On Tuesday, Vice President Biden announced initiatives to help middle-class families make their homes more energy efficient. Step 1 is a low-cost energy score that will help you understand the efficiency of your home, how it compares to others and what to do to make it better. Step 2 are low-interest loans up to $25,000 to pay for improvements. If selected carefully, the energy score recommendations can save a typical household about 10-40%, outweighing the added loan costs.
The energy assessment, called the Home Energy Score will rate homes on a ten-point scale. You can see a sample of the report . Or, Microsoft Hohm is licensing the same technology. Check it out now to see how your home rates.
The idea is that once you get the label and know what to do to improve your home, you can use a PowerSaver loan to do the upgrades. Qualified homeowners can use a loan up to $25,000 at low interest rates to pay for improvements such as insulation, upgraded furnace or even geothermal heating and cooling.
Ready to act now? Not quite so fast. Both programs will be in pilot phase for at least the next year. Ten locations have been selected for the pilot, but Chicago is not one of them. Lenders have yet to sign up for the PowerSmart loan pilot, but I think locations will mirror the Home Energy Score sites.
Home labeling and related low-interest financing is a market transformation activity. That means it is designed to create demand for green home improvements, that will take off as their own bustling market. Labeling is valuable because it is a lower-cost option to help homeowners make a careful and cost-effective plan for improvements. But the label is only as valuable as the data that creates the score. The 10 pilot locations will provide valuable insight into how accurate the label’s data model really is. Until then, homeowners always have the option to upgrade to a RESNET or BPI energy audit. It is more comprehensive and thus more expensive than the proposed energy label, but a great place to get started with plans today.