Learning About Energy Audit Essentials
3/17/2010 6:30 AM
Shortly after we moved into our first house after leaving the rental world of New York City three years ago, my wife and I signed up for a free home energy audit with our local power utility. We were happy to learn that with our EnergySTAR washer, dryer, and dishwasher, combined with conservative thermostats settings on our HVAC system as well as lighting dimmers galore from Lutron, our 20-year-old house was actually relatively "green."
New windows, we were told, might cut down on some drafts, but wouldn’t save us that much money in the long run. We also were instructed to add another layer of insulation in the attic, which I did. When the process was complete, we hfelt reassured and validated that we were doing everything we could to save money and lower our carbon footprint, and, as a bonus, the energy auditor was a really thoughtful and nice guy.
Last week, CEDIA asked Dallas Jones, president of the Home Energy Team Institute to lead a webinar on the energy audit process and how becoming an energy auditor (or partnering with one) could be a great business opportunity for electronic systems contractors.MOVING BEYOND AV INTEGRATION
Jones noted that CEDIA members could be more than just AV integrators. They can help guide a homeowner in how to make their homes more energy efficient, coming their knowledge of energy monitoring technology with more fundamental skills associated with energy auditor training.
The very thorough presentation emphasized the importance of attaining certification before performing any energy audits in the field. But Jones also suggested CEDIA members may simply want to partner with a certified auditor in their area, to help them generate more integration business through energy monitoring or even lighting and shades control installations.MULTIPLE CERTIFICATIONS
For those interested in pursuing actual certification, there are multiple options, starting with RESNET, a non-profit organization that created the HERS rating system and EnergySTAR label for new homes. The standard value in a HERS rating is 100, but you always want to be better than the standard, with the ultimate rating being zero, meaning a home uses no net purchased energy (a “net zero” building). EnergySTAR requires at least an 86.
Within the RESNET certification, there are actually three categories of existing home performance assessments: The Professional Home Energy Survey, the Diagnostic Home Energy Survey (with Building Performance Audit), and the Comprehensive HERS Rating. Each requires different coursework, financial investments, and testing for the audit professional.RESNET HESP
The first option is the RESNET HESP, which trains a person on providing a walk-through assessment using the professional home energy survey. It includes 16 hours of training in building science, energy principles, and building envelope fundamentals, and passing a two-hour, 50-question multiple-choice test.
The walk-through evaluates the general energy performance of the home and level of commitment to action on the part of the homeowner. It includes data collected for further analysis and a general identification of home performance problems and general recommendations for cost-effective improvements. The intent is to refer homeowners to the next level of audio if the home needs further analysis and the owner is motivated to invest in improvements.RESNET DIAGNOSTIC HESP
Another certification, for the RESNET Diagnostic Home Energy Survey (soon to be called a Building Performance Audit) requires 16 hours of approved training in building science, energy principles, and building envelope fundamentals, 10 hours of RESNET-approved training in air leakage and building pressure diagnostics (4-6 hours in the field), and passing a two-hour, 50-question exam.
It includes the evaluation, testing, and diagnosis of a home’s performance, and the generation of a prioritized work scope for cost-effective energy saving measures and features. Specifics include the evaluation of air leakage from a building’s shell, evaluation of duct leakage, a determination of any zonal pressure differences, and even thermal imaging of the building.RESNET HERS
Another option is becoming a RESNET HERS Rater. A Comprehensive HERS Rating includes combustion appliance zone (CAZ) testing, diagnostic testing and evaluation of the minimum rated features established by RESNET, the preparation of an energy rating according to RESNET standards, and a prioritized work scope on cost-effective energy-saving measures and features. This certification requires the use of rating software that is available only to certified HERS raters.
The certification requires 36 hours of HERS classes, passing a 50-question exam, plus six hours of RESNET training in CAZ diagnostics and four hours of RESNET-approved training in work scope requirements and development.BPI
Two other certifications are offered by the Building Performance Institute (BPI), which has always been focused on existing home training. Its two trainings are the BPI Building Analyst and BPI Building Envelope Specialist.
BPI’s approach is to certify the contracting firm, rather than just the individual. A certified firm, however, is required to have at least on certified BPI Building Analyst and one Building Envelope Specialist on staff.
The BPI Building Analyst certification includes a six-hour building analyst elearning course, a 90-minute video audit, and a one-day onsite requirement.
For all of these training opportunities, visit the Home Energy Team Institute (www.homeenergyteaminstitute.com) where pricing and availability specifics are available. Jones mentioned a CEDIA discount that would save members at least $100 on each opportunity.