Perfecting Your Indoor Comfort While Enhancing Energy Efficiency!

BPI & Home Performance FAQs

  • What is home performance contracting?

    Home Performance’ contracting is all about making existing homes more comfortable, safer and healthier to live in while at the same time, making them more durable and energy efficient. We use building science to examine the whole home and how different systems within it are interacting with one another. These systems include the building envelope (shell), heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment and the occupants. Home performance contracting projects start with a comprehensive Energy Assessment of the house to identify problems and trace them to the root cause. Then the contractor prescribes and prioritizes improvements—from must-do to nice-to-have. Once all the work is done, a second Energy Assessment is completed and compared to the initial assessment to learn what was accomplished and ensure that everything is performing as planned.

  • Can I tackle a home performance project on my own?

    There are some aspects you can probably tackle alone, but the whole-home Energy Assessment is best performed by a trained and qualified technician for mainly two reasons:

    • Properly diagnosing home performance problems and prescribing solutions requires a building science specialist background that most homeowners just do not have.
    • The job requires specialist (and often expensive) diagnostic tools, such as a pressurization Blower Door, Duct Blaster, Gas Leaks Detector, and Infrared Camera, that are not likely to be found in the average homeowner’s tool kit.

    What you can do to prepare for the comprehensive assessment is conduct an initial audit of your own. Start by writing down all the symptoms, including when and where in the house you notice them most. Make a list of any work that’s been done and when it was done—for example, you might note that you installed new insulation last fall, or converted the deck to a sunroom three summers ago, or changed from window A/C to Central Air five years ago. Pull together all your energy bills for the last year (the farther back you can go, the better) and look for usage patterns or changes that correspond with the symptoms, the previous work, or both. Double-check the age and rating of your HVAC equipment and household appliances and be sure you know the fuel types for each. Walk through your house and look for clues—taking pictures as you go. Are there damp spots? Is dust collecting or is the carpet looking dirty near the baseboards? Does the furnace make a funny noise or produce a strange smell when it’s running? Is one room particularly hot or cold? If or which windows seem to carry the most condensation? When you present your findings to your home performance contractor specialist, he or she should listen carefully, take good notes and ask follow-up questions as part of the homeowner interview before starting the physical assessment.

    They’ll probably also evaluate your energy bills and ask some questions about that third system—the occupants and their behavior—either before or after the physical audit. After the assessment, your BPI Certified (Building Performance Institute) contractor can guide you regarding which fixes are suitable for your particular DIY skill level, and which will require expert help.

  • What services might be included in a home performance project?

    The project will start with a comprehensive Energy Assessment, including an interview with you and a thorough walk-through – both indoors and out. The technician may use an infrared camera to get a visual on temperature differences in different areas, conduct a Blower Door test to depressurize or pressurize the house to assess air leakage levels (infiltration), and will use a Duct Blaster to test for air leakage in the duct work of a forced-air HVAC system. They may also perform other functions and safety tests on HVAC equipment and other appliances in your home which will include testing for spillage, carbon monoxide levels, and combustion back-draft. At the end of the comprehensive Energy Assessment, your home performance contractor should be able to provide you with a scientific and objective view of the situation. They should be able to help you prioritize repairs in order – from must-do to nice-to-do – so you can solve the biggest problems without making smaller problems worse.

    These repairs may include:

    • Air sealing the building envelope, including compartmentalizing the attic or basement from the conditioned living space
    • Weather-stripping doors and/or windows
    • Adding insulation
    • Sealing ductwork
    • Tuning-up HVAC equipment
    • Upgrading to energy efficient HVAC equipment and/or ENERGY STAR® rated appliances
    • Upgrading to ENERGY STAR® rated doors or windows
    • Replacing pumps
    • And more…

    The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® initiative from the Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a great series of videos providing an overview of the home performance process.

  • Can a home performance project help make my house more comfortable?

    Yes. In fact, that’s one of the primary reasons to start a home performance project. Drafts, uneven temperatures (including hard to heat or cool rooms), and extreme (too damp or too dry) or inconsistent humidity levels are all problems best solved with a whole-home approach; it examines the interaction between the different systems in the house.

  • Can a home performance project help me lower my energy bills?

    Yes. The house-as-a-system approach aims to improve the performance of existing homes and it is proven to reduce homeowner annual utility bills by as much as 20% or more (See U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Brochure, EPA 430-F-09-001, January 2009). Frequently, indoor air quality and safety solutions lead to reductions in energy use and lower energy bills. The matter-of-fact is that most Home Performance projects are mostly initiated due to comfort and health issues.

  • I’m worried about mold and indoor air quality. Can a home performance project help protect my family?

    Yes. One of the common problems home performance retrofits correct is uncontrolled air movement through the building envelope. Warm, moist, conditioned air passes from the living space though the walls on its way outside. When that warm air reaches the cooler temperatures within the wall cavity or inside a window frame, it drops the moisture on condensing surfaces, which can help contribute to mold growth. The American Lung Association® Health House® guidelines require homes to be more airtight to improve energy efficiency and prevent unplanned moisture movement and state:”…Although many stories in the media attribute indoor air quality problems to houses being built too tightly, the reality is that homes need to be as tight as practical. Air leaking into and out of homes has created many of the problems. Moist air leaking out in cold weather can condense on wall and attic surfaces, creating mold growth, and in some cases structural decay. This is a direct result of the home not being tight enough. Moist air leaking into a home in hot humid weather can have the same effect on finished surfaces of walls. Air leaking into a home from an attached garage has been shown to be a significant source of carbon monoxide in homes…”

    Your BPI Certified (Building Performance Institute) contractor will use a Blower Door to pressurize or depressurize the house and locate air migration pathways as part of the whole-home Energy Assessment. Air sealing to close those pathways will be done as part of the retrofit improvement project.

  • Are there any incentives available to help me pay for this?

    There is a wide range of incentive opportunities available across the United States right now—many of them funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Click here to find incentives that include whole-home assessments and home performance improvement projects. The most popular program here in California is managed and controlled by Energy Upgrade CA which is a coalition of the CEC, Utility companies, and State and Local government agencies.

  • How are BPI contractors different from regular contractors?

    Anyone with a truck and some tools can call themselves a contractor. But BPI certified professionals have proven their skills and knowledge in building science and their area(s) of expertise – Building Analyst, Envelope, Heating, Air Conditioning, Manufactured Homes or Multifamily – as well as business ethics, conduct and communications. BPI accredited contractors (who employ BPI certified professionals) have made an organization-wide commitment to raising the bar in home performance contracting, including their participation in a nationwide Quality Assurance Program. Many trades license their contractors after apprenticeship programs or college courses. Some manufacturers require contractors to comply with extra standards while installing a product. BPI certifications do not take the place of trade qualifications, apprenticeship programs, or manufacturer requirements. They are meant to build on and enhance these qualifications, making individuals who hold multiple credentials even more valuable to homeowners.

  • What type of training do BPI certified professionals receive?

    Training is administered by a coast-to-coast network of independent training organizations, including private companies, community colleges, and local not-for-profit agencies. Individuals hoping to become BPI certified professionals learn the house-as-a-system approach that focuses on the relationships between different components within the home. How to identify problems at the root cause, prioritize, and provide solutions that improve energy efficiency while enhancing important safety functions such as mold prevention, indoor air quality, and carbon monoxide testing, as well as combustion appliance safety checks. After they are certified, they are required to participate in ongoing continuing education to keep these specialists on top of emerging issues, technologies, and best practices.

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