The federal government mandated in the late ’90s that all states establish programs to evaluate, measure and improve energy inefficiency and energy usage within buildings, including residential structures. The residential arm of these programs is voluntary for homeowners and offers financial incentives if they make recommended improvements to their homes.
Looking for new ways to profit, Carmel Builders Inc., Menomonee Falls, Wis., has found success partnering with its state energy program to generate business. “It’s an income stream and it’s utilizing the best practices for remodeling from an energy-efficiency standpoint,” explains Tom Weiher, MCR, CKBR, Carmel Builders’ president.
Whether you call them energy assessments, audits or evaluations, state energy programs have established ways of ascertaining how energy efficient a home is. Assessments determine the following:
- Where is a home losing heating or cooling energy?
- Where is a home not circulating properly?
- Where is a home allowing air from the outside to infiltrate the house?
- How safe are gas-burning appliances, and how they are vented?
How It Works
“Every time we remodel a house we alter the balance of how energy is saved or lost, so it’s important to have an understanding of the energy-evaluation principles,” Weiher says. Attending state energy program seminars gave Weiher and his team a better understanding about their state’s energy program. He found, through training, the company could become an allied partner with the state program and be designated contractors
qualified to complete work in homes found in need of energy-efficiency upgrades.
In Weiher’s state, the energy program relies on state-certified independent inspectors to conduct evaluations. A homeowner pays a fee to have an inspector spend three to four hours conducting the inspection in the home. The inspection utilizes a blower-door test, infrared cameras and other testing devices to discover where the home might be vulnerable to energy loss. With the homeowner present, the inspector can point out shortcomings and educate the owners, as well.
After the audit, the inspector returns with a report that includes descriptions and photos of problem areas, as well as a checklist of improvements that receive state incentives. The inspector explains the report to ensure the homeowner has a full understanding of the findings.
Remodelers who have been trained and are qualified by the state then are referred to the homeowner by the inspector. Although homeowners have the option of doing the work themselves, they often will call a professional to ensure the work prescribed by the inspector is completed properly.
Homeowners have one year to get the work completed and call an inspector to retest the home. If anything has been missed, the remodeler is required to come back and do the work. Once the home passes the examination, the homeowner is awarded incentives, such as financial rebates and tax credits, for making the improvements.
Putting It to Use
The long-term energy-saving improvements prescribed by the inspector can help a homeowner achieve a 25 percent reduction, on average, in his home’s energy bills. Remodelers reap the revenue and can apply the principles as standards in remodeling projects moving forward.
There are two specific ways that Weiher uses these assessments to benefit his company. First, because he is an allied partner, inspectors refer his company to homeowners to make the improvements. Weiher also offers his own incentives to homeowners he is working with on projects. Weiher will tell homeowners about the energy program and recommend they get an evaluation. In turn, Carmel Builders offers to pay the homeowner’s state assessment fee if selected to do the work. “It has increased our revenue,” Weiher notes. “It has also brought us a greater understanding of how houses work to implement better standards for our own business.”