HERS Inspections of New Homes

March 20, 2007
Solar & Efficiency Special
A version of this article appears in the Solar & Efficiency Special issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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The New Solar Home Partnership (NSHP) is a ten-year, $350 million program to subsidize PV systems in new homes. The NSHP, which is being implemented by the California Energy Commission (CEC), offers performance-based rebates for PV systems on new homes that start at about $2.50 per watt and decline over the life of the program.  A very important feature of the NSHP is that, in order to qualify for the rebate program, builders of new homes are required to exceed compliance with California’s energy code, Title 24, by 15% (not including the PV system).  There are additional subsidies of up to $2,000 per home for those who achieve a higher level of added conservation—35% better than
Title 24.

Since the early 1990s, Home Energy Rating System (HERS) have been a part of the compliance path—an increasingly significant part. Briefly, a HERS rater is a highly trained inspector who verifies and documents the proper installation of various (but not necessarily all) energy features in new construction. HERS raters also verify improvements to existing homes when certain heating or cooling equipment replacements have been completed. For the NSHP, the CEC will require HERS verification of the actual solar-PV system installation, as well as verification of the improvements above minimum Title 24 compliance, before granting rebates for the solar-PV installation. The amount of rebate available will depend upon the level of efficiency attained and verified.

HERS raters are trained, licensed, and monitored by HERS providers. The provider also keeps a data registry of all the rater’s inspection results and data. Currently, the Pacific Gas & Electric Company is putting together a standardized training program that, if approved, will provide the technical portion of the training a rater will need in order to be certified to complete the solar-PV system verifications and inspections.

As of January 2007, the training program is not quite ready for implementation, although it will be soon. To get current training information, you can contact a HERS provider, such as CalCERTS. CalCERTS has been a HERS provider since 2003.  A good source for general information on the NSHP is the final version of the NSHP Guidebook, written by CEC staff. Appendix 4 of the Guidebook,  “Field Verification and Diagnostic Testing of Photovoltaic Systems,” lists the features of a solar-PV system that a HERS rater will field-verify to “ensure that the components of the solar system and its installation are consistent with the characteristics used to determine its estimated performance.”   

Michael E. Bachand, president of CalCERTS, Incorporated, has spent more than 20 years in the new-home construction and Title 24 standards disciplines. CalCERTS is located in Folsom, California, and administers a base of approximately 800 raters statewide.

For more information:
To find out more about HERS or HERS training, visit the CalCERTS Web site at www.calcerts.com or the CHEERS Web
site at www.cheers.org.

To download the NSHP Guidebook, go to www.energy.ca.gov/2006publications/CEC-300-2006-017/CEC-300-2006-017-CTF.PDF.

To find out more about HERS in general, visit the Residential Energy Services Network Web site at www.resnet.us.

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