So, you're about to take a class to become a home energy rater or building analyst so you can go out and do energy audits. Maybe you've already taken a class and are out there trying to make a living at it now. You may be aware of this already, but here's a little secret: What you learned in your 5 or 8 day class was just the tip of the iceberg. If you're new at this, you've got a lot more learning left to do than you've already done.
This shouldn't be too much of a surprise, though. It's a technical field that requires a lot of knowledge, skill, and experience. You have to understand pressure testing, energy modeling, HERS or BPI standards (or both), and building science. You get a dose of all those things in your class, but it's not until you get out and start trying to use that knowledge in the real world that it becomes real.
That's also when most new energy auditors realize how much they still need to learn. For example, you saw in class how easily your instructor ran the duct leakage test and got results. You should have also had a chance to operate the equipment yourself and demonstrate that you understood the basic principles.
But then you get out and attempt your first test and try to find the duct leakage outside the building envelope.
"Wait. I thought I was supposed to turn the fan up until the ducts are at 25 Pascals. Why is this number as high as the other test? Maybe I set the manometer for the wrong device. Is Config set right? This doesn't make any sense."
That's about the time I get a call from our new raters. Yet that, too, is still early in the process.
Once you're proficient at running the pressure tests, using your energy modeling software, and doing audits according to the standards, a whole new level of learning kicks in. Maybe a customer accuses you of breaking the seal on their double-pane windows when you depressurized the house. Or you want to know if house-wrap works for sheathing the attic-side of kneewalls. Or you realize how poorly you understand ventilation. Or you see ducts sweating in a crawl space and want to understand condensation better.
The real world is much more complex than any classroom, you see. A HERS rater class can take you only so far, but then you've got to dedicate yourself to learning as much as you possibly can. Here are a few tips for new energy auditors:
This is, of course, not an exhaustive list, so I'd be interested in hearing what other ways of learning you've found after getting out of your HERS or BPI classes. Please comment below!
Once you get into this field as a home energy pro, you'll find the rabbit hole goes much deeper than you ever thought possible. Keep learning and maybe someday you'll get invited to Building Science Summer Camp.