Residential Energy Labeling

As states design policies and programs to encourage energy efficiency in the residential market, one challenge is that consumers often lack awareness and information on the energy performance of homes.  Energy efficiency is hard to "see" in homes and is therefore hard to prioritize when making home buying and retrofit or upgrade decisions.  To address this challenge, several states have developed residential energy labeling programs and policies.  Residential energy labeling programs produce an assessment of a home’s energy performance and how the energy performance compares to that of other similar homes.  The audience for the energy label is typically a homeowner or homebuyer, and can also include other stakeholders such as real estate professionals, appraisers, or lenders.  The energy label and supplementary information are used to inform real estate purchasing decisions or investments in energy efficiency upgrades.  Numerous considerations go into state and local residential energy labeling programs, such as determining the best metrics to use when describing home energy performance and how to account for differences in new and existing homes. 

NASEO recently worked with the energy offices in four states—Alabama, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington—during a three-year residential retrofit pilot project that included a significant emphasis on energy labeling.  NASEO also held a roundtable meeting as part of its February 2014 conference which convened 10 states and representatives from national organizations involved in residential energy labeling.  The meeting focused on State Energy Office needs and priorities related to residential energy labeling and documented on-going challenges and opportunities to creating sustainable labeling programs across the country.  Moving forward, NASEO will serve as a resource for states that are exploring residential energy labeling policies and programs.  For more information, contact Chris Wagner, NASEO Program Manager (cwagner@naseo.org).  

Multi-State Residential Retrofit and Energy Labeling Pilot

As part of a 2010 U.S. State Energy Program competitive award, NASEO worked with energy offices from four states—Alabama, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington—on a residential retrofit pilot program.  Each of the states utilized a variety of strategies, including energy labels, innovative marketing approaches, financial incentives, and workforce development, to facilitate homeowner investments in residential energy efficiency upgrades. 

Resources related to this project—including presentations from each of the four state programs, the process evaluation report, case studies, and an evaluation webinar—are available on NASEO's Multi-State Residential Retrofit and Energy Labeling Pilot webpage.

NASEO Report: Residential Energy Labeling: Strategies for Scalability

This report documents recent trends in residential energy labeling and includes updates from 10 states and other national organizations regarding their residential energy labeling policies and programs.  Additionally, the report describes ongoing priorities and challenges related to residential energy labeling based on feedback provided by State Energy Offices and other leaders in this field.  Overall, the report describes three key conclusions:

  1. There is no “best way” to design a residential energy label, including the metrics chosen, and many state and local programs desire customization.  However, the metric “MMBtu/year” has emerged as a potential primary metric.
  2. States are and will continue to be at the forefront of developing residential energy labeling policies and programs. 
  3. The timing is right for states, DOE, and national organizations to increase their levels of dialogue and coordination on residential energy labeling. 

In addition to these general themes, the report identifies several specific issues that are still being worked through and will require on-going research and discussion, including: 

  • integrating labels for new and existing buildings;
  • including solar energy generation in energy scores;
  • aligning energy labeling programs with existing state energy policy goals and energy efficiency programs;
  • designing residential energy labeling programs to maximize the durability of the chosen approach;
  • balancing state, regional, and national priorities regarding labeling efforts;
  • ensuring consistency of energy scores produced through different tools; and
  • facilitating efficient data storage and transfer between labeling programs and other industries.

The report grew out of a February 2014 meeting hosted by NASEO and co-organized by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources and Earth Advantage.  NASEO thanks the State Energy Offices and other meeting attendees for their valuable contributions and feedback. 

State Resources

Energy Trust of Oregon: Energy Performance Score
One of the longest-running state energy labeling programs, the Energy Trust of Oregon implements the EPS (Energy Performance Score) program.  The EPS is an energy performance score that rates the efficiency of a home and measures it against similar-sized homes in Oregon.

Vermont Residential Energy Labeling Report
This report chronicles Vermont’s approach to developing a statewide residential energy labeling program.  The report was developed by Energy Futures Group and Efficiency Vermont for the Vermont Public Service Department.  Vermont’s process was very thorough and included significant stakeholder engagement and consumer testing and feedback on potential energy labeling approaches.  Other states interested in this topic are encouraged to learn from the lessons of other states, such as Vermont.

National Resources

Organizations

  • Earth Advantage, a non-profit based in Oregon, works with State Energy Offices, local jurisdictions, and utilities to design residential energy labeling programs and implement software and other labeling tools.
  • RESNET manages the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index, which is a system for inspecting and calculating a home's energy performance.  HERS scores are predominantly used in new construction.
  • U.S. Department of Energy Home Energy Score is a national residential energy labeling program. The Home Energy Score is mainly used for existing homes. 

Reports/Presentations