Know the basics

Why is the Home Energy Score program mandatory, rather than voluntary?

Scores, labels and ratings are a regular part of how we communicate information. We consult miles- per-gallon ratings on cars, nutrition labels on food, and Energy Guide labels on appliances to make informed consumer decisions. However, consumer labeling for homes is inconsistent and unavailable in most real estate markets. Of Portland’s 160,000 single-family homes, less than two percent have an energy score. Requiring Home Energy Scores ensures that all homes that are listed for sale will have an energy score so buyers can compare the difference in performance and consider energy efficiency when making one of the biggest financial investments most people ever make.

Oregon has had a voluntary framework for home energy scoring in place since 2009. Portland’s policy builds on the extensive experience and professional infrastructure achieved by the State of Oregon, Energy Trust of Oregon and many other stakeholders over the last nine years.

Voluntary home energy scoring efforts to date are a step in the right direction; however, we cannot achieve the 2015 Climate Action Plan goal to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 unless we significantly accelerate energy efficiency and renewable energy activities in the residential sector. Residential buildings contribute nearly half of the emissions from buildings. Local government plays a critical role in making it easier for people to save energy, protect against rising energy prices in the future and reduce carbon pollution.

What needs to be done with the score when it is complete?

The Home Energy Report is intended to be readily available and accessible to any prospective buyer that is shopping for homes in the Portland real-estate market. The Home Energy Score (the number from 1 to 10) must be included in any listing or advertisement. Real estate professionals will incorporate the Home Energy Report and score into the Regional Multiple Listings Service (RMLS) listing. If the home is listed on RMLS, it must include the Home Energy Score.

If you or your client are using an advertising and posting service like Redfin, Zillow, Trulia or any other third-party service, this information must be included in those online postings where it can be seen by prospective buyers.

The Home Energy Report must be made available to prospective home buyers who visit a home that is on the market. To fulfill this part of the requirement, we suggest that real estate agents and sellers place printed copies of the Home Energy Report in a prominent location in the home, like the kitchen or dining room, where it will be in plain sight of buyers walking through the home.

How will Home Energy Scores be included in RMLS listings?

As soon as the Home Energy Score and report are completed by the Home Energy Assessor they will be available to include in any real estate listing, advertising or marketing. RMLS has created the ability for subscribers to auto-populate Home Energy Score information directly into listings, including a URL link to the Home Energy Performance Report. The auto-population process makes it simpler for real estate professionals to include Home Energy Score information on a listing. This video provides detailed instructions on how to use this function.

What if the listing service does not support attachments?

The Home Energy Score and Home Energy Report are required in the real-estate listing. If the listing service does not allow attachments, then a weblink to the Home Energy Report must be included in the listing along with the Home Energy Score.

How is the report distributed? Can it be sent directly to me when it is complete?

The report is sent by the assessor in hardcopy or email to the seller. As the selling agent, you could arrange with the assessor to provide you a copy. The report will also be available at the same time online at www.greenbuildingregistry.com/portland.

What is the “shelf life” of a Home Energy Score?

A Home Energy Score is valid for 8 years after issue. However, if the Home Energy Report is to be used again in a new listing after two from the initial assessment date, the report must be reissued so that current energy rates and carbon emissions factors are used in calculating the home’s estimated energy costs and carbon footprint. Reissuing an existing Home Energy Score can be done online by the homeowner/seller at no additional cost by going to www.greenbuildingregistry.com/portland.

How much does a Home Energy Assessment cost?

A Home Energy Assessment is a private-sector activity. The cost will be determined by the Home Energy Assessors operating in the market. Based on research of other communities with similar programs, we expect the cost to be between $150-$250.The fees for a Home Energy Assessment are paid to the private-sector contractors who deliver the assessments. The City does not receive fees for Home Energy Scores.

My client cannot afford to pay for a Home Energy Assessment. What resources can I direct them to?

For the first year of implementation (calendar year 2018), the City of Portland will pay for the cost of a Home Energy Assessment for income-qualified home sellers. Sellers can find more information and apply for this assistance using the online application.

Does the policy apply to For Sale By Owner (FSBO) transactions?

Yes. If the home is advertised publicly, the seller must comply with the requirement. Publicly listing for sale includes, but is not limited to, any publicly displayed sign, printed advertisement or internet posting including listings on websites like Craigslist and other third-party listing services.

If a transaction takes place that transfers the home’s ownership between two private parties but is never publicly marketed, then it would not require a Home Energy Score.

How do we know if a house is in the city limits and therefore subject to the ordinance?

The ordinance applies to any home located within the Portland jurisdictional boundary. Look up the site address for the property in question on www.portlandmaps.com. The “jurisdiction” field can be found in the “Property Details” here:

The first entry is the city of jurisdiction, followed by the county of jurisdiction. If the city is listed as Portland, then the property is covered by the Home Energy Score requirement. If another city is shown under jurisdiction, such as Beaverton or Maywood Park, or if it states Unincor¬porated, then the property is not covered by the Home Energy Score requirement. For properties that are not covered by the requirement, www.portlandmaps.com will also show a banner with the note that “This property is not within the City of Portland or its service districts.”

How long will it take to get a score?

This will depend on scheduling with the assessor. Sellers are encouraged to contact more than one Home Energy Assessor to access preferable scheduling time. The in-home visit will typically take about 45 minutes, followed by 15-30 minutes of data entry. The report can be generated as soon as the authorized Home Energy Assessor completes data entry in the software. Sellers or real estate listing agents should ask the assessor when they will complete the data entry and send the report by email or hardcopy.

Can an agent/buyer/seller see what other homes in the same neighborhood scored?

An address searchable database of homes that have received a Home Energy Score is available at: www.greenbuildingregistry.com/portland.

How does a Home Energy Score benefit home buyers?

Home energy performance reports provide information for potential buyers of residential properties. The information relates to potentially substantial costs of ownership in operating a home. This information is not otherwise readily evident or available to a potential buyer. At a time when home ownership is ever more expensive, having access to information on energy operating costs is important affordability information for home buyers.

Can anyone in Oregon get a Home Energy Assessment done on their home?

Yes. The Home Energy Score is recognized by the Oregon Department of Energy and may be available statewide. Anyone can arrange for a Home Energy Assessment to produce a Home Energy Report from an authorized Assessor at any time if there are assessors approved by US DOE and the Oregon Department of Energy operating outside of the City of Portland. The Home Energy Score and Home Energy Report would be a great way to evaluate the opportunity for improving the energy efficiency and comfort of any home regardless of its current sale status. Note, the report issued for homes located outside of Portland city limit will look different but contains similar information as required by state law.

Does the requirement apply to duplexes that are rentals?

If a rental home or duplex is being sold, the program requirements apply. The requirement applies to both the sale of the whole building or to individual units, if the units are laid out side-by-side and not stacked vertically. Buildings with vertically stacked units are not required to get a Home Energy Score at this time.

 

Improve the score

How can my client improve their score?

The back side of the Home Energy Report includes a list of cost-effective home improvements that will improve the Home Energy Score.

If your client needs help deciding what to do first, Enhabit offers free 15-minute phone consultations with expert home advisors. Call 855-870-0049.

Energy efficiency improvements can be done by a range of contractors and trade professionals. Your client will need to get a bid for the work (preferably at least two bids, for comparison’s sake.)

Check out www.energytrust.org/findacontractor or call toll free 1-866-368-7878.

Can a buyer or seller get financing for energy improvements?

Yes. Financing is available to help offset the upfront costs of making energy upgrades. Both Energy Trust of Oregon (energytrust.org) and Enhabit (enhabit.org) provide information and access for financing for energy efficiency upgrades. The buyer should verify loan program availability and qualifications with a licensed and registered mortgage loan professional. There are also financing resources provided by Fannie Mae and FHA that involve the Home Energy Score. With Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle Energy mortgage, borrowers can finance up to 15% of a home’s “as completed” appraised value for energy efficiency improvements by receiving a Home Energy Score. Borrowers in this program can also qualify for a stretch on their debt-to-income ratios for homes that score a 6 or higher.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has a similar policy that allows larger debt-to-income ratios for high scoring homes. These policies reflect the fact that more efficient homes have lower operating costs.

Is the seller required to do the energy upgrades if the score is low?

No. Any energy improvements made by a seller are voluntary no matter what score the home earns.

Can a seller get a report with a low Home Energy Score, make improvements and get a second report?

Yes. The Home Energy Report is a helpful tool to guide a seller toward making cost-effective improvements. If a seller makes improvements, they should request a new Home Energy Score from their assessor. Contact info for the assessor can be found directly on the Home Energy Report. The second Home Energy Report and score (obtained after improvements) would be used in the home listing to meet program requirements. The new report and score enables sellers to tangibly demonstrate the energy efficiency investments and improvements they’ve made to prospective buyers.

Would a seller need to pay again for another Home Energy Score if they decided to make energy improvements and obtain a second score prior to listing?

Yes. Re-issuing a Home Energy Score requires a new onsite assessment to verify the measures have been installed. Then, the Home Energy Assessor can update the original model. Cost for the new score will be determined by the Home Energy Assessor hired to perform assessment and produce the score. Home Energy Assessors are free market actors who will set their own service and pricing structures. Note that simply reissuing a Home Energy Report to update utility rates and carbon emission factors does not require an onsite assessment. This is free and can be obtained from www.greenbuildingregistry.com/portland.

 

Build high performance new homes

If a newly constructed home with an Energy Performance Score (EPS) is being sold, does it require a Home Energy Score?

If a newly built home has an energy score created through EPS™ it does not require an additional Home Energy Score, but it does require a waiver from the City of Portland Home Energy Score program. A waiver is only available for previously unoccupied, newly constructed homes that receive an EPS from Energy Trust of Oregon. The waiver is good for two years. After two years, all new homes will need a Home Energy Score. Under the waiver, a home’s EPS will not be disclosed. The following statement will be required in all listings for homes that receive a waiver: “This home is an EPS home. This high-performance new home was built to perform better than the Oregon Energy Code and therefore the builder has been granted a waiver from the City of Portland Home Energy Score program requirement.”

Is a Home Energy Score required if you are selling a property to flip or tear down for new construction?

Yes, it would unless the home qualified for an exemption as provided in the code (Section 17.108.050 Exemptions and Waivers):

  • The home is listed publicly as part of a foreclosure sale,
  • The home is listed publicly as part of a trustee’s sale,
  • The home is listed publicly as part of deed-in-lieu of foreclosure sale,
  • The home is listed publicly as part of a pre-foreclosure sale in which seller has reached an agreement with the mortgage holder to sell the property for an amount less than the amount owed on the mortgage,
  • The home qualifies for sale at public auction or acquisition by a public agency due to arrears for property taxes,
  • The home is under control of a court appointed receiver due to financial distress,
  • The senior mortgage on the covered building is subject to a notice of default,
  • The home’s structure is deemed uninhabitable due to casualty,
  • The home is condemned by action of a government entity, or
 

Ensure program consistency and integrity

Can a licensed Realtor get Home Energy Assessor credentials and provide this service to their real-estate clients?

This may be perceived as a conflict of interest and may be in conflict with State law or real-estate firm policies. Real estate professionals are advised to confer with their principal broker to verify that becoming Home Energy Assessor is in compliance with the rules and contracts governing their real-estate work. There are no City of Portland administrative rules restricting a real estate licensee from becoming an authorized Home Energy Assessor. Pre-qualifications to become an authorized Home Energy Assessor include:

  • A building science focused certification.
  • A license with Oregon CCB - residential contractor license, residential specialty.
  • Contractor license, or residential restricted Home Energy Performance Score Contractor license.
  • Specific liability insurance.
  • Program training, mentorship and authorization.

For more info, see the City of Portland Home Energy Score program roadmap for Home Energy Assessors.

Is there a conflict of interest with a home performance contractor conducting a Home Energy Assessment and producing a score?

Not necessarily. Industry professionals such as home performance contractors are likely to have the qualifications, the building science knowledge and background to meet the requirements to be a Home Energy Assessor.

In addition to authorization by the City of Portland Home Energy Score program, the US Department of Energy and Oregon Department of Energy have significant qualification, training, and quality assurance policies in place to ensure that assessments are done following the approved data-gathering and input protocol. The assessments are reviewed by a quality assurance team. If a Home Energy Assessor does not follow the proper protocols, the quality assurance protocol established by BPS and Earth Advantage will go into effect. While not capricious, the QA process does enable the City to have bad actors removed from the program.

What is the penalty for not getting a Home Energy Report and/or not disclosing the Home Energy Score as required?

Non-compliance could result in a written warning followed by the issuance of a civil penalty of up to $500 after 90 days of non-compliance. For every subsequent 180-day period of non-compliance, an additional civil penalty of up to $500 can be assessed. See Portland City Code Section 17.108.060 Enforcement and Penalties.

What happens if the house sells before the score is complete?

If a house sells prior to listing or advertising for sale in any way, it would not be subject to the requirement. If the home was listed or advertised for sale without a Home Energy Score, it is subject to the requirement and in violation of the ordinance. Please report such instances to the City of Portland at hesinfo@ portlandoregon.gov.

What if my client is concerned about listing the home for sale quickly?

Encourage client to call multiple Home Energy Assessors and shop for preferable scheduling options and to confirm with the assessor that report generation will be within a reasonable time frame from the completion of the assessment. Some assessors can turnaround the report the same day as the assessment.

What if assessors discover health and safety issues? Will they disclose these in the Home Energy Report?

No, health and safety issues will not be listed in the Home Energy Report. Home Energy Assessors will verbally report any health and safety issues directly to the client or homeowner.

 

Understand the Home Energy Score methodology

Why did the City choose the U.S. DOE Home Energy Score?

Over time, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Home Energy Score has gained national prominence. The Home Energy Score is a simple, easy-to-understand, consumer-friendly product. It has the potential to be integrated in local and national online real estate listing services. Lending products are also now available through Fannie Mae and FHA that utilize the Home Energy Score.

The City could not have passed the Home Energy Score ordinance without the years of development and investment in home energy scoring made by Energy Trust of Oregon and the State of Oregon.

Energy Trust helped introduce home energy scoring to Oregon. They developed the Energy Performance Score (EPS) as a means of educating consumers and providing quantifiable energy information to homeowners. Due to the emergence of U.S. DOE Home Energy Score, Energy Trust of Oregon is retiring EPS for existing homes. The Oregon Department of Energy has also approved the U.S. DOE Home Energy Score as the only scoring product that meets Oregon’s Home Energy Performance Score Standard. The City of Portland wanted to align with state standards to encourage broader market adoption in Oregon. For these reasons the City will be using the U.S. DOE Home Energy Score for this program.

How is the Home Energy Score calculated?

The Home Energy Score is calculated by modeling energy use in the home and then rating the home on a scale of 1-10 based on how much energy the home is expected to use. The characteristics that will affect the score all relate to energy used for heating, cooling and water heating. An assessor will enter data about the structural characteristics and mechanical systems in the home. The software runs an energy simulation model to predict how much energy the home would use in one year under standard operating conditions. The insulation levels in floors, walls, attics, air tightness, window types and mechanical equipment efficiencies all affect the score. Power generated by an installed solar system would also impact the score.

Do storm windows affect the score?

Yes, the software has an input for windows with storm windows installed to slow the rate of heat transfer through the windows.

How will wall insulation be evaluated?

The authorized Home Energy Assessor will use either written documentation from the homeowner that provides information on the R values installed in the walls or rely on historical building code R value requirements to estimate the amount of insulation in the wall cavities.

Are historical utility bills obtained to determine energy cost?

No. The score and estimated energy costs are solely based on the attributes of the home in what is known as an asset-based score. The homeowner’s bills are not analyzed because people operate homes differently and there are differing numbers of occupants. Instead average occupancy and behavior inputs are used. Because a Home Energy Score assesses the structural characteristics and fixed equipment in a home, it can be used to easily compare the energy performance of different homes. This is similar to how miles-per-gallon ratings were created to easily compare different cars, using average driving behavior.

How are homes compared to each other?

The Home Energy Score is based on a comparison to the “average” house (a Home Energy Score of 5). The software adjusts the energy use prediction by simulating how that average house would use energy in Portland’s climate based on actual data from local weather stations. Thus, the scale of 1-10 is customized for our location.

Does having air-conditioning affect the score?

Yes. If air-conditioning equipment is part of a home’s equipment then, it is evaluated in the software and will affect the Home Energy Score.

Are bigger homes going to get lower scores?

Possibly. The size of the home matters because larger homes tend to use more energy for heating, cooling and lighting. If two houses have the same structure and equipment, but one is bigger, the smaller house will generally receive a higher (better) Score.

A home’s size - or conditioned square footage - is one of many factors used in calculating a Home Energy Score. Square footage has a significant impact because the Home Energy Score estimates the home’s total annual energy use, not energy per square foot.

A large home built to a higher level of energy efficiency than the Oregon Energy Code, such as those that participate in Energy Performance Score from Energy Trust of Oregon’s New Homes program have higher levels of insulation, tighter construction and very energy-efficient mechanical equipment. Homes built to these standards would receive higher scores compared to similarly sized homes that were built just to the state energy code.

Does the Home Energy Assessment require diagnostic tests (e.g. blower door, duct blaster, or Infrared camera scan)?

A blower-door measurement is an optional input but is not required. If the assessment is done without a blower-door measurement the software will estimate air infiltration. Use of a blower-door measurement will typically improve a home's score because the air leakage estimates are conservative. There are no other diagnostics, such as duct blasts or infrared camera scans, required for the HES software.