A Letter to our HPwES Stakeholders

I’m excited to turn the page into a new chapter in energy efficiency. We are nearing a time when energy efficiency – a kWh saved – is valued as a legitimate asset – like a kWh generated. However, our industry continues to face a difficult task in selling and promoting improvements that are largely unseen. It is well understood that most homeowners prefer projects that they can see – remodeled kitchen, refurbished flooring. But for home performance, we face the daunting task of selling behind-the-wall improvements that aren’t obvious to the untrained eye. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR gives us an edge with homeowners eager to make investments to reduce their utility bills but we are not reaching the majority of the home improvement market.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) aims to change this dynamic with new tools designed to increase knowledge of energy efficiency. Homeowners and homebuyers should be aware of the value energy efficiency can add to their homes. Integrating energy efficiency and its value into real estate information has been the focus of recent efforts at DOE. If homebuyers are aware of and value houses that have improvements they will seek out houses that have similar attributes, driving up demand.  

To provide something tangible that can inform the value of an energy efficiency project, HPwES will release a new Certificate of Completion template with relevant guidance by the end of this summer. This is a fillable form used by contractors and Sponsors to share energy efficiency upgrades and additional information about the performance of the home. HPwES is listening to several of our Sponsors who suggested that a template branded with ENERGY STAR would be a helpful way to convey the value of energy efficiency with interested parties. See below for more information about the Certificate of Completion template.

It is important to HPwES and other DOE programs to be responsive to the market and to needs from our stakeholders. We started our latest round of innovation by supporting the execution of HPXML and the development and release of the HPXML Implementation Guide. This is the framework for the dissemination of home performance related data. With this schema, stakeholders can share home performance information and analyze it using common definitions. This is essential to adopting a vocabulary that everyone understands and values. The potential of this tool is so powerful that DOE is setting aside resources to specifically facilitate the expanded use of HPXML. You can read more about the Home Upgrade Program Accelerator below. And on August 5th from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m., we will host a webinar on HPXML. Leaders in the field will discuss how HPXML implementation works and provide program implementation experiences. Read more about the HPXML Implementation Guide and webinar below.

I am very excited about the future of the home performance industry today. The tools that home performance stakeholders have developed and are implementing have the potential to transform the industry. More homeowners and homebuyers will be aware of the value of energy efficiency, which will perpetuate demand and increase recognition, resulting in more projects and ultimately reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved energy system reliability.

Thank you to all of you who helped develop these tools and laid the groundwork to open the market to these changes. I look forward to working with you on these issues soon.

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


New DOE Accelerator Supports Program Process Improvement to Minimize Cost

In May 2015, DOE announced a new Better Buildings Accelerator to streamline processes for improving the energy efficiency of homes and expanding awareness of homes’ energy performance.

Join These Initial Home Upgrade Program Accelerator Partners!

  • Arizona Public Service
  • Build It Green
  • Building Performance Institute
  • Clean Energy Works
  • New York State Energy Research and Development Authority
  • Pearl Home Certification

The Better Buildings Home Upgrade Program Accelerator supports residential efficiency programs managed by utilities, state and local governments, and non-profit organizations as they promote energy upgrade services for homes across the country. Home Upgrade Program Accelerator Partners will minimize costs associated with managing energy upgrade programs while improving overall program effectiveness.
The Home Upgrade Program Accelerator is looking for additional residential energy efficiency programs to become Partners as they demonstrate a range of best practices related to optimizing operations, such as adopting HPXML (a common data standard) to enable streamlined data exchange, or implementing quality management system approaches to quality assurance.
Review the Home Upgrade Program Accelerator fact sheet for information about benefits, commitments, support, and promotional opportunities of joining. If you have questions email Better Buildings Support.
Learn more about additional Better Buildings Accelerators online.

We're Seeking Problems to Solve

DOE is eager to find and remove barriers in the home performance market and we are looking for what is next. We want to hear from you on the challenges you’re facing and how DOE can help remove them. Is there a problem stumping your company? A particular hurdle that is holding back the industry? Send your thoughts to homeperformance@energystar.gov.

Join Us for a Webinar on How to Use HPXML

Join members of the HPwES team and other industry leaders to discuss the implementation of HPXML.

On August 5th, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. ET, HPwES will be hosting a webinar for all interested stakeholders on implementation options, lessons learned, and opportunities for integrating the data standard into your program or services.

HPXML (based on the BPI-2100 and 2200 standards) is a set of common definitions for the attributes of the systems in a home and the computing language that facilitates the quick and easy transfer of home-related data between different market actors.

Faster and more flexible tools can lower program costs, increase trade ally satisfaction, improve data quality, and drive innovation into programs. Working together with local contractors, an HPXML implementation will not only yield benefits to the program, but can assist in making program efforts more transparent to the larger market of homeowners.

Panelists will include Dale Hoffmeyer from DOE, Ely Jacobsohn from DOE, Julie Caracino from NYSERDA, and Gavin Hastings from Tierra Resource Consultants.

Register for the webinar now.

Read the HPXML Implementation Guide for more information about HPXML.

ENERGY STAR Award Applications are Coming Soon

Applications for the ENERGY STAR Awards will be available on My ENERGY STAR Account (MESA) soon. Keep your eye out for further information.

Introducing the HPwES Certificate of Completion Template

HPwES is happy to announce that we have developed a Certificate of Completion template that will be available to HPwES Sponsors on their My ENERGY STAR Account (MESA).

The template includes space for Sponsor and participating contractor information, as well as an area for organizations’ logos. The work expressed in the Certificate must be verified by a third party per the BPI 2101 requirements. The Sponsor, or its QA provider, serves this role for the HPwES Certificate of Completion. The template is HPXML compliant.

The crux of the template is the list of home performance improvements. Any other information about the HPwES project can be included in the box for additional information; for example, Sponsors may choose to present energy scores or ratings, or perhaps the estimated percentage energy saved.

There are several ways a Sponsor could choose to use this tool. Some may be interested in using the Certificate as a leave-behind for homeowners as simple documentation of work done. Others may work with local real estate groups to include the Certificate in house listings. The Certificate can be a great way to engage the local real estate community on the value of energy efficiency.

There will be guidance on how to use the template Certificate, how it can or cannot be modified, and how to properly articulate its meaning. The official roll-out of the Certificate will coincide with a detailed webinar later this summer. Sponsors who are interested in early access to the Certificate of Completion should contact their Account Manager.

Certificate of Completion The HPwES Certificate of Completion

HPwES Continues to Drive Production with the Best Q1 to Date

Outstanding production in 2013 and 2014 has generated forward momentum that propelled HPwES to its best Q1 production count. The last seven quarters have all been record breaking when compared to the same previous time periods. We cannot thank our Sponsors and participating contractors enough for their innovative business practices that drive success and their dedication to the whole-house approach to home improvement.

In 2015 Q1, 22,381 projects were reported from Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Sponsors. This is 4.6% growth compared to 2014 Q1. Sponsors in the Northeast, including  Berkshire Gas, Eversource, and National Grid in Massachusetts; Connecticut utilities, Eversource and United Illuminating; and NYSERDA, continued their steady production to drive volume.

A notable standout is the Public Service Company of Oklahoma. They experienced 177% growth compared to 2014 Q1. Their production in Q1 puts them among the high-volume Sponsors participating in HPwES Program.  Dominion East Ohio, Focus on Energy Wisconsin, FSL Home Improvement, National Grid Rhode Island, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, and PSEG Long Island all also contributed to the program count as high-volume Sponsors.

You can read more about the quarterly project counts on the Project Dashboards.

Contractor Corner

Quality Insulation Installers participates in Focus on Energy’s HPwES Program in Wisconsin. They won the 2014 DOE Housing Innovation Award for Industry Leadership and High Energy Savings for their dedication to industry expansion and quantifiable energy-saving results. For the last 30 years, Quality Insulation Installers has served the Milwaukee community with high quality workmanship. In 1998 they decided to incorporate home performance into their services. In the last 15 years they have proved themselves to be industry leaders and effective homeowner educators. The organization prides itself on its efforts to expand the home performance market by sharing their practices with competing contractors and by completing projects that merit customer referrals.

We recently spoke with Keith Williams from Quality Insulation Installers to discuss consumer education and market barriers.

What needs to change in the market for homeowners to be more knowledgeable?
Keith: This is a tough one since most marketing is geared towards energy savings and comfort. General marketing campaigns help drive homeowners to home performance.  Home performance is truly a market transformation process and 20 percent to 30 percent of time spent on a site visit is focused on homeowner education.  The process starts off by identifying why a consumer is calling for an evaluation or services. The contractor needs to respond back by incorporating the whole house approach by also addressing the homeowner’s issues and concerns.  It is important for the contractor to have the knowledge and skill to talk to the homeowner.  For example, most consumers are knowledgeable about having to improve insulation to reduce energy costs and improve comfort. The pink panther and window installers have done a great job educating consumers on energy savings and comfort with these two products.

I have also just experienced two energy assessments where the owner became aware of Focus on Energy and called for an energy audit because they felt that they needed more insulation.  In both of these assessments, the owners were advised that found combustion safety issues needed to be taken care of before they could proceed with the insulation improvements.  Neither had any idea that this was something that needed to be considered.

What are the basics of energy efficiency that every contractor should cover with homeowners?
Keith: They need to again identify why a homeowner is calling for an assessment or actual work.  Contractors need to have a basic understanding of building science and need to be comfortable with selling it.  For example, adding insulation does not make rooms warmer! Adding insulation helps reduce the loss of the already heated room. Many times an owner feels that a cold room is due to lack of insulation, but usually turns out that the room is not sufficiently being heated such as closets, sun rooms, and foyers.

What issues are you most frequently encountering while educating consumers?
Keith: Combustion safety and air sealing. Most customers have to be walked through the reasoning and process of the combustion safety test. They are unaware of any safety issues between their heating systems and gas stoves/ovens and getting their attics insulated.  The other is air sealing. Most often we need to slowly go over the importance of air sealing, where it is done and how. 

What needs to change for more contractors to enter the home performance market?
Keith: It comes down to the local level to work with the contractors on marketing and homeowner education. In a broader view, contractors need to become more familiar with "home performance" and what it means, and what is in it for them.  Is it more profitable than what they are already doing? Contractors also need to have a driving force to learn more about home performance and what the incentives to enter the market place are.  They need be comfortable with their investment.    

The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Team
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