Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Newsletter Celebrating 15 Years

Happy Birthday, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR!

By: Ely Jacobsohn, Program Manager, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR

Home Performance with ENERGY STAR celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2017.  Oh...the places we’ve been!  And, the things we have learned!  We’ve grown an industry that started when a few daring, do-gooder building scientists and weatherization folks had the forethought to see the need for a program designed to sell building-science-based improvements using the whole-house approach to market-rate consumers. They all agreed ENERGY STAR could help increase awareness and credibility but would require third-party quality assurance to maintain legitimacy.  Then, they just had to come up with a name….Home Performance…..Home Performance with ENERGY STAR.  It just rolls off the tongue.  33 characters, 9 syllables, 5 words, and 1 preposition.  I’m sure they thought….this is going to be EASY! 

I joined the home performance family in 2006 when I worked at the Maryland Energy Administration.  I remember sitting at a HPwES meeting at ACI in Cleveland in 2007 trying to figure out if I should design a program based on the consultant model or contractor model for a small pilot in Maryland.  I listened to competing viewpoints from Wisconsin and New York about the virtues of both models.  Who else would I have talked to except Chandler von Schrader of EPA?  He was the Program Manager of HPwES back then and appeared to have all the time & patience in the world to help me work through it.  In the end, we agreed that a hybrid that allowed both models to be given the opportunity to thrive would be the best approach.  

Since then, HPwES has grown to cover a majority of the densely populated areas around the country and has even flourished in some rural areas.  While some things like cost-effectiveness screening still challenge program delivery in a variety of jurisdictions, we are making progress on overcoming barriers to awareness and growing demand.  By learning how to appropriately leverage the ENERGY STAR platform and meet homeowners where they are instead of forcing them down a pathway they are reluctant to pursue or may not be able to afford, programs and contractors are improving their methods to engage consumers and help them understand how to value home performance.  In addition, they are improving accessibility of home performance by offering financing options and better incentives, and streamlining processes to improve operational efficiencies. 

Alas, we do have to say hasta luego to one very important person in the near future, even if just temporarily.  Chandler von Schrader has decided to retire after a long, successful career at EPA. His leadership and passion helped steer Home Performance with ENERGY STAR for many years as he guided it to become known for delivering smart home improvements across the country.  He tirelessly pushed to get the remodeling and HVAC industries to embrace home performance, both during his tenure as program manager of HPwES and after as he led the development and execution of ENERGY STAR Verified Installation promoting quality installation of HVAC equipment.  Chandler’s no-nonsense approach to get stuff done to advance home performance has been appreciated by everyone in our industry.  I should note that Chandler has always gone out of his way to be a superior mentor and a good friend, especially to me. I learned a great deal from him as I developed the HPwES program in Maryland and then took the baton to lead the National HPwES Program. While he's not sure where the road will take him now, two things can be sure: he will be missed at EPA (and DOE!) and we'll always be able to find him where “the mastic hits the sheet metal”. 

Vamos United, Chandler!

15 Years of HPwES – Where the Mastic Meets the Sheet Metal!

By: Chandler von Schrader, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

15 years of HPwES… wow.  I remember when we use to feel good about poking fun at the window replacement industry’s claims of energy savings – I got your 50% energy savings right here…  And the running debate of “clipboard v comprehensive” audits?  Or showing slides of dirty fiberglass insulation and calling it “filterglass?”  Or making fun of duct tape, incandescent lighting, mercury-filled thermostats and pretzeled flex ducts.  We scoffed at HVAC contractors who sized systems with rules of thumb – and accepted “beer can cold” as quality assurance.  Home Energy Magazine was our bi-monthly bible that transformed us into high & mighty evangelists of Building Science – no more BS here.  We were the good guys saving energy and we had energy audit software to prove our righteousness.  We had (and largely still do) building science preachers whose presentations at Affordable Comfort Institute could stimulate beer fueled debates and jam sessions well into the night.  ACI (now HPC) was our annual homecoming where our common (hippie like) frenzy to do good and save the planet seeded lifelong friendships – even with federal and utility folks!  Waste was both our enemy and opportunity – the future was boundless, and HPwES emerged as a national platform to peddle this goodness.

HPwES wouldn’t be where it is today – with over ½ million homes served nationwide without the dedicated contributions of thousands across our industry; federal folks, utility wonks, state officials, equipment/materials/testing suppliers, implementation contractors, trainers, etc., but by far the most critical group of all - our HP contractors.  They are the ultimate face of our program and the rest of us merely promoters.  They face the homeowner at the kitchen table, the face the challenge of explaining what HP is, they put their faces in some real nasty attics and crawlspaces and the face the realities of running and staying in business through tricky programmatic times. 

Today HP faces new and familiar challenges.  We are accustomed to swimming upstream with making HP a recognized industry, and progress has clearly been made infiltrating the HVAC and remodeling industries.  New pathways that will build HP market relevance lie with the healthy home initiatives and valuing energy efficiency when houses are sold.  Promoting HP as legitimate means to reduce asthma triggers & allergies feeds our ole hippie vibes of doing good.  Add to that – being able recognizing homes that are safe, efficient and comfortable – which allows them to sell quickly and at a premium – well that’s the ticket to the promise land!  Long live HP and HPwES!

Welcome to Our New Partners

The Illinois Home Performance team is thrilled to announce that Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas are officially program providers. This means that they will be delivering the Illinois Home Performance offering as part of the Natural Gas Savings Programs. The utilities offer homeowner rebates on qualifying products and services and provide quality assurance for their customers.

Just Released:  Guides for Installing, Sizing & Selecting Air-Source Heat Pumps in Cold Climates

The use of air-source heat pumps (ASHP) in cold climates has grown significantly in recent years.  However, the traditional sizing, selection and installation practices are not always well suited to cold climates and have led to system inefficiencies and underperformance.  To address this challenge, the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) prepared two new resources:  the Guide to Sizing & Selecting ASHPs in Cold Climates and the Guide to Installing ASHPs in Cold Climates.  These guides provide clear guidance for ASHP installers to help improve overall system performance and customer satisfaction.  NEEP will be hosting a webinar on Tuesday, March 28, 2-3PM EST to share more details about these resources, register today

New Homeowner Resources

To help prospective Home Performance with ENERGY STAR consumers find a local program and navigate the program, a one-page ‘Guide to Getting Started’ (PDF 71 KB) is now available on the website. Take a look for yourself and leverage any details or notes for your own recruitment and homeowner support.  And have you seen the new interactive house?  The house highlights the most common projects of Home Performance with ENERGY STAR with simple graphics and descriptions.  Plus, you can host the interactive house on your own website using the code at the bottom of the web page. 

Coming Soon!  An updated Home Performance with ENERGY STAR consumer brochure.