90% of all my new energy audit customers now expect reduced or 'free' service. BPI has sites listing participating contractors who offer free audits. BPI has advertised rates of $250 for a whole house assement and audit.
As a professional who has been in the construction business since 1972; I feel this is an attack on the industry from administrators who are micro mannaging the industry. A blower door with all diagnostic equipment now costs around $6,000. Level 1 IR training and a 120 x 120 pixel IR camera, (one that meets the anticipated RESNET standards0, is approaching another $10,000. Add insurance, advertising and overhead; the $250 audit fee is a major income loss.
Perhaps the audit/sales/install business is what is pushing out the independent auditors. That spells loss of competiton and more expense for the home owner. Handy men and home owners who want to do their own retrofits will be out in the cold.
As with any government run enterprise; This business is going to be over influenced, controlled and limited to the big players at the independents and consumers expense.
Phil, you almost had me thinking I MIGHT take a look at your sfw when you brought up the lying and overstating of savings, but then you lowered yourself into the gutter to make light of the methods that we rely upon to do the proper type of analysis for EACH, UNIQUE home that we enter. I agree that there are similar looking homes out there, but we don't really know what's going on until we test them. I've had the occassion to be in just that situation, two homes on the same street, built by same builder likely one after the other. I found several differences, due to the things that the owners had done, or not done to their homes. We don't only look at air leakage, we look for occupant safety issues, equipment functionality and safety, moisture issues, etc., etc., etc. Too bad that you stooped to "name calling", it will never work to bring me around; just the opposite. I'm finished reading this thread.
I did an audit on a house before it was built once. it is possible when you know what will be involved. BUT, even then you cannot control homeowner behavior (ego) or Interior Decorator input.
predictably, the rich owner, expert builder, and architect all ignored my advice. I told them when the house was a drawing, and there was a hole in the ground with nothing, not even footers in it, that it was going to be a mess, and they built it anyway.
foam insulation from slab to ridge. (R-10 styro under the slab) I did convince them to put in an HRV by saying I would not be involved if they didn't. At the time, they could not get foam affordably if I didn't do it. (BTW, I am a contractor primarily) but they ignored me on two open hearth wood fire places (they had the exterior combustion air inlets). AND, they put in a Viking stove complete with 1200 cfm exhaust fan. Homeowner tried to listen, but 'expert' builder, Architect, and Interior Design snob all said I was stoopid. Pulled out the BPI cred. some reply about cracker jack.
I am a rater too. Horrors!!!! I was doing test out and I popped one of those 'useless parlor trick' smoke pencils in the fireplace to illustrate draft. smoke went up without the exhaust fan running. Builder said 'see, your are full of sh*t.' Ok, turn on the fan.
Smoke in the living room. Aw, just crack a window. sure, 18 inches by 30 inches of hole was finally enough. D'ya think the owner might b**ch about that big hole feeding the exhaust fan in his 3 mil house? might be a little drafty.
Expert had a brain f**t 'hey, your illustration has no heat'. with heat there wil be stronger draft.
Yeah, but have you ever seen a rich person clean out a fireplace? there is a substantial fire risk when the fire is going, but that will be immediately visible (line of sight between kitchen & fireplace is direct and clear). Bigger trouble is the fire you had several days or a week ago and never cleaned up. burn a fish, hit the fan, instantly the living room is full of ash & soot. Not a happy scenario.
worse, the morning after a fire the ash is still smoldering but draft is very weak due to minimal heat. dryer goes on, CO comes in.
Darwinism to the fore.
That was about 8 years ago. expert is out of business now.
On the other hand, I had another occasion that was very similar, but the builder was the owner.
That house was over 8000sf. 8 bathrooms, Hydronic heat, 2 HRV's, 2 Laundries, BIG kitchen fan, central vac, and 2 open hearth fireplaces. both fireplaces had combustion air intakes. I insulated it. foam in walls, cellulose in attic, and I was rating it. Where are my ethics!?!?!?!
I would not give him the star becasue I could not stop spilling the fireplaces with all the exhaust appliances running. We called our provider for a ruling. the Builder/owner said how likely is it that I will be sitting in front of a fire while cooking, cleaning, utilizing 8 bathrooms, and doing laundry in two places? in the end, practicality won out and he got the star.
A software audit may help establish which sales inquiries are most likely to turn into profitable jobs, but it cannot possibly diagnose indoor air quality issues. which is more important to you?
in any trade, there are craftsmen who do great work for a living wage and there are expert sales people and marketers who get rich. Which do you want to be?
Can you answer both of those questions truthfully with a clear conscience?
I tried your program on my own house.
1. it was wayyyyy off.
2. how do you test infiltration rates without a blower door?(the program asks for this)
3. This program has some interesting aspects that could be incorporated into real auditing software, but is not very useful as it is.
Conclusion - I'll stick with laser beams, smoke bombs, inferred cameras and lots of etc.
Do you suppose that because a home is built by the same company in the same neighborhood that it is going to have identical problems? Really? Have you ever been in the field?
"computer tater"....Holy crap,I thought that only happened here in Virginia.....
I looked it over and think it would be a good tool to use for selling the upgrades that I recommend. I'll give it a try.
I am an auditor/contractor too. If I weren't, there wouldn't be a BPI approach commonlyavailable in my market. I am in a part of NY that has largely missed out on the economic collapse of the past few years because we completly missed out on the boom before that.
We have BPI looking over our shoulders all the time. They are required to inspect 10% of our jobs. NYSERDA also requires CSG (their program administrator) to inspect 10% of our jobs. CSG subcontracts to Honeywell for that service. We are lucky to have patient clients who don't mind half a day for us to do the Audit, several forms to fill out so we can be sure they aren't cheating and we aren't either, then a day or more to execute the work & test out, and possibly 2 work day hours post inspections. The clients who are retired are highly valued and over inspected.
Still, new directives come out frequently, and rules get changed more often than the filters on my combustion analyser so there probably is some way to scam the system.
Many valid, and at times competing, points have been made.
My two cents for this conversation is whether we (as auditors or auditor\contractors) have learned the power of partnerships, or at least close but informal relationships?
We need more energy auditors, just the same as we need more home performance contractors. I have, after some hesitation on my end and that of the company I now partner with, chosen to partner rather than compete. There are only 3 home performance firms in the rather large city I live in (in N. Virginia). Focus on the term "only." Most places I've been or researched only had a handful (if any) of home performance contractors.
This debate has been about the need to survive. This is being said by folks in an industry that is a growth industry of the future. IMO, if you don't find genuine ways to work with other building performance professionals in your area then:
A. You will continue to find it tough to survive, and
B. How will this industry ever reach a point of true sustainability? (i.e. You need to have a strong support and lobby structure in this country to grow and flourish as an industry).
We're out there (or at least the majority of us are) doing the right thing and positively affecting lives. Let's not forget that we should be always thinking about the greater picture which is success for the whole. If I find you competing with me in my backyard I guarantee you'll find me knocking at your door some evening with a "take it or leave" offer to work together.
What are your thoughts folks?
We have been doing instrumented audits (BD, IR, Combustion) since 1981 and have seen flush times (oil embargoes) and lean times (everything but oil embargoes). We have had to expand our range of offerings to new homes and have done everything from air sealing them to guaranteeing their bills for 3 years. It is only the diversification that has kept us healthy.
New construction fell through the floor in 2008 and that left a ton of freshly minted HERS raters flapping about.
In DE, we had 3 home performance firms in the state in 2008, and now we have 84 listed on the state website. The state just recently screwed up their program and shut it down so now those firms are flapping about.
And yesterday, congressman Chuck Flieschmann of TN introduced a bill to shut down the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) all together - H.R. 3441 - with a good chang=ce of passing in this political climate. These guys are the ancestors of our business, using blower doors starting about 1990 or so, doing computer generated retrofit measures, and saving millions of our neediest billions of btu's. So these firms will be flapping about.
So with the loss of the ARRA funds next March, many programs will be greatly modified. And to top that off, I think as an industry we are overstating our savings and will be getting some consumer backlash shortly.
I hate to sound pessimistic, but at least locally we have too many HERS and BPI people, soon to be out of work WAP firms, and reduced government support for HP (I would be happy with no rebates but plenty of consumer education!) There are a few bright spots like MD raising their utility HP rebates from 15% to 40%, but every where else that we work, it does not look as good as it did 2 years ago.
So the winners will be the firms that understand marketing, and can deliver over the long run - the audit is the easy part. I am confident we will be one of those firms.
All good points Ed.
My only caveat is what I currently consider the "Hail Mary" for our industry, which is utility-based, rate-payer funded energy efficiency programs. In Massachusetts, strong support for energy efficiency has translated into State mandates (that are embraced by the main energy utilities) for dramatic increases in overall efficiency at both the residential and small & medium commercial levels.
I strongly recommend that you all take a look at Massachusetts' residential energy programs (on both the Gas and Electric sides) for a better idea of what I refer to.
Ultimately, as Ed and others have said, it will be the savvy HP outfits that will remain players in this game (where ever it may be heading). These players will perform the necessary outreach and education, all underlined by targeted marketing.
Over the past several years I have tried all the diffrent new energy auditing programs available on a wide distribution basis. Since I work in multiple energy efficieny programs using diffrent types of software (plus efficiency programs change software vendorors periodicly) I like to understand how each program handles the homes. Like all the other "great new" programs out there , I first ran my house on your program.
My house is a basic production home where the builder allowed me to come in on weekends during construction and do a lot of air sealing and misc details that his crew does not do, mostly air and moisture control. Home is several years old, standard code insulation levels, Carrier 95% gas furnace w/ 15 SEER AC. I keep spreadsheets of all utility use and we try not to be wasteful.
When trying to get my house baseline to fit within your program and the actual energy usage I had to input things like 400% efficiency for a gas fired water heater to get usage close to actual. I had to more than double insulation levels to get close to the actual gas used. Air leakage was not a guess as blower door and duct blower testing were done.
How could I trust anything this program outputs as a recommendation for improvement? I would be just as well off trusting the hucksters selling "power factor correction devices" to reduce my electric bill; or "radient barrier" salesmen promising big energy savings "because NASA uses this in the space program", or "save 35% on your heating/cooling bills" by installing cheap replacement windows.
In the earlier "Repy" section you mention a $1000/house Bullshit Performance Index challenge. Maybe you would like to clarify this challenge? I think I hear a fan running behind you.