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Members of BPCA and the larger building performance community can interact with one another by asking or answering questions, starting opinions or contribute to ongoing discussions.

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Submitted: 1/17/2013 12:17:59 PM by John Carton

Can anyone provide the name of an insurance company that provides General Liability and Errors and Omissions insurance for BPI certified auditors?

Hoping to find lower rates

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Submitted: 10/7/2011 7:49:57 AM by Paul Lasicki

Hi,

Anyone out there in jeopardy of losing thier HPw/ES contractor status because NYSERDA is enforcing the production requirement?

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Submitted: 9/24/2011 1:52:54 PM by Peter Cantone

Anyone interested in building or retrofitting existing homes to make them more energy efficient needs to go to this site- www.sprayfoamhomes.com  these guys are true visionaries.  I spent some time w/President, Joe Charla, and he indicated that they will be promoting BPCA contractors and builders building energy efficient homes that are HERS Rated.

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Submitted: 8/7/2011 2:40:23 PM by Paul Lasicki

Is it true that HPwES will start enforcing the number of jobs per year to stay in the program? I for one will not meet this criteria, and was wondering who else will have this problem? If this is true, you can see the the problems that lay ahead.

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Submitted: 7/8/2011 12:52:58 PM by Gary Neal

What is the city doing for energy efficiency and green energy? I'd like to see a little bit more production of energy that is eco-friendly, and doesn't produce excess amounts of greenhouse gases. Does anyone know if the recent proposal was passed that limits CO2 emmissions?

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Submitted: 7/8/2011 12:52:30 PM by Gary Neal

What is the city doing for energy efficiency and green energy? I'd like to see a little bit more production of energy that is eco-friendly, and doesn't produce excess amounts of greenhouse gases. Does anyone know if the recent proposal was passed that limits CO2 emmissions?

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Submitted: 5/27/2011 2:52:36 PM by Bernhard Koenig

NYSERDA / Honeywell Quality Assurance Process
I have a big issue with the process:
1. We are not getting notified about appointments, I know of two appointments regarding my company. The only reason I know about it is because my customer notified me, or because I received a report a couple weeks later.

 

2. 3 Companies in my area had the same issue… Bruni&Campesi, NY Energy Conservation, BK Solutions LLC.

3. Customers feel uncomfortable to have Honeywell visit them. Or they don’t want to waste a work day to have guy running around with a hardhead in their living space and asking strange questions. Here in Westchester often both parents must work to pay $15,000-$20,000 property taxes. Just to take a day off for such a test is not acceptable. At my last appointment I witnessed the QA inspector measuring CO level on an electrical oven. Sometimes customers get multiple phone calls until they agree to have a QA conducted. This should not be a “pressure call”, nor should they feel something is wrong. Customer may feel that the contractor must have a bad reputation; why else would Honeywell insist on a QA multiple times. The interview on site should not feel like an interrogation.

4. QA test 3-4 month after completion is problematic for following reasons. Home owner could have changed the “system” by adding appliances into the house without the QA inspector knowing it. For example: A new kitchen range with a bigger blower, or the security company added some alarm features and had to crawl around the attic. I had a customer adding a bath vent months after I was finished. I was lucky he connected it to an existing vent. We have no control what happens after we leave a home.

5. The quality of Honeywell personnel is questionable. I heard stories about running blower doors and fireplaces full of dirt next to a clear carpet. Guys stepping over ducts in the attic and claiming they are disconnected. Refuse to run a blower door test because home owner used the fireplace in less than 24 hours, they did not even check if fireplace actually was an issue, meaning cold and clean.

6. Each QA cost me a ½ day, or even a full day, because it is not worth it to setup and insulate a home from 12pm to 4 pm.


Any similar experiences?

 

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Submitted: 12/30/2010 12:32:50 PM by Judith Karpova

I'm a member of BPCA. I attended the John Straube (www.buildingscience.com) lecture on bulk moisture prevention / insulation in December in Tarrytown, NY.

I was quite dismayed by his attack on geothermal systems. He stated that the Entering Water Temperature (EWT) for systems in the NY area was a generic 32 degrees. My company finds that our EWTs are generally not below 45 degrees; we design for this but they are often higher, especially in vertical and standing column installations. He stated that the temperature attained by the refrigerant after the groundwater heat exchange does not get above 95 degrees. This is simply not correct. We generally see 120 to 125 degrees.

He asserted that because of the alleged, low 95 degree temperature, ductwork had to be designed so large that it would be expensive, noisy and inefficient. This is absurd. In the first place, the temperatures are higher. Secondly, we have no need for long, oversized duct runs. We use hydronic systems that send water through 3/4" piping to air handlers that in turn supply short runs of ductwork delivering 115 - 120 degrees of heat. To assert that competent geothermal installers don't know how to do this, or would saddle homeowners with a dysfunctional ductwork system, is wrong and insulting.

He asserted that the use of electricity to run geothermal systems fosters the construction of polluting power stations. He omitted the option of having electricity delivered from wind farms, and/or supplemented by photovoltaic, and/or the hot water created in hydronic systems supplemented by solar hot water systems.

This is just a sampling. I had little opportunity to counter Dr. Straube's denigrating claims. When I mentioned my concerns to BPCA's representative at the event, he dismissed them, saying that Mr. Straube is a Ph.D, and therefore whatever he said must be correct.

Dr. Straube's research does not focus exclusively on geothermal or, apparently, include the metrics for cold-climate heat pumps. He would be well advised to consult with the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association and GeoExchange regarding his data before spreading his opinions around. I question his right to trash an entire industry, never mind my own livelihood, based on incomplete and, it seems to me, misleading information. I am disturbed that this was done at a seminar of highly motivated professionals in the green building industry.

I am even more disturbed at his advocacy of natural gas. For us in New York, as the BPCA New York chapter well knows, this means natural gas hydrofracking, which poisons water supplies. States that have tapped the Marcellus Shale have done so to their regret. Natural gas leaks into water wells, rivers and creeks. Hundreds of toxins, including formaldehyde, make their way into underground aquifers. Fracking is carried out via billions of gallons of water which emerge polluted and irremediable. Human, livestock and wildlife diseases and mortalities are the result. Yet Dr. Straube heartily recommends natural gas.

I need to ask, since BPCA sponsored this lecture: what is BPCA's mission? To tighten homes so that less fossil fuel is consumed, but to remain an advocate for fossil fuel production and delivery systems? A tighter home is not an end in itself. It exists within a currently unsustainable matrix of toxic heating technologies. How much does it matter if a home is 20 or even 30% more efficient if it simply means that it will take 20% or 30% longer to despoil the land above the Marcellus Shale? Or to have our next catastrophic oil spill? To have these things happen, not in four years, but in five, or at best, six? How is this acceptable?

Any form of fossil fuel is potentially disastrous. By promoting fossil fuel appliances and discouraging geothermal, BPCA commits itself to an entrenched, dirty and polluting technology. Geothermal systems involve no fossil fuel, no greenhouse gases, the COPs are rising to 4, 5 and 6, and they can often be run on green electricity. They produce no combustion gases or carbon monoxide. They are the safest and most efficient form of home heating and cooling available at this time. Why is BPCA not advocating for legislative measures that assist the business and residential markets? That expand the renewable-energy electrical grid? That involve the utilities in installing ground wells and loops?

Altren Consulting is diligent about recommending audits and efficiency measures for all clients interested in geothermal systems. I felt these measures naturally went together, and that the home energy efficiency and geothermal sciences were mutually supportive and complementary. Dr. Straube's lecture, sponsored by the BPCA, has awakened me to the question: is BPCA committed to fossil fuel, or to safe, renewable green energy and a green economy?


Judith Karpova
Altren Consulting and Contracting, Inc.
judith@altren.net
www.altren.net
home office: 845 626-7355
cell: 845 430-7996
Altren Office: 845 658-7116
IGSHPA Certified Geothermal Installer
BPI Certified Home Energy Specialist

 

Reply To Comment

Submitted: 11/9/2010 10:54:30 AM by Clifford Babson

The following is a BPCA response to a letter from a coalition of CBO's regarding GJGNY posted on the NYSERDA website, the link and our response are below:

http://www.nyserda.org/GreenNY/documents/joint_letter_gjgny_job_standards.pdf

TO: Frank Murray, President & CEO
NYSERDA
17 Columbia Circle, Albany NY

FROM: Building Performance Contractors Association of New York State
4077 South Street Ext.
Trumansburg, NY 14886

CC: Karen Villeneuve, Director, Residential Energy Affordability Program
John Ahearn, Program Manager, Low Income Programs
BPCA Membership

Dear Mr. Murray,
We are writing in response to a letter published on the Green Jobs Green New York page of the NYSERDA website from Mr. Eric Walker of PUSH Buffalo et al. We wish to address this letter directly. In the first paragraph Mr. Walker calls on NYSERDA to fulfill the purpose of the GJGNY Legislation, and lists that purpose as “unprecedented job creation for tens of thousands of New Yorkers, the revitalization of economically distressed communities and making NY a leader in the green community”. We find that admirable, but we wish to remind Mr. Walker and NYSERDA that the purpose of the GJGNY legislation is abstracted from the bill directly as follows:

§1892. “....THE PURPOSE OF THE PROGRAM IS TO:
1. PROMOTE ENERGY EFFICIENCY, ENERGY CONSERVATION AND THE INSTALLATION
OF CLEAN ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES;
2. REDUCE ENERGY CONSUMPTION AND ENERGY COSTS;
3. REDUCE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS;
4. SUPPORT SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT;
5. CREATE GREEN JOB OPPORTUNITIES, INCLUDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR NEW
ENTRANTS INTO THE STATE’S WORKFORCE, THE LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYED AND
DISPLACED WORKERS; AND
6. USE INNOVATIVE FINANCING MECHANISMS TO FINANCE ENERGY EFFICIENCY
IMPROVEMENTS THROUGH ENERGY COST SAVINGS.

It appears that the signatories of the letter have added some of their own lofty ambitions, and agenda and ascribed it to the GJGNY legislation.

The letter goes on to claim that the Energy Sector has excluded entire communities and sectors based on sex, race or by other inappropriate discriminations. We believe this accusation to be not only incorrect, and completely unsupported by any factual evidence, but also unfairly inflammatory and defamatory. The largest single component of the Energy Sector is now, and has traditionally been the Weatherization sector. The weatherization sector specifically targets the sectors that are claimed to be neglected in this profoundly inaccurate letter. No other trade or contracting industry can claim such substantial representation in the targeted communities. This is a matter of pride for most of our members, and the assertion that as an industry we neglect these communities, or exclude people based on unlawful and immoral discriminations is reprehensible and irresponsible.

Energy contractors in this state, and nationally work in an industry that is, as opposed to the letters contention, socially responsible by nature, targets traditionally excluded groups, and has been meeting the first four purposes of the legislation throughout the industries’ history, long prior the involvement of the letters originators. We are excited to move ahead and add a new dimension of social responsibility by doing our part to add new jobs, and to fill those jobs with traditionally excluded groups.

The letter goes on to state that “the legislative intent is clear” and uses this statement as justification to call for wage and other ‘contractor standards’. We believe that the legislative intent can be interpreted many different ways, and we are far more concerned with the actual legislative language and requirements. Wage standards are not specified in the legislation, nor are the vast majority of “contractor standards” outlined in the 167 page document referenced in the letter. The standards referred to in the referenced document, and wage standards in general are the subject of collective bargaining, and we believe that collective bargaining is the right of contractors and employees to engage in voluntarily.

Forcing these standards into program guidelines is not clearly the legislative intent, but seems more to be the intent of the originators of the letter. The beauty and power of collective bargaining is its voluntary nature. The standards being advocated by the originators of the letter are an attempt to force an un-negotiated labor agreement on an entire industry.

We support Green Jobs Green New York, we support the hiring standards outlined in the legislation, and we support right of contractors and employees to bargain collectively in good faith. We strongly oppose the use of GJGNY as a vehicle for private agendas. We strongly oppose involuntary un-negotiated labor agreements, and strongly refute the baseless defamatory attacks on the integrity of our members.

BPCA continues to support NYSERDA and the GJGNY program and hope to continue to work together toward achieving the success of the program. We are hopeful and confident that these issues will be resolved to everyones satisfaction, in a civil and intelligent manner that does not resort to rhetoric, and personal attacks.

Respectfully
Capt. Clifford Babson, USMM, CEM, CEA, LEED AP
Executive Director BPCA/NYS, Inc.
By Direction of the BPCA/NYS, Inc. Board of Directors.

 

Reply To Comment

Submitted: 11/3/2010 12:26:38 PM by Cliff Babson

The following is the full text of a letter submitted to NYSERDA from the BPCA. The letter was developed by the Home Performance Committee in Sept. in response to the rumour that NYSERDA was planning to roll out the $250 audit price fixing plan. At the time, the $250 was an unofficial rumour.

Karen Villeneuve
Director, Residential Energy Affordability Program
NYSERDA
17 Columbia Circle, Albany, NY 12220

Dear Karen,

The Building Performance Contractors Association of New York State (BPCA/NYS) would like to open discussions with NYSERDA and the GJGNY Advisory Council about the possible enactment of a low fixed cost audit fee for GJGNY/HPwES program participants. This is of core importance for all BPI Accredited Home Performance with Energy Star Contractors, because it affects the nature of their business, their relations to customers, coupled with the growth and transformation of the Home Performance Industry.

We would request that NYSERDA lead the charge and open discussions with its contractor base to evaluate the current program and gain a more comprehensive understanding about different contractor business models and how that relates to the true costs of a comprehensive assessment.

NYSERDA’s core objective from the inception of the HPwES Program was to promote a market-based home performance industry. NYSERDA provided financial support for educating contractors to work under the program guidelines based upon industry standards. NYSERDA encouraged an integrated contractor model where customers contract the services of qualified contractors that implement a comprehensive ‘whole-house’ approach to energy improvements. It is the relationships and contractors between contractors and homeowners that dictate the success of the program.

When you compare the GJGNY legislation’s definition of an energy audit, the proposed BPI Home Energy Auditing Standard, and NYSERDA’s requirements for a comprehensive home assessment, each of them entails can have different interpretations and results for BPI Certified Individuals or a BPI Accredited Company. BPCA would like NYSERDA to clarify what a comprehensive home assessment entails and what an energy audit entails and which one will be associated within program changes of the GJGNY/HPwES programs.

An industry goal is to grow into a sustainable and scaleable home retrofit market that does not require assistance from a government entity; although progress has been made, we are not close to this market shift. One intention associated with the passage of the GJGNY legislation was to offer energy audits and retrofit services to every resident in New York State. This legislation is having a momentous effect on the industry, according to the legislation, NYS residents must be offered low or no cost audits. It is widely known among contractors that the audit is only the mechanism in which to engage homeowners and get them to value the savings that will come from signing a contract. If there is no investment from the homeowners, this program may result in an undesired outcome, where the number of energy audits performed will grossly outnumber the homes retrofitted.

The housing stock of New York State is not uniform. The major challenge is that each and every house is different requiring a detailed analysis and work-scope because of they are all constructed differently, have varied materials, mechanical systems, energy usage and occupant life-styles.

We are aware the NYSERDA has the authority to “establish standards for energy audits based on building type and other relevant considerations.” As well as that “the authority shall establish a schedule of fees for energy audits based on the type and nature of the energy audit and other relevant considerations.” From conversations with staff at NYSERDA and members of the GJGNY Advisory Council it has been suggested that
NYSERDA will be enacting a low-fixed price audit to contractors for conducting an comprehensive assessment to homeowners eligible for the no or low cost audit (anyone making less than 200% of the state median income, which can be interpreted as a majority of NYS residents).

A lively discussion of BPCA’s Home Performance Committee has some important insights and ideas about the potential enactment of a low-fixed cost price for conducting energy audits.

Ron Samuelson, Home Energy Consultants, Inc., Pleasant Valley, NY
In addition, I think that the audit fee should be flat rate based on square footage. For example: $650-700 for CHA based on a home up to 3,500 sqft of measured conditioned space and $0.06/sqft for measured conditioned space above 3,500 sqft. In comparison, if the price is based on housing style instead of square footage, competitive pricing becomes very complicated. When thinking about factoring lead or asbestos into the cost of the audit, these additional costs should be reflected in the home performance workscope.
From my perspective in offering professional guidance as to what constitutes an affordable energy audit, could consist of the following 10 points:
• Basement to attic visual inspection of the home;
• Exterior perimeter visual inspection;
• Client interview to learn problems/concerns about the building envelope;
• CAZ depressurization testing;
• Combustion appliance testing;
• Electric appliance/electronics assessment and in-home electric reduction education;
• Measurements to determine conditioned space area & volume;
• Blower door testing;
• Written summary with CAZ, Combustion appliance & Blower Door test results;
• Written summary of recommended energy-saving measures.
Based upon my experiences working within the HPwES and EmPower programs one suggestion I’d like NYSERDA to approach is a program voucher for $250.00 that can be applied toward the audit fee. This provides a customer incentive and allows the free market to determine the actual audit fees based on the individual home. The voucher idea creates an environment where NYSERDA can acknowledge through GJGNY the value of the energy audit as the first step toward energy efficiency one home at a time while leaving the free market to operate. Homeowner cost for the audit will be incentivized by NYSERDA and home performance contractors can charge accordingly for the level of services provided in each individual home.
I recommend that the voucher can only be reimbursed if the homeowner completes energy-saving measures installation through the GJGNY program (this should address the contractor concerns about ‘tire-kicking’ consumers and ties the audit services directly to completed workscopes). The homeowner should be responsible for all upfront audit fees at the time of services rendered. The audit voucher would be received at conclusion of the audit and redeemed along with any other financial incentives upon satisfactory completion of all work. Actually, NYSERDA should determine the protocol for issuing and satisfying vouchers; I only suggest this one means.


Glenn Hooper, Residential Energy Conservation, South Setauket, NY
I'm concerned about the value of a comprehensive home assessment. I have heard of various versions of CHA's performed by contractors and the measures that they include. These vary from no blower door with only a visual inspection to a complete and through investigation, including all measures, costs and reports. In order for contractors to make a living in the residential retrofit industry, some may have to abbreviate the CHA so that it fits within a workable business plan.
When I first started working within LIPA’s HPwES program my company was charging only $300-$400, where we performed lots of audits but an overwhelming majority did not turn into jobs. I learned quickly that price did not incorporate any of the overhead costs of running a business. A comprehensive home assessment is supposed to quantify measures that may not normally be included in most jobs, included within a contract, where it’s the customers’ decision to value the assessment and investment for the work to be performed. Within the LIPA program initial requirements when an audit is performed to show a reduction of air leakage in the home; this makes it at least a two person job and require a full scheduled day.
These two highly qualified and skilled individuals are hired at a rate where they have the ability to think and act on their own, require funding during BPI Building Analyst (at least) training and salary during training (app. $4,000). There is also the purchase of a van, the outfitting of the van with app. $10,000 of tools, and then you tack on workers compensation, liability insurance, unemployment, and all the other insurance required to work within these programs, the cost is app. $140 an hour. To work for 4-5 hours per CHA, adds up to $3,500 per week. Company's who have a 10% profit margin will have to take in an additional $35,000 worth of sales just to break even. Therefore, charging $700- $800 per audit is a break even number and is no where near "sustainable income". In the end the market should decide cost, and the customer should receive incentives
that will entice a higher percentage of signed contracts.

Gary Goodman, Energy Construction, Ravena, NY
As someone who has a great deal of experience working with homeowners and as a contractor navigating the HPwES program, I think NYSERDA fails to realize the true costs of a comprehensive assessment.
I currently charge $350 to $400 for my audits and consider them a loss leader. To paint a picture, to complete a CHA, necessitates 1 hour travel for one or two individuals, three to five hours on site, add three hours of modeling and you have 7-9 billable hours. The on site visit consists of a blower door test, CAZ test including combustion and gas leak check and all data collection for audit modeling input. With vehicle and analysis tool costs and our certification and annual fees per individual (ignoring company annual accreditation) an hourly rate of $75 is reasonable. This rate is for upstate NY where at a minimum of 6 hours, for $450, you probably broken even.
[During this discussion I am leaving out job submission costs out of the equation because we strive to obtain the contractor incentives for jobs, which for us, offset these costs.]
A low-fixed audit costs of $250 is inadequate, at a loss for the company, this will be especially true when the new BPI Energy Audit Standards are a requirement. Some contractors might settle for $350 costs paid in full after the audit with the potential for additional money if an infrared camera is utilized. It appears as though $350-$400 is close to what average audit fees have evolved to in the HPWES program, but that does not necessarily translate into affordable workscopes for customers or profitable contracting businesses. .

Todd Blackley, Building Performance Solutions, Cambria, NY
The costs of conducting a CHA and its subsequent work vary based upon geographical area. Working in Western NY the idea of a free audit is wildly embraced as most of the big players offer such. However, it is not a comprehensive CHA, but the marketplace doesn't know the difference. The big companies give free audits in turn for use of their other products and services. This detracts from the market perceived value of audits, Energy Star, etc. Our actual cost for doing a comprehensive energy audit is about $400 but in this depressed market with all the freebies it is pretty hard to find customers willing to pay it. Smaller companies do not have the ability to incorporate the overhead work and costs putting them at a loss.

Steve McKenna, Murtha Construction, West Islip, NY
Many of comprehensive home assessment I perform are loss leaders within LIPA’s HPwES program. The assessment is the mechanism for contractors to engage homeowners and work towards signing a contract. At a very basic level an individual can finish the in home aspect of a CHA in two hours but requires a highly trained, skilled individual taking notes and hustling through the audit. Then that person takes three hours of modeling on a computer, as well as, another hour of administrative tasks to meet program criteria. Travel time is also something that needs to get factored in. The bottom line is a CHA takes 6 hours of time for a highly skilled and trained individual who is showing up with $10,000 worth of equipment to do his job. Associated overhead costs make it $75 an hour for a skilled worker (~$450), and the “right” number to be profitable is more like $125 (~$750).
As a participating contractor with the LI Green Homes Program through the Town of Babylon there is a $250 fee to the contractor to perform an audit. I’d like to stress though that there are significant opportunities for homeowners to obtain financing for contractors to performing retrofit work. The high closure rate associated with the large financial incentive on the back end of this transaction subsidizing the audit fee discount.
I’d like to suggest that NYSERDA raise the incentive level for homeowners to increase the close rate for contractors. It would also be helpful to allow homeowners to obtain financing without penalizing the incentives. As well, it could be helpful for NYSERDA to conduct a review of the LIPA Home Performance Direct program, which has a ~50% closing rate, due to the pre-screening of homeowners and the ability for homeowners to immediately see the value of performed work.

Anthony Marmo, Clover Comfort, Sleepy Hollow, NY
As an individual in the home performance industry for a period of time, we were initially charge $100 for audits, and realized a lot were performed but few of them turned into jobs. One could charge between $100-$250 for an “audit” (depending where geographically in NYS), but in reality it is only an entry level energy evaluation. This elevation could be based upon the EmPower program model of an Energy Reduction Audit plus Combustion Safety Testing, and a visual inspection of the house for insulation and air-leakage areas. The contractor could produce a simple one page report on the spot with a list of priorities in numerical order. It would be up to the contractor to continue and meet with the customer a second time. This elevation would have to be paid to the contractor by the customer to help qualify and weed out potential clients.
It is after this initial transaction that the contractor could work with the customer and perform a CHA.
The price of the CHA would range geographically and based upon the size of the home, it would be up the contractor to charge the adequate market amount. If NYSERDA decides to proceed with this type of model it can continue to satisfy the law of free CHA's by allowing the contractor to decide if he or she wants to do the CHA and compensating contractors on results.
Another suggestion if the real cost is $500 to $1000 for a CHA then NYSERDA should pay for it. There could be a flexible fee structure: $500 for a small home under 2000 square feet with $250 additional for every additional 1000 square feet with a total cap of $1,500. Half of the money should be paid upfront and then in full as the means to promote work being completed to increase the likely-hood of its offsetting the aggravation to both the contractor and homeowner. Incentives on the back end when work is to be performed is a means to which customers will sign more contracts.
Nothing short of letting the market dictate the cost of a CHA would be acceptable. A fixed CHA cost will drive more contractors away than attract; no one will be able to afford to do business. NYSERDA is losing control of its programs and ability to offer enticing incentives to complete the retrofit work. The utility incentives that are being offered are much less cumbersome and easier to manage that the nightmare that HP has become.

Cliff Babson, Executive Director BPCA, Lansing, NY
When NYSERDA sees documentation for a CHA from a contractor behind it is a trained and skilled technician arriving in a $30,000 vehicle, with $15,000 in tools and diagnostic equipment who spends 2-4 hours doing a detailed inspection to a high standard. This person, the home, and the customer are fully insured during the process, the company has met the high standards of BPI, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®, NYSERDA and the State of NY. A detailed analysis is performed using state of the art modeling software and a detailed report that includes a comprehensive scope of work is submitted to the customer. The customer has several avenues of recourse available from multiple levels of QA.
I carefully priced out an audit based on typical times spent. This breakdown is rough, and can vary depending on the contractor and overhead, but here is a realistic idea of what an audit costs a company. This does not include any sales process:
• Initial induction and job admin 1.0 hours
• Typical Travel time to and from site 1.0 hours
• Site visit 4.0 hours
• TREAT MODEL 1.5 hours
• Develop Workscope, cost improvements 3.0 hours
• Report generation 1.5 hours
That is 12 labor hours by a skilled auditor. It does not include sales, CSG uploads or program admin, or any activity after the sale. I am sure that it could be shaved down, but NYSERDA has already said “comprehensive” which means, full BPI BA audit with combustion testing, and a TREAT (or equivalent) energy model.
Workscope development can vary, but putting together an estimate/workscope can actually go much longer than three hours, especially once the customer begins with their input, so I think that 3 hours is a fair estimate.
Labor costs can vary, but with benefits and administrative costs rolled in, can be anywhere from $20-$50/ hour depending on pay rate and benefits. That does not include any margin or overhead. Using a median rate of $40/hr cost of labor and adding 30% overhead (not including profit) we have a COST to the business of about $50/hr. or $600.
Granted maybe some companies out can whip out workscopes in an hour, or a report in less than 1.5, or only typically spend 3 hours on site, I think that even a highly skilled auditor with an efficient and effective process could at best shave the process down to 8 hours. That is still a cost of $400.
We understand the NYSERDA et al. do not want this program to feed an audit only approach, but there are other ways to do that. Ensuring that the audit actually costs the contractors money is unfairly placing a burden on the contractors. If NYSERDA is mandating a full Comprehensive audit, then they should, at the very least pay the COST of that, and at best add a reasonable net margin, since audits that are free to the customer are potentially less likely to result in a sale. Contractors should not have to subsidize these audits for the customer.
Many contractors use the audit as a sales tool, and either begin their process with a walk-through and “test-in” with a full BA audit after the sale, or offer the audit as a “loss leader” in the hopes of making a sale. Because of this, using industry average costs is not appropriate. This is especially true given that with no cost to the customer for the audit, there will be more “curiosity” audits that don’t result in a sale. Typical audit fees in the $250-400 range, are set simply to offset cost of sales, and help qualify a customer as serious. Fixing the price at $250 or any number below actual cost, forces the HP contractor into this model, which is unfair, as there are many different approaches. Which approach is suitable to particular contractor can vary and is a decision that the contractor should be free to make without the constraint of an artificially low fixed price.

Pat Dundon, The Insulation Man, Windsor, NY
The whole intent of the HPwES program is market transformation and sustainability. I think the market should control audit fees. When HPwES first came out, my company performed CHAs for free, and had worse luck with these programs than we have now. A free audit is a mistake. I have changed my business model; I am finding my market is willing to pay if we do a walkthrough first. That model forces me to spend extra time doing the walkthrough, doing record keeping, and going back to do the audit after homeowner is convinced it’s the right thing to do. Currently, I have been charging $450 for an audit.
What should the fee for an audit be? I think suggestions on this list of a sliding scale based on house size or design is a good start. A better one may be a set fee for a ranch house on an unfinished basement all mechanicals in the basement, one family occupying it, one heating system, one water heater, and no AC. Then prescribe up charges for more complicated buildings.
After conversations about the creation of a fee for contractors to perform audits for the GJGNY/HPwES program, am I correct that NYSERDA wants to pay contractors a small fee to perform a CHA, , and the homeowner gets the service for free? That will bring way too many tire kickers and not enough jobs. I know that the investment NYSERDA is requiring of contractors does not take into account the financial costs of maintaining a business, hiring employees and the time investment required to train employees, navigate the administrative processing and be able to turn out quality work.

 

 

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Submitted: 10/28/2010 10:20:50 PM by Peter Peale

Energy Efficiency Plans should be impartial to whom they apply.  Large contractors have a financial advantage compared to smaller upstarts.  However, those large contractors were once small contractors.  By catering the plans to encourage large contractors to do business, and hindering the small contractor to get in the game, will stifle competition, and innovation.  A small business has the advantage of focusing on a small number of jobs, and the likelyhood of those jobs being given more TLC is higher than a contractor that is doing many jobs at once.  Not to say that large contractors don't do good work, but just like manufacturing, as your scale gets bigger, the weight gets heaver to produce more quantity because of the always looming overhead costs that are associated with big business.

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Submitted: 10/28/2010 9:58:07 PM by Peter Peale

I am new to the HPWEs program, but I am quickly learning that the GJGNY program is not going to fit in with the Westchester, NY business model.  Upstate costs of doing business are extremely different than downstate costs of doing business.  The business model of upstate, imperically does not fit the downstate model.  That being said, it is also as equally ridiculous to assume that an audit for free, or at 250.00 dollars is going to encourage a home owner to spend thousands or 10s of thousands of dollars on home efficiency upgrades.  It has been proven by downstate contractors, that free audits don't pan out to full efficiency retrofits.

  All the business meetings and pow wows are fine to discuss theory, but when it comes to reality, the contractors need to be actively invovled in roll out of plans that are to have the contractors implimenting them.  You don't ask secrataries to fight forest fires, so logic would dictate that having the people doing the retrofits be an active part of the programs to be rolled out is not an optional requirement.  It is an absolute necessity.  And lastly when implimenting plans, they sould be region specific, since economic realities are different from state to state, and county to county.  Or the plans will have economic stipulations, that can apply to different regions.

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Submitted: 10/24/2010 8:50:57 AM by Pat Dundon

Contractors are contractors because we don't like to work in offices.  We prefer to be outside working with our hands.  When will program peopel realize that? 

This new Spreadsheet is fine, but why doesn't the data migrate seamlessly to program software, Treat or Homecheck?  Caleb Crow from PSD is on the comittee that set up the spreadsheet.  I assume someone from CSG is too.  Why isn't that step a priority?  If you want to get the contractors who are not drinking the kool-aide to sign up you need to make it as easy as possible for them, and requiring us to do data entry twice is not helpful. 

Also, please set this up so when a contractor enters the registration number from the client the client's name, address, phone, and utility account numbers come up in the datasheet automatically.  again, data entry is not our best use of time. 

Finally, is there any possibility that the spreadsheet can be changed slightly so it incorporates some sort of hidden cells where utility history can be imported?  When a contractor gets the job entered, he goes back to the office, gets online, and hits a button in the spreadsheet that goes out to the untility and grabs history so we don't have to, and so program software has factual data to 'true up' to.  Yeah, it requires the spreadsheet to interact with the program software. 

These steps are headaches for software engineers who like to spend time creating software we all have to figure out how to communicate with.  I don't want to learn a new language to work with a piece of software I know will not be here over the long run.  Software is supposed to make my life easier, not harder. 

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Submitted: 10/24/2010 8:50:44 AM by Pat Dundon

Contractors are contractors because we don't like to work in offices.  We prefer to be outside working with our hands.  When will program peopel realize that? 

This new Spreadsheet is fine, but why doesn't the data migrate seamlessly to program software, Treat or Homecheck?  Caleb Crow from PSD is on the comittee that set up the spreadsheet.  I assume someone from CSG is too.  Why isn't that step a priority?  If you want to get the contractors who are not drinking the kool-aide to sign up you need to make it as easy as possible for them, and requiring us to do data entry twice is not helpful. 

Also, please set this up so when a contractor enters the registration number from the client the client's name, address, phone, and utility account numbers come up in the datasheet automatically.  again, data entry is not our best use of time. 

Finally, is there any possibility that the spreadsheet can be changed slightly so it incorporates some sort of hidden cells where utility history can be imported?  When a contractor gets the job entered, he goes back to the office, gets online, and hits a button in the spreadsheet that goes out to the untility and grabs history so we don't have to, and so program software has factual data to 'true up' to.  Yeah, it requires the spreadsheet to interact with the program software. 

These steps are headaches for software engineers who like to spend time creating software we all have to figure out how to communicate with.  I don't want to learn a new language to work with a piece of software I know will not be here over the long run.  Software is supposed to make my life easier, not harder. 

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Submitted: 10/20/2010 9:00:38 AM by Jenna Dern

All participating Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Contractors were sent the email regarding the upcoming webinar and trainings regarding the launch of the residential components of the Green Jobs-Green New York (GJGNY) program.

The agenda sent out was as follows:

  • Overview of Program Changes
  • New GJGNY Energy Audit Tool
  • GJGNY Financing
  • Outreach & Marketing Activities
  • Workforce Development Opportunities

If you would like to register for any of the webinars in the next week, follow the link below.

Tuesday October 19th, 1-3pm
Thursday October 21st, 9-11am
Thursday October 21st, 6-8pm

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Submitted: 10/20/2010 8:53:07 AM by Jenna Dern

For this purpose, the rollout of the new Green Jobs Green NY (GJGNY) Program, we would like to open up this forum for comments and questions.

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