Recently we’ve gotten a number of calls and e-mails from folks who want to know how to become a home energy auditor. We’re not at all surprised – with the excitement generated by the possibility of HomeSTAR/Cash for Caulkers and the possibility of jobs creation through that bill combined with many out-of-work folks it’s only natural that people anticipate possible new career paths.
What this blog post will explain is how to become an independent energy auditor. We own our own business, and it’s quite possible that if you are hired by a company to do energy audits for them they might have additional requirements or may have their own training path. There are literally hundreds of “green” programs, trainings, and certifications out there. We can only explain the path our lead auditor followed so that he would have the best, broadest, and most nationally-recognized background so he could give independent, certified, standardized audits for his customers.
First, to be an energy auditor it’s important to have some kind of background in construction. This does not mean you’re a licensed general contractor (although this certainly can’t hurt). Instead, it means that you have a basic understanding of how a house is built, how a house works, and the various systems that make a house functional and liveable. In our case, Mark, our lead auditor, happens to be a licensed general contractor in the state of North Carolina. He also has an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and 6 years of experience in home renovation.
Next, at the very minimum an energy auditor needs to be trained and certified by the Building Performance Institute (BPI). Community colleges and private training centers offer this training throughout the country. To be certified you must pass a test – both written and in the field – and then be recertified every 3 years. BPI certification ensures that the energy auditor understands the house as a system, with all parts dependent on and connected to each other. BPI certification is a nationally-recognized standard for how well a home performs. Energy is part of it, but not the only part.
We also suggest that an energy auditor be trained and certified as a RESNET-HERS rater. RESNET=Residential Energy Services Network.
RESNET-HERS raters must attend a certified course in building science and energy ratings, pass a test (written as well as in the field), and be certified by a RESNET accredited rating provider. Becoming a RESNET-HERS rater adds an additional level of expertise with a focus on energy, and allows a person to do Energy Ratings (rating a home EnergyStar, for example) as well as doing audits.
Once a person is BPI certified and is an energy rater through RESNET, it’s a good idea to look around and see what local programs exist. At the very least, joining or going through the training for these local programs will help you with networking and marketing, and it’s highly possible that to get work in your area you may need additional certifications or memberships. Mark is a Green Rater for The Green Home Builders of the Triangle (part of our local Home Builders Association), for example. This allows him to rate a home “Green” but also gives him access to GHBT networking sessions, newsletters, and opportunities for more education.
There are other levels of certification out there beyond these – Mark is an NAHB verifier through NAHB Green. which he needed to do before he became a Green Rater for our local Green Home Builder association. He also works with Habitat for Humanity, so is trained in SystemVision. And for our weatherization business, which compliments our energy audits (but is, of course, independent of them), he has had State Weatherization training as well as several other trainings.
And finally to be an energy auditor you will need equipment. Again, this advice is for people who want to go into business for themselves; if you are an employee you will probably have access to your employer’s equipment. A thorough energy audit uses four pieces of equipment: a blower door, a duct blaster, an infrared camera, and a combustion analyzer. Some auditors don’t use an infrared camera but we’ve found it to be invaluable to truly see what’s going on in a house. It also shows homeowners exactly what the problems are that they need to be addressed.
So, that’s how you become an energy auditor! To learn more, you might want to read these related blog posts: