A “Gold Star” Audit

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What does a “Gold Star” energy audit look like?  It looks just like the audits that GreenHomes provides.

Audit Image

The idea behind a Gold Star audit is an accurate and actionable.

To be accurate, the audit needs to include a good inspection and a range of diagnostics including combustion safety, infiltration (using a blower door), duct leakage testing, and an infrared scan.  If the person conducting the audit is making cost-effectiveness recommendations, then they need to have a firm understanding of local installation costs by a quality contractor—if they don’t know these exact prices they can’t talk about cost effectiveness!  And only by accurately determining how your home is operating, can we determine how much you can save.

To be actionable, any recommendations for improvement need to be easily understood by you and easily communicated to an installation contractor who can fully execute the recommendations.  For example, if the recommendations are for attic air-sealing and insulation (you shouldn’t do the insulation without the air-sealing), the person doing the work needs to understand exactly what needs to be done and be able to deliver (assuming the recommendations are accurate—see above!).  

A simple “clipboard audit” or home energy rating won’t cover both of these for you, so make sure you get what you need!  And don’t waste your money on what you don’t!

For a bit more background and additional links, see my earlier posts, our website, or the video description above.

Thanks,
Mike

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4 Responses to “A “Gold Star” Audit”

  1. Ben Schern Says:

    Everyone is talking about “Green Building” and ways to conserve energy, save money and protect our planet…find out how you can help.

    Green can mean many things, it could be building practices, preventative maintenance decisions, purchases and actions that effect our environment everyday. The concept is simple, start making small changes to your day to day life and we can make a huge impact as a collective group over time. Many people may not recognize how they can make small changes that help.

  2. Tom Harrison Says:

    This is an important point: energy audits and energy audits may be different things, and the one involving blower door tests (perhaps combined with IR) are a far shot different and better than someone coming in to do a visual inspection and count light bulbs.

    My concern with the terminology “Gold Star” is that it’s not aligned exactly with the same term used by HOME STAR, and the ratings provided by BPI, at least as far as I can tell. Here’s a page on the BPI site explaining (http://www.bpi.org/homeowners_homestar.aspx) — BPI also segments contractors into two classes of certification. But all of this becomes confusing — I can assure you that the contractor who did my energy audit met a higher standard (blower door + IR, plus other tests, including post-remediation follow-up, etc.), yet he’s only got a BPI Silver Star rating. Perhaps this is just because it costs more to get a Gold Star rating?

    It seems to me there’s an alignment issue here — it’s important we get our terminology all meaning the same thing or else consumers will be totally confused.

    Tom Harrison
    EnergyCircle.com

    • greenhomesamerica Says:

      You raise a good concern, Tom. And I think one that has been appropriately addressed in Home Star and with the BPI certification/accreditation rubric and criteria.

      I think the heart of the matter is confusion over the difference between BPI “certification” and “accreditation”. Certification is the demonstration that an individual has demonstrated knowledge and proficiency. In the case of the audit, the person knows how to conduct an audit. Accreditation is agreement, among other things, by the company to apply BPI standards on every job they do.

      Why is accreditation important? Under Home Star, accreditation is only required at the Gold Star level where performance based incentives are offered. Under BPI accreditation, responsibility is placed on the company to ensure that the work is conducted to BPI’s standards. One requirement, for example, is what we call the “test-out” which confirms the results and very importantly that the occupants of the house are not adversely affected by the energy improvement measures that have been installed. Having certified workers is a pre-requisite to accreditation, but certification alone is insufficient from an accountability perspective. It is the company who must stand behind their contractual promise. I don’t doubt the person who performed your audit was well qualified and that he did a good job. However, he wasn’t obligated to do so. Accreditation raises the bar. It’s better consumer protection, and it’s a heightened level of assurance with the increase public dollars being talked about under Gold Star.

      I’d also note that there is actually no certification required under Silver Star. The basic contractor requirements under Silver Star are that the company be properly licensed, carry insurance, and offer a one-year warranty on their work. Certification is mentioned as an option under Silver Star, but this only changes the rates of the quality assurance inspections. The BPI URL contractor locator that you point to, http://www.bpi.org/homeowners_homestar.aspx, may introduce a bit of confusion. Obviously BPI encourages the use of certified workers—and they only point to firms that are either accredited or have certified workers. However, as just mentioned, most contractors, certified or not, should be able to deliver improvements under Silver Star. I’d point out that GreenHomes, a BPI-Accredited contractor, would deliver improvements under both Gold Star—when the project met the total savings threshold—and under Silver Star. [And as such there’s actually a mistake on BPI’s website that you and a customer have pointed out–GreenHomes, for example, should be listed under both Silver and Gold.]

      Hope this helps.

      Thanks for pursuing the conversation!
      Mike

  3. Tom Harrison Says:

    Mike —

    Thanks for the clarification. So as you may know, at EnergyCircle.com we think a lot about finding ways to deliver messages to customers (home owners) in a clear and simple way that properly distinguishes the important differences.

    There isn’t any ambiguity in the Gold Star names — that’s good, and that’s what you’re writing about, and GreenHome America is BPI Accredited this qualified to do Gold Star retrofits, resulting in significant benefits to homeowners if measured results are achieved. That’s really important, and I think this is the “meat” of your story, so I don’t want to muddle that message 🙂

    But I still think the labeling used by BPI and HOME STAR are confusing because they apply to different things. A HOME STAR Silver Star job can be performed by anyone with insurance and a tax ID. Yet anyone certified by BPI presumably far exceeds that standard.

    The thing is there are naturally going to be a great deal more BPI grads who are certified than accredited. So in an odd way I think BPI is undercutting the value of their certification by equating their “Silver” with HOME STAR’s.

    It might help if the HOME STAR standard had a Bronze level, and required certification for Silver (not that I would want to even breathe a word of any of this, as any HOME STAR bill is a good thing for the country, and for our businesses!).

    I am sure we all want a measurable result associated with the use of our tax dollars — Gold Star does that, and it’s ideal.

    Practically speaking, the benefit of any improvement to residential building efficiency, comfort and safety are probably going to be the majority of where HOME STAR dollars go, at least for a while.

    I think we’re all aiming for the same goals: help people see what can often be dramatic savings and improvements in their homes — even without legislation and tax incentives, many people don’t realize that they can get a lot of benefit with a modest outlay.

    Regards, and keep up the great work!

    Tom

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