EnergySmart Institute FAQ Section:

The Home Energy Scorecard by the US DOE is basically an estimate of energy usage in a residence. Use the following link to verify on the official government website where the word 'estimate' is used: https://www.energy.gov/eere/buildings/downloads/home-energy-score

Many energy professionals, including those of us at EnergySmart Institute, find that the energy scorecard is not accurate enough to be used as a basis for an energy mortgage. There is no national quality assurance or QA process in place to ensure that the information contained in a scorecard is reasonably close to accurate.

A home energy rater or HERS* rating includes a number of tests to determine the energy efficiency of a residential building. These tests include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Calibrated blower door tests
  • Calibrated duct tests
  • IRS & DOE approved modeling software
  • Infrared (IR) Tests, if needed

Every HERS rating must be submitted to a HERS rating providership, such as Accurate Rater Network, and then every rating must be submitted to RESNET and also the National Energy Rating Archive. As you can see, a HERS rating includes the components necessary to accurately determine the energy efficiency of a given residential structure within a reasonable degree of accuracy and at least two levels of QA.

Since many lenders and investors depend upon the projected level of energy and monetary savings to actually materialize, it is important to use the most accurate information available for the basis of an energy or green mortgage or energy improvement loan.

*HERS - Home Energy Rating System

EnergySmart Institute will feature clean-renewable energy courses from recognized authorities on an ongoing basis.

Coming Summer of 2018: Renewable Energy for Homeowners Course

The 'Renewable Energy for Homeowners' course to be instructed by Dan Chiras, noted author and recognized expert in the fields of green-sustainable design, clean-renewable energy, natural home building, composting toilets and much more. Dan will utilize the etextbook version of his 'Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy' book as the textbook for this course.

Here is a link to view the book: https://www.amazon.com/Homeowners-Guide-Renewable-Energy-Independence/dp/0865716862/

Also coming in the Summer of 2018: A new EnergySmart online, on-demand course for certification as a "Clean Energy Site Power Assessor".

This course will equip anyone interested in understanding how to quickly determine if a location is suitable for a solar energy and/or wind energy system and how to estimate the potential amount of power that will become available from the installation of clean energy systems.

It is important for a residential or small commercial energy auditor or rater to be able to give their clients a reasonably accurate assessment of whether their building or acreage is suitable for clean energy systems and also an estimate of the amount of power that could be expected.

Home and small business owners are interested in understanding how much energy and monetary savings that could be available to them if they were to install a clean energy system. Obtaining a reasonably accurate assessment from their energy auditor or rater is often expected during the course of conducting an audit or rating and this course will equip the energy pro with ways to quickly determine answers to their questions.

A home energy auditor or rater can add the 'Clean Energy Site Power Assessor' credential to their websites or professional listings as a 'value added' option for their field work.

Note: EnergySmart Institute offers this list of suggested equipment as a reference only and does not necessarily endorse models or brands. Other manufacturers can also make similar equipment to the items listed here.


Q1:  What is the difference between RESNET HERS Rater training and certification and BPI Building Analyst training and certification?

A1:  HERS Raters are trained and certified to analyze and quantify building energy performance. They calculate the energy usage of a residential building and determine the Home Energy Rating System Index Number for the building.  This process is standardized across the nation and requires the use of certified software.  Because of the level of standardization and normalization, HERS Ratings are used nation-wide to qualify homes for multiple programs and incentives.  HERS Ratings can be performed on existing homes, but are mostly used in new construction to qualify homes for programs such as ENERGY STAR, LEED for Homes, NAHB Green Build, Energy Efficient Mortgages/Energy Improvement Mortgages and the Federal Energy Tax Credit.

HERS Rater training includes training on all aspects of energy usage in a home, heat flow, air flow, moisture flow, heat load calculations, proper use of infiltration and duct leakage testing equipment and interpreting results, reading and working with building plans, creating scaled sketches, proper use of certified software, climate zones, construction techniques, thermal bypass and insulation installation inspections and reporting.  To become a certified RESNET HERS rater there are two online simulation tests that must be passed plus a 100 question timed & proctored test administered by RESNET.

BPI Building Analysts are trained and certified to perform energy audits on existing homes.  They analyze the energy usage of the home and its occupants as well as evaluate the home for any health and safety issues.  Energy audits are not normalized but are specific to the particular home and occupants being examined.  There is no specific software tool required, however, there are standards that must be followed.  These standards are used to ensure that no harm is done to the residence or its occupants as a result of the audit or completion of the resulting work order.

BPI Building Analyst training includes training on all aspects of energy usage in a home, heat flow, air flow, moisture flow, potential health and safety issues, proper use of infiltration, duct leakage, carbon monoxide and combustible gas testing equipment and interpreting results, creating scaled sketches, understanding and interpreting BPI Standards and writing work orders.  There are several utility programs and state programs that require BPI Building Analyst Certification in order to be listed as a qualified energy auditor.  Information on BPI certifications can be found on the BPI website at: https://bpi.org

Q2: In today’s economy, should I become a HERS Rater or a BPI Building Analyst?

A2:  As a general rule, when people are building and moving into new homes, there will be more work for HERS raters, whereas when the new construction industry slows down and people are remaining in and fixing up their existing homes, there can be more work for Building Analysts. Please keep in mind that HERS raters can test and verify existing homes as well.

One relatively recent and fantastic opportunity for work and growth for residential energy professionals is in the area of energy code inspections and verifications, and these can only be performed by certified HERS raters, not energy auditors. Why? Mainly because HERS raters have at least two (2) levels of quality assurance (QA) performed on their tests and reports and this is a mandatory requirement by code councils and government officials. Energy auditors do not have a national quality assurance system in place.

Q3:  I am new to this industry – do you have a recommended training/certification/work path for me to follow?

A3:  Congratulations on choosing to become involved with energy and green!  There is a lot to learn and even those of us who have been working in this field for over three decades are still learning new things every single day.  The recommended path below will help you gain expertise one step at a time.

  • RESNET Certified Field Inspector – this class will provide training on energy usage in a home, creating scaled sketches, gathering energy usage data in the field, proper use of infiltration and duct leakage testing equipment and understanding of basic residential construction techniques and materials. There is a two-hour, 50 question test taken and a minimum 80% score must be achieved.  A Field Inspector works under a Certified HERS Rater who is responsible to complete the Field Inspector’s certification by overseeing their performance in the field while they gather data for three Home Energy Ratings.
  • BPI Building Analyst – this class will add training on potential health and safety issues, proper use of carbon monoxide and combustible gas testing equipment and interpreting results, understanding and interpreting BPI Standards and writing work orders. To complete certification, a two-hour, 100 question test is taken and a minimum 70% score must be achieved.  A field test must be taken to demonstrate equipment proficiency and appropriate use and interpretation of BPI Standards. (Note: EnergySmart Institute does not offer any courses to achieve BPI certifications. Certain EnergySmart Institute courses may be applicable for BPI continuing education units (CEUs). Please visit the BPI website for credentialing and CEU details at: https://bpi.org
  • RESNET Certified HERS Rater – this class will add training on heat load calculations, reading and working with building plans, proper use of certified software, climate zones, advanced construction techniques, thermal bypass and insulation installation inspections and reporting. Two ratings are performed during the training class.  A two-hour, 50 question test is taken and a minimum 80% score must be achieved.  Certified HERS Raters must belong to a RESNET QA Provider’s network and three additional probationary ratings must also be satisfactorily performed for the QA Designee to complete their certification.
  • Where you go from here is up to you. There are advanced HERS Rater training and certification classes available, you may choose to become a Green Rater, to qualify to certify homes for national green programs, to include infrared inspections in your offerings, etc.  There are also advanced BPI designations focusing on building envelope, multi-family, HVAC systems and more.

Q4:  What is the pass rate for these programs?

A4:  Please see the detailed description of each class – we list the national pass rate and the Accurate Rater Network pass rate for each class when that information becomes available.

Q5:  Will I be able to use the training I receive in the HERS Rater class to perform commercial energy audits?

A5:  Many small businesses utilize residential structures or small commercial buildings that contain residential heating, cooling and water heating equipment.  The information you gain in the HERS Rater class will be very helpful to you in these cases.  In addition, you will want to study construction, insulation and lighting techniques used in commercial buildings and ensure you understand the terminology found in utility incentives and other programs for commercial businesses.

If you are planning to perform audits for larger commercial structures, you will also want to study commercial HVAC equipment and investigate software used to analyze energy use in commercial buildings.  Some examples of commercial energy software programs are Visual DOE & EnergyPlus. An online search for commercial energy audit software will produce many more results.

  1. Is a Network Rater in the Accurate Rater Network required to use REM/Rate software for their energy ratings?
  2. At this time, yes. The Accurate Rater Network does not currently support the use of Energy Gauge or other energy rating software programs. This may change in the future if we have enough requests from Home Energy Raters or potential Home Energy Raters for this support.

Please Note: EnergySmart Institute and Accurate Rater Network DO support REM/Design, which is an energy modeling software tool designed to be used by builders, contractors, real estate professionals, appraisers, building owners and basically anyone involved in the residential and/or small commercial industries.

REM/Rate can read REM/Design files and vice versa, except that REM/Design cannot display the information and reports that are exclusive to REM/Rate. REM/Design is available for purchase but REM/Rate can only be licensed for a fee through a RESNET Accredited Rater Providership.

For more information or to download a trial version of REM/Design please visit http://www.remrate.com/home/license

The EPA ENERGY STAR website contains a brief description regarding existing homes that has the following wording:

Any home, new or existing, that can be field verified to meet all EPA requirements for ENERGY STAR Certified Homes can earn the label. Given that the verification process entails inspecting insulation and air barrier assemblies as part of the Thermal Bypass Checklist (TBC), it is unlikely existing homes will be able to qualify unless they are part of a gut rehab project exposing all insulated framing assemblies.

Where a new construction project has changed mid-stream to ENERGY STAR, the builder may ask a HERS Rater to field verify some completed units. Since the HERS rater is allowed to defer up to six TBC checklist items to the builder for verification, it may be possible to complete the TBC where remaining items can be field verified by the HERS Rater even though construction is complete (e.g., attic-side knee-wall air barriers). In this case and where all other field verification requirements are met, a completed home may earn the ENERGY STAR label.

Many HERS raters have asked if they can use an infrared camera diagnostic in lieu of a TBC visual inspection. EPA has clarified the use of infrared thermography for TBC inspections.

ENERGY STAR LogoThe US EPA ENERGY STAR program has evolved from certifying computer monitors, fax machines and other early electronic office products into certifying large appliances and even homes and commercial buildings. The ENERGY STAR program is completely voluntary and has successfully operated for several decades on a relatively small budget compared to other government programs.

Basically, nearly every type of building can be certified under the ENERGY STAR program as either energy or water efficient, or both. In fact, there is also an indoor air quality or IAQ certification program available from ENERGY STAR as well.

In order for a residence to become certified through the ENERGY STAR program the needs to be a home energy rater (HERS* rater) involved. The home, apartment, town home or other residential dwelling will need to meet the requirements of the ENERGY STAR program plus pass tests performed by the rater during the construction process. A final inspection and series of tests will also be performed when construction is complete to insure that the installed products and technologies will perform as specified.

In 2018 the ENERGY STAR program has two versions for new homes; Version 3.0 and Version 3.1. Version 3.0 applies across all states plus US territories and protectorates while Version 3.1 is for states that have adopted the latest and most progressive energy codes. ENERGY STAR for new homes is designed to be slightly more stringent that the applicable energy codes and so Version 3.1 has provisions that exceed the latest energy codes, therefore keeping ENERGY STAR certified homes better than homes that just meet code.

The online, on-demand ENERGY STAR training courses on EnergySmart Institute cover both Versions 3.0 & 3.1 and include the tests required to become an ENERGY STAR certified home energy rater. There is also a refresher course on ENERGY STAR programs for energy professionals who just need updating or only want to understand the newest aspects of these programs.

More details about ENERGY STAR programs will be listed in upcoming FAQs and further information can be found by using the following links on the ENERGYSTAR.gov website:

ENERGY STAR for New Homeshttps://www.energystar.gov/newhomes?s=mega

ENERGY STAR Indoor Air Package::
https://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/bldrs_lenders_raters/downloads/IAPConsm508.pdf

Note: The words 'ENERGY STAR' and related logos are trademarked property of the US EPA. 

*HERS - Home Energy Rating Systems

EnergySmart and EnergySmart Teams began as conceptual ideas that were presented by Ken and Sharla Riead at various annual RESNET conferences beginning in 2010. These concepts break down into two basic goals:

  1. To make residential and small commercial energy improvements available through a nationally scalable model the use of automated energy audit and rating systems would be essential and,
  2. There would have to be at least two (2) levels of quality assurance or QA built into this system so that the resulting information and reports would have a verifiable level of accuracy that the private lenders and investors could depend upon.

Numerous studies over many decades have proven time and again that properly installed energy improvements and clean energy projects can and do save significant amounts of money with resulting ROIs (Returns-On-Investment) that can beat most other investments. However, the key words in the previous sentence were 'properly installed' and traditional methods of securing good, knowledgeable contractors can be very risky. Many folks try to find reliable contractors by asking family, friends and neighbors, scanning the internet or other method.

Properly modeled and installed energy-saving projects also can make the building more comfortable, durable, safe and resilient plus;

  1. Have better indoor-air-quality or IAQ
  2. Be water efficient
  3. Include clean energy options
  4. Add smart home automated control features and
  5. Have a higher resale market value through the energy mortgage process*

The current chaotic nature of the energy improvement and clean energy installation marketplace makes many lenders or investors quite nervous unless they have confidence in the energy (monetary) savings to be produced by each project. The lending and investment communities inherently understand significant value of properly modeled and installed energy improvement projects, also known as 'deep energy retrofits', as less risky investments than most. If the energy and monetary savings do appear on the monthly utility bill(s) then their clients have more money to spend on other items, including their mortgage payment.

So, why aren't lenders offering loans large enough to cover the investment needed for a deep energy retrofit? It all comes back to reduced levels of risk with predictably reliable results in each and every energy improvement and clean energy project. And, it all then comes back to the need for Certified EnergySmart Contractors, builders and teams.

*Energy Mortgages - An energy mortgage, such as an Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) or Energy Improvement Mortgage (EIM) automatically adds market value to a home by approximately $20 of value to every dollar of annual energy savings achieved. For example, if an energy improvement project can reliably save $50 per month, which adds up to $600 per year, then the post-improvement home is now worth $12,000 more than before improvements. (600 X 20 = $12,000)

Please explore all the various FAQs for further explanations about energy mortgages and other topics introduced in this FAQ. Thank you.

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