Energy audits... The big question for our industry.

If you take away all the “fake demand” for energy audits (“Fake demand” being defined as demand artificially conjured up by government regulation or government incentive), is there left any actual consumer “real demand” for this service?

Here a some local upgrades done by Com Ed.

I registered for a BPI Building Analyst Certification Course and was notified a few days before the course was to take place, that it had been postponed due to lack of registered participants. A group of 8 participants (minimum) is needed for them (Clean Edison) to hold the class. That says a lot for this area. I’ve spoken to several contractors that may be interested. One is a general contractor and one is a commercial window contractor. It’s hard to get people to dish out $400-$500 for a home inspection. To get them to pay that kind of money on an energy audit doesn’t look too good. When you figure it will cost them thousands to do the energy upgrade and take maybe 10-15 years to recoup the investment in the upgrade, how many are actually jump on this? There are energy providers that provide free audits to their clients and municipalities that are doing energy upgrades to low income housing residences for free.
The tax incentives are minimal compared to what you invest for the upgrades and by the time you pay for them your appliances are ready for replacement due to old age and inefficiency. The initial cost of start up is about $5000 minimum, not including an IR camera which is not necessary but helpful. I think only contractors working on publicly funded projects will be making most of the money. In 3 years when we have a new administration these reforms will all be swept aside in favor of balancing the budget.

I could not image starting a new business as an “Energy Auditor” or “Home Performance Contractor” in this market. I’m sure that there are some very successful folks who have started their businesses recently.

With that being said, I think established Inspectors have a unique position in the energy market. Marketing to someone who knows who you are and has used your services (home inspection) is a lot easier than marketing to someone who does not know who the heck you are or what you do.

On average I conduct 40 inspections a month. That’s 40 “fresh/warm” leads a month in which I can market my Energy Services. Now, your not going to get their business in the first few months after they take ownership of the home they just purchased. It usually comes 6 months or a year after they move in. Plant the seed at the home inspection and pepper them with marketing material and reminders. They will come back to you!!

We have lots of inroads in this business - we just have to utilize them!

Kevin

From my perspective the degree of interest in “energy issues” across the board ,by the consumer, is directly connected to the pain they feel in paying for their energy needs. Broadly speaking it is all about money.

I find that most folks have a very short time horizon about energy. My approximation is that most can’t see beyond 6 months. As long as their perception is being able to reasonably cope in that time then energy upgrades that will improve their position in the future don’t make the cut.

So based on your parameters I;d say that the typical consumer is uninterested in energy issues except as they feel real pain or perceive the possibility of real pain in the short term.

The two major utility companies in Minnesota, Xcel Energy and Center Point Energy, are offering energy audits for their customers at a substaintial discount and they add the cost of the audit onto the utility bill. The only parameter is that the customer is limited to one audit every three years.

I did a bit of checking and the customer ends up paying $25 for a standard audit or $100 for the comprehensive audit (blower door and IR Camera). I called the two utility companies and asked who does the audits and was told they use a service to subcontact them out. They would not give me the name or contact information of the service they use but offered to forward my contact information along and someone at their service would contact me.

Get used to it… it’s happening everywhere.
win - win for the companies involved. here it’s $25 for low income families and $50 for all others… includes blower door and IR. :roll:
Our stimulus dollars putting us out of work. :wink:

Not if your a performance contractor!!!

This work is keeping my business alive and two employees busy.

Are you charging $50 for the initial evaluation?

These performance contractors have it in the bag with the PUC’s promoting them and then letting them do the repair work.
I can tweak an IR camera and make ANY home look like it needs thousands in repairs to reduce energy costs ESPECIALLY if I wanted to get the repair work and make it look like the PUC was generally interested in assisting the end user.

Not saying you do this. But this kind of low balling will affect your bottom line also if you aren’t in with the PUC’s

PUC’s in my opinion should stay out of it.

IR cameras are for quality control only. You need to do blower door testing pre and post construction and show performance results.

You can’t fake blower door numbers.

I have a feeling these types of “is energy auditing a viable business idea?” threads are going to be very similiar to the “is IR worth it?” threads we have seen in the past 3 years.

You are basically going to get three responces to these questions. 1. the respondant is doing well (probably due to funds, marketing and business skills) and admits it. 2. the respondant did not fair well (probably due to funds, marketing and business skills) or 3. the respondant is doing well (probably due to funds, marketing and business skills) and doesn’t want to admit it to avoid competition.

JJ

Absolutely correct… except on the third remark… not a lot of competition but a lot of skepticism.

There is a viable market and successful businesses (mine included), but no $500 “certification” course or $5000 initial investment mentality will get you anywhere close to successful in this business.

What is the 5K investment?

Tell that to some of the HERS raters explaining their false Energy Star rating reports today so they could “stay good” with the builders. :wink:

I know what you’re saying. But as with anything else, there are some shady alliances occurring. And some of these alliances with PUC’s appear suspect to me under the guise of government rebates and job creation. Just my opinion.

What some of the misinformed think is minimum needed to get in on the energy wave…

Can you post some proof to your accusations??? Who are the HERS raters and builders you speak of??

Can you post something that has been in the media about this??? First I’ve heard of it.

There are not many articles, but they will be coming with this increasing surge of going green and energy efficient.

This is what began me questioning some of the programs:
http://www.energyfraud.com/Home_Page.html
An Ohio home that had the particular issues I describe can be seen here.

Some real concerns about HERS rating
http://www.homeenergy.org/archive/hem.dis.anl.gov/eehem/97/970910.html

Some of the inherent problems of RESNET and Energy Star are touched upon in this article:
http://www.divinecaroline.com/22354/80529-highjacking-energy-bill-mortgage-companies

And the forecast of events to come:
http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/11261/Don-Murano-lawyer-interview.html

Why will they be coming?
Partially due to initiatives such as Page 18 of :
http://www.longislandnn.org/energy/ESHomes_Brook.pdf
A Long Island $$$ CASH $$$ initiative for builders to achieve Energy Star ratings… nice incentive. I see hands in pockets and back alley arrangements here.

And finally Energy Star themselves providing a seminar acknowledging QC issues with the raters:
http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/reps/pt_reps_new_construction/9_Quality_Control_Monitoring_Evaluations-Brian_Smith.pdf
Indicating studies and follow-ups showing discrepancies in reporting procedures and actual numbers reported. This study is provided by Energy Star and of course makes these reporting discrepancies out to be relatively minor issues

I am not pointing the finger at anyone here Peter. I’m simply indicating that some of the programs are flawed. These ratings and audits can indeed be falsified or “incorrectly transcribed” to the benefit of Builders, contractors, PUC’s… and to the detriment of the unsuspecting homeowners relying on this technology and some numbers games to help them reduce their energy costs.

I’m positive there are faults with the links I’ve provided, but the reality is, there is every opportunity to “pull the wool over” on unsuspecting homeowners and buyers.

Yes, you can. And, at leat im my area, these numbers are 20 - 30 ACH, minimum. No air sealing and most of the people doing these test do not, properly, calculate the house’s volume, do not close off the water heater vent (CO infiltration) and otherwise damage the house.

The “professionals” who know how to do it properly, charge $1,000 to $3,000.

Most people don’t want the level of “quantitative testing” that is includes, they want a more qualitaive, real world estimation of what they need to do, least cost/greatest return.

Most times, this is very easy to determine.

Kevin I agree with you. Selling your self in this market will help. Give them something to look forward to and sell your line of products.

I have to say that so far my experience aligns with Will.

And I think Nick hits is on the head. Without the external incentives the typical consumer is unlikely to invest the hundreds of dollars to essentially be told the same things they can find out with a less rigorous examination.

As example lets look at CFL’s (Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs). How many years have people been told how CFL’s would save them a pile of money. And cut down on the need for power plants. From the math you’d think anyone would run out and change their bulbs right off. Has that happened? It’s not scientific but the display of old incandescents is still the larget bulb section in the stores I visit. My assuption is that incandescents remain the bulb of choice.

The reality I see is people go buy lightbulbs. And the biggest factor is what can they afford today. Not what will save them money down the road. That is one of the rationale’s for using the power of regulation to require bulbs to be 30% more efficient by 2012. I would argue that without a mandate folks will generally go for the cheapest answer available right now.

I find my HI clients have a somewhat increased interest in energy issues but only if I can keep the cost to providing the service around 125. Which was the deciding factor for me in choosing to tie into CMC Home Energy Tuneup program as a cost effective and practical way to meet that interest. (No this is not a commercial)