Home Energy Auditing: A Day In The Life of an Energy Auditor

It's 11 a.m. in Glen Rock, New Jersey and John Sladky, a Ciel Power Home Energy Auditor is hard at work helping this homeowner understand why his living room and daughter's bedroom located above their garage are generally colder than the rest of the home during the winter.

On this day, during a home energy audit arranged by the homeowner as part of Glen Rock's Energy Smart Rock Homes program, our Ciel Power auditor is put to the test -- so far he's already found two pipe fittings leaking natural gas in the basement of the home and a water heater who's exhaust is not properly venting..

These green-shirted Ciel Power technicians carrying combustion analyzers, combustible gas detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and blower doors are the heart and soul of the energy audit process.  In the four years since Ciel Power performed its first energy audit in New Jersey, these skilled technicians have helped Ciel Power become the official provider of Glen Rock's Energy Smart Rock Homes campaign, Greenable Woodbridge's Home Energy Assessment campaign, Highland Park's "It's In Our Power" campaign, and Sustainable Princeton's EnergySmart Homes Home Energy Assessment campaign.

Day after day, these technicians explore homes throughout New Jersey to determine how they lose or waste energy.  Doing so involves a combination of experience, book smarts, and specialized diagnostic equipment designed to help pinpoint areas of air-infiltration, poor insulation, and other deficiencies in what they call the "building envelope".

"I wanted to become a home energy auditor because I really enjoy helping people get a better understanding of how the individual systems in their home work together to form a complete system," says John Sladky, the soft-spoken 21-year-old Ciel Power Home Energy Auditor who handles many of the Ciel Power audits in Bergen County, New Jersey.  "Sometimes," says Sladky, "simple adjustments or repairs can make a tremendous difference in the overall performance of a home, so I'm there to help the customer gain a better understanding of their home and most importantly, to be comfortable in their own home."

Since each home takes John up to three hours to complete, John performs two, possibly three home energy audits per day, most of them with a common dilemma: Whether it's due to poor insulation, outdated mechanical equipment, or high air-infiltration rates, these homes cost a considerable amount of money to heat and cool, and it's occupants are often uncomfortable in their home during the summer and winter months.

"Most of the homeowners I meet with are surprised to learn that up to $15,000 worth of cash and financing incentives are available to New Jersey residents through the New Jersey Home Performance with Energy Star program to upgrade the insulation, heating, air-conditioning, and hot water systems in their homes," says Sladky.

"I really need to head back to the office to get these photos uploaded," says John.  "The company does not like to have customers waiting long to receive their report".  Referring to the Home Energy Assessment report that Ciel Power customers receive shortly after their home energy audit.

John quickly heads back to the office to submit the eight pages of data he's collected on this home.  In addition to the data collection forms, John submits over fifty standard photographs as well as infra red images taken to better understand insulation levels in the walls of these homes.

This information is passed along to Kevin, a graduate of New Jersey Institute of Technology's engineering program.  Kevin oversees Ciel Power's administrative division as Ciel Power's Home Performance and Administrative Manager.   Kevin's team works directly with the New Jersey Home Performance with Energy Star program and it's administrators at Conservation Services Group (CSG).

In minutes, Kevin has the data collected during the Glen Rock home energy audit entered into Real Home Analyzer, CSG's propitiatory software designed to perform energy modeling.  He begins to create a custom report using easy-to-understand graphical images to communicate the results of the home energy audit to the customer.

"We've had several iterations of this report over the past several years," says Kevin.  "We're continually refining and enhancing this report to provide as much information as possible, with the understanding that most of our customers aren't involved with building science on a daily basis."

Kevin is located in Ciel Power's Lyndhurst headquarters, an open "bullpen" style facility designed to encourage interaction between its auditors, engineers, operations, and customer experience managers.  This open forum helps foster collaboration between John, Kevin, and the rest of the Ciel Power staff to ensure they are meeting each customer's expectation and providing the highest level of service to every customer.

While customer service has helped propel Ciel Power to the forefront of the home performance industry, the company's growth has not been without growing pains. "The past few years have seen significant expansion and growth in both the volume of home energy audits we perform and the number of energy efficiency upgrades we install." said Scott Fischer, Managing Member of Ciel Power LLC.  "We've learned a lot of lessons during our relatively short tenure, and we continue to learn new ones on a daily basis."

Asked to recall a specific incident, Scott quickly pointed to an online review left by a disgruntled customer on Yelp.  "That review really hit home for me," said Scott.  "We completely dropped the ball with that customer, and I've made some sweeping changes to this company as a result of that review." Scott continued.  "We exist as an organization to serve our customers, our community, and the state incentive program we participate in. Since the changes we've made as a result of that review, we've really connected more with our customers and I think the huge jump in the number of positive online reviews we've seen is a testament to these efforts."

As Kevin completes the customers Home Energy Assessment report, he invites Michael Mulholland, a Ciel Power Home Performance Consultant to review the upgrades being proposed for this home.  As a Glen Rock resident himself and having recently completed his fiftieth Energy Smart Rock Homes presentation, Michael has become very familiar with the housing stock in Glen Rock.  As it turns out, adding insulation and performing air-sealing measures throughout this home is projected to yield over 25% energy savings, qualifying this customer for a $5,000 cash-back incentive payment and a $10,000 zero interest loan through the New Jersey Home Performance with Energy Star program.

Asked whether this was an unusual occurrence, Mulholland stated: "The average home in Glen Rock is over fifty years old.  The vast majority of homes in the area of Glen Rock and Ridgewood are a perfect fit for the New Jersey Home Performance with Energy Star program.  These older homes are often qualifying for the top incentive tiers of the NJHPwES program, and we are seeing Bergen County residents truly excited about participating in this incentive program."

It's now early evening and Michael is leaving the office with several customer reports.  Michael's two appointments scheduled for later this evening are both qualifying for $15,000 in financial incentives.  It's a common occurrence with older homes and Michael is excited to share the news with these homeowners.

"Increasing the energy efficiency of an older home is a process."  Mulholland continued, "With the increasing threat of climate change, the rising cost of energy, and the simple pleasure of being comfortable in your home, energy efficiency retrofits make sense to a lot of the customers that i'm meeting with."

Contact Ciel Power at 201-632-3463 or visit www.cielpower.com for additional information.