Hug a HERS Rater Today

June 8, 2008

blower_door.jpgI don’t know how you spent your weekend, but we spent ours with hands outstretched, feeling for hot, attic air shooting out of electrical outlets, ventilation fans and air vents. After months of crazy-high electric bills, we decided to get to the bottom of why it was costing so darn much to cool our rather small home.

Enter the HERS Rater (Home Energy Rating System).

It turns out there are wonderful people who will come to your home, put up a strange looking contraption called a “blower door” on either your front door or entry to the attached garage. A fan is turned on, the pressure is measured (our house was brought to -50 Pascals) and the cubic feet per minute of air that is rushing out of the house is measured.

Based on this, areas of inefficiency are identified through the use of smoke, incense or – the method we used – hands outstretched seeking hot air. We quickly identified three air vents (supply registers) and the bathroom fan as the main culprits to our personal energy crisis.

One can of spray foam later and our house is noticeably cooler during the peak of the afternoon sun and our bathroom dries out much quicker after a hot shower. Now, you might be thinking, “I don’t want to shell out my hard-earned money for something I could determine myself.” But you can’t. We couldn’t. We checked the insulation around vents, made sure to shut off vents that were blowing icy air into room(s) we barely used and aren’t the types to leave a window open while brazenly running the air conditioning.

And yet our power bill kept climbing.

So we went in search of help. One of the best ways to find a certified HERS inspector is through the Residential Energy Services Network, or RESNET.
According to RESNET: The home receives a score between 1 and 100, depending on its relative efficiency. An estimate of the home’s energy costs is provided in the report. The energy rating is then equated to a Star rating ranging from one star for a very inefficient home to five stars for a highly efficient home. Unlike an energy audit or a weatherization assessment, a home energy rating is a recognized tool in the mortgage industry.

Turns out HERS ratings might be good for the pocket book too. The Energy Star program requires a minimum score of 85. If your home complies, you may qualify for special loan packages.

While we were too late in the game for that – it was well worth the effort on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. By Sunday at 3 p.m. we were marveling at how much cooler two rooms in our house felt.

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