Around the web: Home Performance with ENERGY STAR

AroundTheWebCreating an energy-efficient home is a worthwhile goal. It is cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter, costs the homeowner less money to keep it that way and helps the environment. What’s not to like? Well, the difficulty of finding financing for upgrades, choosing the right equipment or systems and hiring contractors who are experienced in properly installing high-performance systems, to name just a few challenges.

To help homeowners overcome these barriers to successful energy-efficiency upgrades, the Department of Energy launched Home Performance with ENERGY STAR (HPwES) in 2011. The program connects homeowners with program sponsors and contractors who can help them improve their home comfort, indoor air quality and safety, while lowering utility bills.HPXMLven

How it works
HPwES takes the “whole house” approach to energy improvements that helps make the most of the homeowner’s investment. Rather than focusing on a single problem, participating contractors look at how improvements throughout the house can work together to get the best results.

To find participating contractors, homeowners go through HPwES-sponsored local programs. The contractors, who are trained to understand how homes operate, identify health and safety issues and provide the homeowner with personalized recommendations for increasing the house’s energy efficiency.

HPwES sponsors perform quality assurance checks on their contractors to ensure that the improvements are done right. In states where incentives are available, sponsors may also help homeowners apply for rebates.

Supporting retrofit programs
Becoming a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR sponsor is good for utilities as well as homeowners. Starting a residential efficiency improvement program from scratch is difficult, even for large utilities. Sponsors have access to a variety of resources they can use to implement and grow their programs and reach their own local energy savings goals. Program support includes account management services, marketing material, partnership and collaboration opportunities and resources from the Better Buildings Residential Solutions Center.

Because sponsorship is not limited to one type of organization, utilities have the opportunity to partner with municipalities, state energy programs and financial institutions. Collaborating with other agencies can make programs more effective, multiplying the benefits of efficiency upgrades across communities.

Improving communication
Helping sponsors to develop their own programs and connecting them to contractor pools is not the only way HPwES works to break down the siloes that stand in the way of a more efficient marketplace. Last year, the program introduced the HPXML Implementation Guide to help program administrators and software developers integrate HPXML into their operations and products.

Developed by Building Performance Institute, You are leaving HPXML is a set of common definitions for the attributes of home systems. It also includes computing language to facilitate the quick and easy transfer of home-related data between different market actors. Collecting and sharing this data across the industry is critical to supporting, measuring and verifying energy performance. The DOE expects the use of HPXML to build stronger relationships within the industry, increase consumer trust in energy-efficiency improvements and enhance the ability to evaluate programs.

Most program managers agree that measurement and evaluation is one of the big challenges of administration, so the HPXML guide could be a valuable resource for utilities. Visitors can learn more about the value the HPXML guide can bring to businesses, along with implementation methods, from a recorded webinar on the website.

Around the web: Find qualified HVAC installation

An energy-efficient heating and cooling system can yield significant energy savings for home and business owners, as long as it is installed properly and that is the rub.HVACcontractor

Installation can make or break the system’s performance. Unfortunately, finding the right contractor—one experienced with today’s sophisticated, high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment—is not easy, even in a big metropolitan area. Some utilities solve this problem by creating a trusted contractor pool to support their HVAC efficiency programs. You may not have the time or budget to do that, but you can introduce your customers to online resources to help them select the right person for their job.

Ask questions, look for credentials
Energy Star’s 10 Tips for Hiring a Heating and Cooling Contractor is a good place to start for basic common-sense advice. It includes a link to the Energy Star Guide to Energy Efficient Cooling and Heating, also available in Spanish. While your customers are on the website, they can research Energy Star-qualified heating and cooling equipment.

Air Conditioner Contractors of America (ACCA) has an outstanding page for homeowners You are leaving that discusses system maintenance, interviewing contractors, and even talks about Manual J, the industry standard for determining the size of an HVAC system. There are short, informative videos about the value of licensed contractors, questions to ask before hiring one and what to expect from a professional installation.

ACCA strongly recommends hiring a licensed contractor with technicians certified by North American Technician Excellence You are leaving (NATE). The nationally recognized, industry-supported certification organization has its own website with helpful Tips and Resources covering everything from safety to HVAC terminology. However, visitors should use the ACCA contractor locator to find local credentialed technicians as it is more up to date than the NATE database.

Building Performance Institute is another organization that certifies contractors and provides a searchable database. You are leaving The results include not only company location, but technician core certifications as well.

Visitors will find BPI’s contractor comparison form useful when getting estimates. The form lists 10 questions and space for the answers from three different contractors for easy comparison. It also lists the steps homeowners should expect during the installation process.

Be proactive
Homeowners generally don’t think about HVAC purchases and repairs—not exactly the stuff of daydreams, after all—until something goes wrong. Utilities can think ahead for their customers by creating a bill stuffer with contractor questions and links to online contractor finders. Make sure your customer service representatives have hard copies and electronic copies they can share with anyone who asks.

If you offer an incentive program for high-efficiency HVAC systems, place links to selected online resources on your program Web page. Make sure equipment vendors have copies of the contractor questions on hand to pass out with sales.

Educating customers about the value of hiring certified HVAC installers can create a ripple effect that motivates contractors in your service territory to seek certification. Utilities can be ready with information about credentialing organizations in case contractors call with questions. In a business where much of the training is passed from generation to generation, technicians in small towns and rural areas may not be aware of certification opportunities. If enough customers are asking about contractors’ credentials over time, you may find that your trusted contractor pool builds itself.

BPI to exhibit at USA STEM Festival

Educating homeowners is critical to the future of the home performance industry, so Building Performance InstituteRedirecting to a non-government site (BPI) has made consumer outreach a high priority for 2014.

As part of its outreach initiative, BPI is participating in the Third USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo and Book FairRedirecting to a non-government site in Washington, D.C., April 26-27. 

Designed to inspire the next generation of innovators, the Festival Expo is a free, family-friendly expo that offers kids and adults more than 3,000 hands-on, science related activities and presents more than 100 live stage performances. This year’s event is expected to draw upwards of 250,000 participants.

BPI’s exhibit will showcase infrared camera equipment to demonstrate the science behind the house as a system. Visitors will learn what the BPI brand means and how BPI-credentialed contractors can make a difference in how their home operates.

The festival features science celebrities, explorers, astronauts, athletes, authors and experts in fields like robotics, genomics, medicine, advanced manufacturing and even 3D printing.

Serial entrepreneur Larry Bock and Lockheed Martin Chief Technology Officer Ray O. Johnson launched the event to address the severe shortage in science and technology talent. The USA Science & Engineering Festival has grown to become the nation’s largest science festival, sparking an interest in young people in careers in science and engineering.  Congress recently recognized the festival’s role in making science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education a national priority by designating the last week in April as “National Science Week” and making the event a focal point.

BPI Consumer Campaign
BPI’s participation in the Festival Expo is part of the institute’s consumer marketing campaign to educate homeowners on the whole-house approach to home performance upgrades, and the value of hiring BPI-credentialed contractors.

In November, Google Ad awarded BPI a grant equivalent of $10,000 per month in ads on Google’s search engine. The grant is helping BPI educate the public on the best way to achieve comfort and energy efficiency in their homes—through house-as-a-system home performance upgrades. The grant supplements an already growing investment in Search Engine Marketing and social media to more effectively reach homeowners through their online searches.

The consumer campaign will draw homeowners to BPI’s new homeowner-focused website, expected to launch next month. The site will feature an interactive online energy audit tool, a locator tool for homeowners to find BPI credentialed contractors, videos, case studies and other resources. Consumers will be able to learn about home performance, hear from other homeowners, discover the value of BPI’s credentials and find their contractor all in one place.

BPI will also explore opportunities to forge new relationships with major do-it-yourself, remodeling and home construction media outlets to raise awareness of BPI-credentialed contractors and the home performance industry. Source: Building Performance Institute, 3/10/14

Infrared for Energy Evaluations – Training

Nov. 28-29, 2012
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Southern Power District
4550 West Husker Highway
Grand Island, Neb.

Infrared inspection is a valuable tool for helping homeowners and facility managers conserve energy and save money!

Get hands-on instruction in using infrared thermographic imaging equipment at a two-day workshop for energy auditors and weatherization professionals, sponsored by Nebraska Public Power District Redirecting to a non-government site. Members of Building Performance Institute Redirecting to a non-government site and International Association of Certified Home Inspectors Redirecting to a non-government site will receive certified education units for attending this training.

Thermography training experts The Snell Group Redirecting to a non-government site are presenting the workshop. Draw on their decades of industry experience to discover techniques for getting the most information from IR inspections.

Register by Nov. 15 to ensure your spot. The cost per person is $400, checks only. Make checks payable to Nebraska Public Power District. Send your check, along with the name and model number of your IR camera to:

Attn: Energy Efficiency Team
1414 15th St.
Columbus, NE 68601

Note: You may bring your camera if it is available, but there will be cameras at the training.

Questions? Contact Roger Hunt at 402-239-9406.

FREE Pilot Home Energy Professional Certification Exams Available to WAP Personnel

Free exams offered through Weatherization Training Centers that qualify for subsidy 

The Building Performance Institute Redirecting to a non-government site (BPI) is inviting current and former Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) personnel and contractors to take BPI’s new pilot Home Energy Professional certification exams for FREE when they take the exams at qualified Weatherization Training Centers Redirecting to a non-government site (WTCs).

These advanced certifications are designed for experienced home performance professionals, and focus on the most important jobs in the home energy upgrade industry: energy auditor, retrofit installer, crew leader and quality control inspector. The new certifications are offered by BPI and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).  

The results of the pilot test cycle will be used to set passing scores for the national exams. Candidates who take these exams and meet passing requirements will be among the first group of professionals to earn these advanced certifications. BPI expects to roll the exams out nationally in the fall of 2012.

The standard price for the pilot exams is $250 for the written exams and $500 for the field exams. Current or former WAP personnel and contractors are eligible to take the exams for free at WTCs that qualify for the DOE subsidy. To qualify for the free exams, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • An applicant must have been employed by a WAP agency or contractor for at least six months from the period beginning March 31, 2009 to March 31, 2012
  • The applicant must provide BPI with proof of that employment by way of a letter from the employer, or pay stubs covering a six-month period
  • The employer must provide BPI with proof of their association with the WAP either as a sub-grantee or as a contractor to a WAP sub grantee  

Apply Now 
To apply to take the exams, candidates should fill out an application Redirecting to a non-government site by July 31, 2012.  After BPI approves the application, candidates should schedule their exam by contacting a qualified WTC or BPI Test Center participating in this pilot.

Note: If you cannot find a qualified WTC near you, some WTCs have agreed to travel to candidates’ location if there is a group of candidates to be tested at once.

For more information, contact Kirsten Richnavsky. WTCs that wish to offer the subsidized exams, but are not on the list of participants should contact Josh Olsen at DOE.

Help Build Industry Excellence: Join BPI’s Accreditation Management Board

Application deadline: May 30, 2012

The Building Performance Institute’s Redirecting to a non-government site (BPI’s) is seeking applications from individuals interested in serving on the Accreditation Management Board (AMB). The AMB provides oversight and direction for BPI’s accreditation program. Board members have an opportunity to help shape policy toward industry best practices for accreditation programs.

The AMB provides oversight for the development and delivery of accreditation. All AMB policy recommendations will be submitted to BPI’s Board of Directors for approval. Learn more about the responsibilities of the board.

The AMB is looking for individuals who represent the following categories:

  • Industry – A member of the home performance or weatherization industry who is involved with production, assembly, distribution, or sales of materials, products, systems, or services covered in the scope of accreditation. i.e. manufacturers/distributors
  • User –  A member of the industry who purchases, uses or specifies materials, products, or systems covered in the scope of the accreditation, i.e. contractors
  • General Interest – General Interest members may include personnel from state or federal regulatory agencies, health/safety professionals, researchers, or personnel from trade associations or other organizations, i.e. consultants, program implementers, building scientists, etc.

Submit your application for membership no later than May 30, 2012, using one of the following options:  

  1. Through Adobe PDF. Complete the application online, click submit in the upper right hand corner. If you are having difficulties submitting you may use the second option:
  2. Download the application and email the completed form to Carol Ohnsman, Manager of Accreditation. 
  3. Fax to Carol Ohnsman at 1-866-777-1274.

About the Building Performance Institute
The Building Performance Institute, Inc., (BPI) is the nation’s premier building performance credentialing, quality assurance and standards setting organization. BPI develops technical standards using an open, transparent, consensus-based process built on sound building science. BPI is approved by the American National Standards Institute, Inc. (ANSI) as an accredited developer of American National Standards. BPI-accredited contracting companies are the elite of the home performance industry. By meeting rigorous eligibility criteria and participating in BPI’s third party Quality Assurance Program, they differentiate from competitors, offering customers third party verification of their work to BPI’s standards.

Standards, certifications meet consumer demand for quality energy-efficiency upgrades

Consumers are catching on to the value of home energy-efficiency improvements, and building contractors are following.

Last year alone, the Building Performance Institute (BPI), the national standard-setting and credentialing organization, issued 14,571 certifications. That’s an increase of 120 percent over 2010, and represents 63 percent of the total certifications issued from 2001 to 2010. More than 22,000 home performance contractors, weatherization assistance program providers, utilities, home inspectors and other residential service providers hold a total of 31,662 active certifications.

The number of building professionals seeking BPI certification has surged since 2008. This is partly because state and local governments and utilities are getting serious about their energy efficiency programs, observed BPI Marketing and Communications Director Leslie McDowell. “They are offering substantial incentives, rebates and loans to homeowners to have their homes upgraded for energy efficiency. The workforce is reacting to that demand,” she said.

The certifications BPI offers to contractors currently include:

  • Building analysis – Focusing on whole-home assessments that go beyond traditional energy audits to identify and correct problems at the root cause through building science.
  • Building envelope – Quantifying the building shell performance and prescribing improvements to help stop uncontrolled air leakage and optimize comfort, durability and HV/AC performance.
  • Residential building envelope whole-house air leakage control installation – Installing dense-pack insulation materials to reduce energy loss from air leakage, and reduce pollutants and allergens through air migration.
  • Manufactured housing – Applying house-as-a-system fundamentals to the specific needs of various types of housing technologies.
  • Heating – Optimizing the performance of heating equipment to help save energy and ensure occupant comfort, health and safety.
  • Air conditioning and heat pumps – Integrating these systems within the whole home, and diagnosing and correcting problems to achieve peak performance.
  • Multifamily housing – Diagnosing problems and improving the performance of larger, more complex residential structures.

Starting in June 2012, BPI is adding pilot exams for new Home Energy Professional Certifications for the four most common jobs in the home energy upgrade industry— energy auditor, retrofit installer, crew leader and quality control inspector. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is supporting the development of the new certifications and chose BPI as the certifying body.

The new certifications will meet the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 17024) accreditation—the international benchmark for personnel certifications across all industries. Under ISO 17024, each new certification is developed and administered using international best practices, such as cross-disciplinary peer review and industry validation of technical materials.

BPI’s goal for the new ISO 17024-accredited certifications is to provide home energy upgrade professionals with more opportunities for career growth, while building consumer confidence in the value energy-efficiency improvements. BPI expects to roll them out nationally in the fall of 2012.

Apply now for BPI’s Standards Technical Committee

The Building Performance Institute, Inc. (BPI) is accepting applications from individuals interested in serving on its Standards Technical Committee (STC). This is an excellent opportunity to represent the utility industry in crafting the national standards used by the residential energy retrofit community.

The standards cover the improvement of energy efficiency, comfort and occupant health and safety and installation of energy conservation and energy-efficiency measures to existing building enclosures and systems. Application standards for these measures, as well as verification and commissioning of improved buildings are also included in the standards.

The STC reviews and takes action on proposals and comments from the general public and regularly updates the standards.  The technical standards are developed in an open, transparent, consensus-based process  built on sound building science. The American National Standards Institute, Inc. (ANSI) approves BPI as an accredited developer of American National Standards.

BPI’s Standards Management Board (SMB) rates applications based on technical expertise, geographic location, experience in the building sciences and willingness to serve. Technical personnel willing to invest the time and energy to develop the technical standards our industry needs should submit an application by Nov. 21 2011.  The SMB will appoint four members each to a three-year term, beginning Jan. 1, 2012.

Comparison of Utility Energy Efficiency Programs

Larry Zarker and Tiger Adolf, Building Performance Institute

Improving energy efficiency is good for the economy, national security and public health—but only if the retrofits are properly installed and perform as promised. Building Performance Institute (BPI) standards provide a yardstick to programs to determine if local contractors are meeting the customers’ needs and expectations.

Why certify
The United States has an aging housing stock, with one third of houses over 45 years old, and another third between 25 and 45 years old. Upgrading existing homes is a slow process. New York State has had a program for eight years and it has only reached 1 percent of its houses. The rest of the nation is on a “10,000 year plan.” To make the goal even harder to reach, most of the hundreds of thousands of contractors working today don’t understand energy-efficiency retrofitting.

State, city and industry programs throughout the country are adopting BPI standard credentialing. Bringing all the standards together under one label reduces confusion for consumers, contractors and program managers. BPI standards ensure proper use of program funds and minimize the agency’s and the contractor’s risk. It may seem more costly at first, but better training and quality assurance pay off quickly.

BPI has published standard work specifications that the Department of Energy has adopted. The standards are going out for public comment right now. The new standards are producing a whole suite of specifications and desired outcomes, and giving companies a basis for developing proprietary approaches to retrofit projects.   

Over the last couple of years, certification exams have jumped from 30 per month to 1,000 per month.

Contractors who go through BPI accreditation understand that they have a commitment to meet their performance claims. Companies commit to hiring a minimum level of certified workers, offer comprehensive solutions, test in and test out, and follow up with quality assurance.

Recruiting trade allies
To get energy-efficiency gains, programs must help contractors understand what they need to do, help them get certified and help them market to the people who are looking for them.

Home retrofitting programs need solutions-based selling, wrapped up with quality assurance. People who call contractors about home improvements are rarely interested in reducing their carbon footprint. But once trained contractors are in the door, they can start recommending efficiency upgrades.

Unfortunately, the contracting community is very conservative. The cost of accreditation is one barrier, even though it is an excellent investment in building the business. Comparing the training and testing fees to the cost of setting up a business franchise is a good way to put the investment in perspective. The franchise EmbroiderMe, for example, costs $180,000 to buy in, plus required advertising and an annual percentage to the company. In contrast, a BPE quality assurance certification costs the contractor between $3,390 and $5,000 total.

We have to persuade contractors by showing them what is in it for them. Certification differentiates the business, reduces staff down time, retains high quality staff, minimizes call back costs, provides risk management and increases customer satisfaction. BPI also provides marketing materials, door hangers and leave-behind materials tailored to the region that contractors can use to promote their businesses.