RESNET announced an alliance with Home Depot this week, and I've heard from a couple of our raters already. They're concerned that this will undercut their efforts to build a market for trained & certified home energy raters and BPI BAs to come in and give homeowners a good analysis of their homes and what they really need.

What do you think? Does it undercut the analysts in our industry? Does it put the emphasis more on products and less on process?

Tags: Analysts, BPI, Building, Depot, HERS, Home, RESNET, raters

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Jon LaMonte said:
I am not thrilled with the alliance, but I think it will help raise the awareness of the need for energy audits and assessments. Unless you're in the industry, who knows who RESNET is anyway?

My main concern is a lack of control by Home Depot to police contractors and their quality of work. For example, in my previous profession, I did class action suit and warranty inspections on building products. One of the products I inspected was for a high end door manufacturer. In over 100 warranty claims for that company, not one of them was failure due to product. All the issues were related to the installation process and 75% of the installers came through Home Depot. If HD has a quality control concern, I have never seen it.

In speaking with friends and family, they are also leery, because a lot of them associate Home Depot with cheap. But for the same token, many of them believe that people see them as the "home improvement experts". Some efficiency improvements can be performed by the homeowners, but if they are not performed properly, what kind of problems are they going to create?

Either way, if they are going to do this, they need to involve or reach out to people that are currently trained and experienced. If HD is just going to "train" people to walk through a house with a clip board, RESNET themselves will lose credibility.
This is already happening in a major Mid-Atlantic market. A very large big box retailer has BPI-certified staff who participate in a local utility program along with other local subcontractors. The service is handled through the utility so at this point there is no reference to it on their website.

These are very much checklist surveys with no testing involved. The purpose is to identify obvious problems and to advise clients of other programs and incentives from which they might benefit, including a comprehensive audit.

How well these are executed depends entirely upon how well the BAs are trained, both in building science and in the particulars of the program requirements. Like any other managed program, the quality of the deliverable is driven by the commitment demonstrated at the top. That can vary a great deal, but I would rather put my money on a company that chooses to dedicate its livlihood to home performance rather than one that developed it because of a red hot market opportunity.
I think Janice's last line from the comment above says it all. I agree!!

It seems that from this page and the LinkedIn forum, that there are some large concerns, not only about hurting raters, the comprehensive audit and adding more costs (additional HESP providership fees, certifications, etc.), but also about HD's quality control, motives, and ability to control pricing, etc.

Steve (Resnet) commented on the LinkedIn discussion and part of his comment and argument was:
"An important aspect of the standard is the requirement that the HESP inform the owner of the benefits of a whole house comprehensive audit and recommend the homeowner to a person certified to undertake the comprehensive audit."
This will add costs and doesn’t seem like something that will sell! If I have to go to someone's house via a scheduled walk-through audit, only to come back and test, that adds costs that may not be able to be recouped, especially with an HD middleman involved. But since a HESP does not do testing, then they will (A) not be able to sell the comprehensive audit and could verbally discount the real value and importance to help increase their value, and (B) sell the products that get them the leads instead.

Let's say I go out today and forge a good relationship with his local HD and become the top referral on their list. What do you think will happen to my leads when I am recommending more costs (comprehensive audit) and providing services outside of HD instead of selling HD products? It seems to me that if I am not helping their bottom line, then why should they help me? What are the fees that HD will take from us? Are HESP's going to need to sell HVAC maintenance contracts for HD, or when I tell them to contact their current HVAC contractor for service, am I shooting myself in the foot? This really is difficult.

I understand and agree there is a positive to HD and Lowe's getting involved from an awareness standpoint, but rushing toward an opportunity that involves science is dangerous. The retrofit work is not simple and not lucrative on the weatherization side, but the air/duct sealing could be the most important part of our move toward energy efficient buildings.

So, in an economic implications breakdown, lets see:

• Current HERS Rater – pays yearly dues to provider and Resnet, now has to sign up for HESP provider if current HERS provider is not one. More fees and more time?
• Small business energy auditor who has taken it on the chin with blower door, duct blaster, etc. equipment costs is now sitting in second place down the food chain. HESP’s flock to the field due to low entry costs and good opportunity with little risk. Good for the current small business? Good for the client? Only good for the opportunist!
• An HD customer is preached the value of a Home Assessment and is told the service will provide them with ROI. HESP shows up without equipment and begins the assessment. After data gathering and visually checking out the property, product recommendations are given along with the recommendation of another more comprehensive audit? What does a homeowner think? I am being duped with this audit? How is that one better? Do I have to double pay? Customer thinks,”Well I will just buy the products/services recommended from HESP, and then maybe down the road I will get testing done after this list is complete”. Is this good economics? I think this could easily be throwing good money after bad, and against what is a large goal of energy efficiency.
I would like to echo my concern that this will drive a product sales based approach and still be called home performance. Consumers are confused enough as is and this partnership probably won't help...
As HERS Raters or BPI B-As, we are trained professionals.
When we do energy related work in a customer's home, we cannot elect to operate on a lower level (HESP survey) and pretend we "don't know better".

There is a big liability issue here that nobody is talking about.
If we do half a job by just doing a clipboard survey and the customer acts on the results of the survey and gets elevated moisture levels and mold and gets sick from it, you can be sure the homeowners attorney will hang the BPI or RESNET guy out to dry by saying "you are a trained professional. You should have known this would happen."

Also, what will happen to our insurance in this mode? Insurance may not even cover the downgraded mode of working.
If they do, you know it will cost a lot more.
Can any one say "Bait & Switch?"
Interesting article by Energy Circle's Peter Troast regarding Lowe's investment in Recurve.

http://www.energycircle.com/blog/2010/07/01/interpreting-lowe%E2%80...

Seems to have a bit of the same concerns: Product pushing, turning our service into a commodity, etc...

Quantity can never compete with quality. I'm in the HVAC industry and 70% to 80% of our business is repairing and redesigning poor workmanship so I'm never intimidated by big boxes.

 

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