Home Performance is Failing - let's turn that around?

Originally posted here 

Home performance is failing, yet there is a large contingent unwilling to acknowledge it is failing.

It is failing to scale.

It is failing to serve consumers.

It is failing to serve contractors.

It fails to deliver on promise, and therefore fails to gain consumer trust, and thus fails to gain meaningful market share.

David Margalit, COO of NYSERDA in a discussion about the NY HPwES program conveyed these numbers - At 6,000,000 homes, 6,000 projects a year* with essentially no growth means it takes 1,000 years to get through the inventory.

Until we change the tone of the conversation from false cheer to honest criticism, we are stuck. This cowardly "fear" of addressing elephants in rooms is going to sink all of us. Things don't get fixed until there is consensus that they are broken. With that in mind, here are some links that support how Home Performance is broken:

HP Programs clearly don't know how to save energy, much less do it with the accuracy and precision that leads to high consumer satisfaction.


Consumer trust and satisfaction drive capitalistic markets. Unfortunately, these programs are basically communistic and administrators don't seem to understand or trust capitalism.

We need programs to stop dictating and paying for measures, and start simply paying for outcomes.

This will mean we must begin to actually measure outcomes...

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Understand that in the USA we aren't paying full price for energy on our utility bills. Oil/Energy prices are kept artificially low with war and heavy taxpayer subsidies. Since a large portion of the true cost of energy is paid April 15th to the IRS instead of on utility bills, there is little incentive to conserve unless the utility bills are REALLY bad...

Another issue is the every growing monthly minimum service charge. KWH/Therm rates haven't risen much 20 years, they haven't kept up with inflation. However, there have been huge increases in the fixed monthly customer service charges, over double what they were in the 1990's. Utilities are simply passing on the fixed costs of providing service instead of rolling it into the KWH/Therm rate.

Both these factors are killing the home performance industry.

I disagree. That presumes $ savings on energy is the big reason for doing HP.

It also presumes that without $ saving opportunity, HP can't be justified.

Both are false premises. Very common unexamined postulates we are finding to be completely false.

I don't think there is a time you can point to where $ savings opportunity was a big part of the opportunity.

It's not small energy $ that holds HP back, it's the Liars that are killing the HP industry. Mostly these are the statisticians and bureaucrats who perpetuate the lie to protect their fiefdoms. But we have some guilt here too. We have proposed energy savings as THE reason rather than one of many stacked benefits that, together, justify HP.

Well, we've stopped doing it. We are telling the truth about $ savings, and the jobs are selling. Big jobs, to average income homeowners who are tired of their homes sucking.

Projected savings paybacks are typically 50-200 years. We are consolidating our projects, so we see these numbers in one place. We are tracking outcomes to these projections and they are close enough for horseshoes.


We all need a "come to God" around these truths. Consumers want to buy from truth tellers, not liars. If this industry is to create market transformation, it won't happen with lies.

Cool chart!! Love the blower test data. I don't own a blower door, but had the utility come do my house. Blew a 1,808 @ 49.7 pascal. House is standard 1999 construction, and I just fixed the big leaks I could feel on a cold day.

I'm surprised at the HIGH electric use for a northern climate. Looked up climate data on plantmaps.com to get a general idea what you are dealing with. It's not hot (Days over 86f, RARE). What's eating up all the electricity? We used 7,236KWH last year for 1600sqft, family of 4. Days over 86f, 91-120.

Yup, it's COLD, up there, growing zone 5b (we're 7a). We use about 45DTH/year in gas for furnace, water heater, stove, dryer, fireplace, gas grill. Suprised gas use isn't higher for your customers that far north, especially with those large houses.

Judging by the sqft of the houses in your chart, those aren't "Middle class" class customers. How many make under $100k household income? High end customers that have $$$ to spend. Of course that's where you want to be, broke people ain't paying the bills.

But I see your point. Customers aren't primarily calling in for energy savings, it's just part of the package. 

I'm also surprised how often you pull gas meters and install heat pumps, even in a northern climate. Proves to me they perform well even when it's colder than we will ever see in Oklahoma.And around here some contractors say "It's too cold in Oklahoma for heat pumps" while installing RESISTANCE heat as the primary source. That's right, air handler with plain old straight AC. Nuts, I know !!!

And around here some contractors say "It's too cold in Oklahoma for heat pumps" while installing RESISTANCE heat as the primary source. That's right, air handler with plain old straight AC. Nuts, I know!!! Customer could have had a heat pump instead of straight AC for installed for an extra $1,000 or so...

Bob, it's really been fun watch you learn along with us over the years.

We have devices tracking exactly what is using electricity in some of these houses. Look through Nate's timeline on Facebook.

Wealthy people aren't our target because our goal is to prove HP works for the majority, not the wealthy fringe.

Our new website is going live today or tomorrow. Check out the case studies...

Not 1pm Tues, so check later today or tomorrow...

I see you dropped the size of one furnace in HALF, I have a feeling it's not the 1st time you've done that. How much do customers typically save with a dramatic reduction in furnace size? or isit more about keeping the temp consistent in the house?

Website is finally up, albeit still imperfect. You can check out the very detailed case studies. The first 3 are all electric conversions on pre-1920 homes. http://energysmartohio.com/case-studies/

If you've fixed the house and insured a good pressure boundary, designing equipment to run all the time can have energy savings from small to shocking.

The comfort change, and avoidance of things like ice dams, tends to be what clients find important.

If you make the home comfortable, you can get some surprising savings from behavior. If people aren't uncomfortable they don't do wasteful things trying to attain comfort.

I have been a home inspector since 2003 and evolved into energy related issues and became a home energy auditor in 2007...
It took extra time on each job, but I've always tried to "go above and beyond" the basic audit, and educate my homeowners in addition to checking out their houses. I was pretty much "doing fine" until the government got involved and started offering cookie-cutter audits for free or super-cheap. They pretty much put me and a lot of others out of business. I've seen lots of blower door equipment for sale from people who couldn't make it because of government interference. Both of the national certifying organizations charge way too much to get and maintain certifications. They are quasi-government agencies and restrict the supply of qualified people on all levels.

You are right about capitalism providing the solutions that people will respond to.
Let the market decide what is needed.

Thank you Ira!

We need more stories like yours to hold the evidence of harm to the faces of government bureaucrats.

Without transparent performance and quality metrics, people who "go above and beyond" are at competitive disadvantage.

When programs disregard the critical importance of accountability, they incentivize a "race to the bottom" atmosphere.

It does not have to be intentional to be incompetent. But those who quietly allow it to persist are complicit.

Nyserda, mass saves, etc... Yes, I'm referring to you.

Ira, you're not alone. Here in Cleveland the gas company uses their own auditors, it killed the market. There are a small handful of energy auditors left. The bad part is that the utility rebate program is basically an HVAC changeout program. Even when insulation is done, very little air sealing happens. I talked to one of the test out auditors, he said he seldom sees more than a 100-300 cfm50 difference.

Programs are NOT helping the market. They are getting in the way.


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