Lately, it seems everyone is embracing energy efficiency. It is the weapon of choice in the fight against wasteful electricity, greenhouse gases and global warming. Easy to talk about on loftier levels, it’s maybe not as easy to translate into real world terms. Ask the average homeowner how his place measures up, and the response you get may only be as bright as a dimly lit lamp.

The Obama administration wants to change the intelligence quotient on energy efficiency. In November, Vice President Joe Biden joined Energy Secretary Steven Chu to announce the launch of the Home Energy Score pilot program, which will offer a simple and reliable energy-efficiency scoring system for homes.

A report provides consumers with a score from 1 to 10 and shows how the home compares to others in their region. A score of 10 represents a home with excellent energy performance, while a 1 represents a home that will benefit from major energy upgrades.

Along with the score, the homeowner will receive a list of customized, cost-effective recommendations for home-energy upgrades to reduce electricity costs and improve the comfort of the house. For each specific improvement, the estimated utility bill savings, payback period and greenhouse gas emission reductions are included.

Trained and certified contractors will use a standardized assessment tool developed by The Department of Energy (DOE) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to quickly evaluate a home and generate useful, actionable information for homeowners or prospective home buyers. With only about 40 inputs required, the Home Energy Scoring Tool lets a contractor evaluate a home’s energy assets—such as its heating and cooling systems, insulation levels and more—in generally less than an hour.

The Home Energy Score initially will be tested with local government, utility and nonprofit partners in 10 pilot communities across the country, located in both urban and rural areas that cover a wide range of climates, including Charlottesville, Va.; Allegheny County, Pa.; Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.; Omaha and Lincoln, Neb.; Portland, Ore.; Eagle County, Colo.; and in the states of Indiana, Minnesota, South Carolina and Texas.

After the pilot tests conclude in late spring 2011, the DOE expects to launch the Home Energy Score nationally later in the year, based on the findings from the initial programs.