2 gold-rated houses open up in Wayland


Credit: Kaat Vander Straeten

Two gold-rated efficient homes have opened up in Wayland. “Many homeowners have realized that if they invest in the energy-efficiency of the home, it makes their home more comfortable, it makes their utility bills lower, it does a good thing for the planet, and the fourth one is that it should make [their homes] more valuable,” previous gold-homeowner and current Pearl employee Kaat Vander Straeten said.

Madeline Maurer and Joanna Barrow

As the issue of climate change continues to become more prevalent, activists and the common person alike are attempting to slow the rate of damage, or better yet, stop the environment from further deterioration. For some, this change is brought about by the appliances in their homes. A couple of homes like this are opening up here in Wayland, and they have a gold certification from Pearl to prove their quality.

Pearl is a national company whose goal is to help homes that are comfortable, healthy and efficient – particularly those who have environmentally-friendly appliances – sell for more. They serve as a third-party certification and add to the home’s list of credentials. Recently, Pearl has partnered with MassEnergize, a nonprofit with a presence in Wayland which strives to make the town more environmentally friendly, to help energy-efficient homes become seen for their true value. Now, a couple of homes that are becoming available in Wayland are gold-certified by Pearl because of their energy-efficiency.

“Pearl Certification does several things,” Kaat Vander Straeten, who works with MassEnergize and previously owned one of the homes opening up in Wayland, said. “They work with mainly three entities as it were. One of them is houses and homeowners, contractors who do energy efficient work in houses, and the other is realtors who have to sell those houses. So, Pearl Certification is definitely built around residential homes, and they work with all three of these people who are involved, mainly when a house goes up for sale.”

Pearl gives these certifications based on the efficiency of the home’s features, giving credit to those that both benefit the homeowner and the environment. These certifications can be silver, gold or platinum, which take into account the relative level of efficiency in the home compared to others.

“[Pearl evaluates] a home for a variety of things: insulation, air sealing, mechanical systems, lighting, ventilation, solar, a whole range of things, so as you move from silver to gold to platinum, the home has more of those features or better [quality] of those features,” MassEnergize employee Ellen Tohn said. “A home that might be a silver-gold, for example, might have a certain amount of insulation, but a gold would have even more insulation. A silver might have a heating and cooling system that’s 95% efficient, a gold or a platinum would have one that’s 97% efficient. A gold home might have solar [panels], and a silver home might not. Those are the kinds of distinctions.”

The greener appliances and systems that Pearl credits are not solely beneficial to the environment. Having these in the home can make the living experience more enjoyable for those occupying the house for a number of reasons.

“Many homeowners have realized that if they invest in the energy-efficiency of the home, it makes their home more comfortable, it makes their utility bills lower, it does a good thing for the planet and the fourth one is that it should make [their homes] more valuable,” Vander Straeten said.

Despite the ways in which having these appliances can increase the value of the home, not everyone agrees on what makes a home worth more. Some realtors believe that solar panels are not worth having on a home since they believe that it takes away from the visual appeal of the home.

“We put [a solar panel] on, and, a couple of years later, we were thinking [about] how much this home would be worth if we sold it. Several of the realtors actually said, ‘Well, that $40,000 system sitting on your roof is really worth nothing on the market,’ or even worse, they said, ‘You should really remove it because it makes your house look ugly, and it’ll lower the value of your house on the market,’” Vander Straeten said.

Some homeowners share this fear of devaluing their houses, making them unsure if they should put solar panels on their roof despite the benefits.

“As a solar coach for two programs, I talked to quite a few people who were worried,” Vander Straeten said. “They wanted to do right by the planet, they could see the numbers and [say], ‘This is a great deal,’ but they were worried that about putting a thing like that on the roof. It changes the image of your house entirely. In my eyes, it makes it look better because you have a massive sign on your roof saying, ‘Look, I believe in renewable energy, and I believe that we all need to do something about climate change.’”

One of Pearl’s goals is to help change this attitude. In their eyes, environmentally-friendly systems like solar PV should be something that increases the value of the home from the perspective of both the buyer and the realtor. With Pearl’s help, homeowners may be encouraged to try these eco-friendly options as they could become viewed as making the home worth more, not less.

“It’s kind of like [how] people always say that if you redo your kitchen and put in granite countertops, it always sells for more,” Tohn said. “That’s what everybody says. So the question is: can we make green things just like the granite countertops? If you do these things, you’re going to be more comfortable, your bills will go down, your home is going to be healthier and it’s going to help you in the re-sale. That’s sort of the value proposition.”

Pearl is trying something new with one of the gold-rated homes opening up in Wayland – now, they are testing to see if efficient features also helps buyers choose houses on the rental market. Previously, Pearl had just worked with homes that would be bought, but now, renters are able to try Pearl-certified homes as well.

“In my case, my house will be rented out,” Vander Straeten said. “It’s sort of an experiment for Pearl as well, like, could we test whether the solar array, the solar hot water, the high-efficiency oil burner has value. We’ll probably put in a heat pump as well, great insulation, new windows, [and see] whether that has value on the rental market. That has not been tested yet, so my house is sort of an experiment, [and] it’ll go on the market probably in June.”

While this experiment helps those renting houses, homeowners may be interested in making the homes they’re in currently more environmentally friendly. Knowing this, MassEnergize hosted an event on June 11 at 7 p.m. in the Wayland Public Library, where they discussed and answered questions about an improved heat pump system that homeowners can opt to use.

“It’s a newer technology, and it kind of works like your refrigerator in the same kind of way that it can pull cold out of the air and bring it into your home, or it can pull heat out of the air and bring it into your home,” Tohn said. “Why is that green? Heat runs on electricity, and we make electricity from a bunch of different fuel sources, and those can include renewables like solar and wind. So as the electric grid – the place the electricity gets generated from – becomes increasingly green, moves from coal and natural gas to solar and wind, that means all that heating and cooling in homes can be done in a totally green way.”