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Local Energy Auditor Training offers a leg up in energy efficiency movement

When Don Davis of Somerset decided he needed to boost his business as an electrical contractor, he enrolled himself in the Energy Auditor Training program in order to provide a better service to his customers and another source of income for himself.

This is a service I can offer to my customers and a way to set myself apart from the competition, said Davis. Im learning to save people money and everyone can appreciate that.

But saving money is only part of the Energy Auditor Training program, which offers free Building Performance Institute (BPI) certification, the most widely recognized association in the nation in home performance contracting, to contractors and those in the home building or remodeling services. The program also teaches contractors how to evaluate the efficiency of a home, test for potentially life-threatening issues and make recommendations for homeowners on solving energy-related problems.

The certification is offered through a collaborative effort between the Cumberlands Workforce Network and Somerset Community College and is funded through the U.S. Department of Labor and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Grant for State Energy Sector Partnership (SESP).

Energy efficiency is the new movement, said Eric Wooldridge, SCC associate professor and field test supervisor for the BPI program. There is a lot of money available for homeowners who make energy efficient choices when building new or retrofitting their existing home. To qualify for the assistance, however, the inspector must be BPI certified. Through this program, we are providing another outlet to contractors and also doing a service to the people of our community by having these professionals as part of our local workforce.

In order to conduct the field tests, Wooldridge, who is also professionally licensed architectural and mechanical engineer, had to undergo the same training and testing as those participating in the program.

Its not an easy task, said Wooldridge. Becoming BPI certified consists of a written and field test and around forty hours of training.

For Davis, owner of Davis Electric in Somerset, it was a chance to build his business.

There are a lot of changes and upgrades that I see out there that need to be done in order to save the homeowner money, said Davis. And, all homes will eventually require inspection. I hope to be at the forefront to inspect and service homes in the best and most efficient manner possible.

Alesa Johnson, coordinator of the State Energy Sector Partnership Grant and SCC Workforce Solutions project manager, said the BPI certification classes are offered monthly free of charge through September 2012. The classes are held at the Regional High Growth Training Center, located on Coin Road in Somerset.

According to Wooldridge, the benefits of the BPI training are two-fold. First, becoming certified means additional work for local individuals, he said. Second, homeowners have better access to those funds that can help them pay for energy efficient upgrades and they also know they are getting quality work. These contractors have knowledge and science backing them up and they should get clear, observable energy savings when working with a BPI certified contractor or inspector.

Those interested in attending the free BPI certification program should contact Karen Plagge or Doug Miller at 606-274-0060 to determine eligibility. The program is recommended for anyone interested in a career in the building science and/or residential energy efficiency professions. It is also designed for those already working as building contractors, general construction contractors, HVAC contractors, weatherization contractors, insulation contractors, energy auditors, home inspectors, architects/designers, engineers, utility representatives, HERS raters and remodelers.

Eventually, all new structures, both residential and commercial are going to have to be around 40% more efficient to meet the new model energy codes, said Wooldridge. When utility costs spike, those who take advantage of energy efficient technology and practices now will be ready.

Note: At the time of submission, Davis had not received his BPI certification test results.