Friday, November 25, 2016

We Don't Need Home Energy Auditors

Bad news: A broken feather in Mayor Hales' cap:
Find City Council action at the link. 

Press Release: Home Energy Score Policy Adopted by Portland City Council  
Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016

Thanks to Lore Wintergreen, I can report the following:
The 12/14/2016 City Council action is subject to amendment upon public comments submitted before August 24, 2017. Send by email to: using subject line: “Home Energy Score comments” or similar, or by mail to: Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Home Energy Score comments, 1900 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201. Comments received after 6:00 p.m. on August 24 will not be considered part of the record.

Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) will hold a Public Hearing on August 24, 2017 from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. at 1900 SW 4th Ave., Room 7A (seventh floor), Portland, OR 97201. These rules clarify requirements for home sellers, home builders, and home energy assessors.

Where Kyle Diesner received my criticism of the intended Mayor Hales action, and we talked at length about my disappointment, I was not invited to the further commenting.

I have no use for programs that elevate do-nothing green jobs, in defiance of the public interest. These flow from the US Department of Energy as Home Performance with Energy Star, HPwES , and Home Energy Score, HES . These programs do create employment for those who would have  a green job, but need the respectability of "working" with clean hands, in a clean shirt, and that is not an accomplishment. The programs are very inefficient in accomplishing actual home improvements, and must not be justified by any other goal. A Maryland study for all of USA reported an average sponsor cost for each HPwES job with some completion, of $3100. Find reported benefit to cost ratio of less than 0.1. That is a utility benefit vs. cost. Where a home owner may have more to gain, it is with the further cost of labor and materials, similar to the sponsor cost. Worse of the sponsor cost, accused programs have not made significant progress toward our possible energy independence and USA responsibility in slowing global warming. reports only 313,633 project completions from 2002 to 2013, and a trend of declining success. This total does not imply much completion in any home, and does not acknowledge poor return where blow and go interferes "forever" with best possible achievements.

The situation is worse in Oregon and other states diverted in the wasteful HPwES implementation, by a bad investment in a rival energy scoring program, Energy Performance Score, EPS . I have opposed EPS from the beginning, where I found it only confused home owners to inaction. Expensive and useless EPS is still offered , even as its buyers surrender to HES as an only and better scoring system. I believe Energy Trust of Oregon has wasted about twenty million dollars developing and pushing its EPS invention, about a factor of five more than it has doled out to ratepayers as incentives in job-completion rebates, over the matching time interval. Oregon's Public Utility Commission has been derelict in ensuring Public Purpose Funds are spent wisely. There is no admission of this criminal waste, as Energy Trust pushes its crew of HPwES/ raters to trick the people of Portland, Oregon:

Here is recent local news: (Click this headline to read one Oregon newspaper account.)

Mandate to require Home Energy Score for houses on market goes to City Council

This news is of a Portland City Council hearing held November 23, 2016. I attended, and spoke in opposition of the proposal. My comments were as stated in advance to our Citizens Utility Board .

Here are those remarks:
At 10/28/2016
I don’t support scoring and the employment of auditors as superior or necessary, in the achievement of ever-better home energy efficiency. For every home, we need a completion list for savings opportunities. Each completion is subject to three-party review and in many cases is eligible for 100% up-front financing, mainly to be repaid when a home is sold. No home may be sold without the competitive measure of its completion list. We eliminate incentive to pass problems on to the next guy, unaware if possible.

At 11/21/2016
I will be at the crucial City Hall hearing, this Wednesday, November 23rd at 9:45 AM. I hope I will have informed supporters, starting on a path to a better plan to achieve our promised residential energy conservation. We must stop our horribly-wasteful dissipation of Public Purpose funds in Energy Trust’s failed program that serves fewer than 1500 homes per year, while few contractors remain in the unprofitable business, and many cheat, ruining public confidence.
The HES plan would only further erode public confidence in their weatherization investments. The return upon investment in audits is near-zero, where real action is fumbled, trust is further eroded, and public support in financing is not offered.

I wish I had taken photos as a reporter, but will make do with publicly shared images.

I had only been to City Hall once before, outside like this and with no police presence. I was one of a usual half dozen who cared enough, with signs appealing for the City to expand, not reduce, enrollment at my high shool, Benson Polytechnic .

This time it was a public hearing in the second-floor council chamber.
Ninth up of the general participants and in that near seat, I spoke for a polite minute.
I stated only what I had already shared in this matter, input as comments to our Citizens Utility Board.

I want better. Let each home owner have a checklist he maintains, and can amend with his own verified work, not obliged to entanglements with an interests-conflicted auditor. Materials and supervised contracted work will be fully paid-for in up-front loans for all, mainly repaid in new beneficial mortgage, when a house is sold. As a new or newly-engaged homeowner picks up the task of completions or simply recording past completions of critical home maintenance, third party verification will involve competing Diligence Reporters . These reporters with sometimes-new skill as technical writers, will generally be self-employed individuals working in the cloud, making understood reports of completion of checklist steps with photos and notes. It will be well-rewarded and satisfying work, of superior value to all. Disinterested inspectors of a jurisdictional authority, will happily supervise things that matter to the jurisdiction. Reports will have many uses that reward the responsible home owner, and will be gladly paid-for by the home owner. A reporter may have continuing relationships with specific builders, but payment and loyalty are from each home owner. This goes a long way to preventing worker/ employer fraud and wrongful credit not related to depth and quality of work done. We will throw a big monkey wrench in the action of Gresham's Law to devalue good. Homes without a properly interested owner-occupant, will have solutions, somehow.

I was among a small minority asking disapproval, mainly realtors, who do not place the new buyer interests first. Speaking with that realtor leadership, I reported that as an exceptional weatherization contractor, I rarely succeed in offered work to a newly-impoverished buyer of a too-expensive  home soon to be underwater, passed-along with badly-missing insulation, decrepit HVAC, plumbing, and wiring, with maybe a fence edged in-the-dirt for prettiness, soon to rot. OK, they didn't want to hear all of that, and some is added here.

The really big presence was of the Home Performance crew, in red shirts with white 5" round stickers saying RIGHT TO KNOW.

Right to know, what? Here is a 2015 sample Home Energy Report , a 1970 two-story home of 1800 sf in Arkansas, with numbers to be studied. Boost score from a 2 to a 6 at unstated cost, for actions mainly an indeterminate amount of attic insulation and tuneup of HVAC ducts. Auditor knowledge of your home will have evaporated next day. You can't read what is wrong now, and know detail of what needs fixing. Reports can't be verified and will have bias favoring the seller who grudgingly bought the report instead of obviously-needed repairs.

Want better than a crummy 6, and you did all that was suggested? No clues are imagined or offered. The report will not deal with matters that can be more important that energy waste, such as galvanized drain or water pipes that just burst in the similar house next door, the sure fire risk in an awful StabLoc circuit breaker panel, or the impending bad consequences of dried-out and fallen-off insulation of wires in overheated lighting junction boxes. We need very professional home inspection in direct service of the buyer. A little-trained auditor does not measure up up a certified home inspector, Energy auditors must not be elevated by ordnance with mandatory employment, superior to a home inspector. 

At end-November, 2016, another Sample Home Energy Report is posted, again a 1970 home in Arkansas, this time sprawling one level, 1500 sf. There is to-impress apparent use a of complex mix of construction and heat source details. Here is my math review of the report, filed at Google Docs. The example is very flawed. I have now done a similar math review of the 2015 example. These efforts are difficult, with a full day of my time invested. A report read only as a made-up score, has no value. The difficult review will always find report errors, with no means to challenge them.

Home Energy Score is a national continuance in the scandal of Home Performance with Energy Star, a program of the US Department Of Energy still teaching the lie that a blower door is the means and measure of residential weatherization, awfully failing to deliver served homes and delivering yet worse in involved honesty, after the lie. Read about the HES program here:  
and here:

HES offers hope of more rating business for involved HPwES contractors and their supporting organizations, without any promise of improved residential energy conservation. The goal is simply to produce numbers, and business.

At bottom of post here write on for the brave reader, about failings of rating systems. We find an ally in Martin Holladay, in a March 20, 2012 Green Building Advisor post titled Energy Modeling Isn't Very Accurate . Find a good summary of the origin and virtue of EPS. Find contradiction that simple EPS is called better than complex HES, for older existing homes. National Renewable Energy Lab found otherwise in a 2015 report, Assessment of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Scoring Tool . 

I don't think we can know what to believe, except that as Martin Holladay advises, quoting modeling creator and critic Michael Blasnik, Experienced energy retrofit workers rarely rely on models. “When we make retrofit decisions, other factors like experience are more important than modeling,” said Blasnik. “Even if you need modeling to make design decisions, you don’t have to model every house. Model something well just once, and then apply the lesson to lots of buildings. If a house isn’t unique, modeling is a waste of time.”

I have forwarded this post to members of Portland's City Council:

I oppose this action, as I presented in the 11/23 hearing, and as summarized in this post at my blog.

We need up-front financing for all crucial home improvements, that is best accomplished by a present home owner; with no incentive then to pass problems, unawares if possible, to a next home owner. Audits have nothing to do in this. 100% honesty in completions at fairest cost, is attainable. We have so much work to do in USA, to be better global citizens. We all will soon see the sobering energy poverty that is common in Europe, and will wish for energy independence, for our individual welfare. Energy independence must be distributed equally. Know there is great evil where public investment mainly promotes the independence of the already-affluent. Energy independence at modest cost and a massive commitment, offers affluence for all.

The failure of high-overhead-cost sponsor programs in HPwES and the various rating schemes, is dwarfed by failure of another program invented in Portland, Oregon. Read this of program Clean Energy Works Oregon, now a business named Enhabit :
But the high cost associated with this high-level of service has proved to be a non-sustainable business model. The organization also faced a significant decline in its sales from $7.6 million in 2012 to $3.1 million in 2013, which led to cuts in the workforce and a shift in the business model. During the past year, the program has changed its name to Enhabit and its focus to “home renewal” beyond the traditional home performance upgrades to include seismic upgrades, radon reduction systems, and solar energy installations (Portland Business Journal 2015). In addition, up to 49 percent of financing can also be used for non energy measures, creating an avenue for contractors to fund non-energy related improvements.

I estimate that program costs of inefficient and unsuccessful Enhabit, are more than double the awful cost of HPwES, mentioned above. This is a sad end of an up-front financing vision, which we still need, in Oregon's legislature, offered by State Representative Jules Bailey, bill HB 2626 of 2009. We must not fail to learn lessons in this, as we seek a sustainable, low-program-cost, weatherization program, in rejection of Energy Trust's current programs. We must not let Energy Trust and poor-partner Enhabit wander on, playing games with rating schemes, serving fewer than 1500 households each year, with expenditure from residential contribution to our Public Purpose Fund, of about $100 million. I see that as overhead of $67,000 per home served.

At year-end 2016, add to this effort that failed to deter adoption of this 
City Of Portland Measure . 
Please read this, and see the blatant attempt to prolong waste in Energy Performance Score! This isn't about supporting a national HES experiment. Home Buyers will find further mayhem in a confusion of meaningless numbers for their unimproved homes.

Add here my appeals to the City, as Google Docs:
Proof of Conflicts of Interest 
Direct accusation against the most-serious conflict of interest 
I am very disappointed my region, and the nation, do not act now to mobilize weatherization of our homes in a way that will work, in up-front financing for all.