BPI Extends Application Deadline for Pilot Home Energy Professional Certifications
Due to strong contractor participation in BPI's pilot Home Energy Professional certification exam program, BPI will extend the application deadline to accommodate demand. Candidates interested in challenging BPI's pilot exams should file applications as promptly as possible to ensure their participation in the pilot program. Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) workers are encouraged to act quickly to take advantage of FREE exams for WAP personnel only during the pilot period.
To take the exams, all candidates must fill out an application and meet work experience prerequisite criteria. Once the application is approved by BPI, candidates should contact a BPI Test Center directly to schedule their exam. Click here to view a list of BPI Test Centers participating in the pilot.
BPI Releases Initial Results of Quality Assurance Procedures for Proctors and Test Centers
BPI has released the initial results of its Quality Assurance procedures for proctors and BPI Test Centers that were implemented on February 1, 2012. BPI's new procedures, including video-recording of exams and improved proctor training and oversight, have had a substantial impact on the enhancement of proctoring and testing services throughout BPI's network.
In the first seven months of 2012, proctors and test centers administered over 15,000 exams. BPI randomly reviewed a sample of the video-recordings, and out of the total number of exams taken, BPI received 62 appeals, of which 20 were overturned. Through the use of video-recordings, BPI has been able to provide visual evidence that disputes or confirms claims made in appeals, making the process as fair as possible for the candidates.
BPI is proud to announce that BPI-1100-T-2012 Home Energy Auditing Standard has been published as a BPI standard. Home performance professionals will now be able to ensure that evaluations of existing single-family dwellings and townhouses are conducted as thoroughly as possible by applying this standard to their projects.
The evaluation addresses energy usage, elements of building durability, and occupant health and safety; provides a comprehensive scope of work to improve the home; and includes a cost-benefit analysis. BPI is proceeding to have BPI-1100-T-2012 published by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as an American National Standard, and will open a public comment period for this ANSI process in the near future.
NYSERDA Announces Workforce Training Contract to Increase Involvement of Oilheat Industry in 'Whole House' Energy Efficiency Assessments
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has announced a $290,000 contract with Community Power Network of Olmstedville, Essex County and Oil Heat Associates of Long Island to develop and deliver energy efficiency skills training to oilheat technicians across the state.
The training is designed to fill the gaps between HVAC and oil industry certifications and the BPI certification, which is a requirement for participation in NYSERDA's Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program.
Over the last year or so, many of you have had to learn about the new ASHRAE ventilation standard. For those in BPI's network, the new 62.2-2010 will replace the old 62-89 standard on January 1, 2013. Many DOE low-income weatherization programs are currently using 62.2, and for those of you working in new homes built to the 2012 IECC – it is happening now.
In the coming months, there will be a new emphasis on 62.2, so let's take a look at the basics.
Even though you can get a lot of condensed versions, and apps that do the calculations for you, it is always best to have, and understand, the actual standard.
So what is this new 62.2 standard?
62.2 is a mechanical ventilation standard used to determine the amount of constant or intermittent ventilation to install should your evaluation show you need it. Ventilation can be exhaust only, supply only, or balanced. It can be constant or intermittent, and in existing houses, you can get a credit for a leaky building that can replace part, or all, of the requirement.
62.2 also requires items like a weather-stripped garage door, a vented dryer, compensation for combustion air, quiet fans, and either measuring fan output or using a prescriptive table for maximum fan exhaust duct lengths. Check the standard for a more complete list.
The standard has a default table for determining ventilation, but using the calculation will usually end up with a smaller fan, so it may be worth the time and effort to do the math.
The past standards have been based on either the volume of the building or the number of occupants. This new standard is based on both floor area and number of occupants.
The first thing to do is determine floor area.
The standard uses "occupiable area" that it defines as any space within the pressure boundary: so if you have included the basement as part of the envelope, include that area.
Next, determine number of occupants.
The standard uses the old standby of bedrooms +1.
The ventilation formula is:
One percent of floor area plus 7.5 times the number of occupants equals the CFM of full time ventilation. Or mathematically, (Area X 0.01) + (Bedrooms+1 X 7.5) = CFM ventilation.
So as an example - a 2200 square-foot house with a 1100 square-foot occupiable basement and 3 bedrooms would look like this:
(3300 X 0.01) + (4 X 7.5) = (33) + (30) = 63 CFM of full time ventilation
The standard also has a table for determining intermittent fan use, and it ends up to be more run time than just a ratio would come up with.
So, no magic - everything can be done from tables or the calculation. And remember - tightening a house, then re-ventilating it, are both part of the same strategy.
For more information on ASHRAE 62.2, including lesson plans, worksheets and other materials see WAPTAC's Weatherization Assistance Program Standardized Curricula.
To read the standard itself, click here.
Most of us in this business know a lot about home performance contracting. We know building science - how to diagnose the issues and then complete the improvements effectively. Not only are we good at it, but we enjoy the work.
What more do we need to know to have a successful company?
Many of us answered, "Not much. I'll pick up the rest as I go along." Unintentionally, we become students of the "Hard Knocks University", where the cost of our education is a gamble. If you're unlucky, the cost - in terms of dollars, reputation and liability - can be astronomical.
Since we learn best from our mistakes, others might be able to learn from our bloopers, too. Thanks to good luck, none of us have gone out of business . . . yet. The tuition bills were high and agonizing, but perhaps our lessons learned can help you avoid the same.
The three courses that gave us the hardest time were marketing, administration and contracting. Here's how we blew it.
We knew we'd be great on TV and radio. Customers would flock to our doors if we just spent . . . a whole lot of money.
Don't be enticed by your ego. Traditional media are not the place to start. Rather, focus your (always limited) marketing dollars on the things that really make a difference, like your website and networking.
So, we invested in our company's website, but tried everything to keep the cost down. We thought we'd use a neighbor who built websites to build us one on the side, or we'd get one of those free websites we see on TV.
By "saving" money on our website, we diluted the power of our main marketing tool. The quality of your website is critical, and it should present your company in the best possible way. We learned that you save money by investing in top quality.
As for networking, we initially felt it was just a bunch of glad-handing and small talk. Our time was better spent focusing on real work.
Then, we learned the hard way that people buy from people. Getting to know people in your industry will help with brand recognition and lead generation. Reaching out to others creates a network of people who know you and will direct business to you in surprising ways. The right events can be some of the best uses of your time. Don't forget to connect with your competitors. They can become collaborators, who can send you business, or help you when you need it.
Tracking things is difficult and boring. If we focused on bidding the jobs and doing the work, it'd all work out.
Well, we might not have been that stupid, but this certainly captured our attitude. And when we started looking further, we were in trouble.
Set up systems that allow you to monitor all the important aspects of your company's processes, especially project status on all the various active jobs. Now, we also track our results, like air leakage reductions, energy saved, and conversion rates for leads to audits and audits to projects.
Then, we tried to do everything ourselves - wrong again.
As owners, we have to wear lots of hats, but we eventually learned to delegate, so that others are responsible for some things. We hired consultants for things like bookkeeping, web design and marketing. We created systems so that the person doing the job can track their own progress. Now we only need to review the results, and adjust accordingly.
Then we discovered the missing link. We needed a manager who would supervise. Great idea, except we hired our friend, or relative, or promoted a current staff member who we thought would do a good job once they got the hang of it.
This is perhaps the hardest and most costly lesson to learn. A company must have the right people in the right places to function well. So make these decisions carefully, and don't just hire someone because they're available.
Bad hires can hurt your reputation, morale and momentum, resulting in long-term negative impacts.
We know contracting. That's our niche. Just do it fast and well, and everyone will be happy. No preparation needed.
We soon realized that didn't work. We needed to carefully prepare our customers for projects by explaining the contracts and process. Then, their expectations would match our results, and we'd deliver satisfaction.
Then, we went back to doing the work, and letting the customers take care of themselves - wrong again. Communication is key. Our (very) angry customers taught us this lesson loudly. If they don't hear from you, they will often assume the worst. Every hour of silence makes the situation more difficult.
The solution is easy. Keep your customers regularly informed of their project's progress, and check-in to see what they're thinking.
Finally, the Hard Knocks U. curriculum focused on the grad level topic, standard procedures. Since we knew building science and had been doing this for years, we thought we could sidestep the "unnecessary" rules. Fortunately for us, this lesson's costs were not too severe, but it certainly made us nervous. We learned the hard way that houses really are integrated systems. Our well-meaning actions had unintended consequences that created costly problems - and we had to foot the bill.
Following BPI standards and procedures reduces unexpected outcomes. You and your customer can discuss likely results, next steps and probable costs BEFORE work begins. Such discussions relieve you from responsibility and future costs. More importantly, you are protected against the costly legal liabilities created by not following industry procedures.
Do What We Now Say
Not what we did. Avoid the costly tuitions we paid at Hard Knocks U. and, help others to learn from your mistakes. By working together, we can build a strong home performance industry in which all our companies can prosper.
Good news for rural reforms
A new federal initiative is expected to accelerate home-efficiency gains in rural areas around the U.S.
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program, announced in July by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, intends to lend money to 900-plus electrical cooperatives to help rural homeowners and small businesses finance insulation and air-sealing upgrades, among other energy-saving improvements. The co-ops would be responsible for ensuring that contractors perform the work properly, and customers would pay back the loans through their energy bills. About $250 million could initially be available.
Also at the federal level: The General Services Administration is now requiring federal building staff to gain skills related to maximizing building performance. Details at Federal News Radio.
But feds say PACE is still too risky
PACE programs would allow home owners to pay down a 'loan' for home energy retrofits via property taxes over a 10-20 year period of time. But the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Administration (FHFA) has proposed a new rule that could automatically disqualify a huge number of mortgagers from participating. Read more from Environmental Building News.
Building code updates
- California is the first state to place window film into the state building code. Used primarily for retrofit applications, window film is a polymer material that can reduce energy loss. The change to the building code takes effect in January 2014. More at Building Online.
- Wondering about the Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code as it applies to remodels and repairs? Here's an overview from the Center for EcoTechnology.
- Three years after adopting the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code, the New Hampshire legislature has now ratified it as well. More at OCEAN.
- Expanded cork boardstock insulation. Not cheap, writes Alex Wilson in BuildingGreen.com, "but you end up with one of the greenest building materials anywhere." Amorim Isolamentos, of Portugal, is just now introducing the product to the North American market.
- Patented gypsum boards said to slash energy consumption. Researchers at a university in Spain are behind this new product.
- Settlement in insulation price-fixing case. Masco Corp., a major U.S. installer of home insulation, has reached a $75 million settlement on claims that it colluded with insulation makers to fix prices. Details at Home Channel News.
- Big drop in Owens-Corning profit. The building products giant expects its insulation business to narrow losses this year, but saw second-quarter profits overall fall 50 percent from the first quarter. More at the Wall Street Journal.
It's called the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition, but here's what's made by member companies: "treated lumber, vinyl, synthetic fabrics, extruded foams, vinyl flooring, siding and windows, greenwashed lumber...," writes Lloyd Alter in Treehugger.
From the forums
Congratulations to Lloyd Hamilton of Verdae, LLC in Rhinebeck, NY for being the first to submit the correct answer to July's Stump the Chump!
As a reminder, Jerritt Gluck of Bonded Building and Engineering provided these images (scroll down) of a concrete floor with an abnormality beneath it, and asked readers to determine what the problem was, how to best solve it, and what the contractors could have done to prevent it.
Lloyd explains that "the pictures show a cement floor with radiant tube leaking beneath it, caused by drilling. The concrete floor will have to be broken open, and the tubing repaired, while using thermal imaging so that more tubing isn't cut. If the contractors had turned on the radiant floor, and then used a thermal imaging camera, they would have been able to know where the tube was, and could have avoided it."
What's Wrong with this Picture?
For this month's stumper, Ham Niles of Evergreen Home Performance provided this story about the home of a retired anesthesiologist and his wife in Maine.
"The couple lived in a home less than 20 years old. They had a tight house, solar hot water, under-floor heat, efficient windows, modern electric appliances for laundry, dishes and cooking, and a backup generator with a block heater and battery charger for when the power goes out, which it does frequently in this town on the coast of Maine.
The homeowners complained that there was high electrical usage that seemed out of proportion with their habits - as though they had a hot tub or AC running all the time.
We evaluated the house top-to-bottom, and found plenty of load - thirteen 90 watt can lights; several pumps for the under-floor heat; various phantom loads associated with printers, Tivos and a security system; but nothing that added up to the 12000 kWh the client was annually seeing. I recalled a story my boss told me about how to use the IR camera – and that led to directly solving the problem. What was it?"
Hint: Infrared of back-up generator (top left) and infrared of circuit breaker (top right).