In model homes across the country, small thermometer heat charts are popping up next to thermostats as builders use their Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score to compete with other new homes and, importantly, existing-home inventory, according to EcoHome.
Even as the number of homes being built in the U.S. has declined in recent years, the percentage of new homes being rated by HERS has been increasing, says Steve Baden, executive director at Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), which developed the HERS rating. "We rated the same number of homes in 2010 and 2011: 120,000. But in 2010, the percentage of new homes that represented was in the 30s. In 2011, it was in the 40s."
RESNET has entered into an agreement with 20 of the country's largest home builders, including KB Home, Pulte, and David Weekley, to have their homes rated by HERS, Baden said. "We've also gotten nearly a hundred local builders that have also made the commitment."
And that success seems to be creating a self-perpetuating cycle. "The HERS score wins because it's simple and it's well adopted," said C.R. Herro, vice president of Environmental Affairs at Meritage Homes. Its widespread use offers buyers both brand recognition as well as a better chance at being able to compare "apples to apples" from one home to the next on the same rating scale, he says.
Part of HERS' success is likely due to the foreclosure crisis: At a time when home builders are being forced to compete with the rock-bottom prices of distressed properties, a score that can emphasize the difference in energy savings between an existing home and a new home is crucial. A score of 130, at the very top of the HERS scale, represents the energy use of an average existing home, which makes it easy for new-home builders to tout the benefits of new over used. "Just building a code home, you're at least 30 percent more efficient than the average existing home," Baden said.
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