News from iRate Headquarters:

Each month EnergyLogic will be posting a blog that pertains to our proprietary software, iRate.  Irate is software that organizes your energy services company with features such as scheduling, reporting, and QA.  It also integrates with Quickbooks® and REM/Rate®.  For more info on iRate, please visit us at MyiRate.com.

We SO thought we were done….

In fact, we knew we were finished.  An effort to replicate the Energy Star V3 checklist as iRate inspection forms evolved into a year-long project of re-vamping the iRate inspection form system.  The Energy Star V3 checklist would be integral to the new inspection forms, and vast flexibility to accommodate other inspection protocols would be incorporated.  Long awaited features like emailing reports directly from iRate and storing site-specific REM templates in iRate would also be included.

We tested it extensively.  A rater ran multiple test inspections and ratings through the process, his feedback incorporated into the forms system.  Each rater attended two separate trainings to gain exposure and supply further feedback.  A live field rating was performed collectively by the entire field staff to iron out the final wrinkles and launch the new software.

iRate 2012 was complete.  With much fanfare, we released it to our live iRate site and transitioned our Energy Logic field staff.

Only to discover that we were far from finished.  ­

Inspection Items in the wrong place, appearing multiple times, cumbersome switching between windows, too many save buttons.  After so much meticulous, detailed planning and testing, all those meetings, how could things be so off?

We needed someone to use it-use it when it mattered to them.   Until the day’s work depended on this tool, until the product for the customer was at stake, it was just a mental exercise for everyone involved.  Things “looked good”, “worked fine” until it made a difference in producing a rating.  The impact on the process couldn’t be measured until the process changed.

So we’re not basking in the sun with our Pina Coladas just yet.  Our EL raters are using the inspection forms in the field and continue to provide valuable feedback.  We now recognize that while we may reach a stopping point, and will release changes to the field, we really can’t ever call it “done”—because as processes improve and programs change, iRate changes too.

Launch delayed, lesson learned.

North American Passive House Conference; Worth the Investment

A few weekends ago I attended the 7th annual North American Passive House conference here in Denver. The conference was well organized and had the largest attendance to date. Thursday morning was a review of the PHIUS+ rating process. The new relationship with the DOE challenge home is bringing Energy star and Challenge home into the mix. As of January 1st 2013 all PHIUS+ certified homes must pass version 3 and the Challenge home requirements with a few exemptions. I could get into the weeds with that but it mostly concerns the HVAC checklist and visual verification of grade 1 insulation. The reason for the latter is that many times insulation is being dense packed between two planes of OSB so visual verification is impossible. We’ll have to verify with thermal images.

Friday and Saturday were the main body of the conference. Joe Lstiburek gave the plenary speech with his usual “don’t do stupid things” presentation although he seemed a little more laid back than usual. As with all conferences, some of the sessions were bordering on sleep aids (there should be a law against allowing engineers to speak in public) but most were informational-lots of case studies and data monitoring. These are the meat that I crave at conferences. I want to know what is working and not working on the implementation side of what we do. A session I thought was particularly intriguing was Tim Eian’s presentation on a feedback from a data and homeowner in a project in Minnesota.  Also, Jason Marosko presentation on earth tubes for passive cooling was very interesting. All the sessions will be available eventually on the PHIUS website for members to view at their leisure.

The closing speech  on Saturday was given by Amory Lovins. He outlined the arguments in his new book “Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Economy.” I had never heard Amory Lovins before and was not disappointed. His ideas are indeed bold but he seems to have a solid grasp on how to achieve them.

All in all it was great conference, well worth the investment… and I really appreciated the opportunity to attend.

Steve Eagleburger

ENERGY STAR V3: The Train Has Left the Station- Are You Being Left Behind?

Through the first half of 2012, there were a lot of projects permitted prior to January 1, 2012 that were allowed to qualify under Version 2.5.  But those homes had to complete and have final inspections prior to July 1, 2012 in order to remain under Version 2.5.  Thus, July marked an important deadline: Version 3 requirements went into effect for all but a few exempt (low-income) ENERGY STAR projects.

Raters- if this timeline comes as news to you, chances are you’re probably missing out on a number of other important details.  Read on!

Even for the most experienced raters, keeping up with the multitude of changes in the ENERGY STAR program can feel like a full-time job.  It would be easy to make excuses.  However, this is your profession.  It is your job as a professional energy rater is to stay informed and up to date on any changes or interpretations for the programs you work in.  Chances are you took the ENERGY STAR v3 training over a year ago, you’ve transitioned your builder clients and their trade partners into the program during version 2.5.  If you’re lucky enough to have some clients still looking for the recognition that ENERGY STAR v3 brings to their homes, you have probably had to make an extra trip or two (or ten!) over the last 12 weeks to re-inspect for failed items in order for those homes to earn the label.  Here are a few tips to help you and your clients keep up with all the changes:

  • Sign up for ENERGY STAR Newsletters or their RSS feed
  • Follow the ENERGY STAR Webinars and encourage others on the project team to do the same
  • Check out the ENERGY STAR Policy Changes and Clarifications website.
  • Ask your HERS Provider if you have any questions…seeking clarification in advance can save a lot of work to resolve QA issues at the end of a project
  • Make sure everyone involved in the project has the required trainings/credentials
  • Having a Design Review/Kickoff Meeting with each of your builders helps to tackle those hurdles before it’s too late

If a home will not earn the ENERGY STAR by design it’s important to know in advance so that you can put the project back on the right path before it gets too expensive to modify things.  Staying informed on the program changes will help you and your builder clients succeed… if you find a home will not earn the label, be prepared with recommendations on how the home can be brought into compliance before closing.  If compliance is not possible, chalk it up to a powerful learning exercise for all involved.  In most cases, you’ve still succeeded in getting the builder invested in building a better home.  They can still use the Home Energy Rating System to label a home and gain recognition for their efforts.  The HERS Index Score is growing momentum in the marketplace with community awareness efforts from HERS Raters working with RESNET and their builder and homeowner education efforts!  Don’t be afraid to call out the items that failed ENERGYSTAR Program requirements.  It is worth reminding ourselves that as HERS Raters, we don’t sell labels, we sell verification services.  Labels should be earned.  Having everyone on the same page enforcing the same standards is critical to the success of the ENERGY STAR Program, and critical to maintaining the integrity of the HERS Rating Industry.

Good, Fast, Cheap – Pick Two … the Right Two

When people want something, they invariably want it all.  The best new phone, in their hands tomorrow, and $59 seems a fair price to pay.  Is this really a rational prospect?

I can probably get that phone, I may even be able to get it tomorrow – but if I find it for $59, I’d better look hard at that two-year commitment to find out how much that phone is really going to cost me.

But wait, here’s this other phone that’s free and there’s no commitment.  Oh, it’s a model from two years ago and doesn’t even do text messaging.

Yes!  Here’s the newest model, no plan and it’s only $199 – this is the one!  What?  Really?  4G won’t come out for how much longer on this phone?

Are you getting it?  You need to prioritize what’s most important to you and then pick the top two – good, fast, or cheap – it’s unlikely you’ll get them all.

Typically, unless you’re picking up a pack of pencils for your 7-year old, you should probably consider quality first.  Quality takes a long time to develop and quality costs money; but it’s worth it in the long run.  As the old adage goes, “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”  Be wary of those “great deals” – they are great for a reason.  Something newer and better is about to come out and the manufacturer needs to dump stock, there are hidden costs, or maybe that product didn’t make the cut for full-price sale due to some deficiency.

I’ve run across this often when looking for training courses – Acme Training Corp. has exactly what I need and it’s available in every major city.  Sounds great!  I’ll be trained in half the time the other providers offer and at half the cost – wow!  They guarantee I’ll be ready to go after this training – fantastic!  This training sounds good, it’s fast, and low cost to boot.  WARNING !  WARNING!  Danger Will Robinson!  Sirens should be going off in your head; red flags popping up before you.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Turns out, 80% of the classes get canceled and when you’re done with the training you find you’re only marginally more knowledgeable than you were before you paid that low price.

If you’re choosing something you’re going to be relying on for your livelihood, such as RESNET, BPI, or LEED training — good, fast, cheap – pick two … but pick the right two.

Will Lorey

Peter Plans goes to the EEBA Conference!

Last week I attended the EEBA’s 30th annual ‘Excellence in Building Conference and Expo’ in Scottsdale, AZ. The conference was entertaining and educational on many levels, and I met a lot of new people and saw a few old faces.

One of the more interesting tracks I sat in on was about how to condition a home with a low heat loss number without over-sizing the system.  I left my notebook in another track, typical Peter move, so this info is all from the top of my head.  This particular home was roughly a 1200 sq. ft. slab on grade- 2 story home and was built in Western Massachusetts (heating climate much like Parker, CO HDD @7000).  It was very well insulated and air sealed (@ 1 ACH 50).  The manual J stated a heat loss of around 10Kbtuh.  The smallest available Forced Air Unit (FAU) was around 36Kbtuh.  Or 3.5 times the need for the home at a design temp of 70 degrees.  The HVAC design team decided to use a single direct vent thru the wall FAU system on an exterior wall.  The unit was rated at 12Kbtuh.  The unit easily conditioned the main floor, but how to get the two upper floor bedrooms conditioned.  They decided to use a Panasonic Whispergreen fan situated in the ceiling of the open first floor and exhaust the heated air into the upstairs bedrooms at roughly 40 CFM per bedroom.  Data loggers in the bedrooms showed a low of 62 degrees during a really cold spell with all doors shut, 65 degrees with all doors open, and 67 degrees when occupied.  Not quite at design temp, but very close.  Occupants were pleased.

My first thought was why not use as an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP)? Two immediate questions were posed to the speaker.  First, what about kitchen odors being exhausted into the bedrooms since the first floor is completely open?  The reply was that they had not heard of any complaints and it would be an occupant driven comfort level.  Second question was why not use a mini-split unit? Mini-split  technology has grown immensely in the past few years and it would also allow for cooling. The reply was that if they were to do it today, they would for sure use a mini-split for the project.

It was very interesting and I believe we will be seeing more creative ways to condition a home and move air.

Peter “Plans” Oberhammer