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Use the glossary to access terms and definitions related to residential energy efficiency programs. Click the letters below to find your terms. Letters that do not appear currently do not have glossary terms related to them.

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A formal, third party recognition of the competence of an organization or program to perform specific tasks. It provides a means to identify a proven, competent evaluator so that the selection of that organization or program is an informed choice.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA)

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—commonly called the “stimulus”—was designed to spur economic growth while creating new jobs and saving existing ones. Through the Recovery Act, the Energy Department invested more than $31 billion to support a wide range of clean energy projects across the nation—from investing in the smart grid and developing alternative fuel vehicles to helping homeowners and businesses reduce their energy costs with energy efficiency upgrades and deploying carbon capture and storage technologies. The Department’s programs helped create new power sources, conserve resources and aligned the nation to lead the global energy economy.

Better Buildings Neighborhood Program (BBNP)

The Better Buildings Neighborhood Program is part of the Better Buildings Initiative—a program within the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy that is lowering barriers to energy efficiency in buildings. BBNP is helping to catalyze a building upgrade industry that can eventually be sustained in the private sector. Using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) and annual appropriations, the Better Buildings Neighborhood Program provided $508 million in one-time grants to states and localities. The program's forty-one partners share a common vision of creating a self-sustaining market for energy efficiency improvements in buildings that results in economic, environmental, and energy benefits across the United States.

Better Buildings Neighborhood Program Partner

The Better Buildings Neighborhood Program's forty-one partners consist of state and local governments, nonprofits and utilities.  They received seed funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop and incubate community-based programs and incentives to spur demand for building energy upgrades.  These partners worked with contractors, financial institutions, utilities, nonprofits, and other organizations implement their programs and work towards a self-sustaining market for energy efficiency improvements in buildings.

Billing Analysis

A statistical analysis that provides estimates of savings based on large datasets of participant and control groups. Typically a year or more of program participation data are needed before such analyses can be done. Results from billing analyses are often used to correct prior savings estimates derived from one of the two approaches above and/or to inform prospective deemed savings estimates.

Blower Door Test

A blower door test is used to measure a home's airtightness and locate air leakage paths. A blower door is a powerful fan that mounts into the frame of an exterior door. The fan moves air in or out of the house, changing the air pressure inside to exaggerate air leaks through unsealed cracks and openings. Technicians use these tests to determine the air infiltration rate of a building, identify locations to be sealed, and measure results of air sealing work.

Brand Platform

A program’s full brand package, including logo, colors, fonts, taglines, and other brand materials.


British thermal unit. A unit of energy needed to change the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1° Fahrenheit.  Used as a common metric to measure the energy content of fuels.

Building Envelope

The assembly of elements comprising the exterior enclosure of a building, including walls, roof, foundation, windows, and doors.

Business Model

A business model describes the value that an organization provides to the market and how it is compensated for its work.  A model describes an organization's financial and governance structure, the services provided, target customers, and the organization's assets and infrastructure.

Business Plan

A business plan describes how an organization implements its business model in order to achieve its mission, vision, and goals. It details the organizational structures, processes, steps, and others that need to be in place to be able to operate in the capacity desired.


Formal, third-party verification that an individual has demonstrated the competencies and skills required to perform the functions associated with a specific job or task.


An arrangement that associates a single service with more than one brand.  In the context of energy efficiency programs, an organization might encourage the use of its brand by a partner or contractor in marketing materials.

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI)

A specialized financial institution that works in market niches that are underserved by traditional financial institutions. CDFIs provide a range of financial products and services in economically distressed target markets, such as mortgage financing for low-income and first-time homebuyers and not-for-profit developers, flexible underwriting and risk capital for needed community facilities, and technical assistance, commercial loans and investments to small start-up or expanding businesses in low-income areas. CDFIs include regulated institutions such as community development banks and credit unions, and non-regulated institutions such as loan and venture capital funds.


A company that provides specific services to customers that directly improve energy efficiency or home performance, including energy assessments and installation of measures.

Conversion Rate

A ratio used to monitor the progress of leads, or customers, along a program's upgrade process.  In home performance, this calculation most commonly compares the number of assessments conducted to the number of upgrades completed.  Also known as "close rate."

Cooperative Advertising

A form of cost sharing where the total cost of advertising is shared by more than one party that may benefit from the advertising. Cost sharing may extend to design fees, collateral production, and traditional media placements as well as more non-traditional initiatives such as participation in trade shows, lawn signs, or other tactics.

Corrective Action

Action taken by a program or contractor to address deficiencies in an upgrade, identified through the quality assurance process.

Cost-effectiveness Test

Analysis of the benefits associated with a program or measure’s outputs or outcomes compared to the costs to produce them. Cost-effectiveness tests typically determine the relationship of a program’s benefits and costs as a ratio. This test is generally undertaken to compare one program or program approach to other approaches to determine the relationship among the options. Also known as "cost-benefit analysis."

Credit Enhancement

Funds made available to lenders to pay for losses incurred when borrowers do not make the loan payments within the specified time period and are considered in default, typically when no payment has been received for 90 to 120 days. Credit enhancements are typically provided to lenders by third parties - usually governments - to reduce lenders’ costs and risk enough to encourage them to make loans that they otherwise would not make or to do so at lower interest rates.

Deemed Savings

Estimated energy savings from specific measures (e.g., insulation, duct sealing, etc.) based on historical evaluations of actual savings from measure installation. They are generally only calculated for measures with well–known and consistent performance characteristics. Deemed savings estimates can be derived from a number of sources, including past program evaluations, engineering estimates, and extrapolated results from other programs.


Demand is defined as the time rate of energy flow. It is the requirement for energy consumption of energy source(s) by an energy using system at a given instant or averaged over any designated interval of time. Demand usually refers to the amount of electric energy used by a customer or piece of equipment at a specific time, expressed in kilowatts (kW equals kWh/h) but can also refer to natural gas use at a point in time, usually as Btu/hr, kBtu/hr, therms/day, or cubic feet per day (ccf/day).


An improvement measure installed as part of an energy efficiency program strategy involving the direct installation of measures in customer premises, by a contractor hired by the program at no cost to the customer.  This measure is typically restricted to a specific set of pre-qualified eligible measures and may be subject to caps or other restrictions that related to the program’s cost-effectiveness guidelines or other criteria.

Discount Rate

The interest rate used to adjust a future cash flow to its present value. The discount rate can be in either real or nominal terms.

Earned media

Publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising, in contrast to paid media which refers to publicity gained through advertising.

Energy Advisor

"Energy efficiency program staff person who serves as a liaison between the program or contractor and the customer to help the customer through the upgrade process. Customer services can range from providing independent technical advice to serving as the customer’s primary point of contact for all program services.  Also known as “energy concierge,” “energy coach,” or “energy ambassador.”

Energy Efficiency

The concept of using less energy to provide the same service.

Energy Efficiency Measure

The installation or modification of equipment or other building components, in order to improve a building’s energy efficiency (e.g., insulation, air sealing, duct sealing, appliance replacement). Also known as "improvement measure" or "measure."

Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM)

A mortgage that credits a home's energy efficiency in the mortgage itself. EEMs give borrowers the opportunity to finance cost-effective, energy-saving measures as part of a single mortgage and stretch debt-to-income qualifying ratios on loans thereby allowing borrowers to qualify for a larger loan amount and a better, more energy-efficient home.

Energy Modeling

The process of calculating a building’s energy loads and predicting energy consumption for that building based on known data such as the physical characteristics of the building and operating conditions.  This process is usually completed using computer software but may also be calculated using manual algorithms.  Modeling includes whole building simulations as well as less complex measure-specific calculations. Also known as "modeling."

Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC)

A contract between two or more parties where payment is based on achieving specified results, typically guaranteed reductions in energy consumption or operating costs. Payments are often based on the cost savings associated with the anticipated results. ESPCs are most commonly used in combination with commercial building upgrades.

Estimated Energy Savings

Predicted energy savings from an upgrade, calculated using various approaches (e.g., modeled savings, deemed savings, hybrid methods) that uses information about the quantity and type of building improvements and engineering estimates of pre and post energy consumption. Energy savings estimates may differ from actual energy use due to weather, occupant behavior, installation quality, and other factors.

Evaluation, Measurement, and Verification (EM&V)

The process of determining and documenting the effects of an energy efficiency program. The term “evaluation” refers to any real time and/or retrospective assessment of the performance and implementation of a program. “Measurement and verification” is a subset of evaluation that includes activities undertaken in the calculation of energy and demand savings from individual sites or projects.

Existing Homes Market

The buying and selling of existing homes, a subset of the housing market which also encompasses new homes.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) PowerSaver Loans

A pilot program implemented in 2011, which offers borrowers low-cost loans to make energy-saving improvements to their homes. Backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), these new FHA PowerSaver loans offer homeowners up to $25,000 to make energy-efficient improvements of their choice, including the installation of insulation, duct sealing, doors and windows, HVAC systems, water heaters, solar panels, and geothermal systems.

Field Inspection

A visit by an independent inspector to an upgraded building to assess compliance with program standards which may include a variety of visual inspections, diagnostic tests, and customer interviews.

Financial Institution

An institution that provides financial services to its customers, including homeowners and contractors. Examples of financial institutions include banks, credit unions, and community development financial institutions (CDFI).

Greenhouse Gas

A gas that traps the sun’s heat in the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, and nitrogen oxides.

Home Energy Assessment

An evaluation of a building based on data from inspections, diagnostics, data collection, analyses, and reporting, which identifies opportunities for the building owner to improve energy efficiency. Also known as "home performance assessment," "energy assessment," or "assessment."

Home Energy Upgrade

Individual measures or a group of measures completed as part of the work cycle in which services are provided to a customer for a specific household. This includes assessment, installation, and test-out. Also known as "home performance upgrade," "energy efficiency upgrade," or "retrofit."

Home Improvement Market

The buying and selling of goods and services needed to maintain and improve existing buildings.

Home Performance Assessor

An individual who performs a home performance assessment on a building and identifies opportunities for improved home performance. Also known as "home energy assessor," "energy assessor," “auditor," or "assessor."

Home Performance Contractor

A contractor that specializes in home performance upgrades and services.

Home Performance Improvement Plan

A building science-based sequence of recommended home performance improvements. This plan is usually presented to a customer after an assessment is completed.  Also known as "Assessment Report."

Home Performance Market

The buying and selling of goods and services to improve a residential building’s performance.  A subsection of the home improvement market.

Home Performance Measure

The installation or modification of equipment or other building components, in order to improve a building’s performance and energy efficiency (e.g., insulation, air sealing, duct sealing, appliance replacement).

Home Performance Professional

An individual employed by a contractor who installs or supervises the energy products and service upgrades. This person may specialize in energy assessments, home inspections, improvements related to air or duct sealing; insulation; HVAC; or other related services such as plumbing, electrical, carpentry, and site work.  Also known as "technician."

Home Performance XML (HPXML)

The industry term for BPI-2100-S-2013 Standard for Home Performance–Related Data Transfer.  BPI-2100 is designed to facilitate communication and the exchange of information and data among all actors in the home performance industry by providing an extensible mark-up language (XML) standard for transferring information related to whole-house energy efficiency upgrades.

Impact Evaluation

An evaluation of the program-specific, directly or indirectly induced changes (e.g., changes in energy or demand use) associated with an energy efficiency program.


A program action or tool that motivates a target audience to take a certain action.  An incentive typically lowers the risk, decreases cost, or offers other benefits for taking a specified action.  Incentives are most often used to attract customer but also contractor attention and persuade them to try products or services.  Incentives can be financial (e.g., rebates, limited-time offers, special interest rates) or non-financial (e.g., public recognition, awards, additional program services).

Independent Auditor

An individual who performs an assessment on a building independent of installation work.

Installation Specifications

A detailed description of improvement measures to be installed based on the Statement of Work, including identification of locations, quantities, materials, equipment selection, installation techniques, loading order, or other work details as required to fully describe the work to the customer and installation contractors.


An individual who installs an energy efficiency measure.

Integrated Resource Planning

A public planning process and framework within which the costs and benefits of both demand- and supply-side resources are evaluated to develop the least-total-cost mix of utility resource options. In many states, integrated resource planning includes a means for considering environmental damages caused by electricity supply/transmission and identifying cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy alternatives. These reports may be useful sources for the avoided cost data inputs that are required in the tool.

Interest Rate Buy-Down

An up-front payment made by a program administrator to a lender or investor to reduce the interest rate a customer pays.  The payment is made when a financial product is originated. The payment is typically the present value of the difference between the interest rate the customer will pay and the “market” interest rate of the financial product over the expected life of the financial product.

Kilowatt (kW)

Unit of power equal to 1,000 watts.

Kilowatt-hour (kWh)

Unit of electric consumption equal to the work done by 1 kilowatt acting for 1 hour.


A potential customer of a program or contractor.

Loan Loss Reserve

A fund provided by third parties that provides partial risk coverage to lenders, meaning that the reserve will cover a pre-specified amount of loan losses resulting from customer defaults. This loss coverage typically allows financial institutions to offer a lower interest rate or longer term to borrowers, less restrictive underwriting requirements (e.g., higher application approval percentages), or both.  Loan loss reserves have been used to encourage financial institutions to offer products for financing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Loan Origination and Servicing

The creation and maintenance of a loan through a series of procedural steps. Origination includes assembling the application file, issuing disclosures, underwriting the loan, processing the loan, producing required documents, collecting data, closing or settling the loan, and funding the loan. After a loan is closed, it is “boarded” (loaded into a database) and “serviced”. Servicing consists of sending monthly statements or invoices to the borrower, processing “remittances” (payments), updating the loan information, and performing “collection” activities for loans that do not pay on time.

Loan Performance

The rate at which loaned funds return to the lender, taking into account pre-payments (e.g., partial or complete payoffs made prior to their due date), delinquencies (e.g., late payments), and defaults (e.g., losses or payments late enough to be considered losses by the lender). Expected loan performance will drive lenders’ decisions regarding interest rate, loan terms, and underwriting criteria, all of which influence customer uptake.

Loan Underwriting Standards

The requirements that an applicant must meet to receive a loan are referred to as the underwriting standard. Underwriting standards are based on lenders’ analysis of loan payment performance history that predicts annual losses from a portfolio of loans. Metrics for the analysis include individual borrowers’ credit score, income, debt, and employment.

Market Evaluation

An evaluation of the change in the structure or functioning of a market, or the behavior of participants in a market, that results from one or more program efforts. Typically, the resultant market or behavior change leads to an increase in the adoption of energy efficient products, services, or practices.

Market Transformation

The strategic process of intervening in a market to create lasting change in market behavior by removing identified barriers or exploiting opportunities to accelerate the adoption of cost-effective energy efficiency as a matter of standard practice.

Multifamily Unit

An individual dwelling unit within a multifamily building (e.g. a building with 2 or more attached dwelling units contained within a common structure). 

Net Present Value (NPV)

The value of a stream of cash flows converted to a single sum in a specific year, usually the first year of the analysis. It can also be thought of as the equivalent worth of all cash flows relative to a base point called the present.

Non-energy Benefits

The identifiable benefits that accrue to energy efficiency programs beyond energy savings, such as job creation, economic development, avoided emissions, and water savings. Quantifying these non-energy benefits may help program administrators improve upon cost-effectiveness tests, demonstrate progress toward program or policy goals, and increase general awareness and support for program activities.

On-bill Financing

A financing strategy in which loan payments for home performance improvements are funded by a third-party and repaid on the utility bill.  The payment may be categorized as a tariff connected to the meter, meaning the loan obligation will be transferred to any future owner(s) should the property be sold before the loan has been paid in full. Also known as "on-bill repayment."

Participant Cost Test (PCT)

A cost-effectiveness test that measures the costs and benefits from the perspective of the participating customer for adopting or installing an energy efficiency measure.

Participating Contractor

A contractor who participates in a program.  A participating contractor can include consultants, energy auditors, home performance contractors, and trades contractors who engage directly with homeowners to market, sell, and install program improvements.


Partners are organizations that play a direct role in program delivery. Examples include contractors affiliated with the program, organizations involved in marketing and outreach, community colleges providing workforce development training, financial institutions providing loans to program customers, and consultants conducting evaluations of the program.

Pilot Project

A trial to test a concept or approach over a limited area with a limited number of participants, for a pre-determined time period. A program can run pilot projects to gain direct experience in their markets and to test and refine its program design, in preparation for a full-scale program launch.

Process Evaluation

A systematic assessment of an energy efficiency program for the purpose of documenting program operations at the time of the examination, and identifying and recommending improvements to increase the program’s efficiency or effectiveness while maintaining high levels of participant satisfaction.

Program Administrator

The organization that is ultimately accountable for the performance of a residential energy efficiency upgrade program. Program administrators are often utilities, state or local government agencies, nonprofits, and other types of organizations.

Program Administrator

The organization that is ultimately accountable for the performance of a residential energy efficiency upgrade program. Program administrators are often utilities, state or local government agencies, nonprofits, and other types of organizations.

Program Administrator Cost Test (PACT)

A cost-effectiveness test that examines the costs and benefits of the energy efficiency program from the perspective of the entity implementing the program (utility, government agency, nonprofit, or other third party). The costs included in the PACT include overhead and incentive costs. Overhead costs are administration, marketing, research and development, evaluation, and measurement and verification. The benefits from the utility perspective are the savings derived from not delivering the energy to customers. Also known as "Utility Cost Test (UCT)."

Program Funding

An organization or individual whose services can be obtained through a competitive procurement process to run all or part of a program.  A program implementer typically provides management and administrative support.

Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE)

A financing mechanism that, when permitted by state law, allows state and local governments to extend the use of land-secured financing districts to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements on private property. PACE programs attach the obligation to repay the cost of improvements to the property, not to the individual borrower.


A characteristic of products or services that meet the customers’ expectations and comply with the specifications and criteria.

Quality Assurance

The planned and systematic activities implemented in a quality management system, so that quality requirements for a product or service will be fulfilled.

Quality Control

The observation techniques and activities used by contractors and programs to detect and verify compliance with program or industry standards for quality.

Quality Management System (QMS)

A process based approach to fulfill the requirements for quality with emphasis on continual improvement and zero defect production.

Ratepayer Impact Measure Test (RIM)

A cost-effectiveness test that examines the impact of energy efficiency programs on utility rates. The costs included in the RIM are program overhead and incentive payments and the cost of lost revenues due to reduced sales from energy efficiency implementation. The benefits included in the RIM are the avoided costs of energy saved through the efficiency measure.

Residential Energy Efficiency Market

The buying and selling of energy efficiency related goods and services for existing residential buildings.  A subsection of the home improvement market.

Residential Energy Efficiency Program

A series of coordinated activities that support strategic objectives to increase the adoption of residential energy efficient products and practices. Programs are delivered by many different types of organizations and their partners, including utilities, state and local governments, contractors, and nonprofits.

Revenue Stream

Payment from customers, contractors, business partners, or other sources in exchange for program products or services. Also known as “revenue sources,” “program revenue,” and "program income."

Revolving Loan Fund

Capital that is designated as funding for a specific purpose (e.g., to fund energy efficiency or renewable energy improvements). Typically, as loan repayments are received, those funds are consolidated and lent out to new borrowers, thus the revolving nature.

Secondary Market

A financial market where existing loans can be sold to investors. The loans can be sold as “whole” (individual) loans or grouped into a pool of loans that can be sold as a security.


A housing unit, detached or attached, that provides living space for one household or family.

Societal Cost Test (SCT)

A cost-effectiveness test that measures the net economic benefit to the utility service territory, state, or region, as measured by the total resource cost test, plus indirect benefits such as environmental benefits.

Source Energy

The amount of fossil fuels and electricity plus the losses associated with the production of electricity (i.e., losses that occur in the generation, transmission, and distribution). Also known as "primary energy."


People or organizations which have an interest in the program, but do not play a direct role in program delivery, such as local political leaders, environmental or housing advocacy groups, and energy efficiency equipment providers.

State Energy Program (SEP)

A program through the U.S. Department of Energy that provides financial and technical assistance to states through formula and competitive grants. States use their formula grants to develop state strategies and goals to address their energy priorities. Competitive grant solicitations for the adoption of energy efficiency/renewable energy products and technologies are issued annually based on available funding. States provide a 20% match under SEP annual formula allocations. SEP emphasizes the state's role as the decision maker and administrator for the program activities within the state.

Target Sectors

The market sector(s) on which an energy efficiency program focuses (e.g., single-family residential, multifamily, commercial, industrial, agricultural, municipal or public).

Technical Standards

The minimum requirements of home energy upgrades to ensure that the work performed is effective, durable, and safe. Specifying standards helps program administrators meet objectives with minimal confusion among contractors. Standards can include quality installation practices and minimum equipment efficiencies. These requirements should form the basis of training and quality assurance.


A diagnostic test and inspection of upgrade work, performed by the installing contractor or an independent inspector, after the energy upgrade has been completed to make sure that upgrades meet specifications and comply with home performance program targets and standards, in particular combustion safety standards.  A test-out is a quality assurance activity and part of an overall quality management system.

Total Resource Cost Test (TRC)

A method for evaluating the cost-effectiveness of an energy efficiency program by comparing the direct costs that both utilities and customers pay with the overall community or regional benefits from energy efficiency; it is the most common cost-effectiveness test used by public utility commissions.

Trade Ally

A third party that promotes the sale of or installs home performance measures for the customer.  Trade allies can include participating contractors, equipment manufacturers and distributors, and engineering or architectural firms.


The process performed by a lender to decide if an applicant should be approved for a loan. The underwriting process typically involves confirming the eligibility of a borrower and the property and project, and an evaluation of the borrower’s ability and perceived willingness to repay.