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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I have the same concerns. As a building science professional, I am delighted to see the growing interest in energy efficiency and retrofitting, but I have extreme concerns that unskilled contractors will be flooding the market through this marketing push and will result in more harm (indoor air quality, home durability, etc.) to homeowners than benefit (energy savings).
Great topic Allison. Yes, I am worried. I just don't know if I am jumping the gun or not? This is my thinking on the alliance.

What does it say about what we do and at what cost to the consumers and the raters if walk-thru, clipboard assessments are marketed and recommended? Do we sell products or do we sell knowledge of the process and system? I think it is the knowledge and the system. I am not making money on product, although I may need to change to survive. I don't trust big business to have my interest or our trade's interest in mind. They are for profit & have stockholders to please. PRODUCTS is what HD sells and that is what scares me!! "Process and System" is the change that we need to sell!!!

If they reach out to all of us already certified Raters, then yes, that will be a good thing, and well received I am sure. I could use more money in my pocket right now, but now I need to spend more money to have a HESP Provider and certification....at least that is how I understand it. Is RESNET going to put us HERS Raters as a first choice and request that we be given preferential treatment? Or is HD going to push a lower price service that sells products they make their living on?

I agree there are different levels, qualities, services and approaches that each business take that provides the needed differentiation to survive. Telling someone you can do real good things with a walk-thru, or great things by paying more money doesn't sound like a recipe that sells true solutions today. Do you think they will downplay a walk-thru, or have a tagline at the bottom of the ad campaign suggesting a higher quality service as another option (comprehensive audit)? Why not spend money in the right order and take a long-term approach and truly grow our wealth and save (money and energy)?

When I heard about the Home Energy Score, I was wondering how they were going to implement it. Now it seems Home Depot may be a large winner in this. They see an opportunity, and they will squeeze every dime out of it they can. Using a logo like RESNET gives them legitimacy in their claims. I don't know if you look at the paper, but check out their "eco-options" page sometime and see the savings that they are touting...it will frustrate you to see the claims!!! (4 pack of CFL bulbs will save you "$200 per pack per year" - REALLY - a 4 pack per year - this may be how I survive, by buying CFL's!!!!)

Analyzing a home is not something that should be rushed, as changing the system can easily, and many times, bring about problems that were borderline prior to the change. Have you seen any spray foamed homes with problems? I have, and see them all the time!!! Those not basing the process in building science and focusing on their products instead are opening up a whole new litany of problems. Science is not a guess. Theories are based on analysis and data. Does installing a higher SEER HVAC save you money? Maybe, but many times they are put on inferior and outdated duct systems that leak and are not properly sized. How do they charge for the HVAC? By tonnage!! That has been a recipe for oversizing and continues to be more of a problem today with the tighter construction demands and processes. How can you baseline a house without knowing its tightness? How can you recommend ventilation or not? Where is the data coming from? How do you know the performance of the HVAC units? Age, Look, Smell?

Although I agree that Home Depot's long arm and huge marketing ability is a good thing for home energy/performance awareness, if they are discounting what we do by insinuating that a walk-thru is good enough, then it is not good AT ALL!! To say new windows or new HVAC unit is what you need and have the credibility of RESNET helping you sell that, could hurt not only raters, but consumers as well. It could hurt us diagnostic testing professionals.

I hope that they reach out to us, but I am leery, and have not been engaged yet!!!!! This is my 2 cents!! Thanks for asking and giving me the space!!
The biggest risk is the potential commoditization of what we do.

Home Depot is all about Do It Yourself weekend warriors. It's a threat to the general contracting business model.

Every homeowner wants a cheap audit and a list of things for them to do themselves. "Tell me what to do and how to do it. Download all your knowledge and training and years of experience to me for free. Then come back and test out my home, and if it doesn't pass I'll get mad at you."

A lot of people think home energy audits and retro fits can be mass produced, with basically the same exact things done on each house in cookie cutter style. This is the biggest threat to the industry. But if you can figure out how to to do it, you'll be a billioniaire.
Allison

Great topic

Adams point about the Home Depot is well taken with their motto of "you can do it we can help"

It has been my experience in my Handyman business that Home Depot often drives customer to you. Many attempt projects then feel overwhelmed and call on an expert to finish.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.


I emailed Steve Baden regarding my views on the premium audit being offered as well as some other items. I urge others to voice their opinion as well whatever that might be

I am copying and pasting my response to Jamie from this morning on Linked in on the same subject

http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&di...

#1
I think that this is a good thing.

One must consider that there are few customers lining up for audits today. The assessments will almost surely end up being called audits in the end. The writing is on the wall. I am not pleased about that but I am not pleased about a severe windstorm either. Recognizing it and acting on it will be better than waiting to how messed up my hair is after it passes.

So where does that leave us?

First we are in position and already trained to perform this work scope. That could mean more money in the pocket right away and quite frankly I could use it.

It also put the industry right in front of huge number of customers that are not aware of our services right away.

It provides us with the opportunity to get our product and concept out there. I would like to see RESNET back us on this and have a “premium” package that includes extensive diagnostic testing.

As in any trade there are different levels. Not all contractors charge the same price for similar services. The premium contractors have higher prices that they justify through a higher quality work scope. Craftsmanship, Material selection, Knowledge, Experience, Communication, Speed are all qualities that earn you more money in the trades.

We need to position ourselves as the premium guys. After I think we can all agree the value of a guy with a laptop and a clipboard in your house for an hour does not compare to a diagnostic boots on the ground test.

My experience has been customers are often smart. As they learn the concept many will choose to pay more for better service

#2
Jamie
You make some great points. I believe we are both paddling in the same direction. I cannot say I am totally pleased with a walk through assessment. There is too much that can be missed. But like it or not it is here. With the Home Energy Score and this MOU hitting us in the face in the last couple of weeks I would contend that the tide is moving. It does not seem to be moving in the direction I would prefer.

We need to connect to the greater public as an industry. I am hopeful that this opens the doors and the eyes of the customer base as to what we have to offer.

Agreed many will choose this assessment or dumbed down audit. Some will be pleased others upset and at the end of the day they are left with too little information to make intelligent choices. I also agree that I am not interested in being a commissioned sale person putting customers into products that they don’t need or will not work. That is not what I signed up for. Furthermore my eyes always look through the house as a system approach. I cannot just turn it off.

That being said I would prefer to have one of us perform a walk through assessment than someone off the street.

As I stated before many homeowners are intelligent. We need to get our concept in front of these customers. As we go through and show them what we have to offer this could be a big net gain for us. I am hopeful this will open new opportunities.

I am leery as well however I want to be in a position to seize the moment and ride the momentum as well.

The good news is government and big business is interested in promoting half of our industry. The bad news is they are leaving half or more on the table.

The real question is how do we as experts engage in this rapidly changing environment and improve the process?
Folks like Allison who really love numbers would probably refer to the RESNET/HomeDepot as regression to the mean, although they might also think about the lowest common denominator. I blogged about my encounter with a HVAC manufacturer's rep who was set up in Home Depot to pitch his product to the public here (http://tinyurl.com/2fvr3kr).

I've done a lot of business with Home Depot by way of buying materials and parts, but I don't ask advice there (while there are some fine and knowledgeable floor people, they are not--unfortunately--clearly marked), and I would not be comfortable using their installers. I also had the pleasure of talking to some of their corporate-level people at an event in Atlanta, and they were clear thinkers and straight shooters.

Nevertheless: the first priority of major retailers with piles of products under their roof has to be to sell those products, not to orchestrate complex jobs that involve multiple systems and a wide spectrum of potential problems if something isn't taken properly into consideration. Good building performance is only very, very rarely an appropriate do-it-yourself endeavor.
I guess my first question would be what type of alliance have they formed? is Home Depot going to offer Energy Ratings or Audits at a reduced price? or is the concern that the rater may steer their clients to Home Depot for home improvement products?
I'm not familiar with RESNET's policies but would think that either of the scenarios would be inappropiate, I do know that as an Energy rater in Alaska (AKWarm not RESNET) we have very strict guidelines we follow regarding relationships with suppliers and contractors and recommendations of either.

Scott
Having been in the residential construction industry for nearly 25 years, I have seen this play out over and over again. The big box boys launch a new initiative in direct competition with us. Historically, their results have been a mixed bag. A quick look at consumer reviews about their quality reveals that they miss the mark, quite often, at all levels.

I almost never compete against them for work. I do however, clean up after them on occasion. From the consumer's point of view, they represent a great value, but this goes along with an unclear risk-benefit equation.

If they have a troubled history with 1 dimensional projects like flooring and multi-discipline tasks like bathroom and kitchen remodels, how could they possibly pull-off home energy analysis and weatherization? If we respect history, it will not go swimmingly for them.

Hopefully, they will defy their own history and do a good job because the stakes are high when you're dealing with combustion gases and the health & safety of building occupants. If they fail here, it will be tough for them to recover.

I can't help but to think this move by RESNET was motivated in some small part by the fear of becoming less relevant. The new housing market is in the pits and BPI has been on the upswing.

I do agree that we will be the beneficiaries of their marketing in terms of consumer awareness.

Robert Post
BPI Building Analyst
Although Steve Baden...RESNET...has not commented on any of these boards yet, he did comment on the FB page. Here is his post on FB......

"There are several aspects that must be considered. The first is that RESNET is receiving no funding as part of the agreement. What the agreement is that Home Depot will have contractors trained and certified as Home Energy Survey Profession...als (HESP) under RESNET standards. Home Depot staff will not be conducting the home energy surveys nor completing the work.

The goal of the partnership is to educate homeowners on the benefit of improving the energy efficiency of homes and the RESNET national standards. The Home Depot will be educating consumers of RESNET and its standards in the participating stores.

The Home Energy Survey is not an online audit and was established by RESNET standards several years ago. HESPs are required to recommend to homeowners the benefits of a comprehensive home energy audit consducted by a certified Home Energy Rater.

While different individuals will have different opinions on Home Depot, the fact remains is that many Americans look to these stores for improving their homes. Including the education on energy efficiency to this vast maket must be seen as a good thing.

There are over 107 million homes in the US, most which can benefit from energy upgrades. To meet the potential we need a large number of business plans ranging from home energy audits to comprehensive retrofits. RESNET standards is addressing all of these areas. Having major players embracing RESNET efforts will benefit all."

It sounds like a bunch of hullaballoo to me. He starts out by stating that RESNET will receive no funding from HD, but how about for every HESP and HESP Provider? Then he states that the HESP's are trained to recommend a comprehensive audit? I think he neglects to think of the masses that shop there and ask for advice there. Have you ever gotten advice there? The shoppers there want the cheapest way out and will elect for the "silver bullet" magic product instead. If they are told from marketing that it is free, or really cheap, and all that is necessary, they will elect to go with the cheaper alternative more times than not. I think they don't RESNET or HD have our interest in mind!! Tell me what you guys think of this?

Robert, I agree with you totally. I think it will stink and hurt us until they fail!

Now lets wait for Lowe's to partner with BPI? :(
Doug, I agree that the HVAC industry has not been hurt by HD selling product also. I hope you are right about your outlook with regards to home energy assessments.

I do find a difference between the knowledge-based information and professional services that an energy professional offers vs. a HVAC company that is selling product. Does the HVAC company that doesn't sell insulation, air sealing, etc...go into a house and look for ways to sell other peoples product and services first? Maybe some, but not many. If HD was marketing they could do air sealing, duct sealing, or handle the retrofit from an outside audit, then I would say okay, but they are going to use HESP's to sell product and people won't know the real difference between the audit they get and the one that is data and whole-house based. It could do damage to small business. I could hurt or it could help, I don't know.

RESNET has not sent me my HESP certification yet. Do I get one since I am HERS certified already? Or do I have to take another course and pay more money and have a different provider?

Discounting what we do by inferring a walk-thru will suffice is where I begin to wonder what the outcome of this will be. I hope that we are thought about, but I just don't feel confident about the path.
Jamie, I understand from the RESNET site that raters do not have to take a test, but they must associate themselves with one of the four HESP providers for certification. (via Steve Baden) This will cost about $300 plus proof of insurance. RESNET may want an additional cut for themselves, but I haven't seen anything about that yet.

Jamie Kaye said:
Doug, I agree that the HVAC industry has not been hurt by HD selling product also. I hope you are right about your outlook with regards to home energy assessments.

I do find a difference between the knowledge-based information and professional services that an energy professional offers vs. a HVAC company that is selling product. Does the HVAC company that doesn't sell insulation, air sealing, etc...go into a house and look for ways to sell other peoples product and services first? Maybe some, but not many. If HD was marketing they could do air sealing, duct sealing, or handle the retrofit from an outside audit, then I would say okay, but they are going to use HESP's to sell product and people won't know the real difference between the audit they get and the one that is data and whole-house based. It could do damage to small business. I could hurt or it could help, I don't know.

RESNET has not sent me my HESP certification yet. Do I get one since I am HERS certified already? Or do I have to take another course and pay more money and have a different provider?

Discounting what we do by inferring a walk-thru will suffice is where I begin to wonder what the outcome of this will be. I hope that we are thought about, but I just don't feel confident about the path.
Thanks Walter.
Mo money. Mo money!
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.

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