You wouldn’t buy a new car without knowing its “miles per gallon” rating. So why buy a home without a “house energy score?”
Whether your client is getting ready to sell their home – or preparing to buy one – knowing the energy efficiency facts about the property is a major consideration.
As buyers become more aware of the benefits of an energy-efficient home, homes with a favorable home energy score may be more attractive to buyers. We’ve developed a new tool that can help InterNACHI members make up to $100 extra.
It’s called the Home Energy Inspection Tool.
It is a manner of faking necessary data in order to quickly create a report that appears, on its surface, to be meaningful.
The number of times that a home exchanges air with the outsidecan account for anywhere from 10% to 40% of its energy use. In addition to the loss of conditioned air, air leakage can significantly reduce insulation R - value, it moves moisture and other pollutants into and out of the house and can cause house pressures that can interfere with the venting of combustion appliances.
Thereby, merely “estimating” the air change rate in a home allows for your results to be anywhere from 10% to 40% incorrect. It also allows for the inspector to make recommendations regarding air sealing that can create adverse conditions in the home (mold, air quality, backdrafting of mechanical devices, etc.).
Instead of “estimating” air leakage to simply complete a form … inspectors who identify the possibility of air leakage affecting a home’s energy efficiency should recommend a complete diagnostic home performance evaluation by a qualified professional in much the same manner that he would recommend a professional evaluation when he finds a 1/8" horizontal crack in a foundation wall in the same home. This provides an actual service to the client and minimizes any liability that such an “estimate” might place on the inspector.
These simple calculators serve the purpose of introducing home owners to the tip of the iceberg … but while providing basic tips on appliances and behavioral patterns, they do not provide the home owner with enough reliable and relevent information to actually “rate” or to affect changes to the home’s structure, ventilation or mechanical features.
For that reason, and considering the “estimate” that could result in the rating being off by up to 40%, an inspector should carefully consider all of the possible ramifications of having the decision to buy or pass on a home that is based upon the* “rating”* that he provided with his “estimate”.
ASHI has already jumped into the gamein a big way. The problem for them is that the DOE Home Energy Score partnership that they are a part of is actually being protested and lobbied against by the NAR who object to having houses officially government “rated” and interfering with their sale.
It is possible that the DOE’s Home Energy Score program may not see the light of day. It was originally slated for implementation last Fall, then again this Spring … and now, seems to be in limbo. It has no support from home owners, home sellers, home buyers and those who represent them. They have yet to recruit sufficient participants to provide these "scores" outside of California and New England. It’s not looking good and will likely get worse when and if it is ever implemented.
This InterNACHI thing, on the other hand, is already an available option and does not carry as much of the same stigma as an offical government rating … and inspectors who are not certified energy professionals can still provide a meaningful alternative, if marketed for what it is and not more than what it is. They can simply ally themselves with a BPI or RESNET certified inspector to refer their client to for additional evaluation when issues beyond the routine need for CFLs, EnergyStar appliances, etc are detected. In this way, They can provide the same or better service to a greater number of people.
Jim makes a good point. We’ve been in talks with the DOE about the Home Energy Score since November 2010, and the general impression I get is that they’re still in no way ready to go full-scale with it. In fact, the main reason our application has been held by the DOE is that we were hoping to perform tens of thousands of scores in 2012, and they wanted to cap us at 200 total.
The Home Energy Score may become as ubiquitous as the MPG label, but that’s going to take years at its current trajectory. We developed the InterNACHI Home Energy Inspection tool because we’re not willing to wait. Energy is an important topic today, and we think our members are the right people to be talking about it with consumers. Sure, a comprehensive home energy audit is going to be much more accurate, but it also comes with a $600 price tag. Our report is a simple ancillary inspection that can start that conversion, and can provide a ton of valuable information to the consumer regardless of whether they decide to pursue a more accurate audit.
The bottom line is that we want to do what’s best for our members. We know that you folks are the right ones to take on this role, and we’re going to do everything in our power to make that happen. The InterNACHI Energy Inspection tool is easy to use and only requires 15 extra minutes of work. We see this as a way for our members to easily add $50-100 to each inspection, and drive responsible energy consumption at the same time.
I agree that this calculator and its product could be a benefit to home owners and the inspector that provides it … but only if it is presented as being what it is — an introduction to the beginning of the first step to making their home more energy efficient.
It does not replace the need for a diagnostic home performance analysis prior to upgrading the home’s systems or structure to make it more comfortable, healthy or energy efficient.
Presenting it as being more than that is misleading and can be harmful to the home owner as well as the inspector.
Inspectors should align themselves with and refer qualified energy professionals just as they do structural engineers and other building professionals when reporting on or recommending the need for upgrades to existing conditions. When they do this, they serve their clients well.
I don’t plan to offer the InterNACHI energy thing … but if an inspector offered it and had an alliance with a professional who could back him up and protect his client with a diagnostic home performance evaluation, he could certainly make that arrangement with the professional he referred.
The quality is definitely weak … and dangerous, IMO; particularly if your client decides to walk away from the deal based upon any information that you provide from this calculator.
Remember, the seller only agreed by contract to a “home inspection” … not an "energy inspection" or “energy rating”. He never granted you permission to enter his home for any purpose other than for a “home inspection”. If he decides to keep the earnest money … or otherwise feels that the rating he did not agree to interferes with the sale of his home, it could be harmful to the seller, the buyer and the inspector.
I think the ASHI guyswill be in much bigger trouble with this when they come into a home under the guise of performing a “home inspection” and walk away from it having given it an official government label with an imperfect (http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/homeenergyscore/)that interferes with the pending and future sale. I wouldn’t want to be that poor schmuck.
Right now, my remarks to my client about the energy efficiency of a home that I inspect are verbal … and my written report simply recommends a future diagnostic home performance evaluation to address issues that I suspect to be affecting comfort, air quality of energy efficiency. When they own it, I return and perform my testing since some of it is invasive in nature and cannot be performed without the owner’s consent.
That is what I would recommend to any inspector choosing to use this calculator to provide his “rating” or “report” — along with a carefully worded disclaimer explaining how (1) the report does NOT reflect every aspect associated with the many contributing factors to comfort, air quality or effeciency, (2) that the absence of a diagnostic home performance evaluation necessitated that certain items be “estimated” or “averaged” which could affect the accuracy and outcome of the report, and that (3) the client should seek the advice and services of a certified energy professional prior to making any modifications to the structure or systems of the home.
I just gave this to a client and advised I was testing the tool and it was a good presentation to help her discern what to do. She was delighted and I see this becoming a standard section in my report. It presents a great visual aid and adds credibility to what I have been telling clients all along and most of them read or glance at once and then forget about.