Postgreen Homes Home Performance Label Revised
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This post is a continuation of a post and discussion which began at the 100k Blog. I will try to provide enough info here to catch up anyone who missed that post, but of course, you can always go back and read the original if you like. The 100k site might not be getting any new posts, but the archives are intact. I have made some changes to the home performance label based on input from our readers and further research. For the most part these changes have been small and much of my research has actually supported many of the choices I made in the original design (an abnormal occurrence I assure you).
First, here is the design we originally discussed . . .
There were many suggestions from readers on changes and improvements that could be made to this design. I will sum them up and respond to them in list form because everyone loves lists . . . right? I’ll narrow the comments down to 13 for good luck.
1. Look into The Earth Advantage Institute Energy Performance Score.
This was good advice as the scoring system set up by Earth Advantage is very interesting. I’m not going to go into great detail, but it focuses on kW hours per year as the basis of comparison. This is interesting because it pits all houses equally against one another while the HERS scale only directly compares homes of similar size. It also has a carbon scale built in, but for the moment I find it’s inclusion distracting from the key performance metric. The scale breaks down the energy use by source (gas, electric) which might be useful and provides local comparisons based on average performance and something called target performance.
It’s an interesting system, but the rating isn’t broadly available yet. I also find the design of their label a little busy and feel that cost could be more evident. In the end I felt that sticking with HERS as the basis of our label made more sense. It is broadly available and many of the same numbers can be pulled from it. Again, it is important to keep in mind that this is a tool for home buyers. Accuracy is less important than consistency.
2.Apply the Performance Sticker idea to rentals.
A couple of commenters mentioned this, and I think it’s a great idea. Performance might be an even more important consideration to renters than it is to buyers. The question becomes one of metrics, particularly in the case of apartment buildings. I’m not sure what method we would use to rate individual apartments within a building, but we will definitely figure it out.
3. Distinguish between preliminary and final HERS rating.
This is a good critique. New construction homes would only have a preliminary rating while under construction. Depending on the ability of the builder to follow through, this could look a lot different from the final rating. I have added a “Final Rating” line in the bottom right corner. I think I would do something even more prominent for preliminary ratings.
4. Reverse the scale so low scores are at the top.
This was an interesting idea and has it’s merits. Essentially, the comment suggested that the better performing house should be at the top of the HERS scale rather than the bottom. In the end, I decided not to make this change. I like the idea of the lower energy use being lower on the scale and I also felt that the composition of the stcker as a whole worked better with the exceptional score toward the bottom. I could be entirely wrong. Let me know what you think in the comments.
5. Explain HERS
I added a short explanation of HERS in the disclaimer section. Obviously, going into too much detail would be cumbersome, but this was a good suggestion.
6. Show the Year Built and Year Tested.
Once it was mentioned this seemed obvious. I added the date rated in the lower right corner. Not sure if I need the built date or not. Thoughts?
7. Consider the details and perhaps simplify them for a broader audience.
A couple people suggested that the details section which covers the features of the home might be a little complicated for the average buyer. R-value, ERV and other technical terms might lose those who aren’t green geeks and perhaps they should be eliminated or clarified. I chose not to make this change as I see an opportunity for education. The dollar number should be the key feature of the sticker. If that impresses than I expect people to read the rest of the details. Hopefully, this will lead to questions and the pursuit of greater knowledge. Somewhat obscure details could also serve to differentiate a green home by signifying new and different technology even if the exact definition of those details is unclear to the reader.
8. Show utilities as an annual cost rather than a monthly cost.
This was one of the best suggestions I got. The annual number provides a starker contrast and it is more rational as it needn’t take into account seasonal fluctuation.
9. Include dollar amounts for the other HERS scores.
This is the suggestion I am most “on the fence” about. On one hand, adding the utility costs to the other HERS ratings on the scale might offer some useful comparisons. However, on the other hand, it seems to muddy things up design-wise. I feel like the numbers make things busy and I wonder if that is worth their informational value, particularly when this sticker is most effective compared to other actual stickers.
10. Allow for a negative HERS rating.
If you add an excess of solar to a house you can actually get a negative HERS score. So, one comment suggested extending the scale to allow for this eventuality. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I found that extending the scale started to make things confusing. I may continue to consider this idea, but for now the homes needing it are so rare and expensive, that it seems unnecessary.
11. Consider the scale at homeenergyscore.gov
This is a worthwhile scale to look at as well, though it appears to have been designed to serve the home improvement market.
12 Look at the EnergySmart Home Scale from the EPA
The Smart Energy Home Scale is a part of the EPAs Builder Challenge. It is essentially a jazzed up HERS scale. I did take a couple of cues from it in adjusting the appearance of my HERS scale, but otherwise much of the information was similar to what I already had.
13. Include the address of the property.
Well, that seems obvious now that you mention it. Done.
So after all of that, I have arrived at a revised version of our Home Performance Sticker. Check it out and let me know what you think.
And that is the power of the 100k Blog at work. I hope enough of those who contributed to the discussions there will follow us here for more of the same.
Please let me know what you think of our revised Performance Sticker in the comments.