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Pearl Certification

By Maria Saxton Rise Writer
Nov 23, 2020

You've probably heard of Energy Star, LEED, and Passive House - but have you heard of The Pearl National Home Certification - Pearl Certification for short? It is a game-changer in the high-performance home industry. 

pearl logo

What Is Pearl Certification?

Cynthia Adams and Robin LeBaron founded the Pearl Certification program in 2015. It is a third-party certification that has certified thousands of homes across the United States and is quickly growing in popularity.

Unlike many home certification programs, the Pearl Certification focuses primarily on homeowner education to ensure homeowners are equipped with the knowledge to keep their homes performing well.

The Pearl Certification can target existing homes. As such, you can get your home certified by Pearl no matter when it was built, as long as it follows the program's requirements. If you plan to complete an energy retrofit, you can improve your home while increasing its monetary value with the Pearl Certification.

Pearl Certified Home Jamie Waller Realtor Instagram
Pearl Certified Home. Photo Credit: Jamie Waller Realtor via Instagram

What Are the Benefits of Pearl Certification?

With an overarching goal of reducing US carbon emissions, this certification aims to keep you and your family healthy and comfortable - all while saving energy and money. With a controlled interior air environment, you will see a decrease in drafts and hotspots and increase air quality and comfort through consistent temperatures.

Once a home achieves Pearl Certification, homeowners and real estate agents see clear benefits. They are then equipped with the marketing material to effectively communicate the home's sustainable features to potential buyers, which is incredibly valuable with the increased demand for high-performing homes. Pearl Certified homes can sell for 5% more than the average house with this advanced marketing. So, suppose your home is valued initially at $300,000. In that case, this increase in value means you can likely sell it for about $315,000 if it is Pearl Certified. Effective marketing is especially crucial in 2020 when virtual real estate marketing is more important than ever with the global pandemic.

As a whole, energy efficiency is quickly becoming one of the most desired home features in the real estate market. As a whole, energy-efficient homes have been found to sell for an average of 9% higher than conventional homes.

Energy Management

What Are Pearl Certification's Main Areas of Focus?

Pearl Certification has five focus categories to consider when scoring homes: 

  1. Building Shell (300 possible points)
  2. Heating and Cooling (360 possible points)
  3. Baseload (240 possible points)
  4. Home Management (300 possible points)
  5. Renewable Energy and Energy Storage (points vary) 

High-performing features that have the most considerable impact on energy efficiency are weighted more heavily, such as insulation that exceeds code. Therefore, the most efficient features earn the most points. Pearl relies on research and data to weigh various high-performing features.

One thing we love about the Pearl Certification is that Home Management is weighted heavily. A shortcoming in multiple certifications in recent years has been overlooking occupant behavior in building performance. In reality, occupant behavior plays an essential role in a home's energy performance, no matter how efficiently it is built. This paper provides an insightful summary of studies that explore this.

What Types of Homes Can Be Certified with Pearl?

Only single-family homes, duplexes, and townhomes can be Pearl Certified. Condominiums and large multi-unit buildings cannot be certified.

How Many Homes Have Been Certified with Pearl?

At the time of publishing, nearly 32,000 homes have been Pearl Certified, and almost 54,000 homes have been Pearl Scored.

Where Is Pearl Certification Most Adopted?

Homes have achieved Pearl Certification in almost every state in the US, with the most concentration near Phoenix, Arizona, the Northern Virginia region, and around Atlanta, Georgia. Are you looking for a Pearl Certified home near you? Take a look at this interactive map provided by Pearl.

Triple Pane Window Retrofit
Triple Pane Window Retrofit

What Are the Steps to Pearl Certification?

The first step to Pearl Certification is to do your research and make sure it is the right certification program for you. There is an abundance of resources available to help you choose the appropriate certification for your home and family. One such resource is the Certify My Home application, which will help you decide if a Pearl Certification is right for you. Pearl offers several webinars so that you can learn more about what this program provides.

Next is to connect with a contractor to start the certification and renovation process. If you are concerned about finding a high-quality contractor for your home, no need to worry! Pearl connects potential homeowners with vetted contractors representing the top 5% of contractors in the United States. Throughout the process, they will adequately document the high-performing features of your home.

To certify an existing home, you will want to upgrade your building shell by improving the insulation, focusing on insulation in the attic and walls. If your windows and doors are inefficient, you will want to invest in upgraded, efficient models. You may want to consider upgrading your heating and cooling equipment if they are dated. Smart home features such as Smart thermostats and Energy Star appliances will earn you extra points.

What Are the Levels of Pearl Certification?

You will be able to achieve one of four levels of Pearl Certification: Pearl Platinum, Pearl Gold, Pearl Silver, or Pearl Certified Assets. Like most certification programs, the Pearl Certification is based on a point system. What is unique about Pearl, however, is that the point system adjusts based on location. For instance, a building shell's components are worth more in an extreme climate like that in Maine that relies more on heating and cooling than a building shell's elements in a milder climate like North Carolina.

Pearl Certification Dashboard
Pearl Certification Dashboard. Photo Credit: Pearl

Below is a summary of each certification level:

Pearl Platinum

To achieve Pearl Platinum Certification, a home must earn 975 or more points. The residence must have an energy-efficient building shell, updated heating/cooling features, efficient appliances, and smart home features.

Pearl Gold

To achieve Pearl Gold Certification, a home must earn 825. It needs an energy-efficient building shell AND heating and cool features of higher quality than the average dwelling.

Pearl Silver

To achieve Pearl Gold Certification, a home must earn 800. A home with an energy-efficient building shell OR heating and cooling features that are higher quality than the average house.

Pearl Certified Assets

A house with Pearl Certified "Assets" has high-performing features that are certified by a contractor.

Pearl Certification Example Features
Pearl Certification Example Features. Photo Credit: Pearl

After your home achieves Pearl Certification, you will receive a Pearl Certification Report and Home Investment Plan. To learn what these resources are, below are examples of each:

  1. Pearl Certification Report example from Charlottesville, Virginia
  2. Home Investment Plan example from Sleepy Eye, Minnesota
Green Door App

Once you have a Pearl Certified home, Pearl offers an additional app called Green Door. This app provides homeowners with educational resources and connects them with certified Pearl contractors for maintenance and repairs. Having just launched this month, we, here at Rise, are excited to follow its progression.

How Much Does Pearl Certification Cost?

On average, the Pearl Certification costs $450. However, if you work with a Pearl Agent, this fee can often be waived.

Pearl Platinum Certified Home NEST Realty
Pearl Platinum Certified Home. Photo Credit: NEST Realty via Pearl Certification

Keeping in mind the savings you will experience in utility bills with improved energy efficiency, you are likely to recoup the certification costs in little time. Depending on the extent of your energy-saving features, you can save a significant portion of your annual utility bills. In addition, if you ever decide to sell your home, you will likely see up to a 5% increase in price. A win-win for both you and the environment!

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-22T13:55:52+0000
Maria Saxton

Article by:

Maria Saxton

Located in Roanoke, Virginia, Maria Saxton holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Design and Planning from Virginia Tech. She works as an Environmental Planner and Housing Researcher for a local firm specializing in Community Planning, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Historic Preservation. Her dissertation explored the environmental impacts of small-scale homes. She serves as a volunteer board member for the Tiny Home Industry Association.