David Lupberger, CR
Energy-efficient building is a big deal in new construction today. This is happening due to the emergence of building science and an introduction of new products and building techniques that greatly reduce the energy demands of new buildings. This is fine for new construction, but how do we address existing housing that doesn’t meet new energy codes and whose energy demand remains quite high in both winter and summer? How can we assist the homeowners, some of whom are paying several hundreds of dollars a month to both heat and cool their homes?
Consider the following information from the Residential Energy Consumption Survey: Of 113.6 million homes in the United States,
- 64 percent are not well insulated. Most of these were built before 1980
- 47 percent are drafty some of the time
- 42 percent have single-pane windows
- 96 percent have not had an energy audit.
There is a potential solution: Home performance energy audits. There is a way to “audit” a home’s energy performance, and from that audit determine which improvements to make to reduce a home’s energy footprint.
You have clients now who will benefit from a home performance energy audit. There are some states, such as Colorado and Oregon, where local power companies will subsidize the cost of home energy audits as a benefit to their customers. They can recommend companies that can complete these energy audits for your clients. If you don’t have this benefit in your area, just do an Internet search for “home performance energy audits.” You will find a list of companies that provide this service in your area.
Home performance energy audits provide you, the remodeling contractor, with another valuable service that you can provide your clients.
If you would like to learn more about this area of building science, go to www.bpi.org. They provide certification training for residential energy-efficiency retrofit work. If this isn’t something you want to do, find a home-energy audit company.
When you have found a company you like, add them to your list of preferred trade contractors and use them like you would your electrician, plumber, or roofer. Let your clients know that you can assist them with not only lowering their energy bill, but also making their home more comfortable.
What comes from these audits will be a list of improvements that homeowners can make to improve their home’s energy efficiency:
- Insulation and air sealing
- Duct sealing and insulation
- Crawl space improvements
- Tankless hot water heaters
- High-efficiency replacement windows
- Appliance/lighting improvements
- High-efficiency furnaces and heat pumps
- Energy recovery ventilators and heat recovery ventilators
In most cases, homeowners can’t do all of this at once. They need your help to determine which improvements make the most financial sense. As their “home adviser,” you can help them prioritize potential improvements based on their potential return on investment (ROI). In many cases, you can determine the energy savings in regard to a specific improvement on an annual basis. Compare that annual savings to the installation cost, and you have the annual ROI. Help your clients prioritize improvements that make the most financial sense.
Homeowners need this assistance. Most don’t understand the home energy audit, and would benefit from working who can help them implement home audit recommendations. Working with your clients, help them develop a three- to five-year plan for their home, and refer them to good trade contractors. One of the benefits of this proactive plan is that you can begin creating work in advance, assisting your clients with putting together an energy-improvement strategy for their home.
It will also establish you as their family contractor—someone they can call for any home-related question or concern. Their homes are aging just like we are. Establish yourself as their home adviser. Just as they have a family doctor and dentist, become their family contractor. The loyalty that grows from this business relationship will allow homeowners to move beyond cost as their primary consideration because the service you offer becomes so valuable. You are not just their family contractor—you are their asset manager. PR