Off to the Home Performance Races

April 16, 2006
Home Performance Special Issue 2006
A version of this article appears in the Home Performance Special Issue 2006 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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        I like to break things down into simple steps—like crawl,walk, and run. As a whole, the home performance contracting (HPC) industry is still in the crawling stage, but some individual HPC businesses have surpassed walking, and are off and running. In this special edition of Home Energy, Home Performance Contracting— A Business Development Guide, you will find tips and guidance from these leading-edge businesses—guidance that should shorten your time crawling around trying to figure out how to make HPC work in your business and increase your momentum toward a well-run operation. HPC is gaining traction in the HVAC and remodeling industries as the real way to deliver comfort and high quality home improvement projects. Don’t be left behind. Use this special edition to get out of the starting blocks cleanly and to learn how you can pick up your pace and profits with HPC.
        As many of you know, home performance contracting takes a whole-house approach to energy efficiency, using diagnostic testing to determine problems, and delivering solutions to those problems to the homeowner. A good home performance contractor will test-in and testout of a house, all part of a good quality assurance program.A good quality assurance program protects the health and safety of the homeowner, and ensures the quality of the work, providing value to the homeowner.
        HPC is off to the races most noticeably in New York,Wisconsin, California, and Texas. Within these states, and within a dozen more, there are program sponsors running Home Performance with Energy Star programs. Program sponsors partner with Energy Star to oversee a network of quality contractors, to provide a quality assurance program for those contractors, and to ensure the proper use of the Energy Star mark and reporting. More than 17,000 homes have been served the whole-house way. Indeed, there are contractors providing HPC outside of these Energy Star programs, and they too believe that it is clearly the way to do business.
        Yet for every program and home performance contracting firm that is up and running, there are many that are just crawling or taking first steps. EPA, DOE, and HUD are making efforts to ease their transitions to surer strides, and this business development guide is one such effort. I encourage all program managers and contractors alike to read these stories with an eye to borrowing from the best and to using the strategies of these industry leaders to give yourselves an advantage as you move forward within the HPC industry. And there is no better place to learn more about this industry than to attend the annual ACI Home Performance conferences.
        It is a joy to be a part of this industry and to watch it mature. More than twenty years ago, I watched the beginnings of this industry at the then Affordable Comfort conference (now ACI) as weatherization contractors began to understand the building science dynamics of residential housing. Weatherization branched out into wholehouse diagnostics, which is now maturing into market-based HPC. Today, we have knowledgeable contractors who can properly diagnose a sick house, then deliver comprehensive solutions that will make the house comfortable, safe, durable, and efficient. And yes,homeowners are willing to pay for this service that ensures better indoor air and the peace of mind of reduced consumption of electricity, oil, propane, and water—at a time of ever increasing prices. This HPC ain’t your father’s HVAC or insulation delivery service! Home performance contractors are bringing building science into the living rooms,attics, and basements and becoming the go-to comfort professionals for their appreciative customers.
        As you read these stories from some of the most successful home performance operations, an underlying theme of “doing things right” becomes tangible. Comprehensive work increases job size and profit margins—and that’s certainly a prerequisite for staying in business—but HPC adds up to even more than larger profits.HPC delivers profits while providing complete solutions that improve health, comfort, and the environment—now that’s a good business in every sense of the word.
        Clearly, this comprehensive service delivery business requires commitment, investment, and patience. This will not be a short journey; expect some tough terrain. You’ve already taken your first,maybe even your tenth, step by picking up this guide. Now pick up your pace and run!
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