HPwES Newsletter Summer 2017

Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Newsletter
Late Summer 2017

Letter from Ely

Managing Home Performance with ENERGY STAR for the U.S. Department of Energy provides me the opportunity to gather insights about the current conditions and emerging trends within home performance markets across the U.S.  Contractors and programs regularly provide the HPwES Team with on-the-ground status reports that help us understand current barriers and advances in home performance. I thought it would be helpful to share a few insights and trends that we are hearing from our Sponsors, contractors and other stakeholders:     

  • Weather Impacts:  Several HPwES Sponsors and participating contractors throughout the country are sharing that a major driver and barrier to home performance is the weather.  In many areas around the U.S., mild winter weather over the past two years, such as the warmer temperatures in the Northeast and the above-average rainfall in California, has depressed demand.  When people do not feel discomfort (aka: “pain”) and have lower than normal utility bills, they are not as motivated to improve their home’s performance.  It seems that this is a reality the home performance industry needs to adapt to.  Companies need to be prepared.  Companies need to plan for increased demand when favorable seasonal changes occur.  During slow periods, companies may also need to consider additional marketing to generate leads. In order to be successful, programs and contractors need to be able to quickly ramp up marketing, incentives, and delivery strategies when homeowner motivation is highest.  And in consideration of the recent hurricanes, the Rebuild Healthier Homes: Guide to Post-disaster Restoration for a Safe and Healthy Home from HUD is a good publication for reference for those specific weather events.
  • Low-to-Moderate Income Programs: More than 12 HPwES programs have integrated their low-to-moderate income programs into their HPwES platforms, and more are pursuing this approach.  It makes sense since these programs typically follow very similar, if not identical, requirements related to workforce credentialing, work standards, and delivery processes compared to their market-rate sister programs. Leveraging the brand can add credibility to contractors as they work with and serve low to moderate income populations. By improving accessibility to HPwES, low-to-moderate income homeowners have the opportunity to experience the benefits and value of home performance improvements.  
  • Assessment-Only Programs:  Over the past several years, utilities and government agencies have recognized that only offering homeowners energy assessments is not an effective way to save energy. While free assessment programs typically generate significant interest, they frequently result in informed but overwhelmed homeowners and low conversion rates.  Program administrators are now looking at ways to reduce the burden of audits by collecting and analyzing data for efficiency opportunities before a contractor even arrives at the house.  In addition, audits now often come with no-cost direct-install measures like light bulbs, faucet aerators, water heater jackets, pipe insulation, and sometimes more significant measures like duct sealing and attic air sealing.  This ensures that whatever the homeowner decides, some energy savings are achieved.
  • M&V 2.0:  A modern approach to measuring and verifying energy savings using data is taking hold by a few utilities and other stakeholders.  The Rocky Mountain Institute published The Status and Promise of Advanced M&V where they describe the opportunities for M&V 2.0 as focusing on:
    • Increasing timeliness (speed to providing insights), by automating the data collection and analysis process to provide near real time savings estimates; and
    • Using interval data to improve the granularity of analysis to provide more actionable insights for individual energy efficiency projects (e.g., by enabling time-of-day savings estimates) in order to improve the management, implementation, and design of energy efficiency programs.  In short, M&V 2.0 offers the potential to measure energy savings in near real time, enabling program administrators and other market actors to more clearly understand program and contractor performance. This would allow these stakeholders to develop market mechanisms that can more successfully improve the accessibility of home and building performance improvements for homeowners and building owners.
  • Workforce and Labor:  Contractors and programs continue to be challenged by a dearth in availability of a workforce that is willing and able to crawl into 140 degree attics for a few hours, or work in tight knee walls and crawlspaces in uncomfortable conditions. Home performance work is hard work, and it is hard to attract talent that not only has the skills to succeed, but also the passion to persevere.  It takes a special person to constantly put themselves into difficult situations so they can help homeowners and families improve their homes, live in more comfortable and safer homes, and reduce their environmental footprints.  Many contractors who had previously participated in HPwES have left the industry as the new homes market has recovered. 
  • Health:  It has always been understood that home performance done correctly is intended to “do no harm.”  It has become increasingly evident that verified home performance can actually improve the health of some occupants who are more at risk when exposed to poor indoor environmental quality.  Reducing air leakage, insulating the envelope, optimizing HVAC performance, and ensuring adequate ventilation can significantly improve indoor environmental quality by: stabilizing temperatures and humidity between rooms, reducing drafts, increasing availability of clean air, and reducing noise.  These improvements can also make it more difficult for pests to enter the conditioned space, which can bring biological pollutants into the home.  Many HPwES Contractors are selling improvements to targeted customers based on the health benefits of the work instead of focusing on energy efficiency.  Some programs are exploring opportunities to leverage health benefits by developing marketing materials and including health as a benefit in cost-effectiveness screening. DOE has identified Health and Home Performance as a potential growth area for HPwES.

DOE will soon release the full 2016 HPwES Annual Report with supplemental materials.  This report includes more information about trends and how different regions are performing.  Keep a lookout for an announcement about the report in the near future.

Ely Jacobsohn
Program Manager, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, U.S. DOE

ENERGY STAR Awards Applications are Live!

The 2018 ENERGY STAR Awards applications are now posted at www.energystar.gov/awards. We encourage all of our Sponsors to apply for the Partner of the Year Award, the Excellence in ENERGY STAR Promotion Award, or both. Our participating contractors are encouraged to apply for the Contractor of the Year Award. We want to recognize and showcase the great work our programs do to promote Home Performance with ENERGY STAR and energy efficiency.

New this year! Sponsors can submit applications on behalf of their contractors. Sponsors are encouraged to collaborate with the applicant on the application but it is not required. Sponsors will submit the applications electronically via their My ENERGY STAR Account. Further guidance will be provided directly to the Sponsors with specific instructions.

For more information, check out the webinar recording that covers the basics of the awards, tips for a successful application, and highlights from previous winners.

New Comprehensive Manual Will Help States Modernize and Improve Cost Effectiveness Testing for Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Retrofits

By:  J. Joseph Cullen, Director of Policy and State Outreach at the Home Performance Coalition

On May 17, 2017, the National Efficiency Screening Project (NESP) published a new, comprehensive National Standard Practice Manual for Assessing Cost-Effectiveness of Energy Efficiency Resources (NSPM). This national guide for utility-funded energy efficiency programs is now available to help utilities, regulators, energy officials and other stakeholders make the best possible energy efficiency decisions for their state and local jurisdictions.

The NSPM builds on the success of the Resource Value Framework, a set of principles designed to allow any jurisdiction make its cost-effectiveness tests more accurate while providing more transparent information to decision makers and the public. The NSPM sets forth a step-by-step process to allow states to “test their test” and update or modernize their cost-effectiveness tests – based on neutral, objective guidance using lessons learned over 20 years in state and local jurisdictions and sound economic principles.

The NSPM will help state and local jurisdictions better identify those energy efficiency programs and policies (like Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®) whose benefits far exceed their costs. This is because current cost effectiveness testing (which varies widely by state) can inadvertently exclude some of the most important impacts of residential retrofits from consideration. Many of the non-energy benefits that result from energy efficiency retrofits of existing homes (such as improvements in health, comfort, system reliability, the benefits of avoided power plants, jobs created and pollution reductions) are currently either ignored or steeply discounted by the cost effectiveness tests applied in many states.

The stakes are high as states and utilities currently invest more than $8 billion in energy efficiency programs across the nation that are subject to cost effectiveness testing. By working with utilities, regulators, energy officials and other stakeholders, home performance contractors can take a leading role in calling for their states to “test their test,” apply the principles of the NSPM and make sure the true value and full benefit of residential retrofits gets folded into state and local decisions to fund energy efficiency programs.

To learn more about the new NSPM manual, visit the NESP website and find this press release and be able to directly download various summaries and supplementary materials.

J. Joseph Cullen, Director of Policy and State Outreach at the Home Performance Coalition (HPC) can be reached at jcullen@homeperformance.org. HPC is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that advances the residential energy efficiency market through research, education, and policy analysis. HPC works with industry leaders in the home performance and weatherization industries and collaborates with like-minded organizations to help ensure all homes are healthy, comfortable, and energy-efficient. For more information, please visit www.homeperformance.org.

ResStock:  Targeting Energy and Cost Savings for U.S. Homes

The ResStock analysis tool is helping states, municipalities, utilities, and manufacturers identify which home upgrades save the most energy and money, as well as helping to identify customer segments for targeted marketing and deployment.  With support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) developed ResStock (sample graphic below).  Partnerships with industry to adapt ResStock for specific utility, manufacturer, state, and local applications are being developed.  Visit the ResStock website to learn more.

Per-house primary energy savings

Energy Efficiency Headways in Real Estate

The Department of Energy and leaders in the real estate and energy efficiency fields are making a concerted effort to improve the link between the communities. Recently the Department of Energy collaborated with the Counsel of Multiple Listing Services, the National Association of REALTORS, and the Real Estate Standards Organization to create the Home Energy Information Guide. This short piece of guidance explains green verifications and how to use them on the MLS; it breaks complex information down in to simple, bite-sized pieces. You can access the guide online. For more from the Department of Energy on bringing energy efficiency information to light during real estate transactions, check out the Home Energy Information Accelerator.

Contractor Training Opportunities

In conjunction with the Home Performance Coalition, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR is kicking off a series of regional home performance contractor trainings in Ohio, Maryland, and California.  These workshops, entitled “Building Profits with Home Performance:  Home Performance Sales & Marketing Boot Camp,” will provide participants with the knowledge and insight to enhance their business.  Check availability today.

The Power of the ENERGY STAR Brand

Ways to Save TipsThe power of the ENERGY STAR brand can lend visibility and credibility to program partners.  The latest metrics show high levels of awareness and influence, significant media exposure, and increasing web traffic.  Connect with us to learn more! Get started with some quick tips to share.  The new Ways to Save web service for partners provides an ongoing stream of ENERGY STAR branded, energy-saving tips to external web sites that adopt the service.  These can be customized and the integration is fast and simple.

Fall Issue of Home Energy Magazine

Home Energy MagazineHome Energy Magazine is going digital and the fall issue is now available.  Home Energy Magazine is a nonprofit magazine dedicated to spreading factual and objective information on green, efficient home building and renovation. The resources provide support to energy auditors, contractors, and builders in their efforts to create homes that are energy-efficient, comfortable, healthy, and affordable.  This issue highlights topics of particular interest to the home performance industry, including HVAC design in ENERGY STAR homes and the latest in home energy management devices, as well as an article on Passive House and a case study on the TinyLab.

Tell Us Your Story!

We enjoy hearing from our program sponsors and contractors about their experiences with Home Performance with ENERGY STAR.  From challenges and aha moments, we like to hear it all.  Send us your latest home energy stories, pictures, and videos, and we’ll showcase them on the website.  Maybe the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR ‘Get More From Your Home’ infographic will ignite some ideas! 

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