With the rise of more residential energy efficiency incentive programs and a greater awareness of the opportunities afforded by the new ‘green-collar’ economy, many people are entering the field of energy auditing.
But you can’t just hang up your shingle and call yourself an energy auditor. The same incentive programs that are giving rise to the opportunities require you to be certified – either by RESNET (mainly Home Energy Rating System, or HERS, ratings for new construction) or the Building Performance Institute, Inc., also known as BPI (mainly home performance retrofits and weatherization). Likewise, today’s savvy homeowner is conducting research online and increasingly recognizing the value of using certified professionals for their home improvement projects.
The goal of certification is to prove an individual has the knowledge and skills required to conduct energy audits in conformance with recognized standards developed by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited developers of American National Standards. Certification helps ensure higher quality of work, and for program managers, having all homes in a given program measured by the same standard allows for more accurate comparison of results from home-to-home.
BPI Building Analyst Certified Professionals conduct comprehensive home performance assessments that go beyond a simple ‘energy audit’ to examine factors affecting durability as well as occupant comfort, health and safety. Particular attention is paid to things such as moisture and condensation, which can lead to premature deterioration of building materials or the formation of mold, as well as to carbon monoxide levels and the safe operation of combustion appliances.
What you need to know
A strong understanding of house-as-a-system building science is a prerequisite for certification. That means training, although not required, is strongly recommended. BPI has a network of 232 training affiliate organizations across the country, including 48 community colleges. BPI certification exams consist of a 100-question written test, as well as a demanding hands-on practical test in the field. Qualified HERS raters can fast-track by taking a 50-question exam as well as the field test, due to a cross-over of knowledge and skills between the two certifications.
To pass BPI certification exams, candidates need to achieve an overall grade of 70% or higher, and must complete the Combustion Appliance Zone (CAZ) and Carbon Monoxide (CO) sections of the field exam with a grade of 85% or higher. To maintain certification, BPI professionals need to complete 30 continuing education units (CEUs) and renew every three years.
Credentials don’t stop with certification
BPI Accredited Contractors – specified in an increasing number of incentive programs across the country, including two proposed federal programs – are companies that have made a full commitment to quality in home performance and energy efficiency retrofits. To attain Accreditation, they must meet stringent requirements. Participation in, and compliance with, BPI’s nationwide third-party Quality Assurance Program is mandatory. In addition, BPI Accredited Contractors must:
- Follow BPI national Standards, including test-in/test-out requirements and installation standards
- Collect data on every home performance job, and document specific information on each project including pre- and post building conditions and installed measures
- Establish and maintain internal quality control protocols
- Employ at least one certified BPI Building Analyst and one certified specialist (in building envelope, heating or air conditioner and heat pump designations)
- Allow BPI to maintain proof of registration, licensing, bonding and insurance
- Follow BPI guidelines on training, equipment, workplace practices and dispute resolution
The residential energy auditing field is a fast-growing industry that offers a wealth of opportunities. A commitment to personal skills development and professional certification is an important first step to joining the growing ranks.
Written by Larry Zarker, Building Performance Institute
Larry Zarker is the CEO of the Building Performance Institute (BPI), an independent, not-for-profit organization committed to the improvement of home performance via training, certification, accreditation and quality assurance programs for residential contractors and their customers. Prior to joining BPI, Larry worked for nearly 20 years with the National Association of Home Builders Research Center.
Tags: American National Standards, ANSI, bpi, BPI Accredited Contractors, BPI certification exams, certified energy auditor, energy efficiency, home performance assessments, incentive programs, larry zarker, residential energy auditing, RESNET