Home Energy Scores

There are a couple of reasons I feel prompted to talk about home energy scores. First, it’s the middle of January and heating bills are affecting our budgets. Second, the City of Portland’s new requirement for home energy scores went into affect January 1st, 2018. Here in LO we don’t have a requirement for home energy audits to sell a home, but I think what the City of Portland is doing will affect all of the suburbs in the metro area.

A home energy score is an audit done by a licensed and certified professional. It costs about $125 and results in a standardized score of 1 to 10 and also includes an estimation of the energy costs for a particular home. If you live within the city limits of Portland and intend to sell your house, you have got to provide this score to prospective buyers. This is going to make the home energy cost question easy to obtain and to use in comparing homes to buy. I think homes with high scores, meaning very energy efficient, will be in greater demand than homes with low scores. To overcome this, homes with low scores will simply be priced for less to overcome this deficiency. As buyers get used to the availability of this information, I think they will begin to demand similar information outside of the city limits.

With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to offer you a few simple, and relatively inexpensive ways to save home energy costs. I obtained this list from the Alliance to Save Energy, a National non-profit that was founded in 1977 and brings together professionals from government, business, environmental, and consumer communities. I have limited this list to items you can physically do to your house prior to selling it.

1. Install a programmable thermostat
2. When buying appliances, look for the Energy Star label
3. Install low-flow faucets, shower heads, and toilets
4. Install new, clean air filters
5. Reduce the water heater temperature to 130 degrees
6. Seal off air leaks
7. Insulate attic, walls, and floors.

Alliance also provides some tips for living in the house that will save you money.
1. wash clothes in cold water
2. use window shades to keep the sun out in the summer to cool the house, and to let the sun inside in the winter to heat the house
3. Change light bulbs to be modern halogen incandescent, LED, or CFLs. Notice I don’t recommend these bulbs at the time you are marketing the house. These bulbs often take time to “warm up” and fully illuminate. Unless you leave your lights all on for every showing, these bulbs will not brighten up quickly enough to illuminate a room if it is being shown without the lights already on. You want lots of light when you are marketing your home.

To read the full Alliance recommendations, click here.

A word or two about windows
I am a big fan of architecturally significant and older homes. I think that there is a fine line between updating an older home and ruining an older home. For instance, the beveled glass edges in fine old homes that are often in the living room and dining room of these old homes. What to do? I believe these windows should be preserved. You could consider putting a storm window in front of them, or even just leaving them alone and allowing them to be single pane.

Insulated windows do not provide as much energy savings as is often claimed. The Federal Trade Commission was warned or filed charges against more than a dozen window manufacturers to force them to be truthful in their advertising. Having said that, there is no argument that a double pane window, whether it is via sealed-insulated window, or an old-fashioned storm window, is going to be more energy efficient than a single pane window. Not too mention that single pane windows get condensation on the inside during the winter that can cause water staining and mold. NPR wrote a good article on the subject that you can find by clicking here. The point is, new insulated windows are expensive. If you are on a budget you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck with other measures, like the ones I have listed above.

As always, thanks for reading the blotter.