Making Energy Efficiency Visible and Valued


I used to work for a CEO who ran his business on slogans. During Monday management meetings he’d plot our next steps, always making sure to end each assignment with a slogan. Every time he did it, we’d roll our eyes at him. But he didn’t care. He knew his catchy little reminders would get stuck in our heads, cueing us to be more thoughtful in our work.

He was so right. To this day, his nuggets of wisdom help keep me honest and effective. In my work supporting Brand Cool’s energy efficiency practice, one of my old boss’ particular quips often comes to mind: what gets inspected gets respected.

For those of us who market energy-efficiency programs, this statement can have a transformative effect. By giving more people access to information about buildings’ energy performance, we can help establish a common understanding that energy efficiency can and should be quantified and valued.

Perhaps one of the best examples of this came last year when real estate multiple listing services (MLS) across the nation started creating special “green categories.” Using information contained in these categories, prospective buyers now can evaluate the energy efficiency of a home for sale much like they do when inspecting labels on new appliances or lighting products.

Buyers simply search the category and compare the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index scores of the homes that appeal to them. Because the HERS Index is the nationally recognized scoring system for measuring a home’s energy performance, it provides the quality data set that consumers need to begin calculating the real affordability of the home—the lower the HERS score, the more energy efficient it is.

Being able to share, access and inspect data like this can have a significant impact on the marketing of energy efficiency:

  • For consumers, it makes the importance of energy efficiency visible during the consideration process to help them make better-informed buying choices.
  • For the real estate industry, it gives a consistent way to accurately measure home performance, track supply and respond to consumer demand for more energy-efficient homes that offer lower energy costs, greater comfort, and have less impact on the environment.
  • For appraisers and lenders, it provides credible, high-performance property details to assess fair value and risk during transactions.
  • For states, utilities, and agencies that are implementing residential energy efficiency programs, it can provide a pathway to engaging more people—homeowners, landlords, property managers, developers, builders, and condo and co-op boards—around the value of home energy efficiency so that they are more likely to invest in upgrades.

With benefits like these, the case for incorporating energy efficiency into all MLS databases is clear. Already 22 states offer green categories, with more states likely to follow. But gaps need to be closed in order to make this offering more prevalent and more standard in the U.S.

Energy efficiency program implementers and marketers can help in numerous ways, starting with ensuring that the data they collect about home energy efficiency improvements is documented in a way that is usable by the multiple parties who need to inspect and integrate it. For example, are homeowners receiving a credible certificate of completion for their energy upgrades, such as from the Building Performance Institute or programs that they’re receiving incentives or support from? Is data being captured in a format capable of being shared with the local municipal/real estate stakeholders, the MLS community, financial institutions and appraisers? And, can the data be easily transferred and shared within different software platforms, supporting the ability deliver targeted outreach to homeowners who have invested in single-measure improvements and may be ready for more comprehensive measures?

Elevate Energy and the National Home Performance Council recently completed a whitepaper, Unlocking the Benefits to an Energy Efficient Home, to highlight the multiple opportunities to make energy efficiency data more accessible in the real estate market. It also points out the steps that those who are working in the residential energy efficiency, real estate and financial lending markets should take to make the adoption of this type of data widespread in MLS databases.

I’m sure you’ll find it memorable on several fronts, much like my boss’ favorite slogan.