Vice President Biden joined U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu today to announce the launch of the Home Energy Score pilot program. The Home Energy Score will offer homeowners reliable information about their homes’ energy efficiency, according to a DOE announcement released today following the launch.

A report provides consumers with a home energy score between 1 and 10, and shows them how their home compares to others in their region. “The report also includes customized, cost-effective recommendations that will help to reduce their energy costs and improve the comfort of their homes,” said the DOE announcement.

“The Home Energy Score will help make energy efficiency easy and accessible to America’s families by providing them with straightforward and reliable information about their homes’ energy performance and specific, cost-effective energy efficiency improvements that will save them money on their monthly energy bills,” said Secretary Chu.

Under this voluntary program, trained and certified contractors will use a standardized assessment tool developed by DOE and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to quickly evaluate a home and generate useful, actionable information for homeowners or prospective homebuyers. With only about 40 inputs required, the Home Energy Scoring Tool lets a contractor evaluate a home’s energy assets, including heating and cooling systems, insulation levels and more, in less than an hour.

For each specific improvement, the estimated utility bill savings, payback period, and greenhouse gas emission reductions are included.

The Home Energy Score initially will be tested with local government, utility, and non-profit partners in ten pilot communities across the country. During this test phase, the Department and its partners will gauge how homeowners respond to the program, and whether the information encourages them to get energy improvements done on their homes. After the pilot tests conclude in late spring 2011, DOE expects to launch the Home Energy Score nationally later next year, based on the findings from the initial programs.

HUD Announces PowerSaver

Vice President Biden also joined with U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan today to announce a new pilot program that will offer credit-worthy borrowers low-cost loans to make energy-saving improvements to their homes. Backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), these new FHA PowerSaver loans will offer homeowners up to $25,000 to make energy-efficient improvements of their choice, including the installation of doors and windows, HVAC systems, water heaters, solar panels and geothermal systems.

HUD and FHA developed PowerSaver as part of the Recovery Through Retrofit initiative launched in May 2009 by Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force to develop federal actions that would expand green job opportunities in the United States and boost energy savings by improving home energy efficiency. The announcement is part of an 18-month-long interagency effort facilitated by White House Council on Environmental Quality with the Office of the Vice President, 11 departments and agencies and six White House offices.

“HUD and FHA are committed to lowering the cost and expanding the availability of affordable financing for home energy retrofits,” said Secretary Donovan. “PowerSaver will help more homeowners afford common sense, cost saving improvements to their homes, and will create jobs for contractors, installers and energy auditors across the country.”

HUD published a notice today seeking the participation of a limited number of mortgage lenders in the two-year pilot program slated to begin in early 2011.

PowerSaver has been designed to meet a need in the marketplace for borrowers who have the ability and motivation to take on modest additional debt to realize the savings over time from a home energy improvement, according to HUD. PowerSaver loans are only available to borrowers with good credit, manageable overall debt and at least some equity in their home (maximum 100-percent combined loan to value).

Workforce Guidelines

DOE also released the Workforce Guidelines for Home Energy Upgrades today, a comprehensive set of guidelines for workers in the residential energy efficiency industry. The guidelines will help develop and expand the skills of the workforce, ensuring the quality of the work performed, while laying the foundation for a more robust worker certification and training program nationwide, according to the DOE announcement. Energy improvement programs can adopt these guidelines to increase the consistency and effectiveness of energy upgrades, and training providers can use them to improve course curricula and training materials. These guidelines were developed through a collaboration between energy efficiency contractors, building scientists, health and safety experts, technicians and trainers in the weatherization program, and other professionals in the building and home energy upgrade industry.

The Workforce Guidelines include standard work specifications required for high-quality work, a reference guide for technical standards and codes, analyses of the job tasks involved in completing various energy efficiency improvements, and the minimum qualifications workers should possess to perform high quality work. The guidelines, which can be accessed on the DOE’s weatherization website, will be available for public comment through January 7, 2011.

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3 Comments

  1. FHA PowerSaver sounds like a program that could stimulate construction jobs. Good option for financing home improvements.

  2. Sounds like a great program that will motivate qualified homeowners to make their homes more eco-conscious and save valuable energy resources.

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