Version 5.1 — What's new?
Energy Inspection Report
HomeGauge releases Energy Templates!
BPI Combustion Appliance Safety Test (CAS) Template
RESNET Combustion Appliance Safety Test (CAS) Template
Home Energy Reporting Template
Energy Star Thermal Bypass Checklist "Form"
(All included in HomeGauge 4.4)
Look alive and get excited! The home inspection industry is evolving. Energy related services are becoming integrated into the home inspector's list of services. The trend is already happening. Energy inspectors are becoming home inspectors. I am talking to energy inspectors regularly and they are purchasing HG Software. The time is now for all inspectors using HG to realize that they need to become energy inspectors and/or hire or network with an energy inspector in your area. HG sees this happening, as calls and inquiries continue to show these two professions are merging. If you don’t become an energy specialist in your area, an energy specialist in your area may become a home inspector. HG can help you stay on top, or gain your share, and take all the guesswork out if it. HomeGauge loves energy inspections, and here is why you should too:
- It is still all about homes — you may have to learn a little more, but it will make you a better home inspector. I can’t stress this one enough!
- It is another service you can offer to make more money and to set yourself apart. And, it’s all about homes!
- Energy inspections can happen at any time and are not all about real estate transactions. Ever wish you could access the 400 plus buyers you had last year and sell them something else? Well, now you can and we will show you how!
- It’s almost here! You know you have dreamed of it before. To go to one home a day, perform a home inspection and a Home Energy Survey, with diagnostic testing and a path to energy saving measures for the customer. That’s one kick ass inspection a day! It’s coming and HG can help you make it happen.
But before you run off and spend money on training, you should first enjoy the benefits of my research I have conducted since January. Trade shows, online training, weeklong cram course training, online and field test experiences, market ideas that can lead to more business and make your company diversified. The review below can also save you thousands by choosing the right career path.
HESP: Home Energy Survey Professional (recommended for non energy inspectors)
This certification is relatively easy to achieve and some energy professionals do not feel it gives the owner much more than they can get online. It is however a stepping stone for the owner to perhaps commit to performing a Home Energy Survey with Diagnostics (Blower door testing and more).
Offer a “Home Energy Survey” (HES) as a separate service or with an inspection.
This service usually leads to a more detailed inspection with diagnostic testing that you can refer or network to someone else, or, with extra qualifications, you can do it.
Being a HESP can help you get the home inspection because you are more skilled (HG can help).
Training requirements: General knowledge of energy and an online test.
HG: HomeGauge is either going to provide training or will partner with a training company. Feel free to get this training yourself with a RESNET approved provider until a partnership agreement is complete.
BPI Certified Building Analyst: (recommended)
This certification should be your main priority, in my opinion. BPI has been around since 1993, and their main focus involves “existing homes.” http://www.bpi.org
A Building Analyst (BA) can do both the HES and level 2 diagnostics (level 2 diagnostics is a RESNET term meaning involving blower door measurements).
A BA can do a complete Home Energy Survey, including recommending energy measures and do a follow up afterwards (test in/test out) to confirm the repairs worked.
A BA can provide a "Combustion Appliance Safety test" (CAS), which all homes with combustion appliances should have performed. This test is sorely needed and can reveal life threatening scenarios involving the use of ordinary exhaust fans, air handler fan, house pressures, and draft in the “Combustion Appliance Zone (CAZ).” Easily add $100 or more to your home inspection fees on any home with gas appliances.
Increase your business through the services above.
Add a weatherization company, that you either own or network, to earn more profits. Note: This appears to be a conflict of interest, but with a disclaimer and a better understanding of why, it benefits the homeowner to have a fully qualified Weatherize technician to do the repairs, as opposed to a non qualified contractor. HomeGauge believes in "Test in and Test out" procedures including a CAZ test to demonstrate that air sealing was effective and ensure the safety of the occupants.
Training requirements: Demonstrate competency in energy, an online test, and a field test.
HomeGauge provides templates that follow the BPI technical standards (CAZ test) as well as templates to perform a Home Energy Survey. Note: Some customers may request a Cost Benefit Analysis or modeling which can be obtained from other sources.
RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network) – Focuses on “new homes” and requires the use of modeling software to determine the energy use and the projected cost savings through energy saving measures.
New construction, phase inspections to conform to Energy Star standards.
Educate/teach construction techniques to builders and people wanting to build.
Validate Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEM) and Energy Improvement Mortgage (EIM) loans.
Get work that others can’t because of your qualifications.
Training requirements: Demonstrate competency in energy, modeling, and knowledge of information, an online test, and a series of audits to demonstrate proficiency.
HomeGauge: Currently we provide what is known as "Reporting" software not "modeling" software or "computational" software. For many Raters and BPI Building Analysts producing the report to give to the client has been cumbersome with their modeling software. HomeGauge provides the best looking report and its ease of use makes it the best choice for producing the report to give to the customer.
Purchase the book “Residential Energy” by Krigger and Dorsi at http://www.SRMI.biz. It is a must buy. Read this over the next month while you get ready for training.
Decide which path you want to take: BPI Certified Building Analyst or HERS Rater. Then look for the courses that are available.
Recommendation: I attended an 8 week online course that will help you get ready for either career path above. It was by far the best money I have spent on training, and I recommend everyone take this course, whether or not you are going to a weeklong cram course somewhere. It's 8 weeks long and it required about 10-15 hours a week for me. They have video classroom, slideshows, lessons, and quizzes. The classroom discussion was powerful. As classmates asked a question, they would answer, and everyone benefited from it. The instructors for the videos and slideshows are Krigger and Dorsi, and the instructor online is Bill Hill, who has a great ability to help you understand, with some humor along the way.
See when their next class is available and get in at http://www.SRMI.biz.
Note: Saturn has not paid me for this endorsement (although it would be nice). I am giving you my best recommendations.
HG Training: HG plans on training inspectors to be BPI Certified Building Analysts, including the field tests and learning about HomeGauge Energy software.
What about those week long cram courses — are they good?
I attended one in Ithica, NY (PSD Consulting). The instructor Ethan was super, and I was glad to have gone. It was BPI Building Analyst training. A week long cram course is just that. If it fits your budget and you have read the book “Residential Energy” as a pre-requisite, then I do recommend them. If, however, you want to “sip and learn” over time, then the online course is the best bet.
How much does the training cost?
Prices vary, but be prepared to pay $1200 to $1500 for a weeklong course for either a HERS rater or BPI Certified Building Analyst training. After the weeklong course there is an online proctored test that can cost up to an additional $250 (covers the proctor’s time, classroom use and BPI's or RESNET’s fee). Next, another cost, up to $250, for the 2 hour field exam (For BPI), and that or more for your HERS provider to test your audits if you decide to be a Rater. All HERS raters must belong to a "provider" (RESNET feels a provider will maintain consistency within the industry), including maintaining any associated dues with the provider.
Online training, such as Saturn, costs about $780 bucks or so including the books. The downside is you then have to get field tested, (same as you do on the weeklong course which is extra), and the problem of finding one since you have taken the online class. HomeGauge plans to offer the Field test along with software training or will partner with a training provider.
How much is reporting or audit software? What kind of software do I need?
HERS Rater: Uses REMRATE or EnergyGauge. The rater has to lease the software from their Provider and pays a per use fee. HomeGauge is researching working with DOE (Department of Energy) on their standardization process which will enable HomeGauge to also do modeling and computation. Raters can use HG software in its current form NOW to produce a better looking report and attach the data report.
BPI Building Analyst: Uses HomeGauge Software. The new version 4.3 includes spreadsheet integration and the CYA pane to perfect a process. Put the measurements in — HG will do the math for you and help you insert it into your report automatically. See the Tours BPI CAZ template and Home Energy Survey template
(gulp) Did you say math?
Yes, I said math, but don’t forget, yours truly was able to do it. I recently became a BPI Certified Building Analyst. If you can read a tape measure and enter it in the right place, we can get'er done. Surprisingly, what amounts to a handful of equations is relatively simple to understand, and with HG, the notes are all on the CYA pane at each survey item!
I have heard you don’t need to be a Certified Building Analyst?
Sure, you can go it alone or there are other companies that created a name with the word “Institute” in it. This industry is becoming more regulated. Separate yourself from the rest by aligning with a “credible” institute that has its own technical standards that most energy performance contractors currently use, and has been around since 1993. Sure, it requires obtaining some real knowledge and effort on your part compared to other “institute” training companies that can do it in a day or two, but trust me, it’s worth it. Become a certified BPI Building Analyst!
I bet many HG users will get into Energy, but I am too old, or just not interested!
Oh, you are not too old, but if you want another alternative, you should network with an energy person in your area. HG is currently working on a new web search which can show your company for home inspections, and show another company that you choose for energy inspections. Start looking around your area and make friends. Or, see if your favorite contractor (your brother Daryl) will become qualified. There’s a lot of business to come.
Ok, I’m in. After I get certified as a Building Analyst, how can I make money again?
Home Energy Interview : This is a simple survey that takes about an hour or so that some charge from zero to $100 or more. It’s here that you can easily convince most to do a more detailed diagnostic survey.
Diagnostic survey: As a Building Analyst you can use a blower door test to measure air changes per hour (leaks) in the home. You can also find pressure differences in rooms that cause more energy loss than gaps in doors or windows. Here is where you can reveal the energy losses with a thermal camera, especially after the blower door has been in use depressurizing the home and pulling in the outside air from leaks. Did you know that a good weatherization company (BPI qualified recommended) can usually seal a home so air tight that it would require mechanical ventilation, even leaving in those old leaky windows? The cost to perform this test can range from $150 to several hundred for a full report with information (work write up) for the owner to use to perform the energy measures (repairs).
- CAS test: Did you know that an exhaust appliance (dryer, bath, kitchen exhaust, microwave vent, air handler etc.) can potentially cause an atmospheric vent to back draft? There is a gas water heater downstairs and in the same area a clothes dryer. The clothes dryer may be causing the water heater to back draft. Or the expensive huge kitchen range hood you see on some nice homes during an inspection can cause the fireplace to back draft, or the furnace or gas water heater to spill fumes into the area even when located on different floors. A whole house fan can almost always cause the water heater, even on a different floor, to back draft when on. Using a manometer (included in a blower door purchase) and BPI Technical Standards, you can perform a “Worse Case Depressurization” test of the CAZ (Combustion Appliance Zone). Most HVAC guys use a combustion analyzer to test an appliance, but they don’t consider the pressures in the home and the depressurization that can happen by turning on a few exhausts. Have you ever turned on a whole house fan during the inspection and realized that it blew out the pilot on the gas water heater? I am sure many of you have experienced that and re-lit the pilot and said you are good to go. Would you say that now? Every homeowner with combustible appliances should have a CAS test according to BPI Technical Standards. Tip: HomeGauge 4.3 has a CAZ template that is designed for this process.
What is a BPI Certified “Envelope Professional?”
A contractor you would recommend to perform the energy saving measures found during your diagnostic testing or Home Energy Survey. The Homeowner will decide, based on priority, what they can afford to correct. The weatherization company will follow the BPI standards on proper measures to reduce air loss. This professional will have his own blower door and duct leak tester, more than likely, and can test the home after his measures to demonstrate that the measures were successful. Since there currently is a shortage of these contractors, with the projected growth in energy, you might want to ask your contractor you normally refer to get his certification. He can likely get more business from other inspectors. Or, create another company and hire someone to work for you. Unlike normal construction, you do not want to leave it up to the homeowner to look for someone to do these repairs. If they are not qualified and are not effective, the homeowner’s money is gone, you come back and do a blower door test and discover that measures are still needed, and you end up the bad guy. You have a duty to find a qualified contractor or have a vested interest in the repair company yourself to ensure quality. As long as you place a disclosure in your contract, most people will agree that there is no other company better to make corrective measures than the one who found them or who recommends a qualified and effective contractor.
What is a CHEA?
A CHEA is a “Comprehensive Home Energy Audit” that requires the energy auditor to be both a HERS rater and a BPI Building Analyst. It involves modeling of the home as well as a Home Energy Survey. This is a RESNET sponsored program. This is not necessary for the average inspector who wants to add energy to his inspection business.
How were the trade conferences?
The main shows are RESNET and ACI (see classes from the 09 conference Resnet New Orleans and ACI Kansas City). BPI was a vendor at both events.
Every inspector should attend these classes. I have been to all home inspector conferences from all orgs over the years, and the RESNET and ACI conferences by far are more interesting and more educating by teaching about the house as a system. Don’t get me wrong, attend your home inspection conferences, but if you want to walk away with an education, you’ll get it at either of these shows.
2010 shows: RESNET this February in Raleigh NC or ACI show this April in Austin TX
Whenever I hear about making a home more energy efficient, I think of replacing windows, caulking and weatherstripping.
Many people do but actually none of those can do more for you than air sealing the home. Caulking and weatherstripping usually cannot be seen as savings on the next power bill. Windows due to their expense and the labor expense make them the last choice when trying to use "energy dollars." You should only replace windows when you want too for other reasons, and not for a return on investment by saving energy. Windows are "holes" in the building enclosure and new windows will be holes too. When windows are replaced, the quality and ratings should be carefully considered based on the climate and orientation. Many times the payback on windows can be 100 years if energy was the only reason for replacement. Building performance Institute BPI says that energy saving measures and homeowners dollars should begin in the attic as a priority. Saving energy (money) is all about air sealing a home, and it can be the quickest and most effective return on investment when using energy dollars.
Blower door versus Infrared camera — which one should I get?
A Blower door can measure how leaky a home is, how leaky each room is with respect to each other or the outdoors (with the manometer), and whether or not the energy measures were effective. Using the Minimum Ventilation Requirements (MVR) for each individual home, a determined number can be set using the blower door to measure how tight to get the home, and to stop before mechanical ventilation is required. Or, the MVR guide (based on the homes volume, exposure etc in the BPI Standards) can determine what size of a ventilation fan the home needs and then if installed the home can be air sealed to its maximum energy saving potential all the while affording cleaner air for the occupants to breathe rather than air from leaks in the walls, ceilings and cavities of the home.
Using a thermal camera can spot energy loss areas, so long as there are temperature differences between outside and inside. The thermal camera works great in conjunction with a blower door, but in no way can replace it. A blower door works great in any temperature range and can also prove that the home's repairs are successful. Test in and Test out method gives the most confidence to your customer. If you can only afford one at a time, I would recommend the blower door first.
Extra Economic Incentives
Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency — http://www.dsireusa.org
HomeGauge Version 4.4 includes:
Spreadsheet integration which automates the math
BPI CAZ template
BPI Home Energy Survey template (includes a built-in work write up section to give to the weatherization company)
Energy Star Thermal By-Pass Checklist "Form"
View the home energy template tour
- Download HomeGauge 4.4 now!
HG plans to train inspectors on becoming a BPI Building Analyst
HG plans to offer field testing and online testing.
A software training class can be integrated in the program as well.
RESNET provides standards and training for New Construction Raters who qualify a home for Energy Star. The Rater is the top Energy professional that can do all levels of inspections. State governments recognize RESNET as the authority on Energy relating to a home. http://www.natresnet.org/
BPI: Building Performance Institute is for existing homes energy performance, and provides training through its affiliates on diagnostic testing and Envelope, along with CAS or “Combustion Appliance Safety” testing for a designation of Building Analyst (BA). http://www.bpi.org
NOTE: The following videos were given to me by a vendor at the ACI conference. While they are old, the information itself is not and I hope you will find them interesting.
Click on the video preview to begin..
Rullell, I have hearing talk congress is trying to pass a bill (law) requiring all homes to have an energy efficiency inspection prior to being sold. Any discrepencies or sub-standard efficency items (insulation, windows, appliances etc...) must be corrected prior to selling. Is the BA and the HERS designed for this bill? Or are we talking about something completly different? What is the reference to reasearh this bill and what is the status on it passing? Your aticle is very informative... I guess regardless of this bill, Going Green is what we need to all be thinking! Thanks Russell, Mark Suhrie MAS Construction and Home Inspection firstname.lastname@example.org Jul 30, 2009 7:23 PM
That is a great idea! or link to them in your inspection report. Create a section on introducing a Home Energy Survey and link them to the videos. Jul 27, 2009 3:41 PM
That is a great newsletter, and helps confirm where I am going with my business. I have taken the BPI 1-week training course and passed the written test, but need some more practice with the blower door and combustion test equipment before redoing the field test. I was a salesman for an HVAC company who preached air sealing and cellulose insulation. However I tried to prove the benefits, customers refused to part with their money for energy improvements. I fear that same attitude is here longterm, so I have gone back to the home inspection business as my core, moved to a large metropolitan area, and offer an energy assessment as an added test procedure. Anyway, I love the energy videos, and consider showing them to my customers while I'm doing a home inspection. Jim Groman Jul 27, 2009 8:35 AM