In this issue:

A Letter to our HPwES Stakeholders

Show Me the Money!  That seemed to be the theme from the 2014 ACI National Conference.  From my perspective, our community is working hard to demonstrate the value of home performance work.  It is becoming increasingly apparent that publically funded programs do not have the resources or structures that will accelerate growth of the home performance market at an exponential scale.  Thinking beyond the public program paradigm, private market involvement presents an opportunity to create mechanisms supporting the monetization of the benefits of home performance so that more actors have an obvious reason to engage.  Our future success relies on collaboration and partnership among private market interests and public programs so that together they can continue to support the growth of the industry.

The Energy Department, through Home Performance with ENERGY STAR (HPwES) and its sister programs, is demonstrating leadership toward this goal by encouraging private market engagement and innovation in home performance.  For example, in conjunction with ACI’s National Conference this past April, DOE co-hosted A Day of Leadership with Efficiency First. The day’s discussions were both stimulating and motivating. Plenary speakers, Keith Aldridge and Dan Kartzman, artfully discussed opportunities to shift the paradigm to enable market-driven innovation and to value the benefits derived from home performance services. Development and execution of such a paradigm is critical to growing residential energy efficiency that can be independent of traditional public programs. Read more about events at the Leadership Day and ACI Sessions below.

The focus of working with private industry to expand home performance is not really new.  What is different is the way it is happening and the realization that significant growth of home performance and residential energy efficiency in general is impossible if private companies are not successful and profitable in delivering it.  Towards this end, in March, DOE released a revised HPwES Sponsor Guide v1.5.  The Sponsor Guide includes a number of advancements to allow Sponsors to explore more business friendly approaches:

  • Greater flexibility related to how assessments are completed in homes;
  • Credentialing guidance that supports varying business models;
  • Introduction of quality management systems which can reduce costs to contractors and Sponsors and result in better performance for homeowners; and
  • Encouragement to adopt business-friendly administration products and protocols such as HPXML compliant software. 

With these tenets in mind, HPwES offers the structure and value proposition for companies to be successful in the home performance market. Read more about the revised Sponsor Guide below.

As is often the case after ACI National, I am awed and inspired by the incredibly driven and creative people we have in our industry.  Together we can forge a path supporting market transformation by focusing on targeted engagement of the private market to deliver home performance that will result in more substantial growth of energy efficiency in the residential market. Our challenge as a home performance community as we plan and execute growth strategies will be to uphold the principle that home performance cannot scale unless private industry can profitably sell it and efficiently execute it. 

Ely Jacobsohn
U.S. Department of Energy
Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program Manager

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Congratulations! Recognizing our Leading Sponsors and Participating Contractors

photo Consumers Energy receives an ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award; pictured left to right: Dr. Kathleen Hogan (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency, DOE/EERE), Larry Eargood (Energy Efficiency Program Manager, Consumers Energy), and Ely Jacobsohn (Program Manager Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, DOE/EERE)

ENERGY STAR Award Winners
This year, DOE is proud to recognize nine Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Sponsors as 2014 ENERGY STAR Award winners. These Sponsors stand out among the national program's 48 local Sponsors because of their success bringing home performance to new markets and demonstrating sustained commitment the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program and promoting residential energy efficiency. Read more about the 2014 Home Performance with ENERGY STAR awardee's efforts to offer home performance programs that make a positive difference in the lives of homeowners nationwide.

2013 Century Club Contractors Award Winners
Also in the awards department, let’s congratulate the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR 2013 Century Club Award winners. Each year, the Program recognizes its participating contractors that complete 100 or more home performance projects. The 2013 winners cumulatively completed 48,966 projects, representing 61% of the national program’s total production for the year. DOE thanks these contractors for their dedication to improving the comfort and durability of homes nationwide, while helping homeowners lower their utility bills.

Housing Innovation Awards
DOE's Housing Innovation Awards are the premiere opportunity to recognize the very best in innovative business practices that make Home Performance with ENERGY STAR participating contractors leaders among their peers. Award winners take on challenges and apply unique approaches to realize notable success in their local Home Performance with ENERGY STAR markets. They exhibit outstanding professionalism, build strong customer relationships, and apply building science solutions to improve homes.  Last year, DOE honored four participating contractors who demonstrated innovative business practices that mark them as leaders among their peers. We invite you learn more about the winners by reading their online profiles.

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Save the Date for the 2013 Annual Report Webinar

Please join us on June 26 at 3p.m. EDT for a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program Webinar where we will present the analysis of 2013 Annual Reports from Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Sponsors.   In 2013, the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program launched its second call for annual reports. The call was intended to help quantify the impact of HPwES programs nationwide and to identify successful strategies which might inform future program design. The HPwES Team analyzed about 7,000 data points across 49 Sponsors, revealing interesting findings with regard to energy saving, costs per project and other program attributes. Register for the webinar on Thursday, June the 26th, from 3 to 4 pm, where we will summarize our analysis and findings.  We will make a webinar recording available online after the event.

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350,000 Projects and Counting!

The first quarter of 2014 was another great quarter for the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program. 49 Program Sponsors completed more than 21,000 projects in the first quarter of 2014. That makes it the second best quarter in the history of the HPwES program, showing a 7.5% growth relative to the first quarter of 2013. Cumulatively the HPwES Sponsors completed more than 350,000 projects since program inception in 2002.

The HPwES Team invites you to review the online project dashboards which feature four methods to present information on our progress:

Click on each image or the “learn more” link to review the detail.

Thank you to all Sponsors for their continued efforts to make Home Performance with ENERGY STAR such a success!

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Recapping ACI Detroit - A Week of Home Performance Leadership

On Monday, April 28, the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program, together with Efficiency First, hosted A Day of Home Performance Leadership. This one-day event encompassed both the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Partner Meeting and Efficiency First’s Industry Leader Forum.   Over 100 participants attended the event, providing vibrant conversation and an active exchange of ideas to advance the home performance market.

aci phot
Keith Aldridge and Dan Kartzman open the Leadership Day, April 28, 2014

The day opened with two industry leaders, Keith Aldridge (Senior Vice President, Advanced Energy) and Dan Kartzman (President, Powersmith Home Energy Solutions) setting the context for the day: How can we achieve meaningful scale in home performance?  In a rousing presentation, Keith and Dan asked participants to think about paradigm shifts to enable market-driven innovation and to value the benefits derived from home performance as a resource. In a call to action, they challenged the audience to expand their thinking toward an even bigger and brighter future for home performance. Their key themes:

  • Let the market innovate and allow different business models to flourish
  • There is “no silver bullet” – markets around the country are unique
  • Consider examples of other successful energy industries such solar
  • Reward the results we want (actual energy savings, load shaping)

The Leadership Day’s morning plenary was followed by breakout sessions centered on Home Performance with ENERGY STAR task areas: valuing and recognizing home performance projects, advancing innovative partnership models, and addressing cost-effectiveness issues.  The morning and afternoon sessions were designed to identify actionable areas. Some common themes emerged over the course of the day including:

  • The need to support market based efforts, while still operating under the paradigm of public programs in most markets for the foreseeable future
  • Ideas for working within the 80/20 rule by managing program resources dedicated to contractor support and encouraging optimal capacity utilization across contractors of all sizes
  • The power of partnerships to increase the impact of home performance by bringing new funding streams to the table and leveraging varying kinds of networks
  • Valuing home performance benefits as a measurable, monetized resource to attract broader participation and support
  • Entities that function as aggregators of both projects and monetized benefits can profit from home performance while helping to build a scalable market

The outcomes of the Leadership Day were further discussed on Tuesday with the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR stakeholder Work Group.  This group of industry leaders will spearhead efforts to continue to develop actionable strategies based on the ideas developed by the Leadership Day participants.  Action items to be addressed include:

  • Development of a roadmap to describe the aggregator model
  • Development of a model for peer-based exchange among home performance contractor networks
  • Continue to work on introducing HPwES to the Green MLS and explore the value of certificates and scores/ratings for HPwES customers

ACI Conference Session Slides Now Available
Later in the conference week, the HPwES team offered a series of informative presentations including:

The slides from these sessions are now available online for review and download.

As is always the case with a great conference, many insightful conversations occurred and the HPwES Team returned with many new contacts and even more new ideas.  We look forward to another productive 12 months of nurturing those ideas and exploring those new opportunities so we can arrive in New Orleans for ACI 2015 with progress updates and many new success stories to tell.

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News You Can Use

Power Saver

DOE and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are working together to promote and increase the market adoption of HUD PowerSaver loans. PowerSaver is a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insured loan product for consumers seeking to make their homes more energy efficient or add renewable energy systems. PowerSaver loans are designed to benefit homeowners who have the ability and motivation to take on modest loan payments for home energy improvements that enhance comfort and deliver energy and cost savings over time. Available to borrowers with good credit and manageable overall debt, PowerSaver offers a secure, convenient, and affordable way to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades.

The PowerSaver support team is working with lenders to promote the availability of PowerSaver to qualified borrowers by establishing partnerships with existing energy programs, such as Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program Sponsors and Better Buildings Neighborhood Program recipients, as well as contractors who are currently active in the energy services or home performance industries. 
There are three types of PowerSaver loan products:

PowerSaver Home Energy Upgrade—Up to $7,500

  • For smaller projects such as insulation, air sealing, water heating, or upgrading or replacing heating and cooling equipment.
  • Unsecured consumer loan, no home appraisal required

 PowerSaver Second Mortgage—Up to $25,000

  • Larger retrofit projects that may include energy efficiency, solar PV, solar hot water, geothermal, or small wind power

PowerSaver First Mortgage—Up to FHA loan limits

  • For home purchase or refinance
  • Includes energy efficiency improvements as part of an FHA 203(k) rehabilitation first mortgage
  • Not limited to energy efficiency improvements

Examples of eligible improvements include insulation, duct sealing, energy efficient doors and windows, energy efficient HVAC systems and water heaters, solar panels and geothermal systems.

A list of FHA approved lenders is available on the DOE website.

The PowerSaver support team can assist Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Sponsors to maximize the use of PowerSaver loans to complement existing financing products in your market, and connect your participating contractors with one or more PowerSaver lenders.   Sponsors can customize PowerSaver to complement your program design, including integration with existing marketing and outreach materials and offering incentives to homeowners. For instance, Program Sponsors (or contractors) can provide additional interest rate buy-downs or offer PowerSaver in conjunction with existing rebates.  PowerSaver offers long term financing (up to 15 years for energy efficiency improvements and 20 years for renewables) low interest rates, which can facilitate larger work scopes through access to credit with fixed monthly payments. Help improve your closing rates by offering low monthly payments made possible by PowerSaver financing.

To learn more about how to maximize home performance with PowerSaver loan products, contact the PowerSaver support team  or visit the DOE website

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Check out the revised Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Sponsor Guide

This spring, DOE released the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Sponsor Guide and Reference Manual (v1.5) (Sponsor Guide), a technical operations guide for the national Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program.  Current program participants will have one year to comply with the requirements set forth in the guide in order to remain active participants in Home Performance with ENERGY STAR.  On the Sponsor Resources webpage, you can download the following documents:

Sponsor Guide cover

Complete operations
guide including minimum requirements and recommended approaches for implementation

Sponsor Guide Requirements cover

Minimum requirements for compliance including narrative for specifications (991KB)

Sponsor Guide Worksheet cover

Quick reference tool of
minimum requirements for Home Performance with ENERGY STAR programs

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Discover the NEW Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center

The valuable lessons learned, examples, and resources Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Sponsors, Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partners, and other residential home energy upgrade programs have amassed are now coming to life in DOE’s Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center. The Solution Center is an online collection of proven residential energy efficiency program examples, templates, tips, lessons learned, step-by-step suggestions, and other resources.

Better Buildings Residential Program Solution CenterThis free, one-of-a-kind tool can help programs adopt proven innovations, minimize trial and error, and achieve success throughout a program’s phases, including planning, implementation, management, and evaluation. Content topics include business models, program integration and customer experience, marketing and outreach, contractor engagement, workforce development, financing, and evaluation and data collection.

Before DOE makes the Solution Center fully available to the public, we invite you to become a beta user to test the website or to peer review its content. If you are interested in being involved in this final phase of testing, please email Solution Center support.

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Resources to Sell Homes with Green Features

Read what NAR President Steve Brown has to say about the efforts to green the MLS here.

In May, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released the Green MLS Implementation Guide, a comprehensive guide for helping multiple listing services promote the special features of a green home, including completion of a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR project. The guide supplements NAR’s Green MLS Tool Kit by providing a blueprint for MLS staff or their software vendors to implement the MLS with green data entry fields.  Both resources point to the Real Estate Transaction Standard (RETS) as the starting point to implement fields for high performance homes going forward. The Green MLS Implementation Guide and the Green MLS Toolkit are publicly available for use by real estate agents, appraisers, building groups and other professionals who are advocating for green Multiple Listing Service (MLS) fields.  Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Sponsors should reference these tools to engage your local MLS and talk about completed projects in the context of being "RETS-compliant". The first step to “greening” the MLS is to incorporate green fields, making it easy for real estate agents and brokers to market energy efficient homes.  As MLS’s across the country incorporate the green fields, HPwES Sponsors and stakeholders should move to the next step: a focus on the quality and consistency of those fields across MLS’s.  For more information on engaging your local MLSs, contact Home Performance with ENERGY STAR.

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Sponsor Spotlight

Entergy New Orleans
Alex Scott, Program Manager for one of Home Performance with ENERGY STAR’s newest Sponsors, Entergy New Orleans, shares his perspective on engaging its workforce. Entergy New Orleans joined the national Program in 2013 and has completed 962 projects to date.

Engaging the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR workforce is a tricky task and one that is ever changing based on the needs of the program and the maturity of the market.  The old adage of 10% of the folks doing 90% of the work rings especially true with engaging contractors to take an active role in the program as their focus is running their business as they see fit and utilizing their affiliation with ENERGY STAR only when necessary.  Below are a few things that I’ve picked up over the years.

  1. Treat the workforce as Partners- It is their program and they need to feel that they have some stake in how it operates.  Also, the workforce is naturally competitive as contactors are trying to get work in the same market.  They need to understand that a stronger Home Performance Program means more work for each of them. 
  2. Find the balance between carrot and stick- In the beginning, the workforce needs to be wooed into the program and see the benefit of it.  They also need to understand that there are consequences for not living up to best practice standards.  The art comes in finding the balance between them.
  3. Engage in regular and clear communication- In New Orleans, we have meetings that occur on a bi-monthly basis.  Since it is New Orleans, we are able to hold some of these meetings at bars and provide drinks which are a great way to have a fun meeting but might not be a reality everywhere.  We provide communication via email only as needed or to address immediate issues, saving the meetings to update contractors on program changes, industry trends and to provide a forum for feedback and questions.

Overall, I think the biggest piece of engaging the workforce is to have respect for them.  I respect each of the contractors that we work with simply because I know how hard it can be to run your own business, have to deal with the ebb and flow of the marketplace and deal with the day to day worries of having enough cash flow to keep themselves viable and working.  Knowing that we can provide some of the support and functionality to help augment their businesses is the best way to keep a positive outlook on how we can work together to have a great Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program.

For more information on Entergy’s work in New Orleans, contact Alex Scott.

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Contractor Tips

Safety First!

Summer is the season of warmer temperatures and, for some parts of the country, higher humidity. The nature of the energy assessment and retrofit business often involves working in attics where summertime temperatures can exceed 150° F, and the heat index (temperature plus humidity) can lead to excessively hot and dangerous work environments. Heat-related illnesses affect thousands of workers each year, sometimes with fatal consequences. Are you and your workers prepared for these conditions? Are you aware of the signs of occupational heat exposure, how to avoid it and what to do when it occurs?  Be sure to follow these tips to keep you and your crew safe on the job:

  • Understand the different heat-related illnesses, how to identify them and how to treat them. A person does not have to be working in a hot attic to develop a heat-related illness, but it certainly can increase the risk. Check out the OSHA guidance and keep you and your crew safe.
  • Be proactive and schedule activities to avoid working in attics during the hottest parts of the day, particularly on sunny afternoons. Keep in mind that the attic will retain heat well into the evening. Stay informed of the heat index forecast and plan ahead. Working in the early morning is best.
  • Bring plenty of ice water for you and your workers. Hydrate regularly and take frequent breaks in cooler parts of the building, making sure that your workers follow the same precautions. Even a wet hand towel placed on or over the head or against the neck can help to lower your body temperature.
  • A common EE contractor trick is to set up a Duct Blaster in the home’s air conditioned space to blow cool air into the attic via the flexible extension duct, providing some relief to those working in the heat. At minimum you can use a portable fan to circulate cool air into the attic while keeping the home’s A/C on, as long as it doesn’t directly interfere with the work being done.

Beating the heat isn’t all you have to consider… other standard attic safety procedures apply, such as wearing long sleeve clothing, gloves, eye protection, and an N95 filter mask when working around fiberglass, and head protection to defend against protruding nails. An LED headlamp is also an effective safety device in that it allows your hands to be free while working in dark and tight areas. Make sure your workers are properly equipped as well.

For more information on working safely in attics, visit the ENERGY STAR website.

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Prepare your Fall Marketing Campaign Now

While it may be getting hot in your region, it’s not too early to start thinking ahead to your company’s fall marketing campaign.   It’s all about your target, your message and your channels to new business.

  • Your customer: Focus on your target customer and their needs to ensure your marketing dollars are spent on the most promising leads.  If you don’t have a marketing plan, make one – it will help you make the most of the cycles of the year and anticipate the changing needs and interests of your customers.
  • Messaging with a hook:  Fall means shorter days and cooler temperatures, with the return of customer concerns about the cost of home heating; another tack might be focusing on how fall is an ideal time to get projects done just in time for Winter; tie your message to community stewardship and October: energy awareness month.  Having a well-timed message that resonates with the demographic you’re targeting will help make your phone ring and email ping.
  • Using all your angles:  Jay Levinson, author of Guerrilla Marketing, offers insightful tactics for a “take-no-prisoners approach” to finding clients.   Use your existing customer base for referrals; employ consistent messaging – with the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR mark – across all platforms such as your website, your truck, your shirts, your radio ads, your twitter and Facebook accounts – all of it.

For more ideas on how to market your Home Performance with ENERGY STAR projects, check out:

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The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Team
EERE logo

Mark Your Calendar for Upcoming Home Performance Events: