Maybe you’re wondering, “What is an EPS Score?”
We reached out to two experts, Bruce Sullivan of BASE zero and Matt Douglas of Earth Advantage to share more about this up-and-coming way to evaluate the homes that we buy and live in.
Bruce Sullivan has been helping people improve the energy efficiency and reduce their environmental impact for more than three decades. In the early 1980s, He was on the team of trainers for the earliest effort to improve new construction efficiency in the Pacific Northwest. It was called the Residential Construction Demonstration Project (RCDP), and it formed the technical basis for the region’s Super Good Cents program. He helped write that program’s first technical training manual as well as deliver training to builders, code officials and others around the Northwest.
Over the years, Bruce has worked for the Oregon State University Extension Energy Program, Eugene Water & Electric Board, and Earth Advantage Institute. He owned Iris Communications, Inc. and produced videos, publication and websites—all targeted for contractors, utility reps and other practitioners. His new company, BASE zero, LLC, makes use of my background to deliver consulting and training services as well as residential energy verifications and home energy ratings.
When we asked Bruce to share his perspective on EPS: How it began and it’s significance, here is what he said:
Energy Performance Score was the brain child of Earth Advantage executive director, Sean Penrith in 2009. At the time, there wasn’t a good way for consumers to directly compare the energy performance of homes on the market. Nor was there a good way for building professionals to measure their success in making homes more energy efficient. Green and energy certifications set minimum requirements, but failed to credit homes that exceeded those requirements by using less energy. Earth Advantage proposed a simple energy score to Energy Trust of Oregon. Together, the two organizations developed the technical standards for the Energy Performance Score (EPS). Energy Trust adopted the idea as the basis of there new homes incentive program. Lower scores are better. Better scores get higher incentives. Energy Trust applied the idea to their existing homes programs, but that has been rolled out more slowly.
EPS gives consumers an easy way to shop for energy efficient homes in much the same way that EPA fuel economy testing helps consumers compare cars and trucks. Energy consumption is now clearly and consistently presented. Of course, energy efficiency is just one of many factors to consider when purchasing a home. Because lower scores are better, it takes time for some consumers to absorb the idea. It’s more like a golf score than a basketball score. Building professionals use the score to improve their work. By target lower scores, they can measure their progress toward success. In this case, success will be achieved when every new home has the lowest possible score. For some homes, the EPS will be zero. One thing that it’s important to emphasize is that achieving this goal doesn’t have to cost more. In fact, as we track super-efficient and zero-energy homes in Bend, many of them cost less than conventional homes. This happens when design, materials selection and construction are done carefully to minimize up front costs. Those costs, when financed in a 30-year mortgage, can be lower than the monthly energy savings. In other words, energy savings pays for the energy improvements. This can only be seen when energy costs are included in the mindset of consumers and real estate brokers. Most people understand the acronym PITI, which stands for principal, interest, taxes and insurance. Energy should be added to the idea: PITI+E. Monthly utilities (energy and water) are just as certain as the other four, and they are just as certain to increase over time. Ignoring energy costs in the monthly equation is failing to serve the best interest of consumers. EPS matters because it give everyone an easy way to put monthly energy use back into the equation.
EPS must become a standard factor in the real estate purchase calculation. When EPS is shown on all advertising and appears in the multiple listing service, then consumers will be able to make an informed decision. This is truly a fee market process. Informed consumers make better decisions. Right now, a critical piece of information is hidden from them. I hope that knowing the EPS of each property will guide consumers toward more efficient homes. However, this is not a mandate. This is just accurate information. Knowing the EPA fuel economy rating of vehicles hasn’t meant an end to large trucks or SUVs. It just means that the people choosing them know what they are buying.
Saginaw Sunset’s first home, at 1639 NW Scott Henry Place followed the energy modeling plan developed by Matt Douglas to maximize the homes energy efficiency – see the official EPS evaluation and a detailed report of the homes green features by clicking here.
We asked Matt to share about the energy modeling process and his specific experience with 1639 NW Scott Henry Place.
Matt Douglas is a Green Building Consultant for Earth Advantage New Homes in the Central Oregon area. He guides homebuilders from the planning and design phase all the way through completion to ensure that they utilize the best building practices for their project. One of the many benefits from the collaboration with builders is to achieve an Energy Star, Earth Advantage and/or LEED certification. His responsibilities for Earth Advantage include new home construction inspections, energy modeling, sales and outreach. He is a certified Sustainable Homes Professional, Earth Advantage Verifier, LEED Green Rater, Energy Star Verifier, and HERS Rater.
Previous to Earth Advantage Institute, Matt has 8 years of HVAC residential field experience in the Central Oregon area. When not helping builders build a better home Matt can be found on the trails mountain biking, running, skiing and enjoying life.
Q & A
1. What is energy modeling? Is it for new construction only or for existing homes?
Energy modeling is a computer software program that can estimate the energy use of a home. The energy modeling software can be used for new and existing homes. For new homes, it is a chance to provide different scenarios of energy consumption before the home is built. On existing homes, the energy model can be used to explore different ways to make the home more efficient.
2. What were the steps you took in creating an energy model for 1639 NW Scott Henry Place?
This house was a great example of using the energy model to inform the builder of the different options for energy efficiency. I received a preliminary set of plans and entered the dimensions of the floors, walls, windows, ceilings and their locations. Once the energy model had those measurements, then the focus can be on the mechanical equipment, heating/cooling, water heating, as well as, lights and appliances. From this point we can estimate the energy use of the home and make changes if needed. Once the home is completed, some additional performance testing numbers like the blower door (air tightness) and duct testing (duct air tightness) are entered into the model to create a final EPS (Energy Performance Score). There are a few more steps involved, but this is the gist of it. The energy model is really a great tool for builders to utilize when constructing new energy efficient homes.
3. What was the outcome of the model?
I have attached the final EPS for the home. It shows the energy cost per month and year as well. The EPS of 50 means that the home is estimated to use 50 million BTU’s of energy per year. One of the neat things about the EPS is that it compares the home if it were built to current Oregon Building Codes. The larger the delta between the two number means that the home is that much more efficient.