When buying a new car, most people pay attention to — and factor in — the gas-mileage sticker in the window. But did you know that there’s a similar, nationally accepted energy rating system for homes?
It’s called the Home Energy Rating System, or HERS. Developed by RESNET, a nonprofit focused on achieving a nationwide, net-zero-energy residential sector by 2040, the HERS Index is the industry standard — recognized nationally and internationally — by which a building’s energy efficiency is calculated and measured. A certified HERS rater evaluates a home’s building envelope, mechanical systems, appliances, lighting, and more to create an in-depth analysis of its energy performance (and estimated energy costs). On a scale of 0 to 150, the lower a HERS-rated home is on the index, the more efficient it is.
But a HERS rating doesn’t have to be fixed forever. With a HERS score in hand, homeowners can identify ways to improve their homes’ energy efficiency — and lower their utility bills. On a community scale, more HERS-rated homes mean more opportunities to lower our collective carbon footprint. This can be particularly impactful in the Roaring Fork Valley, where the building and renovation industries play such a huge role — and where buildings account for 63% of greenhouse gas emissions.
The good news is, Pitkin County adopted HERS into its energy code in spring 2020. Under this code amendment, any new home or substantial renovation or addition (more than 1,000 square feet) must achieve a HERS rating of 60 or lower. A typical US home is rated 100. If the property has on-site renewable energy, the required maximum score is 30.
But what about existing homes? That’s where CORE comes in. We’re excited about the potential for HERS to move our community closer to a net-zero future, and we want to help homeowners onto that path as well. Here’s how CORE and HERS go hand in hand:
HERS is certainly not the only tool in our toolbox, but it’s an increasingly important one.
“We want to ensure as we work to make buildings less carbon-intensive that we have some evidence that it’s working,” says Marty Treadway, CORE’s program director and grants manager. “And for CORE, a HERS rating is the best thing we have to a performance-based approach to energy efficiency.”
Curious how your home ranks? Interested in a Net-zero Home Grant? Reach out to CORE’s Program Director Marty Treadway or check out CORE’s Path to Zero for ways to make your home more efficient starting today!
Catherine Lutz is a freelance writer based in Aspen. As a former newspaper reporter who has written about everything from entertainment to skiing to climate change for a wide variety of publications, nonprofits, and businesses, she understands the power of words to help connect us more closely with an idea, issue, or other people. An avid skier and biker raising two children to appreciate how lucky they are to grow up in the Roaring Fork Valley, she also hopes she and her family can make a positive impact on the community and the environment that sustains us.