Lessons Learned After Insulating Over 120 Homes for Home Performance with Energy Star
We started 2018 with a goal of insulating more than 100 homes as part of the Home Performance with Energy Star program.
In previous years we had flirted with this goal, coming closer and closer with 50, then 60, then 70, but landing shy of that 100 mark. It was in a conversation with our Consumers Energy rep that I realized we as a team could hit this number.
You see, only a handful of contractors make it into the Home Performance with Energy Star Century Club. Our focus has always been on making homeowners more comfortable in their homes, while also making their home more energy efficient. This focus aligned perfectly with the work Consumers Energy does with the Home Performance with Energy Star Program.
We are a smaller insulation contractor when compared to other contractors who have been acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Energy for their admittance into the century club, so I knew we had our work cut out for us.
Education was going to be key.
Here’s what we here at RetroFoam of Michigan learned after insulating more than 120 homes as part of the Home Performance with Energy Star program.
What We Learned After Insulating More Than 120 Homes
Insulating 100 homes was an achievable goal in the sense that we do a ton of jobs each year, but we had a lot to learn before we got started.
Buy-In and Education
The first thing we learned was getting buy-in from the whole team. It meant more education for the whole team.
The office would be filling out more paperwork to help the homeowner get a larger rebate from Consumers Energy. This would require them to become familiar with this program and what rebates are available to homeowners. The office also works to keep the project managers in the know when those rebates amount change.
The project managers needed to understand those rebates and explain them to the homeowner. A service we offer is we fill out all of the paperwork, so the homeowner doesn’t have to deal with it. The project manager has to explain that process to the homeowner and that the rebate will come right off of their invoice instead of coming to them as a check in four to six weeks.
Explaining the Home as a Whole System
Educating homeowners was another thing that we learned could help us reach our goal and help them understand how their home works. We frequently work with homeowners who only want to insulate their walls or attic. In some cases, they are considering doing other areas a few years down the road.
The problem with this is that if they are dealing with air leaks and if the entire building envelope isn’t sealed, air will still find a way to move into and out of the home. What that means is the problem is just going to move to another area of the house.
Stack effect is another challenge the project managers discussed with homeowners as this can also negatively impact energy efficiency and monthly energy bills. Stack effect can best be explained as air coming in through the crawl space or basement, move up through the floors and walls, and finally makes its way out through the attic.
The goal of a home performance job is to seal up all of those air leaks to make the home more energy efficient.
Understanding Building Science
Educating the homeowner about sealing their building envelope meant everyone had to understand building science and how it works in home performance.
Part of our goal has always been to be the leading insulation contractor in building science education. As part of this and our goal to complete more than 100 home performance projects, that meant we wanted everyone on our staff to understand building science, so that meant furthering education.
This also plays into our BPI certification.
Contractors who are BPI certified are better equipped to meet the real needs of homeowners when it comes to their home’s performance. A BPI certified contractor has the training to look at your home’s needs and prescribe solutions that will work to improve your comfort and energy efficiency.
This certification also allows us to perform blower door tests to show the foam insulation we installed is working to stop air leakage in the home.
Creating an Energy Efficient and Comfortable Home
While being recognized by the DOE for our work to make homes more energy efficient is an awesome thing, it wasn’t our only driving force behind doing this.
Aside from the recognition, we don’t get anything else from this endeavor – we didn’t get any extra money or anything like that. What we did get was something that has always been a part of our mission and that is to help homeowners save as much as possible on their monthly energy bills and provide the best option for insulation at the best cost.
If you want to learn more about creating an air seal in your home that will make it more comfortable and energy efficient, check out the Learning Center on our website.
About Eric Garcia
Eric brings his knowledge and training in building science, training in spray and injection foams from the manufacturers, more than 8 years installing foam insulation, as well as selling and managing in the foam insulation industry. He is also BPI and Dale Carnegie certified and has taken several building science courses including air sealing and building envelope. Eric’s responsibilities include overseeing and giving support to all of the branches of the RetroFoam of Michigan company, office, estimates, and installs. His favorite part of his job is knowing his work helps to keep crews moving and helps homeowners. Even when Eric is off he is usually still “working” or thinking about work, but when he can get away he enjoys camping, hiking, hunting, and wood work.