New program to develop energy-efficiency ratings for window coverings

Fact sheet, website present initial data

(Artwork by Attachments Energy Rating Council)

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Window Covering Manufacturers Association You are leaving WAPA.gov.  are launching a program to help consumers make informed decisions about products with significant energy-saving potential: window coverings.

The nonprofit Attachments Energy Rating Council You are leaving WAPA.gov. (AERC) is leading the effort to develop an energy certification and rating program for storm windows, awnings, drapes, shutters, shades, blinds and screens.

AERC has been compiling data for the past 18 months and recently unveiled a website where visitors can learn more about its mission, find resources for evaluating building efficiency and read reports from partnering organizations. One report, Window Attachments: Call to Action, targets utilities. It outlines the energy-saving benefits of window attachments, the market size for the product category and the potential effects of an energy certification program.

Why window coverings?
Properly chosen and installed, window attachments can upgrade the performance of existing windows and save up to 13 percent of a household’s annual energy use. Energy savings are not the only benefits window coverings offer homeowners. Far from being purely decorative, window attachments:

  • Enhance daylighting
  • Reduce draftiness
  • Minimize glare
  • Increase thermal comfort
  • Provide privacy
  • Muffle outdoor noise
This thermal image shows how windows are a major source of heat loss on buildings.
This thermal image shows how windows are a major source of heat loss on buildings. (Photo by Attachments Energy Rating Council)

According to the DOE, 80 percent of all households have window coverings, while complete window replacement—a more expensive option—occurs in 2 percent of U.S. homes annually. This creates an opportunity to save consumers energy and money by making the attachments more energy efficient. The AERC rating will help consumers identify products that save energy and increase comfort, and open a space for new utility programs.

Another advantage of window coverings is that homeowners would not have to change their behavior to get the benefits from window coverings. As utility program managers know, it can be difficult to maintain energy savings from measures that require customers to learn new behaviors. However, a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that people already use window coverings in a way that optimizes energy efficiency. For example, people in southern climates tend to keep their window coverings closed in the summer. In terms of persistence, once homeowners invest in storm windows, they generally keep them installed and in good condition.

Ratings rollout
AERC has begun to rate, certify and label attachment products, starting with interior and exterior storm windows, cellular and pleated shades, blinds, solar screens and interior and exterior roller shades. Look for the first AERC-certified window coverings in retail stores by June or July, with additional product categories appearing in late 2017 and early 2018.

If you think efficient window coverings might provide the basis for a new customer efficiency program, bookmark the AERC website so you can follow the publication of the ratings. In the meantime, learn more about window coverings by downloading the fact sheet from Energy Services Publications and visiting Window Coverings and AttachmentsYou are leaving WAPA.gov. an online guide to choosing the right treatment for each window.

Source: Attachment Energy Rating Council, 1/31/17

Around the web: DOE Better Buildings Initiative

Improving the efficiency of America’s building stock would save billions of dollars in energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create thousands of jobs. To capture – and replicate – those positive gains in energy efficiency, the Department of Energy launched the Better Buildings Initiative, a partnership of public and private sector organizations across the country.
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The initiative focuses its strategies within four interrelated key areas to drive change and investment in energy efficiency:

  • Developing innovative, replicable solutions with market leaders
  • Making energy efficiency investment easier
  • Developing a skilled clean energy workforce
  • Leading by example in federal government

Many ways to build better
Building owners in the commercial, educational, industrial, residential and state and local government sectors can get involved in the initiative through a variety of pathways:

  • The cornerstone Better Building Challenge calls on the leadership of companies, universities, school districts, housing developers and state and local government to commit to reducing the energy used across their building portfolios by 20 percent or more over 10 years.
  • The Better Building Accelerators demonstrate specific innovative policies and approaches, which upon successful demonstration, will accelerate investment in energy efficiency.
  • The Better Buildings Summit, May 9-11 in Washington, D.C., brings partners together to showcase solutions and exchange best practices.
  • The Better Buildings Alliance connects members in different market sectors with DOE’s research and technical experts to develop and deploy innovative, cost-effective, energy-saving solutions that lead to better technologies, more profitable businesses and healthier, more comfortable facilities.
  • The Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines provide a national platform for developing high-quality, nationally recognized training and certification programs that are consistent and scalable across the energy-efficiency industry.
  • The annual Better Buildings Case Competition engages the next generation of engineers, entrepreneurs and policymakers to develop creative solutions to real-world energy efficiency barriers for businesses and other organizations across the marketplace. After taking a year off for planning, the competition is back in 2016.

Partner-specific resources
Industrial partners can participate in the Better Plants program that has saved about 457 trillion British thermal units and $2.4 billion cumulatively in energy costs to date. Facilities may also pursue Superior Energy Performance Certification, by implementing an energy management system that meets the ISO 50001 Standard You are leaving Western's site. and demonstrates improved energy performance.

Resources dedicated to residential partners include the online Solution Center, Home Energy Score and  the Zero-energy Ready Home designation to promote high-performance housing. Utility residential program managers will find many tools in these pages to help homeowners control their energy use.

The Better Building Residential Network is available to state and local government partners, as well as residential partners. The membership, which includes utilities, analyzes energy-efficiency programs and shares best practices with the goal of increasing the number of energy-efficient homes. Join their weekly peer exchange calls to discuss such topics as smart homes, the power of messaging, emerging trends in residential efficiency and residential property-assessed clean energy financing.

Get involved
Buildings use close to half of the energy consumed in the United States, so a more efficient building stock can help utilities meet environmental regulations and load management goals. Learn more about  becoming a Better Building Partner or sign up for interactive webinars that explore cost-effective ways to integrate energy savings into their daily building operations. Keep up to date on the latest partner activities and solutions by signing up for Better Buildings communications.

Free webinars cover thermography basics, more

(Photo by Infrared Training Center)
(Photo by Infrared Training Center)

For anyone who is new to IR cameras or who needs a refresher, the Infrared Training Center (ITC) is offering free live and on-demand web courses.

These educational sessions provide a convenient and informative way to learn more about one of the most useful and versatile tools in an energy manager’s kit. Topics cover tips and tricks (presented July 22, access it from the on-demand list), thermography basics, safety, software basics, capturing and interpreting thermal images and much more. Each webinar is 45 to 60 minutes in length, and the live events include a question and answer session with participants. The speakers are top industry experts.

Need to know
These events are presented from locations around the world, so the start time given is the local time. Be sure to double-check the start time and time zone when registering. If the webinar occurs too far away from your time zone, you may have to wait for the on-demand recording. See ITC’s webinar FAQs to learn more about scheduling and system requirements.

Many training options
In addition to the webinars, ITC also offers online course packages and four-day regional training courses for certification.

For busy novices to energy auditing and diagnostics, ITC webinars can provide a valuable foundation for your infrared inspections. The price is right for experienced technician who just want to brush up on the basics and maybe pick up some new tricks. There is always something more to learn about the world of thermography, and no better way to do it than from your our desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone—for free!

(Editor’s note: If you haven’t yet discovered infrared cameras and all they can do for a utility, contact our Equipment Loan Program, 720-962-7420, to learn more.)

Source: Infrared Thermography Center, 7/16/15

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 WAPA.gov. 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 WAPA.gov. (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 WAPA.gov. 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.

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.