Efficiency First California's Blog

TEDx HPC Conference 2018

This year, the Home Performance Coalition hosted it's first annual TEDx event at its national conference in Philadelphia. The room was packed, the BYOB was flowing and the energy was lively.

Fourteen efficiency experts told stories of their experiences in the field. Topics ranged from personal narratives about the challenges of doing this important work in difficult circumstances to inspiring and sobering talks that reminded us why what we do is so important.

While it's impossible to capture the energy and enthusiasm in the room in summary form, here's a rundown of each speaker’s presentation.

The Real Heroes Of Home Performance

In all the discussions about how to best save energy and power the future, people sometimes forget that the clean energy system of tomorrow will be built not on spreadsheets or by some fancy computer modeling tool, but by hardworking crews in the field. These folks often don’t get enough credit for what they do. But as those of us who’ve run businesses dedicated to building this future know, attracting and keeping the skilled workers who make it all possible is often the biggest challenge.

When you become a business owner you quickly learn the true cost and value of employees. Good ones are hard to find, especially in tight labor markets where there are more jobs than bodies. California is experiencing a significant labor shortage in the trades right now.

The Best Energy Source For Our Future

We need to transition to clean energy

When it comes to energy, society is at a crossroads. Our existing supplies are heavily based on fossil fuels, a limited and dirty solution. There is no question that we must transition to a cleaner and more sustainable future. Fortunately, there are alternatives to the current system, but we need to be realistic about both the technical challenges and opposition of entrenched interests to this necessary change.

When Good Incentives Go Bad

It’s a common practice to try to encourage or change behavior with incentives. Parents do it all the time. Have you ever agreed to do something for the reward that was promised upon completion? Finished your dinner so you could have ice cream? Or as Pink Floyd famously sang “how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?”

Advocacy Update: The State of California

We’re taking a departure from the goings on at the state capital and will instead focus on some events that are occurring across the state of California.

The landscape for energy efficiency incentive programs in California is changing. Late last year, a program in Southern California announced a funding cap for the year 2018. The program implementers anticipated the funds would last roughly 3 to 6 months and then be exhausted. Effectively the program will still exist through the end of the year, but without incentives, it doesn’t have a lot to offer.

Get Fire Out Of Our Buildings

There is some debate among scholars over when humans first learned to control fire. A large body of evidence suggests people have been using it for around 600,000 years, but recent discoveries have pushed the date back to as far as 1 million years ago. Regardless of when exactly it started, there is no question that controlling fire has changed the course of human evolution. Fire allowed our ancestors to cook food, fend off predators, and venture into harsh climates. It encouraged people to gather together in groups and stay up into the night, and for millions of years it has made our dwellings warm and comfortable. But as amazing as it’s been, using fire is not without problems, especially as our population gets larger and environmental concerns grow.

Will Data Save Home Performance?

Having a good way to measure efficiency is valuable to the home performance industry for many reasons. Easy to obtain, low cost, accurate savings data can be used to better educate consumers, close sales and help crews use their time more effectively when installing upgrades. Accurate data enables rebate programs to maximize every dollar spent on incentives. Good data can help legislators understand the real value of energy efficiency in order to pass regulations to support it. As accountants have said for years, in order to manage something, you have to be able to measure it. Perhaps that’s where the phrase “watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves” comes from.

Is Health The Future of Home Performance?

In a previous blog, The Latest Trend in Home Performance: Why You Should Be Concerned, I expressed some concerns about a recent trend in home performance of contractors focusing on the health benefits of retrofits as the primary selling point for an upgrade. My intent was to provide a bit of caution about the reality of dealing with clients who have health concerns. Meeting expectations when someone is sick can be a challenge. I suggested that as an industry we should be cautious about what we promise to deliver.

Advocacy Update: EM&V 2.0

The conversation at the CPUC this month has been focused on Evaluation, Measurement, and Verification or as it is more commonly referred to EM&V.

Consider the process of designing an incentive program, the basic idea is you are giving out money to achieve a desired result. Typically you make some forecasts of how things will work (referred to as ex-ante forecasts) and then review the actual results after a period of time.

Now that your program is up and running how do you tell if you are achieving the desired result? This is where EM&V comes in. You evaluate the situation, measure the results, and verify they are true.

3 Myths About Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Recently I wrote a blog about the October 2017 firestorms in Northern California. I live and work in the city of Sonoma and was directly affected by the fires. My family and I evacuated our home and waited out the fires on safer grounds until the danger passed. We are OK, life has resumed, but the impact on the region will last for several years.

In my last post, I wrote about how air quality was impacted in the area, and how people responded by using N95 face masks to protect themselves--a strategy that will be very familiar to home performance professionals. While living through this experience, I noticed a number of other things about how people responded, which brought to mind some misconceptions many people have about air quality and home performance that I wanted to talk about.