Energy Code Certification for HERS Raters

Last Updated:
Thu, 2019-08-22 15:06

One of the growing reasons why home inspectors and contractors are pursuing the RESNET HERS Rater Certification is to get certified in blower door and duct leakage testing. The 2015 IECC, or the current version of the International Energy Conservation Code, requires these skills. In other words, new construction homes in states that have adopted the 2015 IECC must have blower door and duct leakage testing performed in order to comply with the local building code.

The International Code Council (ICC), who creates the model code, also manages a unique certification program that enables an individual to show proficiency in his or her understanding of code requirements. This certification is called the ICC Residential Plans Examiner. The current exam is based on the 2015 IECC.

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The way the industry is going, it’s making more and more sense for certified HERS Raters to take their knowledge a step further and take the ICC Residential Plans Examiner test.

Why Raters Should Take the ICC Residential Plans Examiner Test

Before we get into the potential business opportunities for HERS Raters, let’s look at the cold, hard facts.

  • 80% of code officials are expected to retire in less than 15 years
  • 30% will retire in less than 2-3 years
  • 3% are younger than 35

Very few young professionals are coming in to fill the ranks. So there’s a strange dichotomy at play here – more stringent energy codes, fewer code officials to verify compliance of energy code requirements.

Therefore, there is a great opportunity for HERS Raters to fill this gap and offer third-party compliance verification of energy code requirements.

Potential Business Opportunity for HERS Raters

As home energy professionals, HERS Raters are among the most qualified to be involved with energy code compliance verification. It’s not a coincidence that the 2015 IECC introduced the Energy Rating Index compliance path, which was more or less modeled after the RESNET HERS Index. For more information about that, check out our other post about 2015 IECC compliance pathways and requirements.

What’s incredibly interesting about the state of the industry right now is that HERS Raters, who generally work for home performance companies or independently, can now integrate themselves into their local government.

Since fewer young professionals are stepping into the growing number of code official roles, municipalities are having to look to third parties to get energy code compliance verification work done.

Why Municipalities Hire HERS Raters

Some of the reasons why a local Building Department might contract work to HERS Raters include...

  • Smaller municipalities don’t have enough permit revenue to justify bringing staff members onboard.
  • A municipality can gain access to new subject matter experts and resources by contracting a home performance company.
  • The energy code is newer, so it’s beneficial to bring in a third party that’s familiar with its thresholds and idiosyncracies.

This is an issue that is impacting building departments of all sizes. Building Departments in small jurisdictions sometimes issue only a handful of building permits in a year. With that level of infrequency, it would be difficult to justify hiring a full-time employee to manage the energy code compliance verification process. On the other hand, building departments in larger jurisdictions may find it easier to contract out this service to a home performance company that was set up to provide that kind of service in volume.

By contracting with a large firm to provide the code compliance verification, a building department could indirectly gain access to a significant amount of resources within that firm. Engineers and architects, for example, may not be working for that jurisdiction, but the firm may make their knowledge and guidance available, as necessary.

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In terms of code, the International Energy Conservation Code is a relevant newcomer. The energy code doesn’t typically get a lot of attention from local code departments and that lack of familiarity makes this the prime code for utilizing third-party compliance verification.

How It Works

First, you must be in a state that has adopted the 2015 IECC or has adopted an amendment to the local energy code that allows for the use of the Energy Rating Index compliance pathway (like the South Carolina situation – a state that is on 2009 IECC but has adopted the ERI).

There are a couple of different ways that third parties can be utilized for code compliance verification.

  • Less common: A municipality can contract a company directly to provide the service.
  • More common: A municipality can require a third party to provide compliance verification and identifies qualifications for that individual/company.

When a municipality requires a third party to provide compliance verification, a builder in that area then hires a HERS Rater or home performance company to provide the energy code compliance verification on their behalf. HERS Raters already have relationships with builders and can actually provide services beyond only the energy code compliance.

Since many HERS Raters are already providing code compliance services to builders, why not pursue the ICC Certification?

About the ICC Residential Plans Examiner Test

It should be noted that even if you are in a state that is without the ERI compliance pathway, the ICC Certification offers value to HERS Raters who want to demonstrate their acute proficiency of the energy code requirements. There are still going to be jurisdictions that will be working under the Prescriptive and Performance paths to meet code. Those municipalities can still have the option to outsource the compliance verification.

If you decide to pursue the ICC Residential Plans Examiner Certification, here are some quicks facts about the exam:

  • 50 multiple-choice questions
  • 2-hour time limit
  • Open book – not electronic, should buy a physical book from ICC
  • Understand what each chapter covers
  • Don’t memorize content, just know where to find it
  • Passing score is 75
  • May re-take the exam 6 times in a 6-month period

Like HERS Rater Certification, the ICC Residential Plans Examiner Certification is valid for 3 years. Individuals need to acquire 1.5 CEUs to renew – this equates to 15 contact hours. 50% of the CEUs must be from an ICC Preferred Provider, such as RESNET.

And finally, RESNET and ICC have partnered on a special ICC Membership rate for HERS Raters. The “value package” is $285 and includes:

  • ICC Membership – entitles you to ICC staff resources, contact them for code opinions, submit for interpretations
  • Download of 2015 IECC
  • Copy of RESNET/ICC Standard 301
  • Copy of RESNET/ICC Standard 380
  • Voucher to take the IECC Certification Exam (retail value $199)

You can register for the exam on the ICC website.

RESNET is also working with ICC to offer the exam at the RESNET 2018 Conference in Orlando. What a great deal that would be! The RESNET Annual Conference is known for being the one-stop-shop for getting all of your RESNET CEUs to maintain HERS Rater Certification. If this agreement goes through, you’ll be able to renew your HERS Rater designation and also become an ICC Residential Plans Examiner.

Now is a great time to become a RESNET HERS Rater and/or an ICC Residential Plans Examiner! For more information, visit our RESNET Overview series or call 800-460-2575.

Image courtesy of Builder Magazine