I'll never forget moving into my first home during junior year of college. It was a spacious, rambling ranch with over 4.6 acres of wooded area at the end of a quiet neighborhood. It was anything but typical for a college student, so understandably, we were head over heels and excited to move in.

Similar to many homebuyers and renters on the hunt for their next place, we were captured by plenty of features in the home – the beautiful sunroom, tall living room ceilings, hardwood floors, and the finished basement. Unfortunately for us, these features overshadowed the key information we – and other homebuyers and renters – should look for - the energy efficiency and energy costs of the home.

Home Energy Labels: The Missing Link

Currently, none of the major American real estate websites includes fields for energy efficiency and renewable energy, which makes it easy to see why most homebuyers and renters overlook it. We soon came to learn, especially come winter time, that our utility bills were draining our wallets. Money was seeping beneath the doors and right out through the windows.

Coincidently enough, a few months after graduating college and moving out of my college home, I began working in energy efficiency and soon learned the value of home energy labels. It’s clear that the value of energy efficiency has not been adequately captured in a manner that enables homeowners and renters to understand the benefits of an energy efficient home. Over the years, demand for energy efficient homes has risen due to various factors such as lower energy bills, increased home comfort, environmental consciousness, and decreased energy use.

Homeowners need the ability to compare their home’s energy performance and have access to direction and recommendations to achieve additional savings. In response to this challenge, states and cities have begun to recognize the value of home energy labeling policies and programs. Embracing energy labels in households can be a tool to assist in reaching carbon reduction goals through transparency around energy usage and valuation of energy efficiency.

Home energy labeling calls for the assessment of a home’s energy performance and features, providing valuable information for real estate professionals, homeowners, buyers, and renters. The energy labels and energy efficiency attributes can be used throughout the real estate process to leverage decisions and investments in efficiency upgrades. With energy efficiency and home energy labeling programs successfully implemented throughout the country, homeowners have been able to make informed decisions about home improvements.

HELIX: A Solution in the Northeast

Throughout the Northeast, the Home Energy Labeling Information eXchange (HELIX) is utilized as a policy management tool and as a mechanism to automatically populate residential home energy information into Multiple Listing Services (MLS) listings. In order to support states in rolling out home energy labels and labeling programs, NEEP published Opportunities for Home Energy Labeling & HELIX Use in Mid-Atlantic States to examine home energy labeling programs and solar PV use and whether HELIX could be a useful tool for Mid-Atlantic states. By understanding the data, users of HELIX can work to capture home energy information and integrate it with local MLS services. HELIX is a tool that can help states and communities achieve public policy goals and achieve a decarbonized residential building stock. This brief targets the Mid-Atlantic region, though the information is applicable to all states looking at home energy labeling.

The Mid-Atlantic has a great opportunity to build on current labeling initiatives and advance building decarbonization efforts. Listed below is a sneak peek into some of the region’s current efforts. For more information on labeling policies and programs and how HELIX can help achieve market transformation goals, check out our brief.


Current Efforts


EmPOWER Maryland electric utilities offer Home Performance with ENERGY STAR and ENERGY STAR Certification for new homes and utilize HERS ratings.

Montgomery County requires mandatory time of sale energy bill disclosure


In 2012, Home Energy Score added to the energy assessment offered by NJ Natural Gas as a part of the  SAVEGREEN Project


NYSERDA pilot: Launched the second phase of its multi-year Home Energy Rating Pilot in August 2019 (Home Energy Score and Pearl Certification)

Truth in Heating Law: Energy bill disclosure required upon request by potential tenant for rental units or buyers for homes for sale

A Brief Look at Some Mid-Atlantic States

Using our latest brief, states in the Mid-Atlantic can begin to outline how HELIX can support existing or new initiatives for a more successful implementation. For example, Montgomery County, Maryland requires mandatory time-of-sale energy bill disclosure. This disclosure law is intended to ensure that home buyers are informed of the home’s energy performance and costs and also provides financing options for energy efficiency upgrades. The county, however, does not have a mechanism to capture data from bills and expected energy usage. NEEP is working to ensure there are cost-effective tools, like HELIX, to support buildings policies and has developed additional tools, such as Energy Estimator – Powered by HELIX & ClearlyEnergy and Building Energy Analysis Manager (BEAM). These tools could be leveraged by municipalities like Montgomery County as a flexible policy management tool that makes it easier for homeowners to comply with the ordinance.

As a New Jersey native with Rhode Island and Massachusetts being my “second” and “third” homes, I know all too well about moving and the unfortunate reality of high energy bills. The old me was constantly turning off lights, unplugging plugs, wearing extra layers during the winter, and sacrificing my comfort to save even a few dollars. The new me is looking for home energy information, educating friends and family on the search for apartments and homes, and helping homeowners and renters across the region by working to make this information widely accessible in the real estate market.

Residential energy labeling is growing throughout the nation and won’t be disappearing any time soon. Embracing energy labeling policies and programs will help inform homeowners, renters, and homebuyers of energy usage and quantifiable energy metrics to reveal the value of energy efficiency in a home. Investing in our existing housing stock can make a huge impact on decarbonization in the residential market, and increased educational efforts to reveal the value efficiency can bring this to scale.

For additional resources and support, visit the HELIX section of our website or email helix@NEEP.org

Stay informed

Stay up to date with the latest NEEP and industry news, policies, and trends to your inbox every so often.