Home Depot and RESNET signed an MOU on November 18th, the relationship is described here:
- Home Depot will have a national workforce to be trained and certified to be RESNET Home Energy Survey Professionals.
- Home Depot will have its associated contractors to be trained and designated as RESNET EnergySmart Contactors
- Home Depot will market energy assessments and upgrades through its store sales force and in-store marketing
- Home Depot will develop marketing and sales materials utilizing the RESNET brand and logos to promote home energy surveys and energy upgrades of homes.
The announcement has created a bit of a buzz over at Home Energy Pros, notably with the lengthy discussion in response to a post by Allison Bailes and a concerned post by Jamie Kaye that audits are being turned into a commodity. Jamie describes the relationship between Home Depot and RESNET as “wolves..looking for a piece of action”. Many are concerned about the quality of the audit and the risk factors (e.g., combustion safety) that are associated with any significant enclosure modification. I am less concerned about the quality of the audit bit but everyone is right to be concerned about human health and safety (obviously). RESNET knows what their doing, and at some point you have to put some trust in this relationship that things will be done properly and information disseminated accordingly. No one, especially a big brand like Home Depot, wants their name associated with carbon monoxide deaths. I think they have a pretty strong incentive to make sure the “do no harm” mantra of home improvements is followed.
On the audit side, I think it’s great that different models are going to be tested at scale. Jamie notes:
The way it stands now, the HESP (Home Energy Survey Professional) will do a walk-through, clipboard assessment and enter the data into a software program that will give the homeowner’s a list of improvements that they can do to improve the home’s performance and energy costs. Without diagnostic testing though, this will only be product focused and that is not where true gains are realized. The HESP is supposed to recommend a more thorough comprehensive diagnostic audit, but that seems like a difficult task to execute especially with what they are being asked to do. First they are being asked to admit their assessment is only “so-so” and not what the customer really needs. Second they are being asked to sell something they don’t understand. If HERS Raters and BPI Professionals have had a hard time selling their services when they fully understand the value, how is someone unknowledgeable about testing going to be able to sell it? Also, who is going to pay for the second assessment?
This sounds like opportunistic people are about to prey on the willing and some poor economic outcomes could be the result. If Home Depot really wants to take the lead and use the RESNET brand, they should hire HERS Raters to educate their customers and up sell the surveys at an in-store desk. They are the ones that understand how to realize the large strides in energy efficiency and the “House-as-a-system” approach to building performance.
I am sensitive to raters feeling like their livelihoods are being threatened by a big-bad corporate wolf, but frankly the current audit model isn’t working at scale. I understand there is a quality vs. quantity thing going on here but we need to find the sweet spot. Everyone talks about the low-hanging fruit of conservation. The current model of home performance with comprehensive audits (which don’t always lead to action) is too clunky, slow and expensive to ramp up to really capture all that fruit politicians and home performance lobbies discuss in public.
Home Depot has entered the home performance market. Mom and pop audit and home performance shops will need to adopt. Compete with Home Depot at their price point, innovate better business models to do so or sell the customer on the benefits you bring over your corporate competitors. At the end of the day it is the American homeowner who will benefit most from this new industry partnership.
Sidenote: It will be interesting to see if Home Depot brings any innovative financing mechanisms to the table. Think GMAC-type corporate in-house financing.