The murky world of energy efficiency politics
DAMARISCOTTA, MAINE — I read with interest your blog and commentary on this "murky" subject in the current issue of CONTRACTOR (July 2011, p. 58 and at http://bit.ly/jEELiE). I am an energy auditor in Maine, one of over 300 certified by the Maine State Housing Authority, until our state-mandated "Efficiency Maine" came along and arbitrarily disenfranchised all of us, unless re-certified by BPI. They now accept only BPI certification, which, among other things, costs over three times as much as Maine Housing's used to cost. Other than including plumbing, heating, air conditioning, etc., and other issues extraneous to the building envelope, the BPI training course is based on the same textbook as was our own, which focused, appropriately, on the building envelope alone.
I have never felt it appropriate to include in my audits (which I continue to do in spite of Efficiency Maine) issues related to mechanical equipment. In fact I regularly work with a local HVAC, plumbing and electrical contractors — they refer energy audit clients to me and I refer mechanical equipment issues I happen to notice to their attention. These are their business and call for their years of experience, not mine.
I feel that BPI's inclusion of the mechanical trades in home energy audits is a huge mistake. It is not fair to our clients who have a right to expect us all to be experts in our respective fields, whereas we are only dilettantes when it comes to mechanical equipment. It is not fair to the mechanical equipment trades who have taken the trouble to be licensed in their areas of expertise and keep up with their fast-changing fields. And dilettantes messing around with boilers and furnaces (on a client's dime, at that!) can also be downright dangerous.
There is plenty to learn and know focusing on the building envelope alone. And when it comes to job creation, our collaborative relationship with an area HVAC contractor has already resulted in more work for both of us than any BPI-inspired adversarial relationship could have ever produced.
Finally, I must mention that, upon request by dissatisfied clients, I had the chance to review several "BPI certified" energy analysis reports, which I found to be little more than filled-out boilerplate forms that convey surprisingly little information. The fact that clients ask for my interpretation of what they already paid someone else for (and the fact that they do not trust the original auditor), seems to indicate that there is a problem here, exacerbated further by auditors who try to use these reports as bidding documents on unsolicited home rehab jobs, a practice I am not alone thinking is a conflict of interest.
I do hope your ad-hoc alliance of signatory associations and your magazine will follow this issue. To us, Maine State Housing certified home energy auditors, BPI appears to be somewhat of a racket at the expense of prospective "building energy specialists," the mechanicals trades, and the unsuspecting public. Federal and state-sanctioned energy auditor certifications limited to a single source (BPI or other) is unhealthy and, as has been already shown, leads to needlessly exorbitant charges all around.
Thank you for your attention.
MAINE STATE CERTIFIED RESIDENTIAL ENERGY AUDITOR
Editor's note: the ad hoc alliance of signatory associations, Small Businesses for Job Growth in Energy Efficiency, that is trying to persuade DOE into broadening energy auditing certification beyond BPI includes the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, the Green Mechanical Council, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, the National Roofing Contractors Association, and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association. Collectively these organizations serve over 193,500 small businesses in every state in the country.