Top Three Blind Spots You Didn’t Know You Had

Blind spots are just that – an area you can’t see. Danger sometimes lurks within these blind spots. Thank God for back-seat drivers who point them out to us – usually by screaming and making us crazy. Blind spots happen in business as well; we just don’t have a back seat driver to point them out to us.  In our close work with homebuilders, we’ve learned that the top three blind spots are hidden in HVAC design, moisture management, and warranty departments.

M1 SampleHVAC Design– Improper HVAC design can lead to increased comfort complaints, over spending on equipment, and even moisture-related building failures.  Many code jurisdictions are placing added emphasis on HVAC Design during the permit application. This results in more permits being rejected and additional delays for the builder.  Now that somebody is paying attention to the designs, we should expect reduced comfort complaints and callbacks, right? Sorry, no. Many plan reviewers lack the necessary skill and training to properly review HVAC designs or they’re too busy to do a thorough review. At best, they are most likely catching inconsistencies between the design and other permit documents. Beyond getting through permit review, a great design is worthless if it can’t be installed. What many builders don’t realize is that the design they submit for permitting rarely matches the actual installation. In the field, the installers often make their own modifications to work around plumbing, structural components and other unforeseen obstacles. How will the added turns and elbows impact air flows? Will the system still work?  Does anyone bother to check with the designer, or do we just shrug and hope for the best?

Mold growth and water stains on the ceiling of an abandoned house

Moisture Management– It is estimated that $9-10 billion is spent every year to correct construction defects. Eighty percent of those defects are moisture-related. (By the way, 100% of them passed code.) Often, moisture problems that lead to these failures could have been prevented with simple quality control. However, you can’t depend on your code inspector to ensure proper flashing and drainage. Deterioration of building components, including wall sheathing, siding, trim, framing, and other structural components lead to high warranty costs and potential lawsuits. Few builders employ third party inspectors that focus on moisture management and drainage.  Busy site superintendents are spending less and less time in each home. This means that most builders expect their trade partners to police themselves. Based on our conversations with construction defect lawyers and what we observe in the field every day, that strategy just isn’t cutting it.

Warranty Department– Experience tells us that most warranty departments are ill-prepared to diagnose and solve comfort or moisture-related problems, and are wasting time and money by not resolving problems efficiently. Sometimes the attempted fixes involve major time and expense and still don’t solve the problem. That’s like prescribing surgery without a diagnosis. More importantly, customer satisfaction suffers when call-backs require three or more visits before being resolved. Finally, in our experience, Warranty departments in larger operations do not always work closely enough with those on the operational side. That means precious time elapses, resulting in many more problem homes which are constructed with the same defects, before new practices can be implemented in the field.

If you are interested in learning more about ways to reduce Builder Risk, contact Robby Schwarz at 720-838-0677.

SDoyle_ArticlePicScott Doyle
Director of Field Services
EnergyLogic, Inc.

HERS Index Scores are Expected to Change

HERSscore1In 2012, RESNET embarked on a two year project to have the Home Energy Rating Systems (HERS) calculation methodology accredited as an ANSI Standard.

This process resulted in two changes to the HERS Reference Home that will impact the HERS Index in all climate zones. These changes were necessary to shift the HERS Reference Home from a supplemental energy code (the 2004 IECC) to an energy code published by the International Code Council (the 2006 IECC). This shift was needed to lay the groundwork for the inclusion of the Energy Rating Index in the 2015 IECC.

The implementation of the ANSI/RESNET Standard 301-2014 will cause HERS Index scores to increase by an estimated 2 to 3 points due to aligning the reference home the 2006 IECC. It may also decrease by 3 to 6 points due to changes with efficient domestic water heating.  The impact is also dependent on climate zone and the number of the energy features incorporated into the home and how well they are installed.  The results should be a net change of 1 to 3 points in HERS Index scores over the current calculations if efficient domestic water heating systems are installed correctly.

Domestic water heating systems features that will be included in the HERS Index moving forward are:

  • High efficiency water heaters – are currently calculated in the HERS Index
  • Shorter pipe runs from the water heater to all fixtures but especially to the fixture farthest away from the water heater
  • On demand hot water circulation systems
  • Pipe insulation on hot water lines
  • Drain water heat recovery systems
  • High performance water based appliances such as clothes and dish washers

Release of the software that reflects the changes created by the new ANSI/RESNET Standard 301-2014 has been delayed.  We have been told that it will be available in September at which time we will be able to fully model the impact of the standard induced changes.  Another date of note is October 1st 2015 at which time Raters will be required to utilize the new software on all confirmed ratings.  These dates are subject to change.

Read RESNET’s full news release here.

Schwarz_ArticlePicRobby Schwarz
Principal and Director of Builder Relation
720-838-0677  email

 

ENERGY STAR® Has Released Revision 8

ENERGY STARRevision 8 of the ENERGY STAR® program is the most significant revision since the release of Version 3. It addresses some top concerns identified by ENERGY STAR Partners. It also aligns ENERGY STAR and RESNET’s HERS® rating process and improves the efficiency of new homes without compromising quality, comfort, or durability.

While the process of certifying a home for ENERGY STAR has slightly changed the structure of the checklists has changed significantly.  For example the builders’ water-management checklist is now a mandatory program requirement.  Builders need to review the now named “Water Management Systems Builder Requirements” list to ensure that your building practices fully comply.  A checklist will no longer be collected by the Rater.  On the HVAC side the program has divided the responsibilities between the HVAC designer and the installation contractor.  There are separate checklists covering each. The Rater checklists have also changed but the responsibilities have not been altered in any way.

You may need to spend a little time renewing your understanding of the program and its certification process. EnergyLogic and ENERGY STAR have provided a number of resources to help you gain an understanding of Revision 8.  We suggest a three step process for reviewing the changes.

To get started, we suggest you watch the following short ENERGY STAR videos:

EnergyLogic and ENERGY STAR have both recorded detailed webinars on Revision 8.  You can also download and review the new ENERGY STAR Revision 8 checklists and program documents on the same page.

ENERGY STAR Partnership Agreement ‘Terms and Commitments’ have also been updated and apply to all Builders Partners.

Revision 8 is in effect and can be implemented immediately. However, we believe that the HVAC contractor will be determining which version is used until Revision 8 is exclusively required after July 1, 2016. EnergyLogic is working hard to educate and encourage all of our partners to transition as soon as possible. It appears that the vast majority will accomplish this by the first of 2016. If so, well done!

Schwarz_ArticlePicRobby Schwarz
Principal and Director of Builder Relations
EnergyLogic, Inc.