You find a Magic Lamp…

You rub it with your sleeve…

Thank you, thank you for freeing me from the lamp!  I grant you one, no not three, deflation you know, energy auditor SUPER POWER!  So, what will it be?  I can grant you any SUPER POWER to perform the most awesome energy audits in the history of mankind.   I will grant you this power but you must use if wisely.  Perhaps you will squander it, perhaps you will keep it a secret, only for yourself, consider wisely…

Not sure?  Perhaps you’d like INFRARED VISION?  No more infrared cameras for you!  You’ll SEE into the walls, the roof, the ceiling, you will be as Ozmandius!

Perhaps you’d like the capacity to FLY FROM HOME TO HOME?  No more driving between homes, that will be for mere mortals.  You will fly over traffic, defy road construction, laugh in the teeth of rush hours.

Or maybe you’d like to possess the MIGHTY WIND.  You laugh, thinking that you already have the mighty wind.  I could grant you the ability to depressurize a home without tools, with exact calibration known immediately to your mind.  And your mind alone.  You will be as the house whisperer!

No?  Then perhaps you’d like to have SUPER REPORT WRITING PROWESS!  You’ll write reports at a blistering pace, with the analysis skills of Jack Bauer, the wit of T.S. Eliot, the grace of Annie Dillard.  Your clients will be awed with the reports you deliver!

Or perhaps… perhaps, you’d like the ability to PERSUADE.  It sounds like nothing doesn’t it.  To simply be able to persuade your clients to act, to persuade them, to influence them to make the right decisions.  To have the power to move from Audit to Action!

Choose now.  Choose well.

My Ultimate Data Dinner Party

billion-dollar-gram-by-david-mccandlessI have a geek crush on David McCandless.  His work on Information is Beautiful is staggeringly wonderful.  This caused me to daydream about my Ultimate Data Dinner Party.  Who could I invite to come to dinner (a wonderful, local, organic dinner) to have a meal and discuss the presentation of information to people that can move them to action.  Of course, I’m talking about people becoming motivated to save energy and in their homes in particular, since that’s what we do.  Yes, how can we do a better job of waking folks up to the wisdom and necessity to waste less of our very precious energy resources?

Here is my guest list, I prefer intimate dining affairs, so this is a short list.  First, as mentioned, David McCandless.  His work on rethinking how data is presented, giving us visuals for daunting information is truly remarkable.  I wonder what he would do to help us break through the barriers with homeowners and get more people moving?

Next on my list is Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick and Switch.  For my money, these are two of the best books on marketing and motivation around.  These are like reference works for me to continually return to as I’m thinking about all manner of things here at EnergyLogic.

I’d love to have Suzanne Shelton of the Shelton Group join us.  Perhaps no one in the country knows more about the demographics of our industry than Suzanne.  She’s really smart, funny and generally a hoot.  They work with lots of energy utilities around the country as well.

Finally, Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.  This is another great book that deeply explores how we are persuaded to do things.  Virtually every aspect of this book has application to our field in some meaningful way (some very directly).  In fact, Dr. Cialdini works with OPower on this issue directly, so many of us are already familiar with his work even if we don’t know it!

This would be my dream dinner party to talk about how we can transform the face of residential energy conservation in this country.  What’s your dream team look like?

Of course, I would definitely serve pie (chart) for dinner.

Rhubarb_Pie, by Hayford Peirce

What Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (aka OMD) has to remind us about Energy

IMAG0219You’re probably thinking, well not much, and you would be wrong. Yes, as you can see from the picture, Andy McCluskey is pointing at you. And though he’s singing, he’s probably thinking “Why is it that so little progress has been made in energy conservation since we started this band in 1978? How can it possibly be that US per capita energy consumption is basically flat since then?” Well, perhaps not, but it’s possible.

This is a band that sang these lyrics:
Our one source of energy
The ultimate discovery
Electric blue for me
Never more to be free
Electricity
Nuclear and HEP
Carbon fuels from the sea
Wasted electricity

Our one source of energy
Electricity
All we need to live today
A gift for man to throw away
The chance to change has nearly gone
The alternative is only one
The final source of energy
Solar electricity

The song was Electricity written in 1976. Yes, 1976. I was all of 11 years old and they were 17. And here we are 35 years later. Yet, this 51 year old lead singer of an iconic synth-pop band still moves as if he was 17 years old. So, nothing is impossible…

Actually if we could just harness the energy of the dance floor, our troubles might be over! It was really fun to see a band that I never thought I would see live. It was equally fun to watch my contemporaries, aka, 45-55 year old people, lose themselves in music, jump up and down, sing at the top of their lungs and not look the least bit self-conscious about it. Women (and men) in the crowd were acting like Justin Bieber groupies trying to high-five our ’80’s band heroes. Glorious I tell you!

I guess we can say what we often say to distraught homeowners, “There are no problems, only opportunities”, but that doesn’t ring very true at the macro level. Is it true that, “The chance to change has nearly gone”, or not. I’d like to think that we still have time to change before change is forced on us, but the longer that we go on without dealing with obvious resource limits, the worse it will be. It doesn’t matter if the motivation is climate change, getting comfortable, saving money or sticking it to the man, any reason for getting our act together works for me.

So, a couple of 17 year old Brits in 1976 sang about the need to stop wasting electricity and start producing it with solar sources. Perhaps it’s time we caught up to that idea…

Perhaps in future entries I can explore more of this OMD and Energy relationship. After all they also wrote, Tesla Girls, Locomotion and Enola Gay.

Thank you Paul, Andy and the whole OMD team for the great show and the thoughts it generated.

Evolution of the Take Off

Folks have been doing take offs for buildings pretty much since we scratched designs into the dirt. The state of building takeoffs has advanced a great deal since then. For most of us.
For Energy Raters though, most of us have been doing something with paper, spreadsheets, red pens, highlighters, pens that “measure”, digitizers… Oi Vey! Architects use fancier tools. Why can’t we do better? We can.
For the past two years, EnergyLogic has been using Google SketchUp, a free tool on Google’s site

One of our intrepid staff, Doug Bursnall took on the task of writing the script that calculates all of the Rater specific stuff that we all need. To be fair, in the grand tradition that is taking good ideas and improving them, it was our Rater Partners in Nebraska that first made us aware of SketchUp. We took the idea and improved on it and we haven’t been alone. Energy Vanguard out of Atlanta recently announced a training on how to use the tool. We’ve presented our use of it at RaterFest! over the past two years.
Over the course of the past two years, we’ve done hundreds, possibly thousands of takeoffs with SketchUp. At first, we were cautious that we would make mistakes, that we would somehow be less accurate with SketchUp. The inverse is true, we’re far more accurate, our work has on multiple occasions pointed out flaws in the actual plans and the architects own takeoffs. We get the huge added benefit of our field staff having a 3D image to look at in the field. The files are light and the tool is free, so our staff can readily pull them down for each job wirelessly via our management system iRate. State of the art in the field.
SketchUp is easy to learn and fun to use. We’ve reduced our takeoff time dramatically and increased our accuracy. What’s not to like? It’s altogether too easy to make mistakes with paper. Nothing reduces your credibility faster than mistakes in your calculations.
Two modules, SketchUp Basics and SketchUp for Raters.
We are launching our own online training within the next few weeks, stay tuned by following us on Facebook, our weblog, my Twitter announcements @elstevebyers or on LinkedIn as well (following tool in the column on the left). Lots of ways to stay in touch! The training will be available to everyone, with a discount for our Rater Partners. We’ll provide you with the script to get all the Rater magic that you need, areas and volumes and program targets for code and ENERGY STAR in particular.