On May 1st BPI honored John Tooley of Advanced Energy by naming him the 2013 recipient of the Tony Woods Award for Excellence in Advancing the Home Performance Industry, at the Opening Plenary ceremony of the ACI National Home Performance Conference in Denver, Colorado.
Tooley was nominated by industry peers and selected by an independent panel of impartial judges for his integrity and commitment to quality assurance processes in home performance contracting.
Following John’s award, three new individuals were inducted into the Building Performance Industry Hall of Fame. Nominated by their peers and selected by a panel of impartial judges, Joe Kuonen, Michael Blasnik, and Rick Chitwood were recognized for their significant and lasting contributions to the building performance industry over the course of their careers.
Click here to read more about this year’s Tony Woods Award winner, and Hall of Fame inductees.
Coming Soon: Download ACI 2013 Presentations
Presentations from ACI National 2013 will soon be available for download at the Live Learning Center through the ACI Library. Check back for new presentations from the conference as they are added.
Building efficiency legislation moves forward
On May 8th, the Senate Energy Committee approved the latest version of the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011. Among other provisions, the legislation strengthens building codes to make homes and buildings more energy efficient, creates a new DOE program (SupplySTAR) to improve efficiency within manufacturers’ supply chains, and funds centers focused on optimizing energy efficiency in buildings.
Introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) in 2011, the bill will be considered by the full Senate in June. “Efficiency may be the best hope for an energy issue that can unite both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, according to Politico. See the summary of the bill.
Notable program savings
DOE reports $41.2 million in annual energy savings to homeowners and businesses as a result of energy improvements through it’s Better Buildings Neighborhood Program. Established in 2010, the program has awarded $508 million in grants to more than 40 state and local governments to create “self-sustaining energy efficiency programs,” according to this article. At the recent ACI conference, the Better Buildings Residential Network was announced to expand this effort.
Can home energy efficiency gain traction?
While consumer reactions to energy efficiency upgrades are erratic, according to a new survey from the Shelton Group, nearly three-quarters of the 1,000 survey participants said that knowing their neighbors’ consumption data would influence their own actions. See article from Greentech Efficiency here.
Home-performance advice and how-tos
- All about thermal mass, via Green Building Advisor
- Crawl spaces, HVAC and IAQ, via Energy Vanguard
- What does this picture have to do with moisture in buildings?, via Home Energy Pros
- Mystery inspector: ductwork done right (5th in a series), via Builder
- Better home efficiency: the devil is in the details, via Home energy
Video training resources
- Green building videos from GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, including this 7-part series on exterior insulation retrofit (some content is premium).
- Auditing and HVAC videos from TruTech Tools. The free video library includes primers from thermal imaging to duct-testing.
Sales and marketing tips
- Inexpensive CRM software for energy auditing (discussion), via Home Energy Pros
- Email marketing basics for home performance (2-part series), via Energy Circle
Now that’s a visual
Looking for better ways to convey the hows and whys of home performance? The “Tighten up challenge” from Energy Efficiency Arkansas gives consumers an interactive mouse-over to guess at the top three ways to save energy in each of six rooms of the home. And yes! Weather stripping and an airtight fireplace are singled out as higher priorities than window replacements.
97 percent of people look for local businesses online, and Google is typically the first place they go. There are a number of changes underfoot regarding Google local search that any independent home performance company should be aware of in order to generate leads and keep business cranking.
The big driver of these changes is Google’s ferocious focus on growing their Google+ network, which some consider to be the search giant’s answer to Facebook. All you really need to know is that these two companies are locked in battle, and Google is utilizing all of its considerable assets to fight Facebook’s dominance in social media. For better or worse, millions of small businesses around the globe are pawns in this battle.
First off, Google is forcing small businesses to engage in Google+ by making Google+ Local (formerly called Google Places) pages critical to any service company’s performance in search, but we’ll have more on that in just a bit. They’ve also made these pages the most important (because they’re Google) locations on the web for third party reviews of your business. On top of all that, they’ve now begun the process of merging Google+ Business Pages (think of these as the Google equivalent of a Facebook Business page) with the separate and distinct page known as Google+ Local. Do you think they could have made this any more complicated? Neither do we.
But, buried in this mess, there is good news for home performance companies that get out front as these changes are implemented, and it’s not that difficult to manage, so don’t despair.
The core reason this is so critical is that virtually every search term relevant to home performance has been “localized” by the search engines. Energy audit, insulation, air conditioning, solar installer, you name it. You’ve seen these results many times--where a search results in a blended or “pin” listing that combines your primary website listing with your Google+ Local page.
The Challenge of Blended Results
Most importantly, if you don’t have a Google+ Local page, you will not be included in these search results. Yep, that’s right. So determining if you have one, and getting control of it, is job #1. Once you have control, it’s relatively easy to manage: double check that your address is exactly right, make sure your categories are correct for your particular services, add some photos, and start asking for reviews from your best customers. Then start monitoring searches to see where you’re coming up.
One of the things you’ll quickly see is how much variation there is in the blended results. Increasingly, we’re seeing 7 pin listings (called 7-packs) replaced with blended results that include as few as 3 pinned results mixed in with organic results (regular old web pages). This is problematic, because it means if you want your Google+ Local listing to show up, being in the top 7 is no longer enough. In many cases, you have to be in the top 3 results to even appear.
Improving your rankings can be complicated, but doesn’t have to be if you follow the basics. The most difficult aspect is that the number of customer reviews appears to be a critical factor. Try to shoot for a minimum of 10, and always try to stay ahead of your competitors.
The Google+ Local / Google+ Business Pages Merge
The big news of the last few weeks is that the long-awaited merger of Google+ Local and Google+ Business Pages is finally happening. Where your Google+ Local page is a relatively simple mix of the right business categories, a few photos and some reviews - with a merged page there’s much more.
Google+ Business pages are full-blown social media profiles, where you can add friends (by adding people and pages to circles), share content, and more. They are rich pages, with the opportunity for commenting and engagement, and there’s a lot more flexibility to customize your content. In short, they’re very similar to Facebook Business Pages with the key difference being the presence of third party reviews. While Google+ remains a bit of a ghost town relative to Facebook in terms of engagement, there’s still much to be said for putting some love into your Google+ presence. Namely, some 500 million users, and a tremendous link value as it’s a Google product (we’d suggest linking back to your website on your Google+ business profile whenever you can).
If you have a Google+ Local page and haven’t yet set up your Business page, our recommendation is to wait. Any day, your page will suddenly have all the social and additional features added to it.
What You Should Do
The good news: there’s some consensus about how to best set yourself up to take advantage of these changes.
- Claim your Google+ Local listing and give it some love. The best way to do this for now is with reviews: currently, very few contractors have more than 5 reviews, so if you can get 5 or more reviews on your Google+ Local page, you’ll be in very good shape to perform.
- Start preparing for the merged Google+ Business page. Make a list of content you’ll share and link to, prepare good photos and videos, and start thinking about how you’ll grow your reach by expanding your circles.
- Monitor your rankings. With blended results only featuring maybe 3 pinned listings, your chances of showing up in results will be greatly increased by taking the steps above and also having a strong, optimized primary website for your business.
- • Keep an eye on others who are doing it well. Examples of home performance companies doing a good job with merged pages include: Building Doctors, Cincinnati Energy Solutions, and Kevel Home Performance.
We know this is a pain in the neck, and ridiculously over complicated, but the good news is that by reading this column, you’re already a step ahead of the competition. A recent study found that fewer than 50 percent of small businesses have ever updated their online listings. So if you take a few simple steps to optimize your listings, you’ll be in better shape than much of your competition.
We all have those relationships that would improve dramatically if the other person would just stop doing this, or start doing that. You already have one or two people in mind, don’t you? A colleague or a loved one? What you would want them to change is probably not a major change to their behavioral style, but it would have a major positive impact on your relationship.
At SM Advisors, we recently completed our annual development reviews, commonly known as performance reviews. We use a very simple and effective tool during the development review process called the “Stop, Start and Continue Exercise.” It has proven to be one of the most effective tools for constructive change in any relationship in your life.
We begin with the stop-start-continue template (download at www.stopsellingvanillaicecream.com) that is filled out by both people in the relationship (i.e. employee and their leader/supervisor, colleagues, friends, spouses…..) in advance of your in-person meeting by answering the following two questions:
- What can I (the employee) start doing, stop doing and continue doing to improve my performance, job satisfaction and bring more value to the company and myself?
- What can the company and my leader/supervisor start doing, stop doing and continue doing to help me (the employee) become more effective in my position, bring more value to the organization, improve the work environment, and increase my career satisfaction?
These questions are then reversed and completed by the leader/supervisor:
- What can she/he (the employee) start doing, stop doing and continue doing to improve his/her performance, job satisfaction and bring more value to the company and himself/herself?
- What can the company and their leader/supervisor start doing, stop doing and continue doing to help she/he (the employee) become more effective in his/her position, bring more value to the organization, improve their work environment and increase their career satisfaction?
Once both individuals have documented their answers to these two questions, they get together offsite for a 90 minute discussion that will change their relationship forever.
The “stop doing” category is often the toughest part of the exercise but it can also offer the greatest growth opportunities. For the really sensitive issues, those with respect to the “stop doing,” category, reword it in a positive way to make it something they need to “start doing.”
As we look at the three actions, often the person is happy to “start” doing something differently. After all, someone can’t manage or change something he doesn’t even know about or understand.
You finish the process on a positive foundation to move forward by talking about what you want them to “continue doing.” This is where you can encourage the person to keep doing those things that bring value to your relationship. You can complete the stop, start and continue exercise in any order. If it is more productive and easier for you to start with the “continue doing” section, then change the order to what works best.
There are many tangible benefits to this exercise:
- It is “crazy simple” and I think that’s the reason it is so effective.
- It focuses on changing behavior, which makes it easier to stay professional, non-emotional and respectful.
- It gets the greatest growth opportunities out on the table.
- Both parties remain objective and fair because the other team member is answering the same two questions about them. Wanting respect usually leads to giving it.
- The process recognizes that each person has ownership in the relationship.
This simple process can help you reset a relationship and put the past behind you. In our team development sessions we like to call it “dropping the backpack.” You can let go of all the weight of things from the past, and gain a clear perspective through which you can view the world moving forward.
If you want to improve relationships in every aspect of your life, using this proven process can help you gain clarity and resolve issues that are holding you back from a fulfilling and enjoyable relationship. It’s time to stop procrastinating, start being proactive in creating more productive relationships, and continue building your legacy. Remember, Those Who Plan – PROFIT!
We’re all stumped chumps this month! Jerritt’s problem from April’s newsletter went unanswered! But if you’re wondering what may have caused the problem, and how it was solved, have no fear, the answer is here!
As a reminder, Jerritt Gluck of Bonded Building and Engineering in Oyster Bay, NY was faced with what he originally thought was a classic case of stack effect in a $30 million, multi-family construction project looking for LEED certification. After several tests, and a full evaluation of the issue, Jerritt realized that this wasn’t you’re typical, every-day stack effect. It was slightly more complex than that.
Jerritt explains that the problem he found was actually the result of several factors. Classic stack effect did play a role, but the main cause of the problem was determined on a subsequent visit while there was little weather activity, specifically less wind. It turned out that the building was over-ventilated, and there was no communication between the interior of the apartments, and the hallway where the supply air was being delivered.
Since air, like any fluid, follows the path of least resistance, the supposedly healthy LEED building was actually pulling air from the wall cavity. The result for residents would have been poor comfort, high energy bills, and poor air quality.
Jerritt used the following tools to diagnose his problem:
- Multiple Energy Conservatory DG 700 Manometers
- Laptop computer equipped with Tectite Express
- Laptop equipped with Teclogger and CAT 5 cable tied to a USB hub
- A FLIR T400 Thermal Imaging Camera
- A Balometer
This Month's Stumper
This month’s stumper comes from Troy Tanner of The Home Energy Detective in Manassas, VA.
The homeowner of a two story colonial with a finished basement in Loudon County, Virginia called with the complaint that his floor kept accumulating moisture near a kitchen cabinet that was next to a bay window. The wood was cupping in an area of about 30 square inches, and would accumulate up to a cup full of standing water on top of the wood.
The homeowner explained that the water’s appearance was sporadic, sometimes when it wasn’t even raining. With a family of four, and one of the children heading off to college, the homeowner wanted this issue fixed as soon as possible.
Troy went to investigate the issue, and began with examining the outside structure of the bay window, which turned out to be dry as a bone. Next, Troy checked the finished ceiling in the basement. He couldn’t find a bit of moisture, even after using a moisture meter and infrared camera. The camera showed the moisture spot well, but that is simply because he could see the water accumulating (didn’t even need the camera). Troy then checked for plumbing issues from drain and supply lines, but discovered that there were no lines within 8 feet for the damaged floor. Finally, Troy inspected the mechanical room and noticed a duct supply line two bays away from the damaged area, and a dryer vent next to the supply line.
What could have caused the build-up of moisture? And how can Troy fix it?