Using the HERS Index to Market New Homes

Understandable energy scores help illuminate the advantages of energy-efficient new homes.

A home energy rating system that's been around for close to 20 years reached a significant milestone this June when Meritage Homes built the 1 millionth house to be rated by a certified professional using the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index. Meritage, a leader among homebuilders when it comes to energy efficiency, has found that the HERS Index score is an effective way to market its houses, especially in areas where the company competes with an overabundance of existing homes, most of which score poorly on energy efficiency.

"Every home we build, from coast to coast, is a 100 percent Energy Star certified home," C.R. Herro, Meritage's vice president of environmental affairs, says. "We use HERS scores because they allow customers to make substantive comparisons in an apples-to-apples way. If you build something better, then you need to validate it and then convert that to currency." That's what promoting a home's HERS score does for Meritage.

The HERS Index factors into the Propane Energy Pod, a model for new construction that treats a home's five key areas of energy use — space heating, water heating, cooking, fireplaces, and clothes drying — as parts of a whole-home energy package. This video profiles a Pennsylvania builder that is using the principles of the Propane Energy Pod.

HERS has been around since 1995, when a group of mortgage lenders, state energy officials, and Energy Rated Homes of America founded the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a market for home energy ratings. The HERS Index works like this: A home built to the specifications of the HERS Reference Home gets a HERS Index score of 100, while a net-zero-energy home gets a HERS Index score of 0. The lower a home's score, the more energy efficient it is compared with the HERS Reference Home. Each one-point decrease in the HERS Index score corresponds to a 1 percent reduction in energy consumption.

"RESNET spent almost a decade coming up with the infrastructure, educating builders and the [construction] trades on the value of the index," RESNET's executive director, Steve Baden, said in a June 2012 statement about the millionth HERS-rated home. "We went from certifying a few hundred homes a year to 120,000 in 2011, which was 40 percent of all the new homes sold last year."

Meritage also relies on propane as a way to achieve greater energy efficiency in some of its communities. "Propane is extremely efficient and readily converts its energy to use," Herro says." It's one of the more sustainable fuels, has a low carbon footprint, and is produced domestically. And it's not just for cooking anymore. There are even propane air-conditioning systems now."

Meritage Homes' deconstructed model home is designed as a learning center to provide information about the home's green features and energy-efficient technology.

The HERS Index factors into the Propane Energy Pod, a model for new construction that treats a home's five key areas of energy use — space heating, water heating, cooking, fireplaces, and clothes drying — as parts of a whole-home energy package. A July 2011 study by Newport Partners, a Davidsonville, Md., company that performs technical, regulatory, and market research and analysis related to the built environment, includes this illustrative example: A 2,400-square-foot home in Connecticut that scores an 83 with standard equipment could be built to score a 67 by following the Propane Energy Pod model. The same home would save $251 each year on energy and produce 21 percent fewer carbon emissions.

To learn more about how propane lets you build with efficient gas systems, anywhere, be sure to check out the following courses.

An Energy and Environmental Analysis of Propane Energy Pod Homes

Go Green with Propane: An Overview of Propane Gas Systems for Green Residential Construction

Impact of Combined Heat and Power Systems in Residential and Commercial Buildings

Use the interactive Propane Energy Pod Tool, below, to compare energy costs, HERS scores, and carbon emissions for different-size homes and regions.

A five-in-one solution for whole-home energy efficiency and carbon reduction.
What Is the Pod?
The Propane Energy Pod combines propane applications into a single package that improves the home's efficiency and carbon profile.

Watch the video
See the Pod in action.
Take the course
See the research behind the concept.
CHP installation
Combined heat and power (CHP) from a single system.

The Propane Interactive Training Module allows you to:

  • Estimate annual energy costs.
  • Lower a home's HERS index.
  • Identify the best heating system for your climate region.
  • Explore a fully integrated propane home.
  • Find high-perfomance propane products.

Interact with the tool icons at the bottom
to get started!

Using the HERS Index to Market New Homes
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Condensing Technology’s Dual Benefits


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Video: Whole-Home Efficiency
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