California Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Program

Tue, 2016-01-26 10:52

California legislators pride themselves on being extremely progressive on green building and energy efficiency. As a result, the state has some of the strictest building codes in the country. The energy efficiency programs that offer improvements everywhere else in country are often not good enough for California. One such example is the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) program.

RESNET LogoThe Home Energy Rating System is an index that was developed by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET). This index offers a scale of 0 to 100 that certified HERS Raters use to identify and label energy-efficient homes. The closer to 0 (or what’s called net-zero energy), the better. HERS Raters perform a series of diagnostic tests and analyses on a given home and input their results into sophisticated computer software, which then spits out a number associated with the HERS index score. This score provides a clear and concise label for appraisers, realtors, and home buyers about how energy efficient the home is. These stakeholders can then use this score to compare different homes.

Now let’s take a look at how California has put its own spin on the HERS Rater program. First, the California HERS index is a scale from 0 to 250. Also, the CA HERS Rater designation is called California Whole-House Home Energy Rater. Finally, there is a special designation that goes along with the program called HERS Building Performance Contractor.

The HERS Building Performance Contractor is a special designation in addition to the actual California Whole-House Home Energy Rater designation. A HERS Building Performance Contractor must:

  • be licensed by the California Contractors State License Board as a Class B General Building Contractor and
  • be, or employ, a certified CA Whole-House Home Energy Rater who has successfully completed an CA Energy Commission-approved HERS Building Performance Contractor training program and who holds building science certifications from the Building Performance Institute (BPI)

According to the California Energy Commission, a HERS Building Performance Contractor evaluates the comfort and safety aspects of a home in conjunction with the home’s energy efficiency in order to install energy efficient measures that will result in the best possible performance of a home. In other words, if you want to be a certified home energy auditor with whole-house diagnostic skills and home energy rating skills, it looks like you’ll want to meet the requirements to become a HERS Building Performance Contractor in addition to just the CA Whole-House Home Energy Rater.

California Energy CommissionFinding HERS Rater Training in California

The California Energy Commission requires that a HERS training organization meet the following requirements:

  • Create and maintain a registry and database
  • Provide ongoing access of the registry and database to Energy Commission staff
  • Train and certify HERS Raters
  • Create a Quality Assurance Program
  • Conduct quality assurance on HERS Raters’ work
  • Report annually to the Energy Commission certain data as required by the HERS Regulations

Given the unique nature of California’s requirement and the fact that Everblue adheres to the FERPA guidelines on student privacy, we at Everblue are not an approved HERS training provider in California. We do, however, meet the qualifications to provide HERS Rater training everywhere in the country. We are headquartered in Charlotte, NC and offer HERS Rater training in several locations across the United States. It would be too strenuous on our operations to adhere to the ongoing interactions required by the California Energy Commission. The required relationship is best imposed upon local, in-state providers. As such, only one organization in the country has been approved to offer HERS training in California.

CalCERTS is the only organization in the U.S. approved to provide HERS services for new construction, existing buildings, and whole-house diagnostics.

Should You Become a HERS Rater or BPI Building Analyst?

There are two leading home energy auditing standards in the United States. One was developed by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), and the other was created by the Building Performance Institute (BPI).

In a nutshell, the RESNET HERS Rater designation focuses on new construction and rating the energy efficiency of a proposed home design according to the RESNET Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index. The BPI Building Analyst designation focuses on identifying problem areas in existing homes and providing recommendations to homeowners for retrofit upgrades. On the surface, this sounds like a clear difference, however, the gap between these two certification programs has lessened in the last 5 years - both demonstrate competency in offering home energy audit services, complete with combustion safety testing, blower door testing, duct blaster and air leakage testing, etc.

Difference between BPI and RESNET banner image

For a more detailed assessment, check out our previous post on the difference between BPI and RESNET.

If you live in California, and you're simply looking to become a home energy auditor, you may be more interested in becoming a BPI Building Analyst. The BPI Certification program has far fewer hurdles to jump through than pursuing the RESNET HERS Rater designation. The RESNET Certification program requires ongoing completion of activities for the first year and beyond. The BPI Building Analyst Certification can be achieved much sooner and may be a good foot-in-the-door to adding home energy auditing services to your business. See our locations page to find BPI training near you - we DO offer the BPI Building Analyst training in several CA cities!