What You Need to Know About the New Energy Audit Score Law

You may have heard some buzz about a new energy score law that’s going into effect in January. There isn’t a whole lot of information about it yet, so I interviewed Brett Lee with Portland Home Energy Score, LLC, one of the few places in town that’s trained to perform these audits. Here’s why the law was passed, how it works, and everything else you need to know.

The Energy Audit Score Law

The city of Portland recently passed a law requiring almost all homes in the city limits to get an energy audit score before they go on the market. (Otherwise, there will be a $500 fine, with subsequent fines if the audit isn’t completed.) This new law goes into effect on January 1, 2018. For more information, see this document.

Portland has a climate action plan, and it has taken aggressive steps to reduce carbon emissions over the next few years. This law is a part of that plan. There are four other cities in the nation that have passed a similar energy audit law, and those cities have seen success. This is because when you show people inexpensive ways to reduce energy output (and save money), people tend to do them.

How the Law Works

So here’s how it works. Brett mentioned that you won’t be able to list any home for sale until you have a home energy score included with the listing. The home energy score report includes two things:

1) an actual rating between 1 and 10

2) A prioritized list of energy upgrades specific to that home

The Rating System

The audit will show a score for your home, from one to ten, based on a rating system. Past energy rating systems were relative—they scored your home in relation to all other homes the country. This new ratings system, put out by the U.S. Department of Energy, is an absolute system comparing homes to all other homes in the United States.

This system measures how much energy your home uses (no matter the size of your home) and places you on a scale based on that measurement. This means that a score of 5 means that the home is exactly average, compared to all other homes in the U.S. And larger homes usually score below average because they use more energy, while small homes usually score above average.

It’s important to note that energy audits only look at the actual attributes of the home. Energy audits do not include the energy usage of the people who live in the home.

The List of Energy-Saving Improvements

Next, the audit includes a prioritized list of energy improvements specific to that home. This list includes only energy improvements that will pay for themselves in ten years. Expensive items that will never pay for themselves are not included.

Surprisingly, it’s often the least expensive items that make the biggest impact on your energy usage. Sealing your home’s ducting (a DIY project) or having someone professionally air seal your house are both under $200, but they’ll save two to three times the energy you’d save by spending $20,000 on new windows.

By having this information in front of them, people are more likely to make energy-efficient improvements. This will eventually help reduce the city’s carbon emissions and help the environment.

The Impact This Will Have on You

Brett stresses that energy audits are quick and straightforward. Plus, they’re an easy way to help people be more aware of the energy they’re consuming and how they can reduce it.

I hope this helps you understand more about Portland’s new energy audit score law. If you have other questions, Brett will be teaching a class for us on Wednesday, November 1 that we’d love to have you attend. Lunch starts at 11:30, and the class will start at noon. It will be held in the second-floor conference room at 825 NE Multnomah here in Portland. We hope to see you there!