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Residential Energy Labeling for Underserved Markets

Across the country, cities and states understand that you can’t change what you don’t measure. In the case of energy use in the built environment, the energy-related features of homes are often overlooked. Homebuyers without backgrounds in energy efficiency face a number of barriers to understanding what they are buying. Most do not know what features to ask about or look for, like up-to-code insulation levels or a high-efficiency furnace, even though those features have the potential to significantly impact home comfort, affordability, and overall quality of life in a home. An additional challenge is that these features are in less accessible and more intimidating parts of the home, like the attic or basement.

One solution to bridging this information gap is through a residential energy label. Consumers are already used to seeing labels displaying nutritional information about their food, expected annual costs to operate their refrigerator, or the anticipated miles per gallon on a new car. Labels communicate complicated information in a digestible and standardized format. The ENERGY STAR® label is already an accepted way for consumers to gain information about individual appliances within their homes. Whole home energy labels are increasingly being used across the country to give consumers better information about how their residences use energy. Better information can lead to smarter decisions about energy investments. Delivering this information at key times as part of the real estate transaction can optimize the value of this information in informing key decisions. For example, the City of Portland, Oregon has chosen to require the disclosure of an energy label at the time a home is listed on the market, while the City of Denver is pilot testing an energy label by providing a free Home Energy Score™ to reach sellers, buyers, and those who have recently purchased a home.

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