News

Effective Communication for Home Performance Contractors

Build It Green’s latest tips to help you spend less time on go-backs and remediating problems, so you can spend more time selling and installing new jobs.

Consistent, effective communication with customers before, during, and after a home performance installation is vital to any thriving contracting business. The satisfaction of your client base determines the capacity for your success and growth. Your profit is directly tied to your customer’s advocacy. Excellence in communication is a non-negotiable value. Build It Green is committed to providing ongoing mentoring and training for all our partners and clients participating in the Home Upgrade Program. We’ve compiled a few helpful communication tips contractors can utilize specifically for Home Upgrade Program jobs.

Root Your Communication in Core Values

Excellence in communication is a result of a professional culture (your business) with a strong set of core values. Each home performance contractor should have a set of core values that shape and guide communication with your staff and clients. These values will differ from business to business, but should be agreed upon, written down, and posted for reference.

Examples of core values may include:

  1. Quality: We will exceed customer expectations and not merely meet them.
  2. Innovation: We will be known for cutting-edge methods and product delivery. We consider ourselves leaders in this industry and commit to consistently training, researching, and implementing to stay at the forefront of home performance.
  3. Accountability: We will hold ourselves to the highest levels of professionalism in attitude and execution from top to bottom.
  4. Relationships: We will treat one another and our clients with honesty, respect, and integrity in word and action.
  5. Sustainability: We consider the health of our customers and our environment of utmost importance. As such, we are committed to supplying the latest in eco-friendly, efficient equipment, and service.

5 Characteristics of Effective Communication

Build It Green has identified five key characteristics of effective communication based upon our customer satisfaction scoring.

Successful home performance contractors:

  1. Educate the homeowner/customer on general energy efficiency & health and safety.
  2. Respond quickly to customer questions and needs (preferably by appointment or over the phone).
  3. Make sure their customers completely understand the work they are recommending and performing in their homes.
  4. Set expectations and follow up regularly (more than once) with their customer after the installation is done to ensure complete satisfaction and safety.
  5. Communicate all changes to their customer regardless if the change may improve the energy savings.

Customers are more likely to recommend businesses to their friends and family members if they experience direct, consistent, and honest communication from home performance companies. Even when the job encounters changes and/or delays, customers prefer to be given details, solutions, and confident assurance that their home, their money, and their time are in good hands with your business. Communicate often, communicate clearly, and communicate honestly.

7-Step Communication Process for Your Team

An example of a successful communication process for home performance work may include:

  1. Lead technician checks in with the homeowner on day 1 of installation to discuss the flow of work for the project and goes over a timeline for completion.
  2. Lead technician checks in with the homeowner on a day-to-day basis to discuss the work being performed that day and communicates any adjustments to the timeline for completion.
  3. Install team all introduces themselves to the homeowner on day 1 of installation. This creates a more personal experience and ensures the homeowner feels safe and valued as a customer.
  4. When all work is complete, lead technician completes “walk through” with the homeowner carefully explaining what was done and how this impacts comfort, safety, and energy efficiency.
  5. A follow-up call is made one week after installation is complete by the lead technician. The purpose of this call is to ensure equipment is working and homeowner is satisfied with the initial performance and comfort of the home.
  6. A follow-up call is made 14 days after installation is complete by an administrative staff member to ensure ongoing satisfaction.
  7. Maintenance inspections are performed by the lead technician on a yearly or bi-yearly basis.

Excellent communication with your customers requires consistent practice, evaluation, and adjustment. Get to know your customers. Ask them questions about their homes and families. Find out what they want, what they need, and what they like. Use this information to tailor your communication for an extraordinary customer experience. Your customer is your advocate, give them an incredible story to share!

Home Energy Score 2-Day Boot Camp | Santa Maria

Join us for a two-day boot camp to complete the online DOE Sim Training & Testing and score your first home with a mentor to become a qualified Home Energy Score Assessor.

Home Energy Score is a great way to enhance your business. You can supply customers with reliable home energy information to help them save money on energy costs and live more comfortably in their homes by becoming a Home Energy Score Assessor. We want to help you take the next steps in completing the Home Energy Score training and testing requirements.

Check your qualifications here: https://betterbuildingssolutioncenter.energy.gov/home-energy-score/become-assessor

 

Agenda
Day 1- Classroom Training
When: Wednesday, March 14th | 8am-5pm
Classroom: Santa Maria Inn,  801 S Broadway, Santa Maria, CA 93454 (Kent Room)Day 2- Online Exam + Mentor AssessmentWhen: Thursday, March 15th | 8am-6pm
Classroom: Santa Maria Inn,  801 S Broadway, Santa Maria, CA 93454 (Kent Room)
Test House: TBD Santa Maria, CA

*Mentor Assessment | Must complete Sim Training to attend Mentor Assessment.

What to Expect

Day 1:

This full-day classroom computer training will prepare you to pass the DOE online simulation testing, which is required to offer the Home Energy Score. Led by a qualified mentor, we will begin the day with a simulation tutorial and walk you through completing a test house scenario. Mentors will also provide tips and tricks to completing the training and testing.

Day 2:

The morning classroom session run through the simulation tutorial and prepare you for taking the DOE online simulation test. The afternoon is comprised of a program mentor accompanying you on your first Home Energy Assessment. This will take approximately two hours and will count towards the mentoring requirements set forth by the program. Once you complete the Assessment, submit all required documentation and run the Score, you will be a qualified Home Energy Score Assessor!

Registration:

Registration for the boot camp will close on Monday, March 12th. Cost to attend is $25, which includes lunch and refreshments on Day 1 and Day 2.

Cancellations / Refunds
View Build It Green’s Terms and Conditions 

What to bring:

Day 1

  • Laptop with wifi-capability (current version of Mozilla Firefox or Apple Safari web-browsers recommended) and Microsoft Excel 2007 or newer, to run the Assessor Calculator
  • Microsoft Excel 2007 or newer, to run the Assessor Calculator
  • Graph paper or notebook and pencil

Day 2

  • Tape Measure and/or Laser Measure
  • Graph paper or notebook and pencil
  • Clipboard
  • Digital Camera**
  • Calculator**

**Most cell phones have both

If you have any questions regarding the two-day boot camp training, please send an email to HomeEnergyScore@builditgreen.org, or give us a call at (510) 285-6222.

10 Tips to Sail Through FQC and CIP

Following these tips will help you spend less time on go-backs and remediating problems so you can spend more time selling and installing new jobs.

 

1. Keep EUC materials on-hand for reference. Use resources such as the NGAT Action Guidelines, Make Safe Procedure, 2016 Whole House Combustion Appliance Safety Test Procedure, and Home Upgrade Installation Specs.

 

2. Communicate with your team. Incorporate testing and quality installation requirements as topics in your regular meetings with field staff to ensure all health, safety, and program requirements are met.

 

3. Take ownership. Participating contractors are responsible for the work listed in their signed scope of work (e.g. measures claimed for the application) and for the safe operation of all combustion safety appliances. Regardless if combustion appliances are included in the signed scope of work agreement, per program requirements, you are still responsible for making sure the appliance operates safely. Are you only doing an HVAC changeout, but the water heater is spilling and has insufficient CVA? In this example you are still responsible correcting the safety issues with the water heater.

 

4. Be thorough! Test all accessible gas lines and follow all testing protocols when inspecting combustion appliance safety.

 

5. FQC visits are program requirements and help ensure success. Keep homeowners informed that they may be selected for a Build it Green field quality control inspection or a PG&E CIP inspection. All jobs with incentive amounts greater than $10K require mandatory PG&E CIP inspections.

 

6. Be prepared and plan ahead. Go-backs are costly and take away from your company’s productivity. Whether it’s for safety, energy-saving measures, or mechanical ventilation installation, it’s important to be prepared to remedy any issues before the job’s completion.

 

7. Communicate with the homeowner. Many customer complaints arise from misquoting rebate amounts, not discussing the importance of safety and field quality control requirements, and not following up with customer complaints. These are all fixable by communicating expectations with homeowners and following up in a timely manner. Let the homeowner know what to expect from the beginning of the job through its completion and follow up!

 

8. Document, document, document. From safety concerns to recommendations for a customer to install mechanical ventilation, we recommend contractors document all issues that arise. Take photos for your file and use the test measurements form to submit records for the Build It Green Desktop Review and Field Quality Control teams.

 

9. Incorporate balanced ventilation strategies. While auditors must observe indoor air quality and ventilation requirements on every project, it is particularly important when Whole Building Air Sealing is performed. Although BPI-1200 currently references ASHRAE 62.2-2013 for whole-building ventilation requirements, California references a version of ASHRAE 62-2010. Build It Green recommends all participating contractors consult their local code-enforcement for ventilation requirements during work-scope development prior to installation on all projects.

 

10. Air seal thoroughly. A best practice whole-house approach for a typical Home Upgrade Program project would be to air seal as much as possible to reduce energy loss and to provide balanced mechanical ventilation while minimizing unwanted pollutants from entering the home. For a helpful resource, Build It Green recommends referencing the online ASHRAE 62.2-2010 (California) mechanical ventilation calculator located here (an ASHRAE 62.2 2013 mechanical ventilation calculator is also available).

Cake Systems update for AHU Participants

Earth Advantage (the developer/owner of CakeSystems versions 1.0-1.8) is discontinuing support for CakeSystems energy-modeling software as they have decided to re-focus their efforts towards projects that more closely align with their organization’s mission.

Some CakeSystems users will be transitioned off of CakeSystems on December 31st, 2017. Others will be transitioned by the end of the first quarter of 2018 (this depends on the type of user agreement they have with specific software-user customers). If you don’t know what your contract end date is, please contact Earth Advantage for more information.

If you use (or were planning on using) CakeSystems software for modeling Advanced Home Upgrade projects, please contact Build It Green at 510-285-6222 to discuss the other approved software options (OptiMiser or SnuggPro).

If you use SnuggPro or OptiMiser energy-modeling software, you do not need to take any action at this time. Both of those software options are continuing to support their products going forward.

SoCalGas Incentive Funds Limited – Reserve Your Projects!

Due to the overwhelming success and limited incentive funds, the SoCalGas Home Upgrade program will need to close early in 2017. This change impacts only the SoCalGas side of the PG&E Home Upgrade Program.

  • Projects in areas solely served by PG&E will continue as normal.
  • Projects in PG&E/SCG split territory will include only the electric savings and incentive.

SoCalGas asks that reservations for 2017 funds be submitted by September 30.  Applications from shared PG&E/SCG territory will be considered “reserved” if a signed scope of work is submitted by September 30, 2017. It is imperative that you reserve your projects and receive confirmation as soon as possible and before you begin construction to protect your company from liability and maintain your good reputation with your customers. The SoCalGas incentive program will resume with new funds in 2018.

New: Safety and Quality Acknowledgment Form

An updated version of the Safety and Quality Acknowledgment (SQA) Form (pdf) has been uploaded to the homeupgrade.org document library. The following items are now included in the new form:

  • HVAC Permit Information

  • Heat Producing Devices Verification

  • GSR Field Order number (if applicable)

The old version of the SQA form will not be accepted after July 21. If you continue to use the old form until that deadline, please submit the HPD form with your supplemental documents. Please review this revised form and contact your Account Manager if you have questions.

AC & Pool Pump Kickers Expire July 31!

The eligibility for Advanced Home Upgrade AC & pool pump “kicker” incentives has changed.
In 2014-2017, PG&E offered Advanced Home Upgrade participants in eligible ZIP codes additional “kickers” of $400 for installation of ≥14 SEER/12 EER AC systems and $200 for the installation of variable speed pool pumps (must be turned off or set to low speed between 2 – 7 pm).

These kickers were designed to reduce demand on over-burdened electric sub-stations. The kickers will expire on July 31, 2017. If you have any jobs that may be impacted by this change, job status must be at least “Initial Pre-installation Submitted” by July 31, 2017 to still be processed with the kicker. The following ZIP codes were eligible for this kicker that expires July 31.

Winter Refrigerant Charge Verification for Final Permits

To comply with SB 1414, Home Upgrade participating contractors must upload a copy of the signed-off permit after final inspection for jobs with air conditioners and heat pumps. The requirement may impact the typical job completion process for some of you, as standard refrigerant charge verification cannot be completed if the ambient outdoor temperature is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your application requires a final, signed-off permit, but you are unable to schedule a standard Title-24 HERS refrigerant charge verification due to outdoor temperature, you may elect to complete a “Winter Refrigerant Charge Verification.” The full details are found on page 9-42 of the 2016 Residential Compliance Manual.

From the manual, “Compliance with HERS verification when the outdoor temperatures are less than 55 degrees F can be demonstrated using one of the following alternatives:

a. The installer may use the weigh-in charging procedure, but elect to have the system verified by a HERS rater using the RA3.2.2 standard charge verification procedure at a time when the temperature is warmer. However, this option can delay the project. In this case, the installer must include the signatures of the homeowner and the HERS Rater on the CF2R – MCH25c form to notify the local enforcement agency that a correct refrigerant charge will be verified at a later time (RA 2.4.4). The installer must also provide written notice to the homeowner that the charge has not yet been verified (RA2.4.4).

b. EXCEPTION 1 to §150.2(b)1Fiib provides for an alternative HERS verification procedure if the weigh-in method is used. This exception allows the installer to use the HERS Rater verification procedure in RA3.2.3.2 in which the rater observes the installer while the installer performs the weigh-in charging procedure. However, when the HVAC installer elects this option, as specified in RA3.2.3.2, the system thermostat must be an OCST [Occupant Controlled Smart Thermostat] that conforms to the requirements of JA5.”

If your job scope includes an air conditioner and/or heat pump but you are unable to acquire a final, signed-off permit following either the standard charge procedure or winter refrigerant charge procedure, your application may not be approved for payment. We ask that you to maintain clear, detailed, and open communication with your customers if you expect delays to avoid customer dissatisfaction with your company or the Home Upgrade Program.

Home Upgrade 2017 Program Changes

Dear Energy Upgrade California® Home Upgrade Participant,

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and Build It Green will continue offering the Energy Upgrade California® Home Upgrade program in 2017. PG&E remains committed to the ongoing success of the home performance industry and meeting Californiaís long-term energy efficiency and carbon reduction goals. PG&E is optimizing the program in 2017 to drive enhanced energy savings outcomes for customers.

Please read the entirety of this message and note the following rebate changes and permitting requirements are effective January 1, 2017:

Changes to the Home Upgrade Pathway

  • New rebate range for Home Upgrade pathway is $1,000 to $2,500. Rebates will be capped at 50% of the total project cost.
  • The Home Upgrade point system will be eliminated.
  • In addition to 3 required measures and one required Base Measure, projects must meet the following rebate minimum in order to qualify for the program:
    • $1,000 minimum for homes built on or before December 31st, 1992 (vintage 92 or older)

    • $1,500 minimum for homes built on or after January 1st, 1993 (vintage 93-01)
  • The Whole Building Air Sealing (15%) measure will be removed.
  • Available rebates will be reduced by 42%. Reference Chart below for details.
  • Measure technical specifications will be updated to meet or exceed 2016 California Building Code. Reference Chart below for updated specifications for the measures that are changing.
  • Scope of work signed by the customer must be submitted for each rebate application.
  • All applications must complete a rebate reservation request to reserve rebate funds. Rebates will be offered on a first come, first served basis. Once all rebate funds have been reserved, projects will be placed on a waitlist.
  • Applications in “Created” status for more than 60 days will be automatically canceled.
  • Applications in “Contractor Action Required” status for more than 60 days will be automatically canceled. Participants will receive reminder emails before the application is cancelled.
Measures Current Rebate 2017 Rebate
Base Measures (choose 1 or more)
Duct Sealing $250 $200
Duct Replacement $650 $350
Whole Building Air Sealing (15%) $250 $0
Whole Building Air Sealing (30%) $450 $300
Attic Insulation & Plane Air Sealing $650 $500
Flex Measures
Wall Insulation $550 $400
Floor Insulation $550 $400
Duct Insulation $400 $250
Efficient Gas Furnace (92% AFUE) $600 $350
Efficient Gas Furnace (95% AFUE) $700 $400
Efficient Gas Wall Furnace $400 $250
Efficient Central Air Conditioner $750 $500
High Performance Window $700 $700
Efficient Gas Water Heater (EF .67) $350 $200
Efficient Gas Water Heater (EF .70) $450 $300
Tankless Water Heater $900 $500
Efficient Electric Water Heater $400 $500
Kickers
High Performance HVAC Install $0 $200
TOTAL $8,950 $6,300
Measure Current Technical Specifications 2017 Technical Specifications*
Duct Replacement Seal to ≤ 6% for replacement ducts Seal to ≤ 5% for replacement ducts
Whole Building Air Sealing ≥ 15% leakage reduction from vintage table defaults OR ≥ 30% leakage reduction from vintage table defaults ≥ 30% leakage reduction from vintage table default
Attic Insulation & Plane Air Sealing Insulation ≥ R-44 Insulation ≥ R-44 Insulation ≥ R-19 if there is less than 24″ of attic clearance Insulation must be installed in 50% or more of all accessible attic area
Wall Insulation Insulation ≥ R-13 Insulate ≥ R-13 for 2×4 frame Insulate ≥ R-19 for 2×6 frames
Efficient Gas Wall Furnace ≥ 70% AFUE ≥ 76% AFUE
High Performance Window SHGC ≤ 0.25; U-Factor ≤ 0.32 SHGC ≤  0.25 or less; U-Factor ≤ 0.30

* Measures included in this chart are changing in 2017. All other measure technical specifications will remain.

High Performance HVAC Installation Kicker will require the system meets the following performance targets:

METRIC PERFOMANCE TARGET
Maximum Capacity Seal to ≤ 5% for replacement ducts
Cooling coil airflow ≥ 30% leakage reduction from vintage table default
Duct installation and airtightness 3% total leakage, short runs, fully extended, run low (buried in insulation)
Delivered sensible EER >85% of manufacturer performance tables
Room air delivery 3 degree and 5 pascal max deviation
Ventilation ASHRAE 62.2-2010 minimum ventilation @> 5cfm/watt

Changes to the Advanced Home Upgrade pathway:

  • Incentives will be capped at 50% of the total project cost.
  • PG&E will advertise an incentive amount of “up to $5,500” instead of “up to $6,500” in program marketing materials.
  • Negative modeled kWh and therms savings will be subtracted from positive modeled energy savings before the incentive is calculated.
  • Incentives will be offered on a first come, first served basis. Once all funds have been reserved, projects will be placed on a waitlist.
  • Contractors with “C” CSLB licenses consistent with the scope of work installed may participate in Advanced Home Upgrade: C-2, C-4, C-20, and C-36. Other C-license types may be considered for approval by Build it Green and PG&E on a case-by-case basis.
  • Applications in “Pre-Install Created” status for more than 60 days will be automatically canceled. Applications in “Pre-Install Contractor Action Required” status for more than 60 days will also be automatically canceled. Participants will receive reminder emails before the application is cancelled.

Changes in the SoCalGas PG&E Shared Territory:

  • There are no changes to the rebates, incentives, or point structure of Home Upgrade or Advanced Home Upgrade. The Whole Building Air Sealing (15% leakage reduction from vintage table defaults) measure will be removed.
  • Rebates and incentives for the Home Upgrade and Advanced Home Upgrade will be capped at 50% of the total project cost.
  • Measure technical specifications will be updated to meet or exceed 2016 California Building Code. Reference Chart above for updated specifications for the measures that are changing.
  • All applications must complete a rebate reservation request to reserve rebate funds. Rebates will be offered on a first come, first served basis. Once all rebate funds have been reserved, projects will be placed on a waitlist.

End-of-Year and Program Changes Timeline:

  • January 1, 2017 New Rebate Amounts Effective
    Any project sold to the customer on or after January 1, 2017 is subject to the rebate changes. Date of project will be verified by the date of customer signature on the scope of work. Due to system upgrades, projects sold to the customer in 2017 will not be accepted in the Job Submission Portal until February 8, 2017.
  • January 9, 2017 Recommended Date to Submit 2016 projects
    Any project eligible for 2016 incentives must have a scope of work with the customer signature dated in 2016. We recommend participants submit Home Upgrade applications and Advanced Home Upgrade post-install applications to the Job Submission Portal by January 9, 2017 to meet the February 1, 2017 deadline. This allows Build it Green ample time for application review, application corrections, and installation corrections as needed.
  • February 1, 2017 Deadline for 2016 Rebate Application Approval
    Applications in progress must a status of “Application Approved” (Home Upgrade) or “Post-Installation Approved” (Advanced Home Upgrade) in the Job Submission Portal by February 1, 2017 to be eligible for 2016 rebate amounts. Home Upgrade applications not approved by February 1, 2017 will be cancelled. Projects will need to be created as new applications in the Job Submission Portal beginning February 8, 2017.
  • February 8, 2017 Job Portal Reopens
    All 2017 projects can be submitted to the Job Submission Portal. No 2016 projects will be accepted.

Permit Closure Requirements for all AC and Heat Pump installations

  • Please review the previous announcement on Senate Bill 1414.

Register for Our Webinar

  • Build It Green is hosting two webinars to review the 2017 Program Changes and answer questions. Register for one of these two dates:

Permit Closure Requirements for All AC and Heat Pump Installations

A new law, SB1414, requires PG&E to collect proof of permit closure before paying energy efficiency rebates or incentives for central air conditioning or heat pumps and their related fans beginning January 1, 2017.

Why Does This Matter to Me?
Customers already self-certify that their projects comply with all applicable permitting requirements and that they used a licensed contractor if required. Additionally, participating contractors already certify that HVAC measures followed all permitting requirement and provide a permit number for the project.

This new law will require that for central AC and heat pump projects, the customer or contractor also provide proof that the permit was closed by the local building authority. Starting January 1, 2017, PG&E cannot legally pay incentives or rebates to customers or contractors for central air-conditioning or heat pumps and their related fans without collecting proof of permit closure. This may delay the processing of payment and savings claims for some projects.

To comply with law, maintain customer satisfaction, and reach our energy savings goals, all stakeholders need to be aware of this change.

What Measures Are Affected?
For both Advanced Home Upgrade and Home Upgrade pathways:

  • Central air conditioning including: air handlers with air conditioning; split and packaged units
  • Heat pumps including: air handlers with heat pumps; air source, ground source, hybrid etc; split and package units
  • Fans associated with central air conditioning or heat pumps.

Measures that are believed not to be affected:

  • Installation of VFDs onto existing central air conditioning, heat pumps, or fans.
  • Non-fan component replacements (e.g. blower motor upgrades)
  • Cogged V-belts upgrades
  • Quality maintenance measures (except fan replacements)
  • Heat pump water heaters

What Are My Options?
If your rebate or incentive will be issued on or after January 1, 2017, you will need to submit proof of permit closure to Build It Green (in addition to the SQA form) before PG&E can issue payment.

Proof of permit closure documentation varies by jurisdiction and permit type. Until further notice, documentation that indicates proof of permit closure must be provided by the authority having jurisdiction (e.g. local permitting office), include the permit number, customer name and address, and an indication that the permit has been closed and/or final.

You can avoid potential delays in rebate or incentive payments associated with the permit closure process by completing your project and receiving an incentive before December 31, 2016. If you are able and interested in this option, contact your account representative at Build It Green to determine when your project would need to be fully installed in order to meet that deadline.

Note: These requirements apply to all Home Upgrade and Advanced Home Upgrade applications that include affected measures and are not Approved by Desktop QA by 11/30/2016.

Where Can I Find Out More About This Requirement?