Hurricane Sandy and the Home Performance Industry

Last Friday I had the opportunity to attend a webinar put on by Energy Circle titled “Hurricane Sandy and the Home Performance Industry: How Do We Respond?” Peter Troast, CEO of Energy Circle, shared that when he woke up on Friday, he felt the need to start a bigger conversation—thus a webinar was born. For being a last-minute idea, the webinar was a huge success with a lot of response, which serves as yet another testament to the great people of this industry.

While the purpose of the webinar was to collectively gather ideas and start a dialogue, there was a main message: Our industry has knowledge and information that we’ve already put a great deal of time in to gathering and testing. Now, how can we share that knowledge to ensure that homes affected by Sandy are rebuilt better, more efficient, and more resilient to future storms? “If the world knew what we know, this would be an extraordinary opportunity for this industry,” said Troast.

He also reminded us that the fundamental principles of home performance are comfort, health, durability, and energy efficiency—all of which were under attack with Sandy. But, said Paul Eldrenkamp, owner and founder of Byggmeister, Inc., “there may be a silver lining in the clouds that Sandy brought. Perhaps this will help us do the right thing on homes, and make it easier to do what’s right for the long term.”

There’s no doubt that this storm provides an opportunity for energy efficiency contractors and businesses to approach homeowners with whole-house solutions that will help them save money and be more resilient to these types of storms in the future. But what’s the right way to do so when these homeowners are in the midst of devastation? The consensus of the group was that our industry needs to share knowledge, but do so with empathy. Maybe a homeowner doesn’t want to hear the whole-house spiel just yet, but if we leave them with information and a list of properly trained and qualified contractors, they can make the decision in the future. Contractors in the Northeast can also reach out to previous customers and spread information that way. Another major channel is through insurance companies, as they’ll likely be the first people that homeowners call when they get their power back. It’s important to note also that the thought process of homeowners will evolve in this process. What’s a wet basement today will be a moldy basement in a few weeks. 

Our industry has the responsibility to spread the knowledge we have, and we need to do so soon and consistently. In times like these, people see storms as a chance to get into contracting to make quick money. “Hurricanes are seen as opportunity for nontrained contractors to get into the business,” said Larry Zarker, CEO of BPI. “The shortage of contractors creates this opportunity but our home performance force is trained and there is a channel for how work is done, which is through insurance companies.” Needless to say, this is where we need to focus our energy so that homeowners aren’t faced with the same problems the next time a hurricane comes.

Resilient homes is a hot topic right now in home performance, and it will be a track of learning at the upcoming NESEA Building Energy conference taking place in Boston, Massachusetts in March 2013. Energy Circle also recently posted an article on their web site titled, “In the Wake of Sandy: Does Resilience Sell Home Performance?"

The bottom line is that this unfortunate situation has further identified the need for our industry and has brought even greater attention to the fact that we need to educate and inform for the future. The webinar ended with the agreement that we need to come together and create a strategy to get whole-house home performance information to the people affected. Eldrenkamp echoed this sentiment: “We need to see others in the field as colleagues not competitors. We need act as one voice, not just speak as one voice.” If nothing else, let’s see Hurricane Sandy as a catalyst for change.

For more information on Hurricane Sandy response and recovery, visit EPA’s web site.

Photo: New York flooding from Hurricane Sandy. (Credit: Reuters)

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