From oil and natural gas to renewable energy, like wind and solar, the energy sector continues to expand, creating good-paying American jobs and helping to grow the U.S. economy. Yet beyond traditional energy jobs, many Americans are contributing to the energy economy by helping the U.S. build a cleaner, safer energy future. Energy.gov’s #EnergyJobs series shines a spotlight on a wide range of people and energy careers that are making a difference in the larger energy economy.
Kelly Cutchin is a technical advisor and energy auditor for the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program. Here she answers a few questions about what it means to be an energy auditor.
What does your job entail?
When I’m not in the office working with the Weatherization Assistance Program training network, I’m visiting weatherized homes all around the country conducting quality assurance visits. This involves first reviewing files to see what was done to the homes and checking that program guidelines were followed in terms of selecting cost-effective energy savings measures to be installed, verifying client eligibility, and adherence to EPA and other requirements. When I get to the home, I meet the clients and ask about their experiences with the whole weatherization process. Then the real fun starts when I get to poke around the home. I crawl through attics and crawl spaces looking at all the work that was done and running tests to verify the diagnostic readings in the files.
How did you end up in your career?
I’ve always been interested in residential structures. I studied ecological design in college and designed and built a number of small structures from natural, traditional materials such as straw-bale and cob on and around campus. After school I worked for a small design/build company, doing everything from framing to finish work on super-efficient homes around New England. After a couple years, I decided I was more interested in fixing the homes that were already here, instead of building new ones, and was lucky enough to stumble into the weatherization network.
What education and training do you need to be a home energy auditor?
You need a solid grasp of building science and hydrothermal dynamics, familiarity with construction techniques of the housing stock you’ll be addressing, knowledge of heating and cooling equipment, combustion appliance safety testing, and skill with the diagnostic equipment used in home assessments. The best way to get all this in one place is to attend an Energy Auditor training at one of the Weatherization Training Centers accredited to teach the Energy Auditor course. Depending what experience you already have, the trainers may recommend preparatory courses before the full-fledged Energy Auditor training.
Is there a pretty direct career path? Or is this something that people take multiple routes to end up at?
People take multiple routes, but a fairly common one is to start somewhere in construction or as a weatherization installer, learn that side of the business, then move to running the diagnostics, and finally to running complete energy audits and developing scopes of work.
What is the best part of working in your field?
The people, and the never-ending variety: no two homes are the same. It’s like being a detective, discovering how and why homes are performing as they are, and how we can make them safer, healthier and more energy efficient.
What advice do you have for someone looking to start a career in energy auditing?
Find someone to mentor you, if you can. The best way to learn, and to see if it is something you will enjoy, is to try it out. If I were starting out fresh, I would schedule a home energy audit on my own home with a certified professional, and make part of the contract that I could tag along and assist in the process, even if I had to pay extra. That way I’d see what was involved, and if it turned out not to be a good career fit, I’d at least have a list of measures I could install on my own home.
Once you start down this path, you will never look at another house the same again!
Check out the office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Clean Energy Jobs page for more information on this and other Clean Energy careers. And to find out more about home energy audits, and how they can help you save money and energy, check out our home energy audit infographic.