ratings.

There are currently three software programs accepted by RESNET for HERS Ratings. They are used across the US for Energy Efficient or Energy Improvement Mortgages.
• Energy Gauge
• Energy Insights
• Rem Rate
• The Kansas Energy Office has designated Rem Rate for use in state operated weatherization and efficiency programs.