Senators told: Vermont ‘gonna fail miserably’ on its weatherization goals

Michael Bielawski/TNR

A REALLY, REALLY TOUGH JOB: Jim Bradley, president of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association, tells senators that the weatherization industry is lacking in regulation and a qualified and willing workforce.

MONTPELIER — While the the Vermont House has doubled the fuel tax to fund ongoing weatherization projects across the state, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is figuring out what to do with all the money.

Senators were told Friday morning that weatherization is some of the most demanding work in the construction industry. At the current pace, weatherization efforts are going to hit well below the mark for state energy efficiency targets.

“Basically, in Vermont we are trying to meet the state’s mandated energy goals, which we’re gonna fail miserably at without some more help,” Malcolm Gray, of Montpelier Construction, told members of the committee.

Gray has been a contractor for 40 years and has been working with Efficiency Vermont for about 15 years. He stressed to the committee that weatherization is a challenge.

“It’s hard for people to keep employees and even companies in Vermont,” he said. “It’s really hard work, the margins aren’t very good. It’s a reasonable markup, but nationally, people look at us like we’re crazy.”

Jim Bradley, president of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association, said that another problem for the weatherization industry is a lack of enforcement for standards. He said some companies will adhere to due diligence and follow the right procedures, and then they will get undercut by companies that aren’t following best practice.

He said it’s the customers who lose out.

“They think they are getting a well-constructed home or an addition put on or heavy renovations, but without adhering to these standards and without enforcement, there really is no measure to ensure that they are being protected on the consumer level,” Bradley said.

He said the only recourse for customers right now is litigation, and in the examples that he’s seen so far, the homeowner often ends up spending more money on court costs than the potential awards.

He added that in addition to wasted money, there are health concerns if a home is not properly vented with the proper materials during a weatherization project.

He echoed Gray’s sentiment that it’s tough to hire and maintain the workforce. He said some of the roof and basement work can be physically exhausting as well as unpleasant, such as when working with rotted materials or rat droppings.

“The work is very, very tough. I actually hired and trained someone, he started working for us, and then he decided to join the Marines,” he said.

Abby White, director of communications for Efficiency Vermont, talked about where her state-created organization fits into the picture. Her organization plans to spend $2 million on weatherization in 2019. They work with contractors to provide incentives, support and quality control.

They also work with homeowners to get them in state incentive programs such as Capstone, which focuses on helping income-sensitive families with substantial weatherization projects.

Right now there is a long waiting list for the program — those on the back end have to wait at least a year or two. These are comprehensive full-home efficiency projects. The most expensive projects generally are in the $7,000 to $10,000 range.

White said they are looking into allowing some smaller short-term projects to get more homeowners into the program.

She said it’s difficult to get homeowners who earn in the range of $80,000 and $120,000 because they don’t have access to free services, but they also don’t have their own money for it.

She said there is a conscious effort to keep the physical work in the private sector.

“It’s our interest to see it done through the private market,” she said. ” … We want to grow those businesses so over time as this work becomes more commonplace, we can take those incentives and move them elsewhere.”

Committee Chair Sen. Christopher Bray, D-Addison, asked White about the adoption of cold-climate heat pumps. These electric heating systems have been known to fail in extremely cold temperatures, but with good weatherization of the home they are known to perform better.

White mentioned that the newer heat pumps are built more for Vermont weather. Matt Cota, executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, has warned that the technology failed dramatically during a 15-day bitter cold spell in 2018, and conventional fuel oil backup systems had to bailout Vermonters left in the cold.

Even while the fuel tax has doubled in the full House, the House tax committee has raised revenue for next year’s weatherization to $850,000.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR
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18 thoughts on “Senators told: Vermont ‘gonna fail miserably’ on its weatherization goals

  1. Senator Bray knows very well, adding a heat pump to an average Vermont house would displace only about 32% of the fuel oil.
    The Vt DPS also knows it, based on a survey of existing heat pumps in Vermont
    The Efficiency Vermont entity also knows it.
    The rest of the heat would be supplied by the traditional system.

    Bray knows a 2000 sq ft house would have to demand a maximum of about 17000 Btu/h at minus 10F outside, and 65F inside, to have a heat pump displace 100% of the fuel oil.

    Such a house would have r40 walls, r60 roof, r20 basement, triple glazing, and a very low leakage rate as proven by a blower door test.

    I have informed Bray, and hundreds of others, of this at least 5 times during the last 3 years, and sent him and others my detailed articles with calculations, but he coyly/deceptively keeps playing dumb, as if he does not know better.

  2. It looks like Scott has the votes to sustain a veto.
    On this he must not act like a RINO

  3. Just like VT fails at pretty much everything:

    In Forbs today:

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/02/07/green-new-deal-excludes-nuclear-and-would-thus-increase-emissions-just-like-it-did-in-vermont/#31fbb9679afd

    – pledged to cut emissions by 50%
    – invested heavily in wind, solar, efficiency
    – shut down its nuclear plant
    – increased emissions 2x more than US as whole
    – needs 474 years to replace lost nuclear with wind

    Then we have :

    https://vermontbiz.com/news/2019/march/28/pelletier-vermont-exporting-maple-syrup-and-wealthy-taxpayers

    The average filer migrating from VT to:

    NH $260,936 AGI
    FL $188,053 AGI
    SC $90,270 AGI

    Enjoy that

  4. Now that they are trying to figure out what they will do with all the money. I already know the answer. They will piss it away foolishly, just like usual. As to Mark Higley, more rules and regulations are not the answer, it just builds a larger bureaucracy to help piss away the money.

  5. Wonder what a cost/benefit study woulld show. Other than making a bunch of folks feel good, I would venture to say that the benefit side would be a losser. Just wondering.

  6. I’m waiting for someone to tell me that I can’t use my wood stoves anymore. Even though wood is a renewable resource, the state boot-legged thugs will come up with a reason and a ticket book.

  7. The time is getting closer to when the people stand up and say SCREW YOU. In a collective group, issues such as this can be fought. If it takes more than one protest (in many forms) So be it. The rubber band is at it’s breaking point. There aren’t enough jails.

  8. We are all going to be dead in 12 years, anyway. The Democrats say so. There is no way to prevent our demise over that time frame. Impossible. So…..PARTY ON!!! Bag all regulations!

    “Ain’t no time to wonder why, Whoopee, we’re all going to die”.

  9. Just another Liberal Boondoggle,

    RBES ( Residential Building Energy Standards ) As you can see the push is on, not only for Registration of Home Improvement Contractors but, an endless bunch of bureaucracy.

    You think it’s costly now in VT, wait until you do your next project and the Governor wonders
    why you can’t keep people from leaving the state…………

    Liberal Beauracrats, now they know best !!

  10. Anyone who thinks efficiency Vermont has all the answers and guides in the right direction; Well I have a bridge to sell.
    Heat Pumps installed in our home last summer; the biggest mistake we ever made.
    The story is too lengthy to write here, if anyone is interested, I will gladly tell them about it.
    Bottom line is: Heat pumps work to benefit the power company by selling electricity to operate the machinery which during cold weather will end up costing more than double that of oil heat with a Buderus boiler which also provides domestic hot water. So then we start hearing about solar panels. No way Hosea, fool me once but not twice.
    We were ripped off, and that is the story here with Efficiency Vermont being in the middle. No more, folks, never again.

    • Re: Another reason NO on the heat pumps, The mice love eating the control panels and you
      still need pellet or some backup due to the frequency of failures.
      I’ve had no problems with oil heat other then boiler leaking water after 15years.
      Now the Anti American Taxocrats want to raise the price by tax of oil to make it UN-affordable
      and drive you to the crap sometimes heat pumper, because some “expert”
      they chose told them so.

  11. Who set these unreasonable targets and goals for the Vermont in the first place?

    And what gives them the right to set a target up where it will place every Vermonter in danger of being injured severely by supposedly friendly fire of this green new deal and climate hoax?

    Are these the same anti second amendment folks that are freely blasting away at our ability to sustain our very existence with their bullets of insanity?

  12. Perhaps it is getting time to sell and move before I have to have some idiot to certify I can. Soon someone will complain I have to many flowers in my gardens or perhaps they are the wrong color or kind.

  13. These are bullet points from the testimony we received from the (HBRA) in House Energy and Technology Committee on Friday:
    *Establish a state-wide enforcement officer (or “authority having jurisdiction”) to conduct RBES enforcement, support RBES interpretation and provide regional code training;
    • Replace requirements for self-reporting as a pathway to RBES compliance with the state- appointed enforcement officer;
    • Address enforcement and compliance improvements in the three-year cycle of RBES revision;
    • Explore opportunities to require presentation of an RBES Compliance Certificate to buyers,
    lenders, appraisers, town officers, or any other parties to transactions governing improved or
    newly-constructed properties under RBES jurisdiction.
    • Since RBES compliance is a State law, include such compliance as a component of any builder registration effort currently being considered.

    RBES stands for Residential Building Energy Standards. As you can see the push is on, not only for Registration of Home Improvement Contractors but, an endless bunch of bureaucracy, creating more State jobs and increasing overall housing costs! I understand the objective but the end results could be much different than what they are all thinking.

    Rep. Mark Higley Orleans/Lamoille

    • Thanks for your input, Rep. Higley. Please continue to stand up against these endless initiatives to increase regulations and taxes. Vermont is already unaffordable. People and businesses are leaving this state for good reason. You won’t have to worry about weatherization or pollution if there is no one left here.

    • It is rewarding to know some legislators access and read TNR, observe comments and correspond. Thank you, spread the information for other legislators to view and become educated by concerned people.

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