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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a general contractor in Southeast Alabama and most of my work includes remodeling, closing in porches, decks and repairs with some new construction coming in from time to time. I'm still a fairly new company (4 years old) with myself being full time for the company the past 3 years or so. I'm 26 years old and have worked construction/remodeling since I turned 16. I worked for a family member for 7-8 years straight who took me under his wing and taught me a lot. From 13-15 I worked in my mother's roof truss manufacturing company over the summers swinging a hammer all day long assembling trusses.

I have a genuine interest for energy efficiency and I would love to be start a service branch of my company (or a separate company may be smarter) that deals with air sealing/insulating existing homes and new construction.

From where I stand now I'm thinking of doing things like air sealing, radiant barriers on rafters, window replacements, window film insulation, HVAC sealing, energy audits and the many other green energy saving services that are out there. I have always had a interest in things like that and have always found myself reading articles and researching the latest methods of making homes more energy efficient.

In thinking I can't recall anyone in my area does this type of work or at least markets it. Upon a Google search I have found one company that is doing something similar but they don't seem to be taking it to seriously, at least that's what I gather from their website.

I like the idea of providing a service that genuinely helps my customer.
" " having a specialty niche market and smaller jobs so to speak compared to general construction and remodeling.

Is anyone here experienced in this type of work?

Would it be worth my while to spend 5k or so to get some specialty equipment and do some marketing for this type of work?
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Just to add a bit more I, like I said doing this sort of thing has always been in the back of my mind. I just now have thought about it seriously after speaking with a customer.

I just finished building a photography studio for a past custom for whom I enclosed their back porch. During my last visit to the job to get my final draw he asked me about spray foaming his attic, what I thought about it and if I knew anyone who did that sort of thing. I couldn't think of anyone at the time who did it but the whole week before I had been researching heavily different methods of air sealing attics and homes in general. He said he really wanted to do something since he knows it will pay for itself and save them some money. He said he wouldn't mind spending 3k-4k on sealing the house better.

I really wished I could have said, "No problem, I'll get right on it for you!" But instead I told him I honestly did know enough at that time to do him a top notch job. Of course I could have said, "Oh I can do that for you no problem!"

Something is pulling on me to go for this. I think with proper social media practices and small marketing strategies something like this could take off in my area. But I'm really not 100% sure.

I'm wanting to get myself a couple certifications and go for it though....
 

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I think there is an opening for that type of business in our area. 5K is a small sum relative to most business investments but I would start slower. Find a niche within the niche, something you can accomplish with equipment you already own. Then put the entire 5K into marketing that service. Once it has paid for itself, expand into the rest of the niche. This way you will have a better customer base, more experience in that particular field and you will have a better idea of the demand for that service in the wiregrass.
 

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Sean
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So much to say, so little time

Quick thoughts, check out local USGBC branch, talk to Tabatha Reyes @ Energy Potential (as I recall she is in South Alabama) & see how you might be able to partner up with her & others. See what Alabama Power is also offering & if you can get involved.

Certs - just wait until you learn enough / got a good base to be sure it is worth it for you & what you might need for certain programs. By the way the savings is not really the main selling point - as I say it is the cherry on top; increased comfort, health & safety are the biggest drivers.

$5k is probably not enough depending on what you are doing so yes start small, find good partners, a niche & keep on learning

For education - be careful who you listen to as you can find almost always find someone who agrees with a notion, but it being valid...

My top ten with a link to twenty more: http://blog.sls-construction.com/2013/energy-building-science-resource-list (you may also want to check out the AERC link also)

Got a few hours to kill & want to learn a lot - Attic air sealing: http://blog.sls-construction.com/2011/air-sealing-attic-penetrations - make sure you check out other articles & links which should bring you to articles also on radiant barriers, etc... Most of this was written for your climate but does cover almost all of them
 

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Adding Energy Saving specialty is a great idea

Becoming specialized in energy saving renovation and retrofit can be a great way to stand out from the crowd. In some markets (like in the California Bay Area) you need to be able to do such work to survive, for example, the City of Berkeley has an energy efficiency ordinance that is enforced upon the sale or transfer of any home).

There are two certifications recognized nationwide for home energy contractors and auditors where you can become certified for a sub specialty--the Building Performance Institute (BPI) Building Analyst certificate and the HERS Rater certification given by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET).

Not only can you help your customers save money on their bills or comply with local laws, and protect the environment, but work done by certified professionals or homes certified can quality for special energy mortgages and tax credits.
 

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Livin the dream...
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I'm 26 also. I have been thinking about the possibility of specializing in building new energy efficient homes in the future. I think as we grow older we are going to see energy prices sky rocket and there will be more demand. Being ready to jump in at the right time will be key. I don't feel the time is now. Its just something on my radar for the future.

There are a couple insulators around here that spray foam. From what I know about it there is no money in spray foam. The money is in fiberglass. Sad, but true.

If you're passionate about it, go for it. It wouldn't be my thing. Crawling around attics and crawl spaces with a can of foam doesn't sound like much fun to me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I'm not thinking about doing spray foam insulation. It's just to expensive to get into and expensive for the customer to justify spending the money.

I don't think I want to bother much with fiberglass if I'm in the weatherization business. If I do any insulating it would more than likely be blown in attics.

When I compare what I do now (remodeling/new construction) to what I envision the home weatherization business to be I lean towards the weatherization. Around here since I don't think our local population has been exposed much to the oportunity to weatherize their home and actually save money, I'm thinking there should be quite a few customers out there.

Also it just seems that service companies do well.....
 

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Hi Sailing,
I work for several specialty contractor networks, and one of them happens to be a network of energy conservation contractors. While all our clients are all doing well, I notice that the energy conservation network is the fastest growing so far -- and many of the new members are remodeling or other specialty contractors expanding into energy conservation services so that they can get more business within their service area and even from existing customers. With soaring energy prices, who doesn't want to lower their bills? There is however some investments to be made, and not only in equipment.

If you really want to stand out from current and future competition, it is a good idea to educate yourself , your sales staff and production crews, get a good understanding of building science, energy conservation, home energy audits and diagnostic procedures, etc... Working towards certification from an accredited source (i.e. BPI) gives your company extra credibility, as well.

It is also a good idea to research and learn how to market and sell these services in your area, because I can tell your from experience that the marketing and sales process for this type of services is a little different than what you are currently doing for your existing remodeling business.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
CyFree,

Thank you for your input.

I have been researching different accredited certifications. I'm not sure which one is recognized in my area or if it really matters for my area. I am willing to invest into education for I know it's value.

I will keep in mind that marketing will be different. I really haven't had to do much marketing in my area for my construction/remodeling company as all of my work has been word of mouth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ideally, I'd love to be able to pick the brain of someone in this business already and figure out just how deep to jump in at first.

Invest 5k-10k on certifications and high dollar equipment? (blower door setup, thermal imaging camera, infrared thermometers, CO measuring device, ect.)

Or as Jhinton suggested jump in slowly....

I'm thinking a mix of the two, maybe get myself a certification or a blower door and start with some air sealing, ect. to get a feel for the waters.

Blower Door vs Certification?
 

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Hi Sailing,
Since you mentioned that the bulk of your business comes from word of mouth referrals, I should also mention that when moving from the kind of remodeling work that you do -- into a specialty trade like home energy conservation --with jobs that are typically smaller and have a quicker turnaround if compared with building additions, decks, etc. -- you might need to run many more leads for your energy conservation division, than you do now for remodeling.

In other words, to make that division profitable and sustainable, you will need to have a good marketing plan to generate all the qualified leads you need at an allowable cost -- and that is also an investment that needs to be considered along with the investments in equipment and certification.
 

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S& S, As long as you're going to be up in the attic spaces, you may want to think about doing some hurricane mitigation work, too. I've heard that many of the South Ala. counties are going to up building codes. The insurance companies will be doing it too, if they aren't all ready. You may as well tie the walls to the roof rafters while you're up there and increase your revenue. Here in FL it can mean big savings for homeowners on their insurance premiums. Check with any local insurance company and check out the current rules and what is in the pipeline for new requirements. If the Panhandle gets hit this year or next, you can count on the insurance industry to sound the alarm for higher rates on non-hardened structures.
 

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I work for my familys construction business and four years ago i became BPI certified and energy star accredited. It went ok all the work was through the state and paying took forever. I did all the audits with my gas tools, blower door, and smoke pens. It was hit or miss alot of driving for little payback the state rules actually caused many of the problems. I even had one lady threaten to call the bbb saying i brought "magic tools" and she didnt save any money (didnt perform any work only an audit). Its a tough gig for sure and once the money ran out it really fell apart. Then the state informed me they wanted me to allow them to perform inspections and audits on all our new work outside of energy star and that was the final straw. Most homeowners enjoyed knowing what could help but many just bought some insulation and cans of spray foam and did it themselves.
As for building bpi homes it is very cost prohibative and very strict almost impossible standards and inspections to get your certification for every home.
I think doing it as a supplement could work but if you dont offer a bpi accredidation or any incentives and another guy does it will be a tough sell.
 

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I work for my familys construction business and four years ago i became BPI certified and energy star accredited. It went ok all the work was through the state and paying took forever. I did all the audits with my gas tools, blower door, and smoke pens. It was hit or miss alot of driving for little payback the state rules actually caused many of the problems. I even had one lady threaten to call the bbb saying i brought "magic tools" and she didnt save any money (didnt perform any work only an audit). Its a tough gig for sure and once the money ran out it really fell apart. Then the state informed me they wanted me to allow them to perform inspections and audits on all our new work outside of energy star and that was the final straw. Most homeowners enjoyed knowing what could help but many just bought some insulation and cans of spray foam and did it themselves.
As for building bpi homes it is very cost prohibative and very strict almost impossible standards and inspections to get your certification for every home.
I think doing it as a supplement could work but if you dont offer a bpi accredidation or any incentives and another guy does it will be a tough sell.
Any chance of you doing audits for the local energy supplier or do they have their own "in-house" teams? Here in Tampa Bay, TECO offers a free home energy audit to customers. Granted, they wouldn't want to pay an outside contractor much to perform a free service, but it might lead to other opportunities for you. Seems a shame to go through all of that training, acquire equipment and not be able to use it.

Maybe you could team-up with a few HVAC companies and put together a complete energy saving package? Insulation, window/door weatherization and storm windows could do wonders to increase home energy efficiency could reduce the size of the HVAC units required and also reduce the overall stress put on the systems. Just a thought.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for the suggestions Wcceric and StormStopper!

Currently, I have setup my new company, Efficient Home Solutions and am about to start marketing. I have purchased a blower door and had some fun with it for sure. Also, I bought the book for the BPI certification and I'm reading it and plan to get certified soon.

I have my Website up and my Facebook Page and things are going well. I'm excited to hopefully start getting some work.

I like the idea of trying to team up with HVAC companies and offer energy saving packages......
 

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This thread is a great read.
Don't forget to keep us updated on how things turn out for you. Best of luck.
 
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