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?
Because of the down turn in the housing and real estate markets, I have actually noticed that more home inspectors are becoming BPI certified, which is the other way around. From personal experience, I have found that builders do not want to have anything to do with an auditor with a home inspector background because they see them as a threat. I even run into some resistance sometimes when builders or remodelors find out my back ground is in inspecting building products under class action suit.
That said, I don't think there is anything wrong with having a broad knowledge, especially when it comes to building (residential or commercial). BUT, I don't believe we need to go out and all become licensed home inspectors. I believe the two professions work better as a compliment to each other. I know several people in the home inspecting industry and we exchange information all the time, but they aren't ready to go out and become BPI certified. Just remember the old saying "Knowledge is King".
I do not like the idea at all. We are in a house for one reason - to check the energy performance of the home along with the safety associated with energy related appliances. Someone telling us that we must be home inspectors puts liability on our home performance contractors that should not be there. Home inspection reports are vague for a reason - liability. The home inspection industry is fraught with land mines, which took decades of development through law suits and contract revisions to protect against.
If this came to pass, I for one would just meet the requirements since I was forced to. I would not market home inspection services. However, despite my disinterest in home inspection, I would still be exposed to liability due to the fact that I was now a certified home inspector in addition to an energy auditor. I could be checking only for energy issues and suddenly be liable for missing some electrical problem that started a fire in my clients home.
If a client wants to know what energy issues are in their house - they call an energy auditor. If they want to know a general assessment of the condition of their entire home, they call a home inspector. Do not make us liable for the entire home's issues when our scope is limited to energy issues.
You do not want to be a Home Inspector. There are other license fees, continuing ed, associations, liablility, marketing competition, just to put up a blower door?
I don't see any liability as an energy auditor other than following the requirements of RESNET or BPI.
Don't TOUCH any thing out side your realm-electrical, structural, mechanical, etc. Also, a disclosure should be given to your client prior to any work spelling out your limitations, what you do and your liability.
That should be adequate.
I would like to know what we as an industry can do to stop this? Where is it being debated and how can we influence this?
Craig Bird, BPI Building Analyst, HERS Rater
ReGroup Performance Contracting - Flagstaff, AZ
Energy Audits, Efficiency Retrofits and Green Building Consulting
Cell - 928-255-5564
Regarding the Oregon law about audits and inspections involving 3 different systems within a house, I came across a house that instructed me quite thoroughly. I found a depressurized CAZ resulting from panned joists which had sagged from condensation occurring when warmer house air contacted cool galvanized tin of the panned joists in the cold basement. Over time the moisture had rotted the bottoms of the joists, and the nails had let go and fallen out, and so the tin sagged down as much as an inch over a span of a few feet in some cases. This gapping opened the fan pressure from the now-massively leaking return duct to depressurize the CAZ (basement), and fill the house with CO.
So several systems are in play here for an energy auditor to recognize, describe and address for the homeowner, but too many for an Oregon inspector (?): HVAC (fan and CO production), duct (opening up from loss of a nail), insulation (was absent from rim joists, basement walls, ducts), IAQ (which became toxic as process occurred over time),.
For want of insulation the water popped out; for want of dry joists, the nails popped out; for want of nails, the tin plopped down; for want of tin touching joists, the carbon monoxide pops into the living space and the homeowner dies – to echo Ben Franklin.
Oregon has always seemed a progressive state in my book. This capricious number 3 seems at odds with the fact that a structure performs based on its details. A home inspector (structure) or an energy auditor (performance) might see these details, recognize how performance impacts structure and mention it to a homeowner, but an Oregon inspector would do time, and the energy auditor would walk on water. Odd, huh?
Not exactly. The inspector would walk on water, but not be able to propose a contract to do the work. The energy auditor would "do time" for doing an inspection without being a licensed inspector.
But this is all being cleared up in new legislation.
Adam, do you mean to say there is something 'illegal' about an energy auditor NOTICING that the energy components of this performing structure have eroded its viability and TELLING the homeowner that something could be done to remedy it?
That's what my contract says I'm being PAID handsomely to do! I am to check out ducts, insulation, etc. along with health and safety issues, durability situations and report them to the homeowner. That's exactly my purview as an energy auditor and NOT an inspector. Inspect = look. Looking is not the sole territory of inspectors, is it? "Look both ways before crossing street" does not make a pedestrian an "Inspector", does it?
So whassup with this legislation?? As I have tried to point out, the performance and the structure are mutually interdependent in that each affects the other. Doing an audit and doing an inspection are not mutually exclusive and so there is enough overlap of substance that one informs the other, both ways.
There seems to be a line in the sand that benefits not the homeowner who would be paying for it. If I could put myself behind the eyes of a homeowner, I would choose to see ALL the info, not a selected chunk that fell inside the realm of an inspector (structural) and then have to pay the same inspector to provide me a performance analysis too. I'd want both along with an explanation of the connections.
A thorough energy audit/inspection of systems related to energy applies to both categories, NO?? And would the auditor or inspector "do time" for practicing forensic medicine without a license if he or she mentioned to the new homeowner/heir/insurance company that this sucking in the basement is how the previous owner died of carbon monoxide poisoning? And would this auditor/ inspector "do time" for practicing law without a license if he/she informed the new homeowners/heirs/insurance company of the liabilities of the PREVIOUS inspector who failed to recognize the living spaces were dying places because of the gapping panned joists created by condensation, rot, gravity and furnace fan in that order??
If so, then our world has passed the point of no return, and I'll just go back to being a 'second tier' auditor, as you say.
Seventeen years ago, a woman made the news in Portland getting gassed in her new old house. The six doctors who misdiagnosed the carbon monoxide poisoning had sent her HOME with new pills each time. Six doctors in the ER. Six doctors in a row! All armed with pulse oximeters that read carboxyhemoglobin as oxygen. Six in a row!
I met with Kate Brown, my Senator and the President of Oregon's Senate. She totally 'got' the impact of duct leakage to the outside when I played the tape from the news article and showed her my toy house, reminiscent of Tooley's Mad Air house with an adjustable hole in the supply ducts to outside and the plastic tube 'flue', down through which the smoke (from an incense stick) was sucked when the hole opened up and the fan was running. The news article pointed out that a furnace guy with two meters had saved her life when he showed up and found 1) gobs of CO being produced and 2) the draft turned DOWN the chimney when the furnace fan came on. He scooped up the woman and took her to the nearest hyperbaric chamber and she stopped puking, peeing on herself and could remember her name.
The bill we crafted (to make the worst-case depressurization test, from DOE, part of real estate transactions) was fought by the Real Estate lobby and Northwest Natural. Then the Real Estate Inspectors Association came up with their own bill - and it became part of ORS - that the inspectors are NOT liable for stuff they can NOT see, like radon, CO and friable asbestos.
So a person could make an offer on a house, have it inspected, move in, turn it on and it kills them, but it's LEGAL in Oregon. So much for the value of 'LOOKING'
Today the worst-case-depressurization test IS part of real estate transactions in several states and municipalities, including among others, Nevada, Missouri and Austin, Texas. So please enlighten us about the WISDOM of legislators and their bought and sold votes that have NOTHING to do with reason or sensibility. BPI has standards that go beyond LOOKING. Know why? I'm waiting in the 'second tier' as you say.
Joseph, if you have a link to that story or a copy of it of any sort, I would love to see it or get a copy.
Joseph, I'm an energy auditor in Austin, TX and I wanted to clarify what's happening in Austin.
You're referring to Austin's Energy Conservation and Disclosure (ECAD) audit. Home sellers are required to provide home buyers an ECAD audit for every real estate transaction on homes older than 10 years. ECAD auditors must be certified either through BPI or RESNET. We perform the audit based upon the information required on the ECAD forms provided by the city.
As with all audits required by governmental jurisdictions, the auditors perform the audit to the requirements of the jurisdiction. In Austin, the residential ECAD forms are silent as to worse case CAZ depressurization tests, nor do they ask about CO. I've talked to a number of energy auditors before responding to this post and none of us perform worse case CAZ depressurization tests for two reasons:
1) it's not required by the City for residential ECAD audits, and
2) most HVAC and DHW closets are sealed from the living space and have "hi/lo" combustion air brought in from the attic, per the building code. Whenever a new HVAC is installed, the HVAC closet is brought up to code, so even older homes more often than not have combustion air installed.
The ECAD audit does not require blower door testing, but it does require Duct Blaster testing. Duct Blasters are not part of BPI certification, yet I train my BPI students on using them so that they can be competitive in the Austin marketplace.
Thanks, Joel, for the clarified info.I am glad to see there is considerably more attention being paid to combustion issues today than twenty years back. I have family in your town, and I always felt a connection there. Probably the result of "Austin City Limits" - the old Music fest on PBS!
In Nevada, the law was passed in 2007 to start becoming effective January of this year. I no longer live there, but found the details do include similar issues to Austin's : home-sellers are obligated to provide buyers the energy audit; but the big difference as you have made clear is that it does include BPI-standard audit info including CAZ testing for worst-case. Many older homes in the Silver state do not have sealed units, but rather are naturally aspirating furnaces in basements, living spaces or garages.
I personally think the Austin approach to mandatory updates of HVAC and DHW closets to meet current code provides a necessary improvement, and I like it. It's my opinion that this is what culture and progress are about - to lift us up where we belong and pass on the best we know.