Q&A With an Oregon Home Energy Assessor
Home energy score systems help homeowners and homebuyers better understand a home’s energy use, and how even small improvements can make a big difference in energy savings.
Oregon’s voluntary statewide home energy scoring program is picking up steam in 2019, and Oregon Department of Energy partner Earth Advantage is helping to implement the statewide program, including training new home energy assessors around the state.
Laura Klement, owner of business Enerstructa in the Columbia River Gorge, is passionate about sustainability and energy. She conducts home energy assessments and issues scores in Portland, the Gorge, and beyond. We sat down with her to learn more about life as an Oregon home energy assessor:
Tell us about yourself and your business.
A midwestern farm girl, I have spent my adult life in Oregon enjoying the outdoors and exploring the built environment. As a “Jill of all trades” I have experience with architecture, construction, design/build, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and education. I have always been interested in homes and have focused much of my business on home energy consulting for builders and homeowners. I offer several home scoring options including Home Energy Score (HES), Energy Performance Score (EPS), Home Energy Rating System (HERS) ratings, and also offer Earth Advantage certification. In addition, I empower women and youth through wood project-based classes with the idea to demystify building and make it more accessible for everyone. My business is home-based in the Gorge, but I travel throughout Oregon and Washington for DIY classes, green construction education and builder consultation. I really enjoy working with close-knit rural communities.
What got you interested in Home Energy Scoring?
I have done home energy audits for a number of years without any scoring systems, so I see it as an awesome opportunity to compare homes’ energy use similar to the MPG ratings of cars or nutrition labels on food. I’ve helped homeowners complete whole home retrofits of many things that are invisible to buyers who aren’t aware of the “energy assets” part of buying a home. Home energy scores are a great way to make visible these efforts and benefits.
Why do you think a HES is helpful to homeowners or future homebuyers?
HES is a great standardized comparison of homes that can help homebuyers better understand the true costs of homeownership based on a home’s energy assets. A home with a lower score offers more opportunities for improvement than a higher scored home. Home energy scores offer a list of suggested upgrades that homeowners and buyers could show to a bank for specialized lending opportunities. I like that it shows where the home is at today, and where it could be with improvements.
How long does it usually take to complete an assessment?
It really depends on how engaged a homeowner is during discussion and whether or not I do a blower door test. It’s generally in the range of 1-2 hours onsite and then another 15-30 minutes of data entry to finalize the inputs for HES.
What are some of the things you check or inspect when you do an assessment at someone’s home?
I look at the insulation in the attic, walls and crawlspaces to see how much is there and how well it is installed. I look to see if any air sealing has been done which can be visible via foam or caulk or a blower door test. Ideally, I do a blower door test if one hasn’t been done in conjunction with an infrared camera so I can really pinpoint the air leaks. This is super helpful to homeowners and builders in really “seeing” where the leaks are coming from. I look at the windows to see if they are single/double/triple pane and if they have any low-e coatings to help reduce energy use. I look at the space heating and cooling systems as well as water heating to determine how old they are and discuss options for replacement if applicable. I look at lighting and appliance efficiencies.
What is the most common “issue” you’ve found that leads to a home receiving a lower energy score?
I would guess air leaks and old HVAC systems.
What’s your most common recommendation for improvement?
Air sealing, insulation, upgraded HVAC! All the things, haha! Most existing homes I see are around 100 years old and were built without all of these things and/or need upgrades.