It Was a Dark and Stormy Night – RaterFest! 2013

It wasn’t exactly as we planned. However, RaterFest! 2013 may well be the most memorable RaterFest ever, if for no better reason than the “biblical” level of flooding that our locale received starting Thursday morning, the kickoff day for the event. We were supposed to be at a super lovely place in the mountains between Blackhawk and Nederland here in the mountains of our beloved Colorado. However, by noon, we knew we had to zig as the weather was zagging. The worst flood in Colorado history was making it’s debut. We made the call and our amazing EnergyLogic team sprang into action to move our nearly one hundred person event. In a matter of two or three hours we secured a new venue, redirected our caterers, our musicians and all of our attendees and presenters.

One of the nifty things about RaterFest is that we are getting in touch with our youth camp side, staying in bunk houses, cabins and camping depending on preference. Well that all went out the window, and we had to find accommodations for all the attendees as the cost of RaterFest includes lodging (I know! It’s really a super deal – remember that for next year!). We reached out to our amazing friends and neighbors in our headquarters’ town of Berthoud. They responded as only a small town generally can and doors were flung open; travel trailers were brought and by the evening; we had beds for all of our awesome attendees.

As we had roads closing and bridges going out all around us, we employed all the technical tools at our disposal and via attendees and staff reports, worked to help folks driving into RaterFest negotiate the flood waters safely. Result? Nearly everyone who planned to make it to RaterFest made it! Out of the ninety-three people signed up, we had just a bare few who couldn’t get here. A testament to the passion of our attendees and the coordination and crisis management skills of our incredible staff..

RaterFest itself was smooth if not as scenic as it would have been (though our little town is lovely!). The sessions and speakers were top notch. Our best ever (presentations will be up on our website very soon!)

Sam Rashkin of DOE was first up and led the way with a great presentation on DOE Challenge Home. We’re deeply indebted to him for braving the enormous initial uncertainty of the Great Flood and trusting and working with us to kick things off.

Rob Moody of Organic Think followed Sam and gave a super presentation on very innovative work that he and others are doing in Arkansas with the HEAL program. The Clinton Foundation and a ton of passionate people in Arkansas and beyond are doing cool stuff to drive energy retrofits for some of the most at risk folks in the market.

Bill Spohn of TruTech Tools took the stage next, and we had the world premiere of the TruTech Airflow trainer. Bill guided the audience through a detailed and fascinating discussion of the right and wrong, the true and false of airflow testing and then entertained a mob of folks around the trainer. Awesome!

Ari Rappaport and Graham Davis of IBACOS introduced an idea to the audience that has the potential to change the nature of our work as HERS Raters. For many years, IBACOS has developed and executed a best in class quality assurance program called CQA. The discussion centered on presenting and gathering feedback from the audience on how Raters can be a part of a builders QA process at a much more meaningful level via a program partnership between IBACOS and EnergyLogic.

Frank Kinder of Colorado Springs Utilities presented on his organization’s embracing of WaterSense and gave a great presentation on the program, products and his utility’s experience with the program.

We finished up Day One with Pecha Kucha presentations from Bill Spohn of TruTech, Tiger Adolph of BPI, Dan Wildenhaus from Fluid Strategies, and Bob Kingery of Southern Energy Management. Pecha Kucha is a challenging and fun presentation style that allows a speaker twenty seconds on each of twenty slides, that’s it. It really makes you get to the point and synthesize your thoughts!

After that, we had the traditional Rater Jam and had a great time listening to our compatriots play some great music. Those who jammed – Ron Hughes, Laura Capps, Rob Moody, Mark Jabaley – thanks to you all! Much craft beer from our very own City Star Brewing was consumed, and we all got safely tucked away in bed ready for Day 2.

Our one casualty of the weather was unfortunately our keynote speaker Mark LaLiberte, but we’ll drag him back here another year! In general, you can run but you can’t hide from the RaterFest minions.

Ron Hughes of HERS, Inc. started off Day 2 with a fantastic House (industry) as a system presentation. Ron has done pioneering work in Arkansas bringing HERS ratings out of the dark and into the mainstream, and there is much to learn from him and his colleagues as they drive the industry ahead in his home state.

The indefatigable Laura Capps of Southface (All Hail!) gave a very interactive and amazingly useful presentation on both hiring and getting hired, the ins and outs of making yourself marketable and the corollary of finding good folks.

Abe Kruger of Kruger Sustainability Group led everyone through the intricacies of conducting ENERGY STAR work on multi-family high rise buildings. This is a great business development topic for all raters in areas with big buildings. Abe has it down, and there was a great Q&A session.

Paul Morin of TEC (The Energy Conservatory) followed on appropriately with a super detailed discussion of how to test multi-family and big buildings. How many of you have done a twenty blower test? Amazing work and again a big (pun intended) opportunity for Raters everywhere.

We ended Day 2 with Stephen Davis of Demilec USA. Now Stephen is a shy and retiring type, but somehow broke out of his shell to deliver a rousing, humorous and very educational session on spray foam insulations. Anyone who presents knows how difficult the dance between humor and information can be and Stephen did an amazing job.

We then proceeded to the Coliseum (also known as the EnergyLogic training center) for Rater Olympics! Our team of Olympian organizers put together a challenging course that pitted contestants from across the nation against each other on a course that tested dexterity, decision-making, building science knowledge, observation, athletic skill and stamina. Blower doors fell down; hard hats tumbled; foam blocks flew and not a little beer was spilled. Yet everyone completed the course, most with some measure of grace and dignity. Daniel Johnson from Arkansas is your new champion of Rater Olympics, and as such received the Golden Banana (and a free pass to next year’s event)!

Following a sumptuous repast, we were mightily entertained by local musician Esther Sparks (buy her CD!) and our coterie of Rater musicians, Ron Hughes on various strings, Rob Moody on sax and Laura Capps on mandolin. A damn fine time was had by all.

Day 3 and the final day of RaterFest. Last but far, far from least, Gary Klein of Affiliated International Management did his truly outstanding workshop on Hot Water System Efficiency. This is a highly interactive, “hands on” training that absolutely brings to life the myriad issues surrounding hot water distribution. Highly recommended wherever you can catch Gary!

That was it! We shooed everyone off to the airport and highways as the waters were rising again. We packed it up, cleaned it up and collapsed like the heap of monsters in Where the Wild Things Are. Yet, through a fog of fatigue and the aftermath of a four-day adrenaline rush of crisis management, we began to think ahead… to RaterFest! 2014. Oh yes, even better? Well, we’ll see. We can certainly do with less weather, but it will be hard to beat the people who joined us, the intrepid presenters who blessed us with their humor and knowledge and the fun we had with music, great food, competition and camaraderie.

See you next year!

Steve Byers
CEO of EnergyLogic

For more pics of RaterFest! 2013, click HERE!

 

RaterFest! 2013 in Pictures

Check In!
Check In!
Checking out equipment at RaterFest
Checking out equipment at RaterFest
Josh Taylor at RaterFest
Josh Taylor at RaterFest
Pecha Kucha
And RaterFest! begins!
RaterFest Organizers
Marnie and Kathleen take a moment to breathe!
Stephen Davis
Stephen Davis begins every presentation by attempting Spock fingers. Maybe next year, Stephen!
Tom Flanagan preps the EnergyLogic drone for Rater Olympic camera coverage
Tom Flanagan preps the EnergyLogic drone for Rater Olympic camera coverage
Dan Wildenhaus
Dan Wildenhaus enjoys the organic food served at RaterFest
Wynne Maggi and Parker Lahti have a chat at RaterFest
Wynne Maggi and Parker Lahti have a chat at RaterFest
RaterFest organizers closely monitor the weather.
RaterFest organizers closely monitor the weather.
Glenn and Meagan at RaterFest in Berthoud CO.
Glenn Pease and Meagan Foster at RaterFest in Berthoud CO.
Steve Byers listens intently
Steve Byers listens intently
Robby soaks in the info given at RaterFest
Robby soaks in the info given at RaterFest
Ari Rapport and Mark Jabaly at RaterFest
Ari Rappaport and Mark Jabaley at RaterFest
Charlie Stevens - the envy of every receding hairline
Charlie Stevens – the envy of every receding hairline
Chow line at RaterFest!
Chow line at RaterFest!
Mark Lane signs up for CEU credits
Mark Lane signs up for CEU credits
Carrisa braves the elements and pregnancy to participate at RaterFest
Carrisa braves the elements and pregnancy to participate at RaterFest
Wade Bischoff takes a lot of notes!
Wade Bischoff takes a lot of notes!
Stephen Davis proves very entertaining at RaterFest
Stephen Davis proves very entertaining at RaterFest
Dan Moody at RaterFest!
Rob Moody, a favored speaker and guest at RaterFest!
A fearsome foursome of EnergyLogic employees
A fearsome foursome of EnergyLogic employees
Will Lorey serves as official 'Dang, we're out of beer' reporter
Will Lorey serves as official ‘Dang, we’re out of beer’ reporter
The home brew kegs are always a hot spot
The home brew kegs are always a hot spot
Your face could get stuck like that, Peter Oberhammer!
Your face could get stuck like that, Peter!
The food at RaterFest is De-Lish!
The food at RaterFest is De-Lish!
That's Meagan on the couch - the Mastermind Organizer of RaterFest
That’s Meagan on the couch – Master RaterFest Organizer
Josh Jacobs and Nancy Kellogg have a chat at RaterFest
Josh Jacobs and Nancy Kellogg have a chat at RaterFest

 

Laurie and Susan enjoy their time at RaterFest
Laurie Hindman and Susan Mathes enjoy their time at RaterFest

 

RaterFest attendees listen intently to current speaker
Mark McLain, Graham Davis, and Phil Drotar listen intently to the wisdom that is Sam Rashkin

 

It's a plane, it's Stephen Davis, no... it's the Energy Vanguard
It’s a plane, it’s Stephen Davis, no… it’s an Energy Vanguard Impersonation!
RaterFest! Silver Lining
RaterFest! Silver Lining
Stephen Davis and Dan Wildenhaus ham it up.
Stephen Davis and Dan Wildenhaus ham it up.
Carrisa, Barbara Ann and Marnie at RaterFest
Carrisa, Barbara Ann and Marnie at RaterFest
The taps at RaterFest appear to be a popular attraction
The taps at RaterFest appear to be a popular attraction
Matt Thornberry and Brad Smith at RaterFestr
Matt Thornberry and Brad Smith prepare for the next speaker
Checking out equipment at RaterFest
Bill Spohn reveals flow testing secrets
Andrea Inglesbe at RaterFest!
Andrea Inglesbe at RaterFest!
RaterFest
Jack Beal and Steve Byers
RaterFest is Off
Sam Rashkin delivers a stellar presentation to kick off the event.
Kathleen Barb and Laurie of EnergyLogic
Kathleen, Barb, and Laurie enjoy a beer after a hard days work.
Ben Graham does sit ups to prep for his announcing job at Rater Olympics
Ben Graham does sit ups to prep for his announcing job at Rater Olympics
Silently dueling Stephens!
Silently dueling Stephens!
Steve Eagleburger gives up.  Gives up what?>
Steve Eagleburger gives up. Gives up what?>
Tom Flannagan, an official Rater Olympics Judge
Tom Flanagan, and official Rater Olympics Judge
Tom Flanagan shows off his excellent Peter Pan impression.
Tom Flanagan shows off his excellent Peter Pan impression.
As always, Rater Olympic's starts with a box and a beer.
As always, Rater Olympic’s starts with a box and a beer.
Charlie, always picking up the pieces!
Charlie Stevens, always picking up the pieces!
Mmm. Silver Star brew at RaterFest
Mmm. Silver Star brew at RaterFest. Yum Yum!
Adam Jonash and Josh Taylor text girls.
Adam Jonash and Josh Taylor text girls.

Do You Have Spiders in Uncomfortable Places?

Have you ever stepped into the tub and encountered one of these fellows? If so, did you wonder, “Where in the heck are all the spiders coming from?”

Well, the answer is directly related to how energy efficient your home may be. I know! Who would have thought that?

Here’s what’s up. Spiders, perhaps not surprisingly, come from the great outdoors. If you have them in your home, at some point they came in from the outside. No matter how uncomfortable and drafty your home is, it’s probably nicer than living in the rain or literally freezing to death in the winter. So, spiders and all of their other insect friends come in from outside through the holes in your home. The more holes you have, the more bugs you probably have (and dust by the way). The same creepy crawly highways are pathways for air to move into and out of your home. Whenever that is happening, energy and money goes along hand in hand.

So, we’ve had a bunch more spiders this summer than other summers. I happen to know that I have a fairly substantial (to an insect) hole in my home that I didn’t have last summer. Now, it happens to be a hole where new solar water heating lines are running, but regardless, I haven’t sealed it up properly and thus I laid out the welcome mat for my eight legged friends. Winter is coming (yes, enjoy that my fellow Game of Thrones fans!) so it’s time to seal up the holes, keep the bugs on the outside and keep the conditioned air on the inside. You’ll save money and avoid the early morning adrenaline rush of your teenage daughters and wife screaming as their toes hit the porcelain and things start scurrying!

 

Steve Byers
EnergyLogic, Inc.

 

Why Don’t People Just Do What We Say?

Why don’t people just do what we say?  Sometimes I have to scratch my head when we do home energy audits.  Since most of our audits are done under a utility program, we’re there because the homeowner contacted us – not because we have solicited them with our services.  Occasionally we’re called in merely because a homeowner wants some reassurance nothing is majorly wrong, but usually there is some factor that has brought us there.

After being in someone’s home for four hours and meticulously outlining what they should do to improve the energy efficiency of their home, I’m amazed when we see absolutely nothing happen.  Why don’t they make the changes?

After thousands of home audits, here are some of the main culprits:

1)  The recommendations aren’t what they expected 

Insulation.  Air sealing.  Caulking.  That’s what I need to do?  What about windows?  I thought I would need a new furnace.

Sometimes homeowners want the sexy stuff – even if they don’t need it.  This may be because they have already been approached by a window or HVAC salesperson or maybe this is what many equate to energy efficiency.  We spend a lot of time explaining that certainly these items help, but often, they don’t deliver the most bang for the buck.

2)  Failure to address the situation.

If the homeowner can’t relate the recommendations to the issue that brought us there, they are less likely to make changes.  Unfortunately, sometimes connecting the dots isn’t so obvious.  It’s imperative when doing an audit to take time at the end to talk about concerns they raised during the initial interview and make sure the homeowner understands which recommendation(s) will help with any problems they raised.

3)  Cost is more than expected.

Insulation and air sealing for two to three-thousand dollars certainly sounds better than a six-thousand dollar furnace job, but it’s still a lot.  Be prepared to help those who thought there was some $10 fix to their $250 per month heating bill.

4)  It’s complicated.

We are victims of our own knowledge; what seems obvious to an auditor on their 500th audit may be new to that homeowner.  I had a boss once who told me that for new or complicated subjects, you had to be provided the information an average of eight times – and in different presentation methods – before you really understood it.  While this may be more than many need, we should remember that some of our discussions will be foreign to the homeowners as well as overwhelming.  Keep the language simple and present recommendations in different ways until you know they understand.

5)  Overcoming inertia.

This may be the biggest issue – getting the homeowner started.  I’m always amazed when I go hiking to see huge boulders perched precariously on a single point of contact with the ground.  It looks like a simple push would send them toppling down the hillside.  Of course, since my son and I have tried on several occasions, it doesn’t work that way, does it?  The same is true for homeowners; there is always a large list of other things they could be doing that keeps them from moving toward better energy efficiency.  Also, while many homeowners are completely confident in dealing with their home, many also just “want it to work”.  Somewhat like today’s cars, there are fewer and fewer who are comfortable tinkering with the inner workings of a house for fear of breaking something they can’t fix.  The end result is they sit in place, hoping problems will go away.  It’s our job to help them overcome the inertia hurdle.

There are certainly other obstacles to making improvements based on recommendations, but avoiding these will go a long way toward increasing action rates.

Will Lorey
COO
EnergyLogic, Inc.