Zillow’s most recent Group Report on Consumer Buying Trends tells us that the top priority of 48% of first time home buyers is energy efficiency savings. How will they know about such savings? The HERS Index rating will tell them.

The HERS Index (the Home Energy Rating System) is the nationally recognized performance score used to measure a home’s relative energy efficiency. The lower the HERS Index score the more efficient the home’s energy use is.

All homes built from 2004 and beyond, the year the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) was established, were given a HERS Index score of 100. Obviously, older homes have higher HERS Index scores than newer homes (sagging insulation, cracks, holes, older systems). A good rating for a home built during and after 2012 is 60. The goal, of course, is to have a Net Zero HERS Index score where the amount of energy consumed by the home is equal to the amount of energy produced by the home through solar and wind energy.

What affects home energy consumption and HERS Index ratings? HVAC systems, water heating systems, air leakage, duct systems, floors above garages, windows, doors, roofs, ceilings, exterior walls.

How to improve (reduce) energy consumption and HERS Index ratings? Install more energy efficient equipment such as water heaters, air conditioners, furnaces and upgrade insulation in attics and around windows.

Here are some specific tips to help lower home energy consumption and improve HERS Index ratings.

1. We’ve already mentioned insulation upgrades and fixes – attics, chimneys, furnaces flues, plumbing stacks, electrical wiring, ducts, hatches and doors, garage,etc.
2. Install ENERGY STAR certified appliances, windows, bathroom vent fans, lighting fixtures and light bulbs inside and out.
3. Install low flow toilets, faucets, shower heads.
4. Recycle old refrigerate rather than using it out in the garage for “extras.”
4. Install door sweeps on exterior thoroughfare doors to seal the gap between the main door and the floor underneath it to help prevent air/heat leakage.
5. Make sure HVAC unit is the “right” size and properly installed.
6. Replace window screens with storm windows during winter and caulk/weatherstrip around windows and doors.
7. Direct fan blades in ceiling fans clockwise during the summer months to push cool air down and counterclockwise during the winter months to push warm air up. Fan blades cool/heat people, not rooms so turn it off when not there.
8. Close the fireplace flue damper when not in use and consider using a direct vent or sealed combustion gas log unit.
9. Install heat resistant reflectors between radiators and wall to reflect heat back into room, not onto walls.
10. Take showers rather than baths as showers use less water. Also try cutting down the length of shower time.
11. Unplug appliances, TVs, appliances, etc. and turn off lights when not in use.