I have an idea: I'm going to take the job that just came in today and blog it from beginning to end, Day 1 til Day X, every step of the way. Initial call, initial visit, second visit & audit, 3rd visit & report delivery, on through contract phase, our local PACE program called SCEIP - Sonoma County Energy Independence Program - approval, Energy Upgrade California approval, permitting, doing the work, final approvals, disbursement and final check. I plan on giving details. What worked, what didn't, where I messed up, where I nailed it. And since I'm not a company who does 5 or 10 projects a month but a relative small fry with a small crew and a small budget, perhaps you'll find nuggets here that you can use to make *your* business more successful, or at least to avoid whatever pitfalls I end up blundering into.

There'll be days, sometime several in a row, where nothing happens. That's the way it goes. I haven't received the approval of the homeowner yet so I'm going to start him out as John Doe on Anywhere Road, but I will tell you it's in Santa Rosa, California, 95401, and if he/she allow it, I'll be more specific. Perhaps there's other Home Performance Contractors who've already done this but I haven't found them so hang on, here we go.

Day 1
While cleaning up from an EUC (Energy Upgrade California - if you don't know what that is, Google it) 3rd party verification at another just-finished project in the country outside of Santa Rosa, the phone rings. A guy with a pleasant voice and just enough accent that it's hard to understand him outdoors speaks and says he got my number from a local solar electric vendor who I sometimes work together with. And that the solar vendor already did a site survey, sized the system, and mentioned that perhaps John should consider getting some efficiency work done to his home, also. That the 6kw +- solar system would get John out of the upper tiers (we're in Pacific Gas & Electric - PG&E - territory where both gas and electric are tiered with a baseline) and down into the baseline but should only produce 70% or so of his electricity. And that adding some insulation might bring that up to 80% production or so. So John called me, saying he was looking for someone he could talk to about adding insulation in the attic. Having some flexibility for rest of the afternoon, we made an appointment to meet at his home this very afternoon. 

First, about the house. It was a 1968 ranch style home in a bedroom community out at the western fringe of Santa Rosa. John and Jane, his wife who wasn't there at the moment, had been in the house for 10 years, had replaced all the windows with new double pane vinyls, replaced all the ducts because of rodent damage (and hopefully closed all the rodent holes in the crawlspace), and the house looked sharp inside with newish floors, kitchen, and paint. There was a 12-14 year old natural gas furnace with all ducts in the crawlspace, an outside air conditioner heat pump. A smallish dining room, 10 X 10 or so, was added on to the end of the kitchen, had large french doors west into the back yard, and it was always cold in there. A large, 20 X 20 or so, living room addition was out the west wall into the back yard, possibly on a slab, and IT was always cold, also. One of the original bedrooms tended to be cold and had very little flow out of the supply register.

John and I spent a half hour or so getting acquainted, sitting at his dining room table. He turned out to be a truly interesting man, older, well traveled and thoughtful, and now worked at a nursery. After trading enjoyable and increasingly personal stories for a while, we started discussing his thoughts and questions about what he thought his home might need and why. From there we moved on into more holistic full-house efficiency concepts and I was pleased to see he was open to wider possibilities than just insulation. We discussed air barriers, thermal barriers, crawlspace issues, insulating the roof vs insulating the ceiling, furnaces vs heat pumps, and more. And then we agreed that I would do a full audit of his home.  Running low on time before the next meeting meant that much of my fact finding about John and Jane's home would have to wait til the day of the audit.  I did, though, ask for a years' worth of utility bills.

Now I need to be sure you know a few things.  John already knew about our local SCEIP program and wanted to finance the whole project through them.  SCEIP strongly encourages a full audit prior to applying but at this time doesn't require it.  However, the EUC program does and bases it's rebate on the percentage modeled improvement to the home's energy usage, which requires both a test-in and a test-out.  Second, my audits are not cheap.  I charge $700 for a full audit.  They're pretty comprehensive but I still lose some possible clients because of the price.  I'm not saying that's good or bad, that's just my business model.

Well, I already did a minor faux-pas: when I left, I told him I'd try to move a few things around to get to his audit next week and call him between 6 & 8, and here I was writing this blogpost and missed the time til 8:30, at which time my call to him went unanswered. 

Oh well.  Day 1 and I'd already blown it.

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Tags: EUC, SCEIP, blogging


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