To become a home energy auditor does not require a huge initial investment, but it is more than going through the motions of taking a week long class and passing the exams. The Building Performance Institute, or BPI for short, is a non-profit organization that has created and set the standards for energy auditors of existing homes. BPI uses approved test centers to train and administer the exams for potential BPI certified energy auditors. There are some non-accredited energy auditor training classes out there, mainly doing online training, but you should make sure the training class is geared towards the BPI exam, and not just becoming an energy auditor. This is because the term “residential energy auditor” is loosely defined, especially by those who are not energy auditors. They may define an energy audit as a clip board audit looking at lighting, windows and doors, shading and if the homeowner is lucky, a look at the insulation depth right by the attic hatch. This is done not only by companies selling windows, solar energy, HVAC, radiant barrier or a specific product but also is promoted by these “energy auditor” training companies that are not geared towards the BPI exam whose creators have never done a real energy audit but saw an opportunity in a hot market.
The best way to get a full energy auditor training is on the job and then just take the exams without the week long training. If that’s not possible in your situation you can take a week long energy auditor training course through an approved test center. The week long energy audit training classes do have the advantage of forcing you to cover aspects the residential energy audits that you may not see in the field every day and broaden your knowledge base. The disadvantages of taking the week long energy audit training class is the time burden and the lack of depth or knowledge the instructors have. There are some good training centers out there, but you have to look for them. The national energy audit classes, taught by instructors who are not living and breathing home performance is a little shallow in knowledge.
The BPI Building Analyst exam consists of a 100 questions written exam and a field exam where you go through an actual energy audit with a proctor grading you. To become a certified BPI Building Analyst you will need to pass with a 70% or better a written exam and an 85% or better on the field exam. The field exam IS OPEN BOOK. You are allowed to bring in any material you would like, including your BPI Standards, field sheet cheat sheets and formulas to aid you. However, you are only allowed TWO HOURS to complete the field exam. The BPI Building Analyst written and field exam is broken down into six sections:
- Building Science Fundamentals
- Buildings & Their Systems
- Measurement and Verification of Building Performance
- BPI National Standards & Project Specifications
- Analyzing Buildings Systems
- Conduct and Communications
The heaviest tested section in the BPI written exam is the “BPI National Standards & Project Specifications.” The heaviest section in the field exam is the “Measurement and Verification of Building Performance.” BPI has a few golden rules such as “do not harm” which emphasizes combustion safety protocols and BPI Standards and the “home as a system” approach which emphasizes every part of the home is interdependent on the other and we as energy auditors need to be aware of our impacts and that we need to educate the homeowner also. Each the cornerstones plays out and appears again and again not only throughout the BPI course material and on the exam but after the exam and when you are performing your home energy audits, selling and installing the work.
The energy auditor training course is very useful for anyone wanting to start offering energy audits or home performance work. Even seasoned home inspectors, insulation and HVAC contractors and general contractors will benefit because we were building homes wrong for so long that it just became the norm. Even insulation contractors who do not know what they are looking for will blow right over misaligned batts or bridged soffits… I’ve seen it!
The field exam can be difficult because you have to think out loud and is akin to acting in a play... it's staged, you need to almost memorize lines until it become natural, and you have an audience that may or may not be forgiving of slip-ups. Lots of practice and mock field exams on several houses is the best way to prepare for the field test.
What To Expect On The BPI Field Exam
The field proctor is not allowed to offer any guidance during the exam. You will have to talk through a good portion of the exam, telling the field proctor what you would do, but not actually perform it. Many field proctors will not have you go in the attic for liability reasons, but you will need to tell them what you would look for during an attic inspection. The field exam, unlike the written exam is open book. Here is a list of some essential material to aid your field exam.
- BPI Standards
- Create your own energy audit field sheets complete with formulas, CAZ limits, and other limits to room pressures, BAS threshold, draft formula, etc. This will take time and energy on your part, but I highly suggest it. Put in the hard work required to make these field sheets but in doing so you will walk through the energy audit in your own mind.
- Pictures of the manometer set up for each test you perform. This will vary slightly depending if you have a Minneapolis, Retrotec or Therma Star blower door.
How To Save Money Getting Your BPI Building Analyst Certification
You can save money and time because not all BPI test centers require you take the week long class in order to take the exam. So if you have performed energy audits for your current company, or do a good home study, or use this website for a free online BPI training, you can potentially take the exam without the training class and waive the training class fee. You will still have to pay the BPI written and field exam fees, but you will have saved yourself a lot of time and about $1,000. Is it possible to self-study to become an energy auditor? Absolutely, and that’s why this website was created. If you have a construction background it will be even easier for you.
If you want to start your energy audit training or get a more in depth view of the material covered to become an energy auditor visit our home page for a video overview.