When it comes to benchmarking home energy performance, the U.S. lacks a single across-the-board measure.

“[Consumers] have no way to quantify the performance of a home other than a builder’s brand,” noted Sean Penrith, executive director of the Earth Advantage Institute, an Oregon green building educational group and certification body, during the 2011 International Builders’ Show.

Earth Advantage is advocating for a national energy labeling program, similar to the nutrition label on food or the miles-per-gallon rating on vehicles.

Only 0.5% of homeowners who undergo an energy audit move forward with upgrades, Penrith said. The lack of standard forms and a consistent, attainable rating number that homeowners can work toward and use to guide purchases are partly to blame.

Penrith also pointed out that labels guide behavior: e.g., the addition of trans fats to nutritional labels guided consumers away from foods containing them and eventually led to their phase-out from many items.

Read more about energy labels here.