A quality control program requires knowing a lot about a lot of different subjects. A HEP (BPI Home Energy Professional) Quality Control Inspector is qualified to compare a project outcome to the project requirements or work scope so that the final result is satisfactory to both the program and the homeowner. It requires both technical knowledge as well as “soft skills” which are difficult to teach, learn, and test.
Receiving QCI Certification is a major commitment of time and money and not a task to be entered into lightly. You must be technically competent and experienced and you must be convinced that the commitment will be worth the reward. As of January 1, 2015 the DOE Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) requires program grantees to meet their Quality Work Plan.
The Weatherization Assistance Program's (WAP) comprehensive Quality Work Plan establishes a benchmark for quality home energy upgrades. The plan includes an inspection and monitoring requirement that all WAP Grantees must meet. All units reported to DOE as completed will be inspected to ensure compliance with the specifications in the SWS (Standard Work Specifications). All quality control inspections, including monitoring inspections, must be conducted and signed-off by a certified Home Energy Professional Quality Control Inspector.
There are about twenty-five Weatherization Assistance Agencies throughout the U.S. and there are about sixteen regional weatherization assistance training programs. (These numbers come from the WAPTAC website http://bit.ly/1CHezbg)
Most of the QCI inspections are likely to be performed by internal staff at the weatherization agencies and programs. It is expensive for an independent contractor to carry the necessary liability insurance, although many independent energy efficiency contractors are already carrying a heavy insurance load for audits and HERS ratings.
The HEP QCI certification is a BPI (Building Performance Institute ) certification program. In order to be qualified to challenge the required exams, there are a number of experience requirements as defined on the BPI HEP prerequisite page. One of the biggest challenges is being able to prove the experience related credentials. It is important that anyone thinking of achieving these credentials begin to log or document their experience. This might require going back to former employers to get them to sign off. Experiences are summarized by adding up a minimum of forty points from five different areas:
1) Industry inspector experience;
2) Other industry experience;
3) Building experience;
5) Industry certification
Inspector experience can include site visits, inspections, and diagnostics for a maximum of twenty points, defined as ten points for every one thousand hours of experience. If an average energy audit takes you two hours, it would require five hundred audits for ten points.
If you were an energy auditor or crew leader, you could include five points for crew leader and ten points for energy auditor as long as you have completed a minimum of fifteen documented audits. You will need to have an organization attest to the fact that you have completed two thousand hours as a crew leader and/or two thousand hours as an energy auditor and completed fifteen audits.
For building experience such as framing, roofing, drywalling, or siding you could include a maximum of ten points with five points allocated to every one thousand hours. You will need to have an organization verify that you have completed one thousand hours of building experience for each five points.
You can include a maximum of ten points for eighty hours of training (five points per forty hours).
Finally you can list five points per industry certification (with a maximum of ten points) for RESNET, BPI, NATE, or EPA. Other industry related certifications are also considered.
Once you have applied and your experience verified and you have been approved to take the exams, you will have two and half hours for the written exam at a cost of approximately $250 (depending on the testing organization) and three and a half hours at a cost of approximately $700 to take the field exam. (Reportedly the field exam can be accomplished in less time if the house is relatively basic.)
There are twenty-nine organizations that offer QCI training (according to the BPI website). The first thing to look for is a training provider that is IREC (Interstate Renewable Energy Council) Accredited. An organization that has achieved IREC Accreditation has gone through an extensive review of all of its practices and programs from the content of the courses to the solidity of its economics. An experienced IREC assessor has reviewed it all: everything that a student would want to know.
There are fourteen organizations in the U.S. whose HEP QCI courses have been accredited. Go to the IREC website for their locations. This is not to say that the other training programs are not good. They may be excellent but seeing the IREC Accreditation gives you one more level of assurance – quality assurance – in the program. And if you’re going to invest that kind of money, you should use the best. It may not necessarily be the closest – and there is something to be said for limited travel costs – but you’re making an investment so it should be a good one.
The QCI course is based on a Job Task Analysis or JTA developed by a team of industry experts. The QCI JTA consists of five knowledge domains:
Domain I: Conducting Quality Checks – In-Process Visual/Sensory Inspections
Domain II: Conducting Quality Checks – Post-work Visual/Sensory Inspection
Domain III: Conducting Quality Checks – Post Work Diagnostic Inspections
Domain IV: Ensuring Worker Professionalism
Domain V: Ensuring Program or Project Compliance
Each of these domains are broken down into four or five tasks. BPI has a “Field Guide” on their website. The Field Guide includes everything that is on the field test. It would be reasonable to go through everything listed on the Field Guide and make sure that you know how to efficiently perform every task. It would also be advisable to rewrite the field guide (including all the items) into a checklist in the order that you are familiar with. (Note that you want to be sure to perform every step in the Field Guide. Just because a task seems obvious or inconsequential or not applicable to the present home, doesn’t mean that you should ignore it.) The BPI Field Guide is grouped in similar areas – all the items related to work problems in one area and all the items related to CO in another area. Bouncing back and forth will be inefficient and time consuming. It makes much more sense to reorganize the Guide in a logical and sequential list. At the same time you will be familiarizing yourself with what is included and less likely to be fumbling around during the field test.
More on these Domains and Tasks to come in future blog posts.
If you are planning to challenge the BPI Quality Control Inspector’s certification, you might find the Quality Control Inspector’s Residential Handbook helpful. Scheduled for publication on June 1, 2015. For updates and a discount on publication, please add your name and email address by clicking on the book below.
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