Credit: Sharpe + Harrell Photography
I’ve been around home performance for some time now, and although I am qualified to do energy audits, most of my energy-efficiency work is part of larger remodeling projects and new buildings. As a stand-alone industry, the home performance business continues to struggle in many areas. The industry, for a while, was supported and expanded through federal stimulus money. Many people were trained and a lot of homes weatherized. (I recently received an email claiming more than 1 million completed projects.)
In addition to improving homes, one of the goals of the stimulus was, to overstate the obvious, to stimulate the economy, specifically this industry. It remains to be seen whether or not energy improvements will continue in a free-market economy at a similar level.
Fortunately for some homeowners, there are utility company rebates and local government incentives that help offset some of the costs of improvements. Unfortunately, except in regions where energy costs are very high or the weather extreme, most homeowners find it hard to justify the relatively high up-front costs of weatherization work. Most would rather put those granite counters in their kitchens and ignore their comfort and efficiency problems.
You Owe It to Your Clients
I believe that energy efficiency, weatherization, home performance, or whatever you want to call it (now there is an industry desperately in need of some branding) is important and, as an industry, remodelers need to promote it and incorporate it into their work.
If you’re remodeling a bathroom or kitchen or adding a room, you owe it to your clients to do an evaluation of the whole house and make recommendations for improvements. It’s tough in a tight market to convince clients to spend more money than they expect, particularly if it’s on things that they can’t easily see, touch, or show off to their friends. But remodelers have to figure out how to sell and build home performance into all their projects.
All remodelers should live in a high-performance home. Once you experience the comfort, cleanliness, air quality, and lower energy bills, you’ll find it easier to sell the service to your clients. Installing energy-efficient upgrades to your own homes will help you figure out this fairly complex industry and have a better understanding of how to integrate it into your work process.
Hire a consultant or an energy auditor, or take classes to learn how to do it yourself, but just start doing it. You’ll have fewer callbacks for comfort problems and happier clients who will sing your praises, ultimately leading to more and better business.
Home performance is just one more skill that you need to acquire and incorporate into your work to remain viable in this exciting, ever-evolving industry.
—Carl Seville teaches, speaks, and writes about, consults on, and certifies green buildings. He is co-author of Green Building: Principles and Practices in Residential Construction. sevilleconsulting.com; greencurmudgeon.com
Local Level: A look at some specific weatherization programs
Setting Standards: The DOE’s workforce guidelines for home energy upgrades
Weatherization Assistance Program: Prevailing wages, sustaining work