Sunday, June 5, 2011

Home effeciency ratings: LEED and HERS

I just found this great explanation of the LEED and HERS programs that are both applicable to 'Green' building. It's pretty much a shameless steal from another blogger (technobabble) on a post made in 2008 but still 100% accurate and explains it well enough for me to pretty much 're-post' it.

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For years, several good programs have rated the efficiency of homes and buildings. The LEED rating system, and the HERS Index are two examples. Both are good, but serve different purposes. LEED is the program that has drawn more recent attention.

LEED is excellent at highlighting good construction and remodeling practices, but it's not much use in persuading consumers from a practical standpoint. It might feel morally right to own a platinum or gold home, but if it's difficult to balance that in the checkbook many consumers will be not be persuaded by those arguments.

However, a HERS rating includes average annual estimates for "space heating, space cooling, domestic hot water, and all other energy use". Those estimates are a more powerful persuasion tool, more meaningful to the consumer, and ultimately, more likely to add to the long term value of a property. But HERS hasn't caught on in quite the same fashion as LEED.

The explanation is not difficult. LEED is an award, but HERS is a comparative index. That means that in a voluntary system, a LEED rating is a gold star, usable as an advertising tool, where HERS is a disclosure of estimated costs. It may seem illogical, but when making comparisons consumers regularly judge a disclosed cost more negatively than an undisclosed cost.

LEED works as a voluntary program, but a comparative program like HERS works best when comparisons are possible between each and every home.

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I wouldn't be surprised if within a couple of years private property sales and mortgage agreements will require the inclusion of the HERS annual energy cost estimate, much like they include elements like property taxes, association fees. This would ensure home owners to consider energy costs in their purchasing decisions, and enable them to make better choices that match their needs and means. With our house projected to have a HERS score of around 40 we'd be all for it... ;-)

Oh, for those who have no idea what '40' means... The scale is from 0 to about 200 where 0 means self-sustaining energy usage and 200 means you should really be looking for a rich sugar-daddy to pay your energy bills. The average house in the US is about 130 and the average new house is a little under a 100. With our house being a '40' and being about 5000 sq. ft of conditioned space (includes all unfinished space in the basement) you are still only looking at a gas furnace operating cost of about $300/yr. Print this post

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