Time for a Reality Check on Our 8 Day HERS Rater Training

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HERS rater class heat flow equations allison bailes training

We've been teaching our Home Energy Rater training class for over two years now. Because I'm like Sweetwater beer, a local favorite here in Atlanta, and "don't float the mainstream," I spread the material of the class out over 8 days. (Well, I don't know that I'm a local favorite, but it's true that I don't float the mainstream.) I announced a couple of months ago, however, that we were putting our class on hold for the rest of the year to re-evaluate how we're offering this training because our enrollment has been low.

Well, life has a way of interrupting plans, and we reopened registration for our November HERS class. Enough people had requested it that it made sense to offer it again in its current format. After this one, though, we really will step back and do a reality check to see if and how we should change the format. I love teaching this class and have a lot of fun with it, but, as Joe might say, I've let it become a boutique program and I want to reach more people.

The reasons I chose to do the class in longer format is that there's a heck of a lot of information and skills for the students to learn and the national HERS rater test isn't so easy for a lot of people. RESNET doesn't publish statistics on it, but my educated guess is that the national average for passing the test on the first attempt is around 60%. That's why we offer three attempts at passing the test for each student in our classes.

Speaking of HERS rater test results, I'll be completely open and tell you how our students have done. Here are the numbers:

Classes
8
Students
42
Attempts
72
Avg. # of attempts
1.7
Passed on 1st attempt     
25
  - Percentage
60%
Passed overall
37
  - Percentage
88%

One thing I believe we've proven is that offering the national rater test three times, as we do, benefits a lot of students who otherwise walk away from their class feeling like a failure. In our case, 28% more students pass by having extra attempts.

Another great thing about doing the class in 8 days is that the new information and skills get internalized better because your brain needs time to process it all. Cramming may work for passing tests, but it doesn't lead to true learning most of the time. We get to spend more time learning, and we do some pretty cool stuff, too. One trademark of the Energy Vanguard HERS rater class is playing Psychrometric Chart Simon Says. It's always fun, and the students have a real feel for this important tool afterward.

By the end of our 8 day class,HERS rater class graduation ceremony allison bailes energy vanguard nearly all of our students have successfully completed all requirements for HERS rater training. We've given out training certificates at the end of each class we've taught so they don't have to wait weeks or months to get their results in the mail. For the past couple of classes, we've even added a graduation ceremony. I put on my a cap and gown with my doctoral hood, we play Pomp and Circumstance, and the students get to 'march' to get their 'diplomas.'

What will our future classes look like? I don't know yet. After the November class, which could be our last one in the 8 day format, we're going back to the drawing board to figure out what happens next. I have some ideas about where we're going, but I want to flesh them out before going public with them.

One thing you can be certain of, though, is that our emphasis will always be on helping our students learn and become successful HERS raters.

 

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Comments

Armando

Taking the class, however long, and passing a test is just a beginning. Providers should make those newbies work as apprentices for at least 6-12 months, then pass a more rigorous test before they are allowed to be independent contractors. Sort of mechanical tradesmen. There are too many “experts” in the field with little knowledge and experience. 
 
The second and bigger issue is for BPI and Resnet to truly monitor the shady work many raters are doing in order to keep their accounts. I’ve seen it too often, and in the last month or so, I’ve heard from production builders admitting the issue, and from Raters, who have lost accounts to other Raters who pass bad jobs consistently.

Allison Bailes

Armando: Great points! You just reminded me of another article I wrote, A Home Energy Rater Class Is Just the Beginning , which I've now added to the list at the bottom of the article. Also, as a member of the RESNET Quality Assurance committee, I'm involved in helping to shape the HERS Standards to make the kind of oversight you're talking about happen. It's a slow, arduous process, but we're definitely improving.

kim shanahan

While RESNET does not require new raters to be schooled in recognizing Thermal Bypass issues and proper installation of air barriers, I would hope your expanded class does cover these critically important topics. In Santa Fe, where we have had mandatory HERS ratings on new residential consturction since 2008 and mandatory HERS 70 since 2009, we also require mandatory Thermal Bypass and air barrier inspections. Our cadre of raters, all of whom are top-notch building science pros, know what to look for and enforce best practices. And because our builders continue to tighten their envelopes to get to the 70, we recently amended our Green Building Codes to make compliance to ASHRAE 62.2 a mandatory requirement as well. I'm guessing an astute instructor such as Allison Bailes covers these topics in great detail?

Allison Bailes

Kim S.: Actually, RESNET does require knowledge of thermal bypasses and proper installation of building envelope components. It's not a huge part of the test, but it's definitely part of what all raters need to know. The problem is that in shorter classes, you just can't go into much detail on everything so stuff like that gets glossed over sometimes. I can teach anyone the fundamentals of building science in 10 or 15 minutes, but the devil's in the details, as they say. We try to teach not only the fundamentals and what students need to know to pass the test, but also a lot of the details that you mention as well. A new rater who can't answer a builder's questions isn't going to instill a lot of confidence. I like Armando's idea of apprenticeship, too, because even an 8 day class can't hit everything they need to know.

Debbie

wow! something to show you passed the test! what a concept. it has taken me 5 years to get a rater number from Resnet. part of this was due to, as I was told..that our class was prior to this number being created..don't know if I buy that or not. the other part was ineptitude of the man who gave the class. it would have been better just to study on your own & take the test, instructors are supposed to instruct, not confuse. 
 
while we knew whether or not we passed, most didn't get anything that reflected this.  
 
 
 
glad to see that you are publishing then numbers. 
 
few raters in my area passed on their first try. 
 
some took the test multiple times.  
 
 
 
the test was hard for me. a lot of the questions had answers that you had to answer from a cold climate perspective. these climate specific answers were correct for cold climates, but incorrect for hot humid climates. 
 
 
 
glad that you are giving another class.

Corbett Lunsford

Isn't it weird that complete honesty about low enrollment is so unusual? I'm so impressed that you came out and stated your numbers- be clear, people, that the big corporate training centers whose names I don't like to say would NEVER do that, even though they're constantly cold-calling, begging for students. We're all feeling it- you are not alone.

Kenneth Bailes

This question is for Allison. 
 
 
 
Does any of the training offered by EV give a student possible continuing ed credits at this time? 
 
 
 
Thanks!

Colin Genge

Glad to see you've found extra uses for your plasterboard (hat). 
 
Recycle, Reuse - well reuse anyway.