Home Energy Scoring Tool

Overview

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) tasked Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) to develop a new tool within the Home Energy Saver suite to provide an "asset-based" analysis of single-family residential buildings. The primary goal is to provide improved and standardized energy information for home buyers and sellers. In 2015, DOE tasked  Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to transition the initial Home Energy Scoring Tool (HEScore) into production-level system, allowing LBNL to focus on extensions to the model's building science elements. The HEScore system now resides at http://hescore.labworks.org/. A concise summary of the initial version of the tool (version 2012) is provided in this paper



HEScore s a key component of DOE's residential building energy label initiative to support the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) funded Recovery Through Retrofit plan. The Home Energy Score Program will be the first national asset rating method that allows all U.S. regions to opt into a simplified  standardized energy assessment process that complements existing advanced home energy audit methods. 

HEScore is designed to provide a rapid, low-cost opportunity assessment of a home's fixed energy systems (also known as an "asset rating") and provide homeowners with general feedback on the systems that potentially need more detailed attention from certified home performance diagnostics and weatherization professionals, such as those engaged with RESNETBuilding Performance Institute, and the Affordable Comfort Institute

A set of background research projects and publications have informed development of the HEScore tool: 
  • A draft report by Newport Partners summarizes findings from 12 consumer focus groups conducted in summer 2010 concerning home energy labeling (here). 
  • A report summarizing feedback from homeowners during the pilot projects conducted in 2011 (here)
  • A report summarizing feedback from professional Qualified Assessors during the pilot projects conducted in 2011 (here)
  • The HEScore tool's accuracy has been documented in detail by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (here). 
HEScore is designed to support the existing marketplace for energy analysis tools and services by providing a substantially lower-cost, "entry-level" assessment (not a formal work scope or cost estimate), which can help service providers establish the potential for energy savings and the value of a more comprehensive investigation and retrofit recommendation report. For a typical home, an experienced assessor can complete the HEScore analysis in under an hour, while a comprehensive follow-up assessment could take several times that long.


Application Programming Interface ("APIs") services are available with HEScore for third-party energy software developers to embed the HEScore method into their products and business processes

Asset Rating

An asset rating seeks to evaluate a home, allowing it to be compared to other homes based on differences in fixed characteristics while holding occupant-determined factors and behaviors constant. An asset rating also excludes energy by employing features that are not considered fixed components of the building. Thus, a furnace's efficiency would be regarded as an asset attribute, while the thermostat controlling that furnace would be deemed a behavioral (non-asset) attribute. There is some subjectivity in determining which energy-using components of a home are "assets." For HEScore, space-conditioning and water-heating systems (and the associated building envelope components) are assets, while non-hardwired appliances, lighting, and other equipment (and their use) are not. 

To ensure users proactively define asset characteristics, no input values are defaulted, and all questions must be answered. For systems not considered fixed assets, attributes are not adjustable and set consistent with those used in the Home Energy Saver software suite (documented elsewhere in this Wiki). HEScore provides an asset calculation with limited application for informing occupants how to operate their homes optimally. For that reason, any HEScore session input may automatically be imported into Home Energy Saver (hes.lbl.gov) or Home Energy Saver Pro (hespro.lbl.gov). These tools allow homeowners or contracted energy professionals to consider the home's operational/behavioral aspects, as well as evaluate ancillary energy-using devices, such as pools, wells, or second refrigerators, not included in the standardized asset score.

To fully reflect the value of asset-based upgrades, scores are computed based on the energy use associated with those features, essentially heating, cooling, and water-heating.

Fixed Assumptions and Default Values 

For an asset rating to have meaning in the marketplace, one home must be comparable to another. For home characteristics NOT individually recorded and entered into the HEScore tool, non-asset related inputs are standardized to a nationally consistent set. The main differences between the HEScore default values and the Home Energy Saver are described on the defaults page.

Required Inputs

HEScore has five simple pages of user inputs used to describe the home construction and equipment, described in detail on the HEScore User Interface page. If the home has the same window and wall types on each building side, the total number of required inputs typically is less than 50. Exact wordings along with a more detailed log of questions and required inputs are included in the checklist here.

Home Energy Scoring Tool

Scoring Methodology

Sample Label

To develop a scoring system that could fairly compare the energy performance of existing homes, DOE accounted for many different factors and available data sources. The goal was to develop a simple system that allows consumers to understand how one home compares to other homes regardless of location and weather patterns. The current methodology is applicable to single-family homes and townhouses in the continental U.S. and Hawaii. 

HEScore scores a home on a 10-point scale, where a 10 corresponds to the greatest efficiency (minimal energy use). Each point on the scale corresponds to a specific source BTU level. National average source energy factors are used to calculate a total energy value for electricity, natural gas, liquified propane gas, and distillate fuel oil energy sources delivered to the home. The source energy factors are from the Energy Star Portfolio Manager Technical Reference (US EPA, 2013).

Recommendations

In keeping with the asset-based method, a consistent set of upgrade recommendations must be considered for each home (variations in which are recommended as a function of home characteristics, cost-effectiveness, etc.). Upgrades considered in HEScore include improvements to the home envelope and major equipment (the "assets") but not to lighting and appliances upgrades or use changes. Unlike other Home Energy Saver tools, HEScore applies a fixed, standardized retrofit cost (from the NREL National Residential Efficiency Measures Database) and generates recommendations, providing the highest performance level with a payback time of 10 years or less. Energy savings are achieved by moving between the baseline home and the deemed efficiency level of the upgrade. General information on "non-asset" upgrades is provided in a "Tips" sheet attached to the Home Energy Score Label.

The following two categories and specific upgrades are currently provided:

Type 1 Improvements Recommended Now

These upgrades can help save energy right away:

  • Attic insulation
  • Basement wall insulation
  • Basement/crawlspace floor insulation
  • Crawlspace wall insulation
  • Air tightness
  • Exterior walls
  • Ducts - seal
  • Ducts - insulate
The Type-1 incremental cost used for the cost-benefit analysis is the full cost of installation. 

Type 2 - Recommendations When Equipment Must be Replaced

These recommendations will help save energy when i
t is time to replace or upgrade:
  • Central air conditioner
  • Boiler, furnace, or heat pump
  • Room air conditioner
  • Roof - reflectance
  • Roof - insulated sheathing
  • Skylights
  • Siding - insulated sheathing
  • Water heater
  • Windows
The Type-2 incremental cost used for the cost-benefit analysis is the cost differential between equipment complying with current standards and the upgrade cost (Energy Star, where applicable). 

It is important to note that the sum of the savings from the individual measures of the recommendations report may not equal the total savings for the package of selected upgrades (the number shown on the label). This difference is due to interactive effects of individual energy improvements. When improvements reduce energy consumption within the same end use (e.g., a window upgrade plus an air conditioner upgrade), the resulting dollar savings is less than the sum of the savings shown for the individual improvements.