A great big hurdle for my business is competing with the BPI contractor who offers a $50 audit or to 'reemburse' the audit fee when work is contracted.
I know for a fact that people are being 'sold' on a new heating system, windows and even a roof for one customer who recently called me as 'energy savings' products. Who controls what price the contractor is quoting; where is the competition once an audit is completed by the contractor?? In New York, NYSERDA is offering incentives to home owners who have an audit and work completed by a BPI certified contractor. How many of these contractors send out sales people that are motivated to sell the customer a marginal product? I have been a contractor since 1972 and would never pull those antics.
What a total sham this entire program is appearing to become.
Not sure why you call it a sham. The industry is rapidly growing, new opportunities are arising, and the business models are evolving to meet the demand and growth. I understand that the competition is tough, especially for sole proprietors/single offering businesses.
I've been a GC for 25 years, and have consistently had to respond to evolving/mutating/new markets, products, competition, tools, economies, and approaches. Yes, it sucks, and we either adapt or go out of business (been there a few times...), and that is all we can do. Unless,of course, you are among the lucky few who havea solid niche market that is impenetrable-- not too common these days.
All I ask for is a level playing field. If this program is going to be tailored toward install sales; so be it. That was not explained when I joined up. NYSERDA does offer a 'finders fee' if I contact a program contractor and give him the job; a small percentage of his take.
As for those confusing audit reports:
Any auditor who is not professional will not last in business-no referrals. Our reports are very user friendly and we define a scope of work so that the customer can get multiple quotes for work they need in order of pay back.
I can not compete with 'free' when a customer comes asking for an audit that takes 1/2 a day in time between travel and report. Perhaps I need to buy a $100,000 spray foam truck with equipment and material. I could also offer top of the line Energy Star window replacements that qualify the home owner for big incentives. Would my audits be unbaised?
Does RESNET have a different philosopy on raters also doing the work?
Jon, You nailed it: "It's interesting what the different programs around the country offer."
We work for two utilities on turf that is constantly changing, under rules and incentives that shift equally. I don't know how one-person auditors can hold up in these ever-shifting sands. I know it's tough on small shops like mine.
As for the disclosure statement, part of me wonders the extent to which signed papers create more liability for the utilities, hence a softer approach.
I think the utilities are primarily looking for duct and air sealing, more CFL installs, hoping the contractors will do the marketing and the customers will buy the spendier work without too much utility involvement.
Allen, You and I are pretty much in the same boat. We don't have the resources to gear up to do all of the work, nor the interest in tooling up for work that is high volume/low margin with widely varying demand. As such, the referral fees and %ages are all there is for us.
And, to your point, the majority will always be blamed for the bad behaviors of the few, whether it's an audit-only shop, or a contractor, or a combination. No different in the GC world. (Nor lawyers!)
Jon - I have to agree with you on that issue to some degree. To avoid that, I always ask that the homeowner be there at the audit so I can explain the top priorities in person. Surprisingly many people choose not to be present or really don't pay attention. If they don't understand fully later, I think that's on them to ask questions of the auditor. Its also good to have a knowledgeable contractor like yourself explain things again sometimes in practical terms.
My report may (and often does) have much more detail on other items that what were not discussed. We try to give priorities (high to low) for each person so they know the things that are most important in terms of saving money and ease of installation. But we really don't want to leave out things because the person MAY not understand or want them. Whose to say that the limited scope that you offer after parsing out the recommendations is the "correct" scope? None of us can say that. We have to rely on the customer to make some judgments about what they want within their budget and objectives for comfort and cost savings.
I don't think we're trying to add layers to cost. We're trying to avoid having them pay for unnecessary items because one auditor-contractor told them to do something that was more in the best interest of the contractor than the homeowner. By avoid conflict of interest I think it saves money for most people in the long-run. Or at least the homeowner can be confident that there are no ulterior motives on the part of the auditor for making the recommendations.
On the flip side of the coin, Bob, one could easily say that there are as many or MORE non-auditor contractors who will scam the customer. So the argument might be that the best judge for the best measures with the best ROI could in fact be the auditor, perhaps one who will provide the services.
Every report we do for one of the utility programs provides the same detail as a BPI audit-- the good news and the bad, the best opoprtunities, and options for Deep Retrofits, fo rthose that have the bucks to make the commitment.
For the other program, we do a short (<1hr.) "assessment," a brief peek at the crawl, the attic, appliance labels, the panel, the walls, and that's it-- all goes on a checklist, and we're additionally tasked with installing CFLs and promoting the program-- essentially upselling to a full audit.
So we ARE in ointeresting times, with all sorts of scenarios where the majority of ethical behavior by our industry can be undermined by unethical behavior of the few. And what should we do? Cry to BPI and have them become enforcers? I doubt they want that. Cry to the utilities who put bread on our table? No way--
BTW, if you haven't already done so, check out the EPS tools developed by Earth Advantage. I just completed a training with them-- excellent instructor, a very functional product with customer printouts that the average Joe can understand, along with a data engine behind the scenes that appears to do it right. The approach and reasoning for the data inputs and outputs makes a lot of sense. (I'm not a paid promoter, just sharing, is all)
This is a great thread.