(CNSNews.com) - The Energy Department on Tuesday is rolling out new, improved software to help Americans measure the energy efficiency of their homes.
DOE says its energy-scoring software -- called the Home Energy Scoring Tool -- is like a vehicle's mile-per-gallon rating because it allows homeowners to compare the energy performance of their homes to other homes nationwide. It also provides homeowners with suggestions for improving their homes' efficiency.
The software is part of the government's effort to reduce the nation's energy consumption; but it's also billed as a way to keep home-retrofitting going, at a time when stimulus funds for weather-proofing have run out.
The Home Energy Scoring Tool "can be a powerful motivator in getting homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements," DOE says. "It's also a great way to help trained workers enter the private sector energy improvement market as funding for weatherization efforts decline."
DOE says its Home Energy Score is useful if you are a homeowner looking to renovate or remodel your home, lower your utility bills, improve the comfort of your home, or reduce your energy usage. Moreover, "the score serves as an official way to document these improvements and thereby enhance your home's appeal when you're ready to sell."
Right now, getting your home scored is voluntary.
To produce a Home Energy Score, a trained, "qualified assessor" comes to your home -- for a fee -- and collects approximately 40 pieces of data about the home's "envelope" (e.g., walls, windows, heating and cooling systems) during an hour-long walk-through.
Based on the home's characteristics, the DOE software estimates the home's annual energy use, assuming "typical homeowner behavior." The software then converts the estimated energy use into a score, based on a 10-point scale (10 being the most energy-efficient). The 1-10 scale accounts for differences in weather conditions by using the zip code to assign the house to one of more than 1,000 weather stations.
In addition to showing the home's current energy efficiency -- or inefficiency -- the score also shows where a home would rank if all of the energy-saving improvements identified during the home walk-through were made. That may prompt some homeowners to buy new windows or doors, for example, boosting the market for home retro-fitters.
DOE recommends getting a Home Energy Score "as soon as the program becomes available in your area." The program launched in 2012, and at this time, only single-family homes and townhouses can be scored.
The scoring is available only through DOE's participating partners, which include state and local governments, utilities, and non-profits. DOE does not determine how much an assessor charges to score a house. "It will depend on what the local market supports." But DOE says its partners "have indicated plans to charge between $25 and $125 for the Home Energy Score."
And yes, the size of the home matters because larger homes use more energy.
The Home Energy Score and the associated report is generated through DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory software. The 2014 version of DOE's Home Energy Scoring Tool will be introduced at a webinar on Tuesday.
DOE says more than 8,500 homes have been scored by the Energy Department's growing network of more than 25 partners and 175 qualified assessors.
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