American drivers have long grown accustomed to seeing the MPG figures listed on every new or used car – highway and city mileage numbers showing how fuel-efficient the particular vehicle is. Increasingly, with energy costs rising around the globe and conservation efforts gaining traction in the culture, there is a push for a similar comprehensive but simple energy-use assessment for our homes. Metrics for assessing energy use are already in use in many countries, and some US states have begun work on their own ‘Home MPG’ calculations.
Massachusetts has been one of the leading states in this regard. As part of a comprehensive effort to develop an energy infrastructure with less impact on the environment, the state has developed a number of programs to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas production. Buildings are a large part of this strategy, simply because that is where a huge percentage of energy use occurs.
Massachusetts is developing a building energy asset rating and labeling program, which allows the direct comparison of energy usage regardless of specific occupant behavior. (Operational ratings are useful, for example, comparing the cooling cost of buildings by examining actual A/C billing – but don’t allow for direct comparison of structural efficiency. One building might just be not running the A/C.) The ultimate goal of these asset rating programs is to allow the real estate market to price energy efficiency into building costs in the way that other ongoing costs are factored into those prices.
Many Massachusetts residents can take advantage of this new program through their local utility company. Mass Save utilities offer Home MPG, which provides residents with an energy performance rating in an easy-to-understand ‘miles per gallon’ format. A no-cost energy assessment, sometimes including thermal imaging of the home, lets a Mass Save energy specialist do a cellar-to-rooftop evaluation of your home and identify the improvements that can be made. On top of the recommendations and assessments, the program provides homeowners with an energy performance score that gives an objective picture of the home’s energy use regardless of what the occupants do in terms of energy savings (i.e., the inherent efficiency of the building). The EPS score is calculated both before and after any recommended improvements, showing directly what changes to the physical infrastructure will do for energy efficiency going forward.
The program also includes incentive and rebate programs that cover 75% of the cost of recommended improvements, up to $2000 for the year. Getting started is easy – you can schedule your no-cost Mass Save home energy assessment by calling Energy Monster at (866) 527-7283.