Ever heard of a HERS rating? If you’re in the market for a new home you probably have come across this term more than once and may have even added it to your own vocabulary.

HERS stands for Home Energy Rating System®, the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. Often compared to a car’s MPG (miles per gallon) rating, a HERS score can tell a potential buyer a lot about a home’s energy performance. Paying attention to the numbers is a smart move for several reasons.

If you’re buying a new home, for instance, a favorable HERS score can help you anticipate the cost of future energy bills. If you’re a seller, a good rating is a handy marketing tool that could lead to your home commanding a higher resale price than a less energy-efficient model down the block. Here’s how it works.

The U.S Department of Energy has determined that a standard new home constructed to the 2003 International Energy Conservation Code normally scores 100 on the HERS Index (the HERS reference home), while a typical resale home ranks at 130. As energy code updates are adopted, the HERS scores of new homes built to code will become even lower. Factors taken into account in a HERS rating include the energy consumption from heating, cooling, water heating, lighting and some appliances.

Each one-point change on the HERS Index scale represents a 1 percent change in energy efficiency. This means that a home with a HERS Index score of 60 is 40 percent more efficient than the HERS reference home of 100. The lower the score, the better. A home with a HERS rating of 0 produces as much energy as it consumes – a status known in the industry as “net zero.” Maracay Homes’ houses, which are Energy Star certified, have an average HERS score of 63.

Industry-wide improvements in HERS scores have come through a variety of measures, ranging from installing more energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs to the use of high-performance components and building materials. In many ways, a low HERS score has become synonymous with quality.

Watch for this multi-pronged effort toward energy-efficient building to continue evolving over the next several years, as homebuilders increase their commitment to both their buyers and the environment. For more information about HERS, visit the Residential Energy Services Network website at www.resnet.us/hers-index.

(Andy Warren is President of Maracay Homes, the Arizona subsidiary of the Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona and Greater Phoenix Leadership; as well as the Board of Directors and as an Executive Committee member with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. He is also an active member of the Urban Land Institute.)

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