I was speaking with a long time home inspector this weekend. He thought that most home energy auditors were inspecting homes without a license. As a BPI Accredited contractor, I view breaches in the building envelope, like missing chimney flashing, or foundation water damage as well within my purview. My Inspector friend thought as an industry, we are overstepping our bounds. Do you think BPI should expand their curriculum so Auditors would also qualify as Home Inspectors, or should we take more classes and also become licensed Home Inspectors?
What are your thoughts?
Further Information/Links/Contact Information
CCB’s Main Page for Home Inspection Services in Oregon
CCB Summary of Oregon Home Inspector Regulation
American Home Inspector Directory Summary of Oregon Law
I have to somewhat agree with Mike Gilluly, in that I think you can work with reputable realestate agents as a value-added process to the cost of the home buying...(Energy Audits should add value) Yes I do think a home energy audit is a better energy process, only because I've had 3 home in spections, (and although there are a pleothora of good inspection services out there, they are not all created equal, and some were better then others...
However, as Mike points out; "reports given to new home buyers is vague, says little about insulation , the house was sold with empty walls, Poor attic insulation and a boiler under 75% Eff?" Thats my house!
Only after doing 3 energy audits with my BPI class did we find things out that a home inspector would of never found, although to the credit of my home inspector, he was seasoned! They did not tell me that my vent pipe for my Gas hot water tank was 4 ft short, or that there was no insulation in the lower have of the building walls, or that they incorrectly insulated the attic, or that the hvac was only at about 63% eff.!
And I think there is crossover, but only to the structure side of things, at this point, as I know now, would never use a home inspector service, unless they had a energy backgroung!
Any thoughts ?
Allen, I agree with you entirely about the conflict of interest situation with auditors giving away energy audit services in order to up-sell their products. Here in NJ, it seems that most of the latest BPI auditors are HVAC companies. Many could care less about doing energy audits, but need that certification through the NJ Home Performance program in order to be eligible for the rebates and incentives on their installations. I have made comments about this both to BPI and NJ Clean Energy. Not only do they not seem to care, but rather just the opposite. The policy of giving away audits cheaply to up-sell products and renovation services is becoming institutionalized into the State program. Neither organization knows how to handle companies like mine that just do the energy audits with other services such as IR, IAQ and mold inspections without contracting services.
This would be a great topic for another separate posting about how to overcome this situation. Otherwise the good independent auditors will be dead here as well.
You are correct, it is becoming a big deal here. I recently heard from a past student who was trying to get his CCB license to become a energy auditor that the CCB told him he would also need a home inspectors license--I haven't heard back from him yet. Also I recently spoke at a home inspector event on behave of a local auditor and the reception was anything but great. The licensed home inspectors are not happy with the current situation. I tried to get information form the CCB about a month ago about this subject but didn't have any success. I am also looking into getting our Saturn BPI curriculum approved for home inspection coursework credit -- hopefully this might bring the two closer together.
Basically, the way the law is written in Oregon, it would appear to outlaw general contracting in general and only allow contractors who bid and work on fewer than three building components at any time.
Obviously, if you are a general contractor and bidding to remodel a house, you are going to inspect the house to begin with, looking at more than three components, and then give a bid for the work on more than three components. Regardless if this is part of any kind of energy audit or not.
So Oregon law basically outlaws comprehensive general contracting and requires homeowners to be their own general contractors, and hire only specialty sub contractors.
I called the Oregon CCB and talked to someone, who said that we should write a letter to the Administrator, Craig Smith, with our ideas and suggestions. There is going to be a public hearing on this in April. In the meantime, the Attorney General's office is trying to come up with some guidance about where the line is exactly between home inspections, energy auditing, and general contracting.
Basically, what the woman on the phone told me is that it boils down to intent - which is hard to prove or disprove. If your intent is to provide a home inspection in conjunction with the sale of a home, then you need to be a home inspector. But if your intent is to just provide an energy audit in conjuntion with weatherizing or remodeling a home, then you should be ok, despite the language in the statute and regulations that would seem to indicate otherwise.
Another tip to help avoid confusion and trouble: Don't call your energy audits "inspections". If you can avoid using the words "inspect" or "inspection" then that will help people stay out of trouble.
Good stuff; the governing body is behind in keeping up with technology. I agree with your position; be vague in what you tell the state. You follow BPI guidlines and should be okay. government employees have no idea what the working world is about. They think they know it all and are in control over everyone else. I had a public college employee, (basically a secretary with an 'assistant to the admisistrater' title), work for me when I set up my www.nyenergyauditors.com business. Red flags should have gone up when she openly criticized her last boss. All she did was tell me that 'I don't know everything' that I was not following the rules to the letter and that she knew more than me
. I have been in construction/home inspections/energy auditing for 40 years.I started doing energy conservation inspections during the Carter Administration era of 'insulate everything and turn off the lights'. She was so opinionated. She is now on her own and doing audits as a subcontractor for an insulation company. She could have made 'serious' money with me had she not had a civil service employee mentality.
Don't worry about what some moron public office worker tells you. If you know what you are doing; be confident, show the customer that you are professional and let the losers fail for them selves.
In a home with $1000 December electric bills, the baseboard heaters and balloon framed walls with no insulation had teamed up to launch a young couple’s hard earned money up, up and away. The home inspector had not mentioned the construction detail if he had even noticed it in the 1940 house. The energy auditor DID mention it in January.
And then the auditor went a step further in describing two alternate paths for remedies. One, hire a contractor to install high-density sidewall insulation to the tune of $2 or so a sq. ft. of wall area.
Two, use a batt stuffer and foam. The batt stuffer method would actually require two lengths of ¼” plexiglass a foot wide and of two different lengths. The shorter is used to open the path partially blocked by wires and roughed on the outside by nails penetrating through the boxing to make a smooth chute for the batt to slide up from the basement access into the open wall cavity. Using a mirror and flashlight, guide the first length of plexi into stud cavity, and with the second longer piece of plexi, stuff a batt into the cavity by placing the plexi in the middle of the batt sandwiching the plexi like a taco shell, and stuff that batt up into the cavity up as far as it will go, straightening the batt out flat inside the cavity as the plexi pushes up farther into the cavity. Finish off the opening in the basement side of the cavity with foam to seal. (John Krigger, 1979)
Repeat from attic access if homeowners want to get maximum value, stuffing down and sealing top plate with foam after stuffing. Roof pitch was 10/12 giving them room to access, though minimal.The young couple opted for stuffing the first floor and foam sealing both the sill and top plates as a Saturday project, spent a few hundred bucks on batts, plexi and foam, and cut their electric bill down to three hundred bucks for February with nearly identical degree days – all while bonding with their home and each other.
The utility program calls for BPI auditors to specify options in remedying issues that surface from the walk-through, visual-only audit, FREE to all customers. It paid off here.
As a sub-contractor, my purview of inspection is not limited and does not carry any liability. The homeowner signs a form releasing me of liability, and I install water heater wraps, pipe insulation, CFLs, water-efficient shower-heads and aerators as a part of my gig. It seems the performance impacts the structure, the structure impacts the performance, and an effective energy auditor identifies these relationships. Lawyers are likely making bank on the split hairs while we are giving away the encompassing truth to those who benefit - the world.
I'm a BPI certified energy auditor and I just joined InterNACHI as a result of taking an Infrared course they offered. Membership was included. Taking their online courses as a requirement for membership (Standards of Practice, Code of Ethics, etc.) is my only exposure to the business side of home inspections.
Here's my impression: Saying energy auditors must be building inspectors is like saying family practice docs must be radiologists in order to interpret an x-ray. The two disciplines intersect, but ultimately have different goals. I think a fruitful direction would be how we could work together as allied professions in terms of education and training.
The fact building inspectors want to make energy auditing part of their profession shows that more than a few people find it valuable and possibly even somewhat profitable. We should view that is confirmation.
There are some core principals of building inspection that I think will cause problems with making energy auditing part of their profession, such as:
- the intensive (from their point of view) test we perform when we do a blower door or duct blaster test
- our requirement to actually calculate results based upon measurements, which they tend to view as being "engineering" because it involves calculations.
If an individual building inspector wants to become an energy auditor, that's great. And vice-versa. But to make it a requirement on the profession is heavy handed. If we go down this road, then the only people who do energy audits will be RESNET, BPI, InterNACHI, HVAC Licensed, NABCEP solar installers.
Great question David!
My colleague at BPI was just telling me how he helped a friend over the weekend who was buying a house with EIFS siding. Having been through the forensics studies of homes two years old in Wilmington, NC that had to be bulldozed because of structural rotting, he knows it's important to be thinking about durability issues, especially ones related to moisture that can lead to rotting and/or mold. He ended up backing out of the contract when he found that one other house with EIFS siding in his neighborhood had been torn down.
I think it's so important for BPI Accredited Contractors to have the whole house knowledge you obviously have. Houses work as a system of inter-related parts, and missing chimney flashing as you mentioned, will definitely affect the building envelope. I think good auditors, who already have so much of a Home Inspector's knowledge and skills, should be encouraged to take a separate class to become licensed Home Inspectors. Requirements are different in every state, so it makes sense to take the class or curriculum required by the state that issues the Home Inspector license.