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Taking the Pulse of the Home Energy Pro Community at RESNET 2012

 
RESNET conference 2012 logo building performance hers austin texas

The number of people at the 2012 RESNET Conference was about the same as last year. It's the first time in a few years that it hasn't grown over the previous year's attendance. Does that mean anything? I think so. Here are my thoughts on where we're at in the home energy pro community.

Over the past three years, the conference (and industry) has grown rapidly, fueled largely by ARRA (the Stimulus Act) money that the federal government sent our way. The 2009 conference was especially wild. Barack Obama had just taken office as President, and the industry took off. It also helped that the conference was in New Orleans that year...during Mardi Gras.

That's not a political statement. A lot of people RESNET conference 2009 new orleans irrational exuberancein a down economy were looking for work and saw opportunity in weatherization and home energy retrofits. I was teaching the HERS class at Southface that year, and we had to keep adding classes because the demand went through the roof. The same was true of BPI classes. There was an eight-week backorder on Blower Doors.

In other words, 2009 might be called the year of irrational exuberance in our industry, to borrow Alan Greenspan's term. We had a lot of growing pains that year.

In contrast, my first RESNET Conference in 2004 was a sleepy little affair with probably only 300 people. Those of us who were new to the industry then were wondering why something so great hadn't attracted more attention. Now that 2009 has come and gone, it feels that we're getting back to a more realistic outlook. The ARRA money is drying up, and those of us who are still standing are in it for the long haul. That was also the assessment of Steve Byers, CEO of EnergyLogic and a leader in the industry for longer than I've been here.

Of course, the ENERGY STAR new homes program has been huge for Home Energy Raters, and the folks who run the program were there offering a lot of sessions on Version 3. It remains to be seen whether Version 3 dooms the program or continues to elevate the performance and energy efficiency of homes. I heard more sentiments expressing the former than I did the latter. Although our rating numbers are down right now, we won't really get a clear picture till the end of the year.

I did get the feeling that the HERS community is happy overall with RESNET's pursuit of Memoranda of Understanding with trade partners. There's some suspicion that the organization will weaken its standards to accommodate trade groups like the Pool & Spa Professionals, but at least one person said to me, "It's better to have these groups at the table than fighting us in Congress." These links also spread the word about HERS ratings, which are known by far too few right now.

On the technical side, a lot of good stuff is going on. The conference had great sessions on ventilation, energy modeling, air leakage testing, and more. Unfortunately, I missed some I really would have liked to see because of other sessions I had to attend, but I did get to see the air leakage talk by Colin Genge (founder of Retrotec) and energy modeling talk by Dave Roberts (researcher at NREL). Both were great.

The roundtable sessions for RESNET Quality Assurance Designees and HERS Trainers seemed to be a little less rowdy than the past couple of years. The room seems to get fuller every year, and we all let our frustrations out on whoever has the misfortune of leading those sessions. This year that was Darrel Tenter of Saturn Resource Management and Clinton Heyn of RESNET. A couple of good things came out of those sessions. First, all HERS raters will have to learn combustion safety to get certified by 2014/15. Second, Darrel mentioned a document that I downloaded and have started to read: The Federal Plain Language Guidelines.

RESNET executive director Steve Baden headshotOne point that becomes clear to me every year at this conference is that Steve Baden, RESNET's executive director, has done an amazing job at keeping this industry going. He's a tireless worker and promoter for Home Energy Raters, and all of us involved with RESNET owe him a huge debt of gratitude. Thanks, Steve!

Finally, someone made the claim in one of the sessions I attended that the HERS industry is mature now. I'd dispute that, but we are a lot closer than we've ever been. We're in a difficult period in history right now, and I feel that the home energy pro industry, led by RESNET and BPI, can be a key to helping us get through it.

See you next month in Baltimore for the Affordable Comfort Conference!

 

See also:

Passive House Appeals to Home Energy Raters

The 2011 RESNET Building Performance Conference Rocked!

Comments

Allison, 
 
Great post as always,  
 
Your analysis is spot on,  
 
The industry was “fueled largely by ARRA (the Stimulus Act)”, an un-funded burden, paid for by our children. 
 
We now see the bloated, costly, burden of energy program funding, shifting to our neighbors, shaking down utility ratepayers so programs can re-distribute income to other ratepayers. 
 
Do you think the Industry will ever even try to become sustainable in a non- socialist business model, or must we just accept that bureaucrats make better choices for us than we would make for ourselves? I agree, the Industry rises and falls on OPM. 
 
Thanks, 
 
pj  
Posted @ Saturday, March 03, 2012 1:25 PM by PJ
Nice work Allison, I'll have a similar summary post up early next week.  
Allow me to address PJ. We, EnergyLogic, have been in the game and have grown and seen profit every year, ARRA be damned. We have a long haul view of the industry. I agree completely with Allison on "irrational exuberance". However, that's a small part of the story of this industry. The Green Gold Rush was underway before ARRA, got a bunch of fuel dumped on via ARRA and will, I believe return to a sustainable model, post ARRA.  
 
Opportunity cuts both ways. I pity those that built their businesses on the presumption of endless government largess. We benefited from the work, but we did not alter out business model or assumptions on ARRA. Those who did are now paying the price. I agree with PJ about who's going to pay and Whoo-Boy is it a stiff bill. Speaking for us capitalists in the room, we were built sustainable businesses prior to ARRA and we're still here.  
 
I don't think Allison said that the industry is based on OPM. He said that rapid growth was spurred by ARRA, a different statement. I suspect that he's here for the long haul as well. I hope so in any case.
Posted @ Saturday, March 03, 2012 2:44 PM by Steve Byers
People who are down on ES V3, and slow uptake in QA HVAC dealers should recall where ES was in 1999/2000. There were few Raters, fewer builders who were interested, and the perception that "It's too expensive" and "No one will pay the cost" was the prevailing expectation. Yet, quality and value through awareness grew. ES launched V2 with wide agreement that the industry was doomed. Not so, numbers spiked nationally. When the economy dipped (sunk?) there was wide consensus that HERS and ES was dead again. “We need inexpensive (cheap?) homes, not better quality!” But, as we know, the program boomed - Again.  
 
In spite of ARRA funding, the level of professionalism in both seasoned and new Raters continues to impress. What other profession takes such a moral high ground, even against their own personal best interests and profits at times. 
 
The expansion of applications in existing home markets (Home Performance, etc.) and HVAC industry support for quality installations, will only improve and expand opportunities for those capitalists in the room. Once everyone realizes that those *#%@^ HVAC checklists simply mirror the manufacturer’s required installation practices, all that noise will drop away as well. 
 
Over 30 years ago we sat talking about how this would be a short career. After all, how hard could it be to show people how to save energy? Then we would all be unemployed in a couple years. Today, I believe the industry is barely reaching critical mass, and potential growth is wide open. 
 
DOE’s Builder’s Challenge, and advanced (Deep) retrofit capabilities are just being explored. New technologies are bringing costs down, and opening up greater potential for real savings. How many of you have even explored opportunities in commercial buildings? Yet, I believe these will all be common offerings and accepted practice in the next 3-5 years. 
 
The Fun has just begun! 
Posted @ Saturday, March 03, 2012 6:07 PM by Geoff Hartman
Thanks for the great post Allison 
 
I did not have the time nor resources this year to attend. RESNET always has some great sessions and the biggest problem is which one to attend.  
 
Having just completed my training for Energy Star ver 3 I would have to agree that the bar is high. The commitment of a builder to train crews and maintain a level of excellence is the only formula for success. With these rigorous standards there will be failures. While this might on the surface seem like a hurdle at the end of the day I feel the industry can rise to the challenge. Builders want to build a good homes. The trades have good folks working and can learn new tricks. 
 
Steve Baden personally answered my inquiry when I first considered HERS Training. This despite the fact that I was out of RESNET territory (California). He helped me along my path and pointed me in the right direction. His commitment to the industry has been a benefit to us all.  
 
Thank you for your blog area, while I do not comment each time I read the Energy Vanguard Blog is a regular stop in my cyberspace travels. It has evolved into one of the best building science resources on the web.  
 
Thank you for your efforts. 
 
Glen 
Posted @ Sunday, March 04, 2012 9:20 AM by Glen Gallo
Allison, I really enjoy your blogs, and even though its been a while since I last saw you, I feel I can keep up with you and other thru here… Unfortunately, once again, I couldn’t be at RESNET. 
 
Anyway, I wanted to put it my 2 cents on this one in particular. 
 
Since my point of view if somewhat similiar to yours and our good friend Steve Byers.  
 
Any industry and or business that is developed on the basis of indefinite incentives and rebates, is set for a rocky future, we see it in all industries, but if used correctly they can be used to kick start the industry, and I believe that ARRA, even though I dont fully agree with it, or how it was implemented in the long term it will remembered as either the greatest kick start for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for the longest time, or the worst stimulus package in history, ALL will depend how companies and organization used it, if it was used as a tool to further develop or kick start your business in a sustainable way, then you will have a positive attitude, for the companies that used it as a market opportunity to make money, well tough luck... I don’t think the end result was a sustainable model. That is that...  
 
Changing the subject to Energy Star V.3, well, where do I start. Even though I see the full benefits of the higher standards, I don't think V.3 is coming at the right time for the home building industry, some of the items that need to be verified don't have a substantial impact on energy efficiency, and assigning the role to HERS raters to move the HVAC industry towards Quality Control, well that will be the hardest battle. Yes, I know that the Checklist mirror the manufacturers specs, but nevertheless this is our hardest battle.  
And most homebuilders are not set up to handle one extra piece of paper in their supervisors hand or their own hands. Anyway, I hope that raters, builders and sub-trades embrace ES V.3, but with more and more stringent energy codes, consumers becoming more aware of energy efficiency and builders wanting to add more energy upgrades that their customer can see, and can advertise, I believe that HERS ratings will the option to follow. As a personal note, if I was a Homebuilder I would probably do v.3, but just because at this point I really know the inside and outs, of the necessary upgrades. But most builders are not wanting to spend the time, that is the other biggest issue, but at the end the market (consumer and realtors) will either accept energy efficient homes with HERS Ratings or energy star homes. 
 
We will see… 
Posted @ Monday, March 05, 2012 4:03 AM by Javier Ruiz
"Unfortunately, I missed some I really would have liked to see because of other sessions I had to attend,...) 
 
I had to miss my first RESNET conference in 6 years. The food is always excellent and plentiful, the conversations exciting & encouraging, the attendents are like-minded and inspiring, and the course offerings so varied and informative. I don't know what RESNET could do about session availablity as I too, always wish I could be at two or more sessions concurrently. Is it a question of too many similar subject offerings occuring simultaneously? or perhaps the limited number of sessions on the more popular subjects? 
 
It would be nice if something could be done aleviate the problem ... but better that problem than an inability to find offerings of significance.
Posted @ Monday, March 05, 2012 8:23 AM by Paul McGovern
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