How To Pass Stricter Massachusetts HERS Rating Requirements in 2023

What is a Passing HERS Rating Score in Massachusetts?

A HERS Rating compares a home to be built with a standard reference home that has similar characteristics, such as building type, size, and location. A scale of 0 to 100 is used. The lower the number the better the score and the more energy efficient the home.  Here is an overview of how HERS rating requirements in Massachusetts are changing for 2023 and beyond.

  • In 2022 a HERS Rating score of 55 or less is required to pass.
  • On January 1st 2023 that requirement is set to drop to 52 or less.
  • In 2024 the score will drop by a whopping 10 more points to 42.
How To Pass Stricter Massachusetts HERS Rating Requirements in 2023

New Homes In Massachusetts Need to Be More Energy Efficient

Going forward new homes will need to be progressively more energy efficient. Designers and builders will need to step up their game, paying more attention to details. Things to look for in the future of home building:

  • The Thermal Envelope will become an even higher priority.
  • HVAC equipment will need to be energy efficient, properly sized and installed, and commissioned. 
  • Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) will be required.
  • Fossil fuel will give way to the “All Electric Home”.
  • More homes will come with solar arrays 
  • Electric vehicle chargers in every garage.
  • Energy Star appliances in the kitchen and the laundry room.
  • HERS Ratings will become the norm everywhere.

Constructing a home is a complicated process requiring numerous subcontractors and their employees. For best results, get everyone on board early on in the process.

Now let’s talk about the first two items on this list.

What is a Thermal Envelope?

What needs to be done to assure quality and success?

  • Consider spacing exterior wall studs at 24 inches on center instead of 16. This uses less lumber and allows for more insulation.
  • Use spray foam insulation instead of fiberglass batt insulation. Spray foam is great for sealing small holes, seams and cracks. This will have a positive effect on the blower door test which is required as part the HERS rating. Spray foam is generally more expensive than fiberglass batt insulation but does a better overall job.
  • As an option, add a thin layer of spray foam to exterior wall cavities for air sealing purposes and then add fiberglass batt insulation to fill the rest of the cavity. 
  • Use spray foam on rim and band joists instead of fiberglass batt insulation. These areas are problematic because they are prone to air leaks and difficult to seal by any other means.
  • The energy efficiency of glazing is measured by what’s called the U value. The lower the U value the better. 
  • Encapsulate the backside of all walls adjacent to cold areas such as attics and knee-walls. This prevents what’s known as “Wind Washing”, which will diminish the effective R value of insulation.

Energy-Efficient HVAC Equipment

HVAC systems can run on either oil, natural gas, or electric.

  • Oil-fired equipment for space heating can be up to 90% efficient. This means that 90 cents of every dollar you spend goes to heating your home.
  • Natural gas and propane equipment for space heating can be up to 98% efficient.
  • Electric resistance equipment for space heating is 100% efficient.
  • Electric heat pumps for space heating can be up to 400% efficient. That’s right, you get back four times what you pay out in the form of heat. These same units work in reverse in the summer and provide high-efficiency space cooling. 

Typically Heat Pumps are more expensive than traditional heating systems. Rebates and other incentives are available to help offset the additional cost. We predict that heat pumps will play a major role in new construction projects going forward.

Available Energy-Efficient Incentives and Rebates

Fortunately, most utility companies are offering rebates and other incentives that offset much of the additional cost associated with implementing today’s demanding energy code requirements.

Contact Energy Geeks to expedite the process.

Bottom line, owners and builders will look to HERS Raters more than ever for guidance on how to navigate this changing landscape.

In our next column in this series we will talk about the “All Electric Homes”

If you’d like more information on how you can minimize energy consumption and maximize savings while making your home more comfortable all year round, then contact Energy Geeks. Our mission is to provide the most comprehensive and efficient solutions to reduce energy use in your home. 

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