Good news! New home buyers can receive $250 to complete a HERS home energy audit. This can help identify energy upgrades to make a home more comfortable, keep temperature and humidity consistent throughout a home, improve a home’s air quality, and lower utility bills.

A HERS home energy audit is the first step in finding out how to make a home more energy efficient.  

Luckily, home buyers are eligible for a rebate of $250 off your HERS (Home Energy Rating System) home energy audit. Home buyers also receive an Energy Efficiency Kit worth $200 with every audit.

This isn’t just for detached houses – townhomes, twinhomes, and manufactured homes are eligible for this program. Energy assessments can benefit any homeowner, and they are especially useful in older homes.

Prior to the 1970s, builders were not bound by energy codes, so these houses have great potential for improvement.  They may lack insulation, duct sealing, and energy-efficient appliances and windows. Even newer homes often have a leaking duct system.

Homeowners who make energy upgrades are pleasantly surprised by lower utility bills, and less need for air conditioning or heating. These upgrades don’t need to be costly, either. Some of the least expensive energy upgrades may create the most energy savings, such as reducing air leaks, adding attic insulation, and insulating water heaters, pipes, and ducts. This is why an energy assessment is such a valuable tool – you will learn how to lower your utility bills as cheaply as possible. There are even programs to fund some energy upgrades.

What is a HERS Home Energy Audit?

A HERS home energy audit is a whole-house assessment, which uses strict diagnostic testing requirements, following standards set by the Building Performance Institute and the California Energy Commission. A Home Energy Rater uses specialized diagnostic tools and computer modeling to find sources of energy loss and energy consumption.  Examples include the blower door test, to determine a building’s air tightness, and a thermal imaging camera test, to detect defects in insulation and air leakage.

The whole assessment takes about three to four hours. The energy assessment will help you to prioritize improvements to make your home more comfortable and efficient.  The Home Energy Rating Brochure from the California Center for Sustainable Energy describes the benefits of a HERS home energy audit.

Home Energy Assessment Rebates

A HERS home energy audit for a single family residence usually costs $650.  For a limited time, homeowners also receive an Energy Efficiency Kit worth $200, which includes LED lightbulbs, a powerstrip, a shower head, a shower valve, and a faucet aerator. There is one rebate program currently available.

REALTOR®’S Energy Audit Program – $250

The REALTOR®’S Energy Audit Program (R.E.A.P.) is for new homeowners of a single-family residence in California. This program covers detached houses, townhomes, twinhomes, condominiums, and manufactured homes. An energy assessment needs to be completed within the first 60 days of owning a new home. New homeowners are usually looking for ways to make their homes more energy efficient, and this is the best way to start. 

Right after you close escrow, your REALTOR® can set up an appointment for the energy assessment. You need to pay the $250 up front to the Home Energy Rater, and then your REALTOR® will submit your application for reimbursement.

This program is funded by the California Association of REALTORS® Housing Affordability Fund. The program is available through 2017. Note: The program flyer mentions that this rebate is to be used with an Energy Efficiency Mortgage, but this is NOT a requirement of the program.  Any California home buyer of a single-family residence who uses a California REALTOR® in the transaction is eligible for this rebate. 

The Bottom Line

Most people have their car looked at annually to determine if it’s running efficiently. They do this because it’s costing them energy, and it may not be as comfortable a ride.  The same holds for your home.  Most homes have great potential for improvements that cut energy usage.  You can only know with a HERS home energy audit. Energy upgrades can make your home a much healthier and comfortable place to live.

If you decide to make energy upgrades to your home, including attic insulation and solar panels, you may consider a Renovation Loan. Renovation Loans can be used by home buyers, and also homeowners who are refinancing. The cost of the home plus the renovations are tied into one mortgage payment.

You can also read about 7 Ways to Finance Green Upgrades.

The California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) offers an Energy Efficient Mortgage that includes an additional 4% grant toward energy improvements. This means that if you buy a $500,000 home, you may qualify for approximately $20,000 of free money! The CalHFA program requires a Home Energy Audit, to identify eligible energy improvements. Read more about CalHFA assistance programs. Fannie Mae also offers a conventional Energy Efficient Mortgage, and the Veteran’s Administration offers an Energy Efficient Mortgage for active military and veterans.
A HERS home energy audit is a roadmap for future efficiency upgrades. Many can even be done by homeowners themselves. Homeowners who meet certain income guidelines may qualify for no-cost, energy efficient improvements. Read more about Getting Paid to Upgrade.
Finally, these rebate programs have limited budgets and may not extend beyond 2017. Act now to take advantage of these programs that can help you live in a more energy efficient home.

Thank you for contributing to this article:

Mark PulisMark M. Pulis is the owner of Residential Raters LLC, an energy efficiency firm for homes and small buildings. Mark can provide your home with a  HERS home energy audit, and also provides consultations regarding HVAC systems, solar panel installations, energy consumption, energy efficient mortgages, and more. He is a certified Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rater by California Home Efficiency Rating Services, and is certified by the Building Performance Institute (BPI) as a Building Analyst and Envelope Specialist. Contact him at (858) 869-9412 or via his website.
Mylene Merlo is a licensed REALTOR® with Allison James Estates & Homes in Carlsbad, California. As a Carlsbad Real Estate Agent, I specialize in residential North County San Diego real estate. I have earned the Green designation and the Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource certification from the National Association of REALTORS®. If you have any questions about real estate in Carlsbad, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Encinitas, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos, Solana Beach, or Vista, call or text me at (760) 637-7231 or send me a message.

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