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Home Energy Score 

Proposed mandate would shine a light on home energy use

The City of Bend's Climate Action Steering Committee has been diligently working on the Community Climate Action Plan, which will help guide the City—and the community—in pursuit of goals to reduce fossil fuel use by 40 percent by the year 2030 and by 70 percent by the year 2050. The Bend City Council will soon vote on its adoption.

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A proposed mandate of the CCAP is to implement a Home Energy Score program that would require every home that goes on the market in Bend to provide a home energy assessment and score based on energy use and efficiency. The scoring system was developed in national laboratories by the U.S. Department of Energy. It's described by the DOE as "an easy-to-produce rating designed to help homeowners and homebuyers gain useful information about a home's energy performance." The Home Energy Score uses a simple 1-to-10 scale, where a 10 represents the most energy efficient homes.

Concerns about requiring a mandatory score include high assessment costs, unreliable test data, long turn-around times disrupting real estate sales and lack of qualified assessors in our area. These concerns deserve some clarification. In cities such as Portland, Oregon, and Austin, Texas, where mandates have already been implemented, they're finding that home inspectors can easily become certified, and many individuals have seen this as an opportunity to create new jobs. In Portland, where the number of HES assessors has increased, the costs of the audit have been driven down to an average of $150 to $175. Concerning the burden of extra costs for sellers, HES exemptions could be available to homeowners experiencing financial hardships.

The in-home assessment can be completed in an hour, turnaround time for results is short and can often be received the same day. Since, under the CCAP proposal, the score must be completed prior to the home being listed for sale, there is no disruption to the closing process or timeline. The score provides tangible results based on objective data collection—which isn't dependent on weather conditions or temperatures—and any human error mistakes are limited due to quality control checkpoints within the software.

Consumers are already accustomed to seeing nutritional information labels on their food, the yellow Energy Guide on appliances and miles-per-gallon and emissions information identified on new vehicles. These labels allow consumers to understand what is in a product and how the product will perform. The HES scorecard provides a snapshot of the home's current energy performance and allows a homebuyer to understand how efficient the home is while also highlighting recommendations on how to cost-effectively improve a home's energy score and lower home energy costs. The seller is never required to complete any upgrades to their home. For consumers, this energy disclosure will provide transparency and easily understood data, protecting the buyer's "Right to Know" and helping them make an even more informed decision with their home purchase, as well as a direct, realistic comparison between homes.

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