I like that song but I'm showing my age.
We often talk about the general public's need to be educated about energy efficiency to increase their understanding and their interest in making improvements. With the vast number of certified energy professionals now working in this industry I would think that by now we would all be speaking/teaching from the same book on energy science. But between manufacturers, marketers, and just plain stubborn (supposedly) professionals, home owners are being left to sort out right from wrong.
Martin Holladay's (GBA Advisor) recent article on "What's the Definition of an 'R-20 Wall'?"http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/what-s-defin... left me dumbfounded as to how such a simple aspect of home performance could become such a mess. Toss in everything from how to finish a basement wall to how to insulate or ventilate a cathedral ceiling and even the best of the professionals often disagree.
Why do we still have to advise ALL home owners to check local codes? Why isn't there one set of guidelines for all to follow? Why does Canada excel with one package of free energy audit software while we struggle with hundreds of competing and conflicting programs? Is it really true that our government planned it this way just to employ more people at the home owner's expense?
The internet has become the go-to place for getting answers. We need to get our act together to make the information, the codes, and professional advice they find, all agree. Why do I hear laughing?
*ahem* sounds a lot like the argument for universal health care *ahem*
But staying on topic... it's my understanding that most of the state efficiency programs came out of the stimulus package, where Obama was under a lot of political pressure to leave as many details as possible to the states. That makes sense as far as it goes -- we have a much more varied climate than Canada -- but very predictably led to mutually incompatible standards. I know a few states intentionally chose to adopt the same standards, like Kansas and Missouri, for instance, because our biggest city crosses the border and it would be insane not to. But now that the stimulus funds are gone and the state programs are defunct, it's a moot point.
The software is just the proverbial tip of this problem. Try searching for some basic information and you can find advice from what grandma would do to LBLN and more people like grandma. On the DIY forum where I try to help it is often impossible to communicate with the poster who has found the advice they want and is just looking for a rubber stamp to make him/her feel better. Well accepted improvements as to how and why things need to be done just haven't reached the home owners or even many code officials. And I'm not talking the handful of my pet concerns, I'm talking basement walls, window ratings, ventilation standards, and I'll include Joe's list of definitions for an R-20 wall.
We can't expect to improve the knowledge base at the home owner level until we can agree on what that knowledge should be. There are still mistakes, estimates, and old science well entrenched into today's teachings that should have been eliminated years ago.
I couldn't help but share this statement posted on a help forum by a frustrated home owner.
"After several days of looking for answers all over the web and asking some reps at the XXXXXXXX store, I concluded that every single opinion and its exact opposite are out there, all by so called experts."
I left out the reference as it also names that store and they are not at fault.
But whether it is a help forum, friend and neighbors or the DIY customers I talk to, options and advice is so varied that many are left on their own as to what is best and who is right. Unfortunately, the sneakier the sales person with the lowest price will often win. Home owners need our help on a grander scale raise their knowledge level. And that must start with all of those street level experts out there getting on the same wagon.
Home performance in the USA has been put on the back burner due to government subsidized energy costs. Effectively we are paying a portion of your energy costs in our income tax bill instead of your utility bill. If the government would stop subsidizing energy costs our rates would look like the rest of the free world. If rates reflected the true cost of energy the home performance industry would prosper in the free market instead of needing government subsidies to stay alive.
Once Government interference is removed the free market would dictate a more efficient system to keep the industry alive. Universal standards based on proven results would prevail.
Hopefully the DOE Uniform Methods Project will continue to push us in the direction of accuracy and uniformity: http://energy.gov/eere/about-us/initiatives-and-projects/uniform-me...
I gave that link some reading time but I admit my expectations were biased and I was not disappointed. I didn't extract a quote, but the purpose of these refined and impressively more accurate procedures is to guarantee performance when government funding is being handed out. Research is necessary, but the procedures used should not be allowed to escape from the laboratory. I said I was biased.
Here's are a couple of thoughts to illustrate where they miss the point.
Their expensive objectives are only necessary because they are handing out government money and are not necessary for the simple task of saving energy. Just eliminate the federal funding, after all, this started out as the best business in the country and should never have needed a stimulus.
Then there is the issue of improving the procedures. Improvements should be required to either make testing easier or improve results, preferably both. One or the other might be acceptable IF the improvements proposed are substantial enough to justify the turmoil that ensues every time they change the rules. Even if both requirements show improvement, they must meet the "substantial" definition or wait a reasonable amount of time (IMO, 3 to 5 years) before being implemented along with other upgrades.
From the reading I did I saw no indication that these improvements would result in less complexity and time in the field. I suspect they would certainly provide more accurate information (if that were needed), but any related research facility can at any time propose improved techniques with a substantial increase in effort. The challenge is better results in less time and that has eluded our government.