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June 12, 2007

Draft Protocols for Energy-Efficient Remodeling

PATH is working with a national advisory group of industry representatives to develop protocols that home remodeling contractors can use to incorporate best practices for energy efficiency into their projects. Draft final documents of the air sealing and insulation protocols are available for review.

If there are attic knee-wall spaces, check to make sure they are sealed off from the attic floor.The protocols assess the specific contractor practices that affect energy efficiency of an existing home and identify improvements that offer the greatest economic returns and other important benefits to the homeowner over time. They provide guidance to remodeling and trade contractors as well as homeowners, and help ensure that dollars invested in different kinds of home improvements result in maximum energy savings. Remodelers will be able to identify and evaluate potential energy improvements, either as stand-alone "home performance" projects that can improve comfort and reduce energy bills ("Level 1"); in conjunction with other work, such as room additions, bathroom or kitchen remodeling ("Level 2"); or as part of a whole-house approach ("Level 3").

Final draft protocols will be piloted in the industry. Results from the pilot will be assessed and incorporated into a final version, to be released by the end of 2008.

List of Updated Protocols

Envelope Air Sealing Improvements Level 1 [.pdf, 108 KB]

Envelope Air Sealing Improvements Level 2 [.pdf, 175 KB]

Envelope Air Sealing Installation Level 1 [.pdf, 192 KB]

Envelope Air Sealing Installation Level 2 [.pdf, 84.2 KB]

Envelope Air Sealing Installation Level 3 [.pdf, 72.4 KB]

Current Remodeling Practices Assessed Duct resting on 2x4 riser.

A baseline of current remodeling practices was developed based on an industry survey. This baseline provides a foundation for developing a comprehensive scope for the protocol. Report on Baseline Standard Practices Survey [.pdf, 423 KB]

Key findings included:

  • The remodeling industry is seriously fragmented. Small companies with limited capital dominate the market. These types of companies currently find it difficult or unrewarding to incorporate energy efficiency into their remodeling practices.
  • Testing equipment and diagnostic techniques are rarely used.
  • Remodelers generally lack the understanding and capability to offer consumers energy-efficiency improvements.
  • Lack of standardization and understanding of building science in the remodeling industry often results in poor installation quality.

Focus Group Input

Three focus groups were held in March 2006 to provide input on current remodeling practices and the draft approach for the remodeling protocols. One focus group was held each with residential remodeling trade contractors, remodelers, and home owners. Focus Group Report [.pdf, 47.4 KB]

Specifications for Information System

The preliminary specifications for the information system include recommendations for design, user interface and graphics. They were developed with information from several sources including industry guidance, focus group input and lessons learned from similar efforts. Preliminary Specifications Report [.pdf, 1.83 MB]

Previous research by project members BKi and PSD for California Energy Commission's (CEC) Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program provided a set of model protocols and a detailed understanding of how to deliver whole-house energy improvements. Lessons learned from developing and implementing the PIER protocols included:

  • Information must be structured properly to be useful. Each user's specific circumstances affect their ability to use information. Therefore, the information system must provide only the information contractor needs only when it is needed.
  • The remodeling community does not prefer to get information only through reading. Protocol information must extend beyond text-based guidance. It can address a range learning styles by incorporating video and audio clips, printer-friendly documents and links to other resources.
  • The PIER protocols focused heavily on full-scale whole-house analysis and improvements processes without spotlighting individual improvements that less-trained contractors could recommend. However, many contractors find that too big a step to take at once. The PATH protocols will extend the PIER approach by moving conventional contractors incrementally toward an understanding of building science and a more comprehensive approach to energy efficiency. It will encourage the merits of individual improvements suitable for recommending to customers without a whole-house investigation.

Design Specification

The following guidelines for designing the PATH remodeling information system are recommended:

  • Use strategies and guidelines that support the contactor's business model and full installation lifecycle. This includes sales, marketing, installation and customer service.
  • The protocols must reduce, not increase contractor liability.
  • The system must give contractors an adaptable set of pricing criteria that helps them to accurately price each proposed improvement under a variety of existing conditions.
  • Contractors need to know what to evaluate in a building in order to offer improvements. Therefore, the contractor's data collection process must include screening for key indicators of deficiencies and appropriate improvements.
  • Rapidly filtered and customized presentation of information will increase the value of the system for each individual user.
  • The information system must include links to consumer awareness efforts to create market pull.
  • The design must include provisions for protocol and delivery system maintenance.

User Interface Specification

The information system's user interface should consist of an interactive system that is customized to each user's interests, skills and abilities. The user-friendly interface will require contractors to provide basic information on their business, and will estimate each contractor's knowledge of energy efficiency and performance testing in order to lead them to the appropriate level of energy efficiency guidance. As part of that quick one-time collection of user profile information, content will be presented based on several categories, including:

  • Contractor type
  • Climate type
  • Level of knowledge determined through basic testing (optional)
  • Interest in broader green strategies
  • General data
  • Interest in specific improvements
  • Marketing type
  • Building characteristics (varies by project, not based on initial registration)

The information system will provide users with checklists to help them stay organized and to provide a measure of quality assurance. The checklists will be customized to the contractor's requirements and can be used in paper, computer or PDA-based formats.

Graphical Specification of Information System Structure

Once the Information System has filtered information according to the user's registration information and history, contractors can either explore more topical improvement-centered information or they can begin to change their business model with best practice process-centered information. Both "improvement" and "process" information tables are linked to each other and draw from a common set of content and references. And both information tables offer contractors relevant reports and resources.

Level 1 contractors can more easily incorporate information on an individual improvement than by integrating an entire whole-house process. Therefore, the information system should start from a reference database of all potential improvements. Each improvement will be linked to the related process issues in the database, ensuring that contractors have all the information they need for safety and success at this level, in addition to pathways to higher-level improvements.

In Levels 2 and 3, contractors move away from individual improvements toward a whole-house approach. The Level 3 whole-house improvements are divided into five main topics, each incorporating several topical protocols:

  • Envelope
  • Energy Inputs
  • IEQ
  • Resource Efficiency, and
  • Systems.

Industry Presentations

PATH presented the draft approach and gathered industry feedback at the 2006 Resnet conference. Download presentation [.ppt, 1.7 MB]

List of Project Links

Technical advisory group -- members and meeting minutes

Protocol on air sealing [.pdf, 378 KB]

Preliminary Specifications Report [.pdf, 1.83 MB]

Report on Baseline Standard Practices Survey [.pdf, 423 KB]

Focus Group Report [.pdf, 47.4 KB]

Presentation at 2006 Resnet conference [.ppt, 1.7 MB]

Content updated on 7/20/2009

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