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.
You are not yet seeing the big picture grasshopper.
My Business has been BPI Accredited and I have had 3 BPI certifications since 2001. I am still waiting for a consumer to call me saying they found out about me on the BPI website.
My market is central upstate NY. NY has been proactive on this stuff, but the marketing has mostly been to contractors. the hammer comes out after you get Accredited and Certified. All of a sudden you are heavily regulated and you are supposed to market the hell out of BPI and NYSERDA programs while you hire staff to support the paperwork and you completely change your business model to do the work. You get marketing CoOp from NYSERDA. but you spend a lot more than you get. and, you need staff to do the paperwork to get the CoOp, so in the end you spend a LOT more than you get.
BPI brags a lot about their growth in terms of number of accredited firms and certified individuals. What is the population of their service territory? New York, California, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Kansas, Indiana, what other states? and they are proud of less than 100000 certified individuals and less then 50000 accedited firms (both numbers grossly over the actual counts) in 11 years? I would venture to guess that if the product (HP Retrofits) had to survive without any government support, it would have failed years ago. it may have enjoyed the same market penetration it has already and still be considerd a failure. Or, it would be considered an interesting new phenonina, a niche busines or a fringe hard core, too eary to market idea like solar power or wind power or desalinating water. At lease it would not be another failure of the Obama Administration. Does anyone even remember Home Star?
Make no mistake, when the administration in Washington changes and budgets are shredded, we are all in trouble.
You cannot get market transformation by demanding compliance, you have to get the consumers to demand the service. BPI should not be marketing in Home Energy, through RESNET, at ACI, or in Journal of Light Construction. They should have a weekly cable show like Holmes on Homes on DIY or HGTV. they should be a reference source for Consumer Reports. They should have done a segment on 60 minutes. They should be in Money Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes & Gardens, etc.
Consumers should not care what the incentives or payback are, they should care if they can afford the utilities and if it is safe to live there. The fact is BPI has missed the point for 10 years now, and to continue this way is insanity. It is time to change their marketing strategy. BPI should have contractors beating down the door to get trained and get certified by now. In NY, BPI certification classes are offered at least quarterly throughout the state. About 75% of scheduled dates get cancelled due to lack of attendance. (One +/- of that is good certified technicians can demand higher pay, but paying the higher rates pushes up job cost) is that 'good', or 'bad'?
We had flooding here that swamped 20000 homes 10 weeks ago. Lowes & 'Depot are selling conventional gas fired water heaters, ventless heaters, and 80 % furnaces as fast as they can stock them even though there are flood rebates of 2000 per furnace for 93% furnaces and 400 per water heater for .67 ef water heaters. That is in addition to the NYSERDA grant and loan programs. I can get about $8000 in free money to a family of 4 that makes less then 64000 per year here, and I have been marketing that on TV. I have not had ANY calls on it.
Incredibly enough, I saw a guy looking at Dryer Vents at Lowes last night. He was asking the clerk where the ones with the bucket were. 'You know, the ones that you put water in and they let the heat from the dryer stay in the house?' The clerk was only too happy to direct him. I asked the guy if he would run a gas grill in his living room. he gasped and said 'hell no!'. I asked why is it ok to run a gas dryer and vent it in the house if he would not run a gas grill in the house? I got a Solomonesqu one word answer : "Grease".
There is a lot to be done in terms of consumer educatiuon, and we cannot do it one consumer at a time and be long term big business profitable. I don't understand how BPI can force that and have a clear conscience.
Consumers don't know what they don't know. Second and third generation large HVAC firms do not want anything to do with BPI because of the requirements for whole house approaches. The established HVAC guys make fortunes now using technology they have understood and sold comfortably for 20+ years. They have no interest in changing. When I try to tell a consumer an 80% furnace is not 'high efficiency' my credibility check is BPI. No one has heard of them. the HVAC guys say we have been doing this for 75 years, mention work they did it for that client's neighbor, mother, uncle, father, sister , etc, and they talk about ASHRAE, NATE, and ASTM. Then they say the typical price for 80% furnace and natural draft water heater is $5500. If Mr Homeowner wants it the BPI way, it will take another 6 weeks to get the parts, and it will cost about $4000 more. Clients are confused, and in the absence of a means of knowing who is telling them the truth, they are looking at the wallet and buying the cheaper method 70% of the time.
I have managed to form relationships with some HVAC guys who will work with us, but only on jobs we bring them. They will not call us in on something they had first contact with, and if we are called coincidentally to the same job, they will then change the proposals and start to upsell to the condensing units.
That is self perpetuating as long as industries (HVAC and Shell) have to compete on price in their markets. BPI's role should be elevated (raise the bar?) so they are forced to justify their methodology to mom & pop homeowners, not high end highly educated types, not architects, and not contractors.
Believe it or not, I participate in BPI because I believe in the process as a retrofit approach to houses and as a governing part of home design. I don't do it for the money, and I don't get any material benefit from it. Since incentives don't pay for the paperwork or the actual cost of audits, and the paperwork associated with NYSERDA & BPI delays projects so much, we don't report about 65% of the BPI work we do to the NY Home Performance Program. I don't know if other contractors do that or not. But I am certian it hurts the programs because it reduces their job volume reporting to the Public Service Commission. The program cannot justify its expence to politicians, tax payers and rate payers if it cannot show numbers of successful jobs. Conversely, I cannot justify losing profitable work just to give credibility to BPI & NYSERDA.
BPI could fix that by edcuating consumers directly, reducing the paperwork burden, getting historic utility data into program software with little to no operator effort, and generally helping contractors and auditors establish credibility by educating consumers so they recognize the process is different and valuable. I do not want incentives to me or to my clients. I want the clients and my competitors to see the benefits of doing work this way. I want my competitors to be forced BY MARKET DEMAND, to get certified and implement HP strategies in all projects.
BPI could get a huge amount of 'Guerilla Marketing' on a national level by grabbing the spotlight on the low hanging fruit. go on 60 minutes and do a short report on the dangers of ventless gas heaters, kerosene heaters, and the like. do a second report on UL labeled CO monitor effectiveness, (why does UL say 70ppm for 4hours is acceptable in a house if OSHA says at 35ppm evacuate the workplace?), oh yeah, and the UL device probably doesn't work as advertised anyway. talk about gas ovens and the GAMA guidance saying 800 ppm CO is OK. speak to these wonder devices like the bubbling dryer vent, or solar powerd clothes dryers. at least get your name in the paper. Then take on the really big stuff like properly zoning multifamilies, or make up air for fireplaces. perhaps even mention the existence of those fringe contractors who are BPI Certified or Accredited.
Give me back something for my 10 years of investment. My invoice for accreditation for 2012 came via e mail this past week. every time I get a letter or e mail from BPI it starts out congradulating me for my participation and tells me how great BPI is for me. I frequently feel like the guy buying the Brooklyn Bridge. Words are cheap. I see BPI has moved to a new office again, it has expanded to a new state, it is taking my investment and using it to build a brand to a choir that is previously indentured to BPI. It is time for BPI to get outside their comfort zone and prove their worth to a market they must EARN respect from.
Thank you Pat, exactly what I would have said if I were more eloquent.
It would take a goodly degree of gullability for a person to believe that they can get a worthwhile audit over the phone. I've seen similar programs, based upon assumptions and averages. I believe in measuring and actual numbers. Guess it depends upon one's definition of "energy audit"; one more version for the list.
Just for full disclosure Phil, since you are a marketing major as well as an engineer, what is your profit motivation for promoting this "Live in the Caribbean while you perform audits in America business"? You refer to is as "we will be more accurate" so I presume this is your creation??
Stan, I agree.
Yes there is a segment of the population that would bite and pay for a remote whatever, it certainly is not an energy audit. Another segment will do their own, but the majority of people and homes just can't be stuffed into a generic box. One of the problems with being in the energy business is forgetting how uninformed the public really is about anything to do with their homes. Most of them would need help building a bird house, not to mention the tools to do it. Don't take offense if you can miss your thumb and hit a nail. As energy professionals, and that does not include everyone who has passed their BPI exam, we need to keep doing it right and let the public sort it out. We just can't save them all. A recent post here said BPI and our government has missed the boat, the reality is, their not even on the same planet. You and I can educate a handful of people. A well run government program would have worked to educate the masses, instead, all they have done is created another welfare line with home owners waiting for the next hand out. I'm drifting.
Even if the op's hands off approach were to work, how long before he is lost among 10,000 identical web sites doing the same. No, we (professional energy auditors) are unique. We walk, we talk, and we bring along years of experience and tried and true advice targeted directly to each home owners situation. I know that when I visit a home, the additional advice outside of energy auditing is worth more that what the audit itself is costing. Just the value of bringing that much experience into one's home.
I'd also say Bud made a very good point. I obtained a BPI certification under a fabulous instructor who taught us to do a thorough inspection of the home during the audit so we could give the owner a very deep understanding of all of the issues around suggested home improvements. I'm also a real estate agent who gives great service to my clients and feel I'm worth every penny of my full commission. I'm going against the trend of cut-rate brokerages and agents who do a good job only of selling themselves, but not of servicing the clients well. Just like in the energy audit business, a full-service real estate agent needs to educate potential clients that they will receive the 'real deal' from us - essentially that going cheaper is not in their best interest. I compare the on-line 'audit' to getting your home value from Zillo... not worth a second of your time.
This would be a great tool for the home I was auditing yesterday. Probably tell them to seal the ductwork and the like, insulate walls, crawlspace, etc. Same things I did. But, oh....by the way, would it tell them they had a life/safety situation in the attic.....ducts wrapped with asbestos? Oh....by the way, would the IR camera they used show the issues with the existing insulation in the knee---wall?
When you can start doing that without an auditor crawling through the home from top to bottom, they I'll start using software like yours. Until then, for all of those buildingscience majors living in those homes like yesterday, I'll still come and do a thorough examination of the situation in your particular, unique, home.
"losers" Hmmm! I have never referred to any of my customers as losers and I have visited many homes with little or no potential for improvement. But by the time I left I had helped them somewhere and we both had enjoyed the visit. It is called public relations and it's great for business.
Backing up to one of my questions, since it is in line with the op's thread, how's anyone going to make a living if an audit takes 1/10th the time and 10,000 people can do it from home? If energy auditing were going to be that easy, I would have selected a different business. We have always had the ability to send the home owner a book full of pictures. They pick the one that matches their house best and their audit is printed on the back. And yes, it works for some homes. But when health and safety are figured back in, along with the liability and related insurance, being wrong on any of the rest is not an option. You want to rely on the home owner's information to protect you and your ass-ets from making a wrong suggestion. I pre-interview every customer before I go over and the wealth of information is pennies. In some cases less than zero. Remember, we speak energy, building materials, construction methods, they don't.
I guess we will have to agree to disagree as I'm certain you will continue forward and I'm happy right where I am.
Wait a minute... now we have to actually GO to the house??? That's way off from sitting in my chair doing the "audit". This thread is drifting considerably!
Phil, unfortunately it seems that guys like you are the future, but I will still prefer to use my 25 years of experience to anachronistically inspect every home in person.
McDonald's sold more than 6000 burgers last month, it does not make them good.