A Rating Tale

January/February 2001
A version of this article appears in the January/February 2001 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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January 01, 2001
HERS ratings have been structured to be as independent of occupant behavior as possible. Maybe that premise should be reexamined.
        Drivers who treat the daily commute like the Daytona 500 will never achieve their cars’ miles-per-gallon rating—and shouldn’t expect to. The mantra of the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) industry—“Rate the home, not the occupant”—communicates a similar approach to home ratings. HERS ratings strive to reflect the energy use that a home would have if a typical family were living in it, and so they are based on a home’s structural components and computer simulations of energy use under typical conditions. Ratings do not take into account how much energy these homes actually use. Based on my analysis of HERS ratings in Wisconsin, however, I believe that more actual usage should be brought to bear on the HERS industry, not less.         In 1998 and 1999, I led an Energy Center of Wisconsin study to characterize single-family homes in Wisconsin. Our main goal was to bring some facts to the table in the design and implementation of residential programs in Wisconsin. Early on, we recognized that by linking up with the state’s HERS program—Wisconsin Home ...

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