News - Charles Cormany

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.

Fire, Smoke, and N-95s

Northern California’s wine country lies about 45 miles North of San Francisco. There are two prominent valleys, lauded for their beauty and serenity, with rich soils and the perfect climate for growing grapes. The region produces some of the finest wines in the world.

I live and work in the town of Sonoma, located at the southernmost part of the Sonoma Valley. It’s a beautiful place and I consider myself fortunate to have made decisions that have allowed my family to grow and thrive in this small community. Our town is nestled quietly in a serene valley amongst hills covered in oak trees and dense vegetation.

Advocacy Update: September 2017

Third Party Programs
Typically I don’t focus on incentive programs as part of our advocacy efforts. Rebate program conversations can take up precious bandwidth with meager outcomes. This month I am taking exception and would like to discuss the radical new changes happening to rebates in the near future.
 
First off I need to mention that California is well on the way to having a residential performance based rebate program. PG&E has a Pilot Pay-For-Performance (P4P) program in the works and we should see it roll out any day now. Paying rebates on measured performance is a fundamental change in how things are done. We will keep a close eye on this one.
 

The Latest Trend in Home Performance: Why You Should Be Concerned

For the past couple of years there has been a lot of conversation in the industry about indoor air quality and the health benefits of home performance upgrades. Even the certification folks have jumped on the bandwagon, offering special certifications for home inspections that focus on health and indoor air quality. There is no question that energy upgrades can improve the indoor environment of a home or building; this has always been one of the non-energy benefits of home performance upgrades. The real question is, does this warrant a change in messaging for the home performance industry? Should we be driving the industry to focus on promoting health benefits as a way to stimulate growth and potentially spur market transformation?

Advocacy Update: August 2017

Residential Pay-For-Performance is gaining traction in California. PG&E is close to launching a Pilot program and hopefully will have it in place by the end of the year. The other three IOUs (Investor Owned Utilities) are watching closely.

Running the current Energy Upgrade California rebate program is expensive and by most accounts is not sustainable. How expensive? Check out this chart I created from the recently released CPUC report on EE portfolio costs.

Fiscal Year 2015 - Energy Upgrade California - CPUC Program Expense Report

The True Value of an Energy Audit

Residential energy efficiency, or home performance, has historically been based on measured results. A contractor physically goes to the location, performs a variety of tests and takes all kinds of measurements and then determines a plan of attack to improve the home using building science principles. After the work is complete, the contractor performs the same tests again to validate or verify the results. This “test-in/test-out” process provides measurable and repeatable outcomes.