Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Energy Upgrade California and EnergyPro, part 2

I followed up on what I learned in the January 20 workshop by contacting a fellow Santa Cruz Construction Guild member, General Contractor Scott Milrod. Scott is very involved these days with home energy upgrade projects, and is qualified as a participating contractor in the EUC rebate program. It turned out that Scott had already started on a demonstration project with Ecology Action. The EUC rebates come in two “flavors”:

  • Basic – a $1,000. rebate given for installation of a prescriptive package of energy-efficiency upgrades.
  • Advanced – a $1,000 – 4,000 performance-based rebate. The amount awarded is determined by the amount of improvement (reduction in household energy cost). The contractor and homeowner can choose from a wide variety of improvement measures. Choices are customized to fit the individual situation.

The required “as-built” testing and EnergyPro modeling were complete, so the work remaining to be completed before submitting a “pre-installation” application for a rebate was the dreaded paperwork. That’s where I was able to get involved and help out, while learning about the process. Actually, “paperwork” is an outdated term, since all of the required forms can be completed and submitted online. This “paperless” process is available through the EUC website, which was set up by the CEC to be a “one-stop shop for energy upgrades”, including rebate and incentive programs all over the state. For our demonstration project, the application process involved completing and submitting the following:

  1. An on-line, guided application form.
  2. At least one year’s worth of energy use/cost data. In this case that meant natural gas and electricity use data from PG&E.
  3. An EnergyPro model of the house, first with the existing conditions, then with the proposed improvements
  4. The contractor’s proposal to the homeowner
  5. A test measurements form, created by PG&E, for recording safety-related test data, such as interior CO emissions from gas appliances.
  6. An Excel worksheet containing much of the same data as the online application.
  7. A copy of an authorization form, signed by the homeowner, giving EUC permission to use the energy data in the rebate application process.
All of this was completed a couple of days ago. Now we wait for the application to be reviewed. When that happens, I’ll give you all an update. Another future topic that may be of interest is a discussion of the kinds of home energy upgrade products and methods that are available these days. Energy costs are a concern to everyone these days, so it’s important for designers and contractors to be able to address clients’ needs in this area.

Energy Upgrade California and EnergyPro, part 1

On January 20, I attended the morning session of an EnergyPro / Energy Upgrade California workshop. I have used EnergyPro for many years to do T24 compliance calculations and documentation for building permit submittals, so I was interested in learning about new uses for a very good software program. The workshop explained how EnergyPro can be used to analyze the benefits of upgrades to home energy-efficiency measures; things like adding insulation, fixing leaky heating ducts and replacing old furnaces and windows. The Energy Upgrade California program offers rebates to homeowners for qualifying improvements. Requirements for documenting such improvements are fairly technical - that's where EnergyPro can help. The software includes extensive capabilities to model a wide range of energy-efficiency improvements, and the ability to generate reports for documentation.

The workshop did not assume any prior knowledge of EnergyPro, so the morning session was spent in a basic introduction to the workings of the software. It seemed to me that about one-third of the attendees were already familiar with EnergyPro, so there was not too much new information for us. Of interest to me was instruction on the use of some sections of the software I'm less familiar with, including detailed modeling of HVAC system features. For my usual T24 compliance work, it's not necessary to go into such detail in that area.

I was sorry that I could not stay for the afternoon workshop session, which got into the actual production of Home Energy Assessment reports, and others required for the Energy Upgrade California rebate program. Energy analysts for the rebate program are required to possess knowledge, which I currently lack, of various testing procedures to show before/after improvements in energy efficiency. However, the preparation of a Home Energy Assessment report can be a very effective sales and marketing tool in itself. The report shows homeowners how much money they can save on their energy bills by installing specific energy-saving measures. I plan to get into that area, in partnership with contractors equipped to do the necessary testing.