Chris Gash

When a prospect calls a remodeling contractor, the discussion often revolves around the homeowner’s pet peeves. But for every basic kitchen expansion—“We have Thanksgiving here every year and I can’t fit everyone”—there’s the more complicated, “The floor in the den is always cold,” or “Our son’s bedroom is always drafty.” The solutions to homeowners’ conundrums are not always simple. A house is made up of systems. Fiddle with one and something else will be affected.

“A piece of me thinks that every remodeler should be a home performance specialist,” says industry consultant and veteran remodeler Carl Seville, also known as The Green Building Curmudgeon. “Start tightening a house that has an old furnace and water heater and you run the risk of killing your clients with carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Time to get a professional. But how do you know who to call, where to find that person, and what hiring one will do to your project’s bottom line?

What's in a Name?

Anyone can hang up a shingle and call themselves an energy auditor or a home performance specialist. And these terms, along with “home performance analyst” and even “building scientist,” tend to be used interchangeably.

Building performance encompasses energy efficiency as well as safety, comfort, and durability. When seeking a home performance pro, it’s important to find someone who knows about construction and energy efficiency and who understands the house as a system. In this article we’ll refer to that professional as a “home performance specialist.”

Two organizations currently offer home performance certifications:

  1. The Building Performance Institute (BPI) bills itself as “a national standards development and credentialing organization for residential energy-efficiency retrofit work.” It certifies building science professionals, offering a certification for “building analyst,” as well as a recently introduced more advanced credential for “energy auditor.” BPI’s approach is to consider the house as a series of systems and to determine how to improve those systems in concert to help reduce energy consumption.
  2. The Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) sets training and national certification standards, including those for HERS (Home Energy Rating System) raters who work on new builds. HERS raters assign energy-efficiency scores based on whether a new home (sometimes a retrofit home) meets certain efficiency targets. In some municipalities, HERS grades are posted and can even be used as a feature when selling a home.