Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Finding a Local Energy Rater

Now that LEED® registration is almost complete, it is time to choose an Energy Rater.

The Greenbush project is taking the Energy Star path of the LEED Energy and Atmosphere category. This means the home design will be evaluated for meeting Energy Star requirments, and then will be tweaked to increase the level of energy efficiency beyond Energy Star standards. More points can be achieved by incresing the level of energy efficiency. An energy rater is needed to measure and verify this data. They will sign off on the LEED Energy and Atmosphere credits and send the information to our LEED provider.

Typically the LEED provider can suggest an energy rater to you, and it will most likely be someone that they have had positive experience with (and someone that can do the non-energy data collection too - more about that later). If you are building a LEED Home in a rural area like I am, I would suggest shopping around a little bit. The rates to certify a home as Energy Star differ from rater to rater. You can use anyone as long as they are RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network) certified (this is true whether you certify the LEED Home using Energy Star's Guidelines, or LEED's guidelines for Energy). With energy-efficiency increasing in popularity, the number of RESNET certified raters is growing daily. To find a certified RESNET rater close to you, go here.

It is my strong belief that if you can go local, you should. Buying local has less environmental impact and stimulates the local economy. Using a local energy rater also means that value is placed on their services, which promotes sustainability for the entire community by increasing the likelihood that more people will seek energy-efficient practices after word-of-mouth advertising.

By choosing a local rater, there are economic benefits to your project as well. Energy raters in rural communities are typically cheaper than raters found near an urban hub. For example, one energy rater local to the Greenbush project was half as expensive as one based out of the metro area. Most raters charge for transportation and lodging costs as well, which can really add up if you they need to drive 6.5 hours like they would for Greenbush.

The energy rater will perform two site visits to test the home’s energy-efficiency. One is after insulation, just before drywall is installed. The other is just prior to occupancy. The onsite inspections should include the following:

  • a blower door test to test the leakiness of the house,
  • a duct test to test the leakiness of the duct system, and
  • a thermal bypass inspection, which is a visual inspection of common construction areas where heat and cold can escape from a home.*

*information provided by the EPA

Energy rating is just one part of the LEED criteria verification. Other portions of it need to be verified as well. Sometimes, this person will be the same person who is your Energy Rater, if they have the proper training. As the LEED-H program has not been offiically rolled out yet, there may not be someone local to Greenbush to perform the non-energy data collection, and a rater from the metro area may have to be used. I am currently checking with the LEED provider on the options. I will get back to you on that progress as soon as I know!

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