It can be a tough sell to convince people to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes. It costs a lot to insulate a basement or install new heating equipment, and the savings can be slow to accumulate. Retrofitting an entire family home might cost $20,000, but the monthly savings could be less than $100. Waiting that long to get their money back takes a patient investor.
It’s logical, though, that greater transparency in how much energy homes are wasting might provide a boost to the market. If we knew the energy efficiency of homes before we purchased them, or moved in as renters, it might sway our choice between one property or another. That’s what a small Massachusetts startup called Enerscore is trying to do: Get people to think about energy when they’re making a decision about where to live.
“If you can get energy to impact property value, everything changes. Suddenly, landlords care about the energy efficiency of their property, because they’re losing tenants to properties that are more efficient than theirs are,” says Kenn Butler, Enerscore’s co-founder.
Enerscore wants to be the equivalent of Walk Score, which estimates how walkable a home is relative to local services. For any address you type in, Enerscore serves up a color-coded rating, an estimate for annual energy usage, and a link to its site where you can get a breakdown for electricity, heating, and so on. The startup wants to build up its service so one of the big real estate sites, like Zillow or Trulia, will eventually incorporate it.
When we tried the demo, it was a little buggy. But Butler assures us the service will be ready when it launches fully in August. The startup makes its estimates based on public records showing construction dates, square footage, types of heating and cooling system, and so on. That means the ratings are approximations only. But one study from Chicago showed that a similar method could be accurate to within 10% of the real value.
Countries that have set up energy efficiency rating systems have found they can affect house prices fairly dramatically. One program from France, for example, showed 25% to 30% increases and decreases in home value after a color-coding program was introduced.
Enerscore, which has received a $40,000 grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, was started by Kenn and his father Brian Butler, a longtime real estate contractor. Kenn, who is 17, doesn’t know what he’ll do about school if the company takes off. “It’s a source of contention between my father and me right now,” he says.