Letters From Our Readers: Oct. 3, 2011

October 3, 2011
BPI Certification Costs More Than It’s Worth

I read with interest the article on the DOE [Department of Energy] and NREL [National Renewable Energy Laboratory] development of work force standards and the selection of BPI [Building Performance Institute] as the sole certification organization [“Industry Questions DOE’s Guidelines,” Sept. 12].

I was present at the birth (actually rebirth) of BPI in New York. NYSERDA [New York State Energy Research and Development Authority] decided they needed a certification agency, one that did not exist, so they spent millions of dollars creating BPI. From the beginning, BPI existed only because government programs require participants to be BPI certified.

The problem is that BPI certifications cost thousands of dollars, with thousands more for accreditation, and then thousands more for recertification every three years. At a minimum a contractor will have to spend well over $10,000 for certifications, accreditation, and equipment. This is on top of $5,000 to $10,000 for the training needed to pass BPI certifications.

In New York, NYSERDA has a Home Performance with Energy Star program (HPwES) and participating contractors are required to have up to five BPI certifications and their company must be BPI accredited. In order to attract and retain contractors for the nine-year-old program, NYSERDA reimburses 50 percent of the very high cost of certification and accreditation. Thus, BPI is very dependent on government handouts to stay alive. The moment government programs that require BPI certification end, BPI will collapse under its own weight.

I made the business decision to not renew my four BPI certifications because during the three years I was certified, not one customer came to me because I was BPI certified, and since dropping my BPI certifications, I have not lost a single job because I was not BPI certified.

Additionally, after nine years of the NYSERDA HPwES program, less than 2 percent of the population even knows about the program. Every other HVAC contractor I know dropped their BPI certifications for the same reasons I did. They also tell me that they lost too many jobs to non-BPI-certified contractors who underbid them, because of the very high overhead cost of BPI certification.

I think the industry needs to really push back on secret backroom deals that are being made to boost the bottom line of BPI at the expense of HVAC contractors and their customers, not just at DOE but in every state. Just working with DOE is not enough, we need to involve our elected officials in Washington, or BPI will manage to really hurt our industry. A Congressional hearing into BPI would be a good start.

Lloyd Hamilton
Verdae LLC
Rhinebeck, N.Y.

Publication date: 10/03/2011