RESNET’s New Standard for Energy Auditor’s

As I mentioned in last week’s article on Ethics, RESNET has released a new standard for Energy Auditors that fortuitously helps me out on an article I have been working on for a while – namely, what is an Energy Audit, an Assessment, a Rating, & are they all the same?  While some may consider that an easy question to answer, those of us who actually perform them know that there are many differences.

Why change?

As many of you may know, there is a false perception out there, that the only difference between RESNET & BPI is the CAZ testing. A few people might bring out that BPI also requires a test-in & test-out system, while RESNET did not. While there are plenty of other differences, those two differences are what BPI mainly uses to sell itself in the “existing home market” and RESNET feels that they are losing out on. So in their own words they have “undertaken an aggressive effort to tap the existing homes market.” (Press Release)

New certifications:

According to the Press release, their “most significant improvement” is they have created two new certifications; a Comprehensive Home Energy Rater and Building Performance Auditor. Those certified would supposedly follow either RESNET’s new guidelines on combustion appliance safety / zone (CAZ) testing and developing work scopes or follow “BPI’s protocols for these two activities”. (Please note – BPI has a new standard in the works for CAZ testing & they actually do not have a work scope definition in the Building Analyst section – see article)

Comprehensive Home Energy Rater (CHER):

Is a certified RESNET HERS Rater that has received additional training on CAZ Testing. They may complete either the In-Home Home Energy Survey or the Comprehensive Home Energy Audit

Building Performance Auditor (BPA):

Is a certified Home Energy Survey Professional (HESP) that has also received additional CAZ Training and training on using “building energy performance modeling software.” They are only allowed to complete the In-Home Home Energy Survey.

Home Energy Survey(s) 704.1:

In short these are a simple assessments that are done one of two ways, a walk-through or web-based. The purpose of the Home Energy Survey is to “determine the general condition of the home with respect to energy performance and the homeowner’s potential willingness to improve the home’s energy performance.”

In short the “web-based” survey may only be hosted by a provider or approved institution, and seeing that they list LBL’s “Home Energy Saver” as the default standard on generating a report, and did not include any more information on it, I think we can move on to what should be included on a walk-through. As a quick FYI – the “Home Energy Saver” is a FREE web-based program done in conjunction with the Dept of Energy and Lawrence-Berkley National Labs that allows consumers to fill in and get a report on saving energy based on their inputs and the regional norms on electric usage patterns and climate.

The In-Home Home Energy Survey (aka assessment – 704.1.2) comprises of three main items and does not require one to use any diagnostic equipment:

  • The interview – Reviewing utility bills, comfort (drafts, high moisture, etc…), the “potential for the homeowner to move to a Comprehensive Home Energy Audit,” and their interest in performing improvements
  • The visual inspection – of the houses general conditions
  • The Review – inform homeowner of low to no cost improvements that they can accomplish, who to call next if they wish to move forward
    • Energy savings estimates and advice may only be generalized and presented along with the qualification that a Comprehensive Home Energy Audit must be obtained to calculate energy savings estimates
    • A standardized report with all the data collected, and about ten  pamphlets dealing with ENERGY STAR®, quality HVAC and duct sealing , insulation, combustion safety, getting a Comprehensive Home Energy Audit, and the non-energy benefits “including reduction of carbon emissions”

A Diagnostic Home Energy Audit – 704.1.3:

You would assume that when they refer to an audit as diagnostic it would include more than what is included than the In-Home Home Energy Survey. Right? Well, not exactly & this one can be performed by a regular HESP that has not upgraded to the BPA Rating. I think this falls under the oops category, and if you think I am kidding…

  • “If a blower door air leakage test is performed on the home…”
  • “If a duct leakage test is performed on the home…”
  • “Additional diagnostic testing and reporting is optional and left up to the discretion of the Home Energy Survey Professional, program or entity offering the Diagnostic Home Energy Survey”

Comprehensive Home Energy Audit – 704.2:

There really is not much in this section, except that the purpose of the Comprehensive Home Energy Audit is to cause improvement to be made to the audited home and the “qualified Auditor shall guide the homeowner to a Certified Contractor.” (i.e. a RESNET Certified Contractor) Interestingly per the standard the performance, testing shall include both the RESNET’s procedures for HERS Raters & BPI’s Building Analyst procedure, i.e. RESNET’s CAZ testing is not mentioned.

General Limitations – 706:

As many people know, currently LEED is in an ongoing a legal fight over some of the wording they used, so RESNET has included some limitations:

  • The energy use information contained in the In-Home Home Energy Survey report does not constitute any warranty of energy cost or savings.
  • Inspections that are performed in accordance with these standards:
    • Are not technically exhaustive
    • Will not identify concealed conditions or latent defects
  • The Comprehensive Home Energy Audit is not intended to be an inspection of the structural soundness of the home or any other attributes of the home other than the home’s energy features.
  • The Home Energy Survey is not applicable to building design and construction features except those specified in the minimum required features.

Is there really going to be a difference in the results?

Recently I did a little research when the subject was brought up on the Energy Auditor Talk forum about the results from different software packages out there. I actually took one of my Certified HERS Rating’s and compared it against LBL’s HES program.

  • HES (Qck) – was filled out like a Homeowner would with some basic to limited knowledge of their house using the “Quick” fill option —- i.e. a web-based Home Energy Survey
  • HES (IH) – was filled out just like a Building Performance Auditor would do for an In-Home Home Energy Survey
  • HES (CEA) – was filled out using the actual Duct Leakage & Blower Door Readings
Program Projected Difference
HES (Qck)  $ 5,153  $ 2,121
HES (IH)  $ 4,196  $ 1,164
HES (CEA)  $ 4,108  $ 1,076
RESNET $ 3,032

As you can see, there are numerous differences & limitations just between RESNET’s own programs and results. When you start adding in other companies definitions of audits, etc… it gets even murkier yet. But that folks will have to late for another article…

For a full listing of our Energy Audit & Rating prices, including what we cover, you can check them out on our Residential Energy Audit Pricing Page.

  • SSLPro

    All this might be semantics , as someone who provides Energy Loss analysis as
    opposed to doing energy “audits” I can state this much -ITS ALL ABOUT RESULTS
    Our tools a good quality Ir camera, light meters, energy meters et al & a good understanding
    of system performance expectations. There is never a building that doesn’t have some
    degree of air infiltration, ductwork integrity issues or uses outdated ineffiecient lights.
    Our axiom less paperwork and regulations more solutions and appropriate products!
    A personal goal is to get folks to halve their kWh consumption – I’ve done it , others
    are getting better usage results too. The label is less important than the results,
    I urge one & all,whether you talk to an analyst or auditor make the bldgs you are responsible
    for more energy efficient in 2011!

    • SLS Construction

      Thanks for the comment SSLPro (The SSLPro from Energy Auditor Talk?). While I agree some of it can be semantics, and definetly agree that some of the paperwork & regulations are over the top, I would have to disagree that it is all about the KWH result and just products. There is so much more to a house than just an electric bill like comfort, safety & health.
      In many cases I do recomend SSL, while in other cases though it will be CFL’s in order to fix other issues first. The nice thing is that in many cases the light bulbs can be changed out at almost anytime.