HERS index can be a selling tool


A lot of people are still confused about green building and the energy performance of homes that they either live in or are trying to sell for someone else.

Realtors attending the “State of Green” seminar at the Realtor Association of Sarasota Manatee last week asked a lot of questions. One of them was, “What is the benefit of the HERS index?”

Dennis Stroer, who got out of the air-conditioning business long ago and started testing homes through a company called Calcs Plus, replied that a good HERS index “will be a sales tool, and could hinder a sale” if the index is not good.

I am not aware of people walking through a for-sale home and asking, “What is the HERS index?” But it could, and should, come to that, especially if it is a new house.

HERS stands for Home Energy Rating System, and it measures the performance of a house with regards to the energy it consumes.

A house built to code minimums — the cheapest standard to which a contractor can build without getting into trouble — has a HERS index of 100, Stroer said. A house with an index of 50 uses only half the energy of a code-minimum house. Very efficient houses, often producing their own energy with solar panels, that have a HERS index of zero or lower are said to be “net-zero” houses.

You don’t get an award for a low HERS score. You don’t get a tax rebate or free dinner at your favorite restaurant.

Actually, you do get the free dinner, because a low HERS index means you will save money on your utility bill — money you then can distribute among your favorite restaurateurs.

Think of the HERS index as you would the MPG rating on a car. Except like a golf score: lower is better.

You have to hire someone to do a HERS rating with such tests as the blower-door test and leaky duct test, but there are several things you can do to make your house perform better, Stroer said. n Use a TED meter. “The Energy Detective” (TED) is an electricity monitor that provides real-time data. “By watching that meter, you are going to change your habits. Habits are very important when it comes to saving energy,” he said.

n Changing your light bulbs. “Ten years ago we talked about CFLs. Now LEDs are outstanding — a bulb that will last an awful long time, and they have great color now, too. Lighting is a big deal.”

n Look for the Energy Star label when replacing appliances. “People replace appliances all the time. Look for the high-efficiency models.”

n Seal up your house. And when replacing your air-conditioner with a higher-efficiency model, make sure it is the right size for the job. An AC that is too big will cool your house too quickly without lowering the humidity and can lead to moisture problems.

“The HERS rating is nice for new construction, but for people in existing homes, an energy rating is kind of expensive,” Stroer said. “Go to Sarasota County’s website, SCgov.net/sustainability, and you will find all kinds of things there that you can do.”

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: June 19, 2015
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