NABCEP Certification 9.7.2010

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Date: 09/07/2010

Okay ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to welcome you to our next in series of our SunMaxx webinar, something we try to do every week. I’d like to spend about 30 minutes talking about NABCEP Certification. So I’d like to welcome you again and to remind all of you there that if you have any questions that you’d like me to cover I really do appreciate questions and I try to take the time to answer them. I also like tangents, although I try to stay focused. If there is a question you have please type it in the chat box and I’ll try my best to address it right away.

Now, can I get a confirmation please from someone that you can hear and see me? Most importantly hear me? I’m sure you can but I just want to be sure. Great, thanks. Okay, so NABCEP some of you may be familiar with. NABCEP is the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. NABCEP has been around for quite some time and originally they started as a certified body for PB installers and they have stuck with these three goals, and obviously you can see. The goals of NABCEP are really they benefit solar thermal and PB industries in general because they try to unify a standard and NABCEP is being considered by some as the gold standard for certification to ensure proper installation and maintenance and maximization of both PB and thermal. So right now, we’re really going to be talking about Thermal. NABCEP has seen a tremendous amount of growth over the last few years, and particularly in thermal. Part of the reason is with PB installers, the market is more mature I would say than the thermal market, and so the number of NABCEP installers sort of paralyzes the market penetration in PB. With thermal, the number of certified thermal installers is very, very low. So now is a very good time to begin the process for those of you who haven’t already.

One thing I like about NABCEP is it really does give you a way to separate yourselves from local competition. Being able to say that you are NABCEP certified really turns the perception of your clients to you as being somebody that has met the gold standard and encourage your clients to perhaps look around locally for other thermal NABCEP certified installers. Since, right now, the list is so small you are very likely to separate yourselves from your competition. Ultimately, by improving the quality of the installation, it improves the public perception. So for those of you who know solar thermal well, our greatest competitor is public awareness and public perception. So by standardizing installation procedures and best practices and disseminating those best practices we are much more likely to create a sustainable, long-lasting growth market in solar thermal.

So what are some benefits of being NABCEP certified for PB and thermal? These four bullets came right off the NABCEP site but they identify you as a professional and it instills the confidence. Many clients want to have case studies and they want to see examples – okay, well very good comment Steve. “No one knows who NABCEP is”. Now it’s not important, I don’t think, that you explain to your clients who NABCEP is. More importantly I think is that they understand that NABCEP is the gold standard. Sort of like a UL or Energy Star. There has to be some certifying body of not only the collectors, now SRCC, but also the installation. NABCEP isn’t going to certify the installation but that might be, as far as the public awareness, they may not know what NABCEP is, but it’s important that they know that there is a certifying body and that that gold standard is NABCEP and that you have met that. I think that there will be a shift. More and more people will understand what NABCEP is. Also it allows for mobility from state to state and being behind the scenes, personally, with different state and local governments, I do know that New York state, for example, is very likely to adopt a NABCEP certification as a requirement for a large body of funding that will be available for the thermal market. So NABCEP is one of those ways that allows for installers to move from region to region by having a broader certification. This is the mode of audio, so unfortunately, Theresa if you can’t hear me I’m going to have to move forward, and I’ll be happy to speak with you on the phone afterwards.

Another thing is it allows you to distinguish your skills and experience. The criteria for NABCEP which I’ll cover shortly, is it’s not that easy to be certified. In fact, it has posed what some have called a “bottle neck” to becoming certified because it is so rigorous and time consuming. But ultimately, I feel very strongly that those criteria are in place for a good reason and that it allows you to maintain that distinguish.

Now the solar thermal task analysis was written by experts in the field, people with a lot of experience. And it basically outlines the proper way to go about designing, sizing, adaptizing diagrams, commissioning, trouble-shooting, maintenance, roof mounting. Any course work that you’ve taken that is eligible for NABCEP continuing education credits has met the solar thermal task analysis, as SunMaxx’s course was really written around the solar thermal task analysis. So this is a very important body of text if you, for one thing, can just learn some tips or trade secrets that you weren’t familiar with. But also it brings all the thermal knowledge together in a cohesive form. So as you access this webinar after for a resource on, I have hyperlinked many documents in this PowerPoint. So I really do encourage you to go back to – look at the archives. In those archives you’ll see this NABCEP webinar which has many documents and references and resources that are hyperlinked so it gives you easy access to many of the things. So the solar thermal task analysis is one. I’m not going to take the time to go through each particular step. I just wanted to point out that this task analysis has been developed over a long period of time and it really represents a solid body of knowledge for solar thermal in the U.S.

Now first of all NABCEP eligibility starts by, you have to be 18 years of age, which is pretty easy I think everybody meets that so far. Then you have to meet a pre-requisite of related experience or education. Now this second bullet is relatively loose. There is no predetermined that I have been able to find easily identified pre-requisite of related experience. So based on an application by application basis, they are going to look at what you’ve done previously or what experience you have educationally to determine whether you’re even eligible. This allows them to disclude certain people who have absolutely no hydronic or plumbing or HVAC experience and have no education. So if you’ve done any work in the field and you’ve gone to a community college or university it’s very likely that you meet that second one. You also have to complete an application as you noticed this is also hyperlinked so you can very easily click on the application for the exam. In order for you to sit for the exam, it is considered by some an honor to even sit for the exam, and so you have to complete the application. They’re going to determine, based on the above two criteria whether you’re eligible to sit for the exam or not. Then there is the online application that is hyperlinked that you can also apply for. There is a code of ethics, very standard in many contracting businesses. The fees can be up to $500.00 depending whether you’re seeking re-certification, if you’ve perhaps failed the first test, and you want to re-take the exam. I’ve identified at least $100.00 and up to $450.00 in fees that you plan on, each case is a little different. And then once you have applied to sit for the exam and you take and pass that written exam, there is a new schedule out for the spring I believe the next thermal exam is going to be offered in March of 2011. So once you pass the exam, now it’s time to meet the criteria. There is a whole list of criteria that you will have to meet. You actually have to meet one of these eight. So it’s like a boy scout getting a merit badge. You could do options a, b, c, or d; or if you do c then you don’t have to do e. But generally if you just follow along real quick, option 1a or b, you don’t have to do both. You can become certified if you pass the exam and if you have four years of experience installing solar hot water systems. Now some of these unknowns I’m going to identify for you in just a few moments. For example: What is experience? How do you classify experience? Or if you have two years of experience installing solar pool heating in addition to a board recognized training program. SunMaxx is a board recognized training program. So one of the 1a or 1b or option 2: Has two years experience in addition to 40 hours of accumulative continuing education training.

Again I’ll identify what experience means in just a few moments. Or if you’re an existing licensed contractor in good standing in a solar related area with one year of solar thermal system installation. Another one, you could have four years of HVAC experience as a pipefitter, a mechanical, installing boilers, working for an oil company, servicing boilers, with one year of solar thermal experience. Three years of experience in a government or trade-union approved apprentice program, plus one year of experience installing solar thermal systems. Also two years of construction, engineering technology, or renewable energy with one year of solar thermal system experience. Or four years of engineering degree, plus one year of installing solar thermal systems. So someone who has an engineering degree can work in a solar thermal field for one year and be eligible.

The last bullet is for solar PB installer certification to have to have 16 hours of board recognized training and installation of two solar hot water systems. That is a typo for #8 – Solar Thermal Installer Certification. If they have PB already plus 16 board recognized training hours and they’ve installed at least two solar hot water systems. So it’s very easy for someone to transfer over from being PB certified to thermal.

John, you don’t have to have this experience before they will let you sit for the test. I highly recommend that you take the next available test and they’ll let you know whether you will be eligible to take it. But the eligibility for the test is really based on a very limited experience in HVAC or plumbing and/or college experience. So you can sit for the exam prior to meeting this requirement.

System Installation. Part of the criteria was you have to have a system installed. It’s very important that if you claim credit for a particular system installation you have to have your name on either the permit or the inspection certificate. It’s important that you were one of the primaries in this installation as either the foreman or the project manager. You also have to have the system owner contact information and obviously the job site, some photographs, the county, the lot number, physical address. So if you have this information readily available it’s going to make your certification much easier. Now this isn’t something that you’re going to run out and try to take care of immediately. But it’s something that you should all be ready and expect that NABCEP is going to become more and more prevalent and more common for tax incentives or other thermal incentives that are available. Even private funding, energy companies, utility companies will adapt the NABCEP certification as really the gold standard, like I mentioned before. So it’s important that you get the ball rolling early.

So what’s criteria for continuing education? In order to meet those 40 hours for one of the criteria, continuing education has to be accredited, not certified, but accredited by NABCEP. NABCEP adopts the ISO/ISPQ standard which is used by IREC, the interstate renewable energy counsel. IREC is what accredits continuing education courses. There’s really not a long list of accredited courses – you can find one. SunMaxx is 22.5 hours for our courses, levels I – III. So for those of you who have taken our levels I – III, we can resubmit a certificate for you to submit to NABCEP. I’ve hyperlinked the solar thermal task analysis because this is where, any courses that you have taken, if they meet the task analysis and they’ve been registered through NABCEP they can count towards that 40 hours.

Here is an example of what you might expect – a certification. When we say you receive 22.5 credit hours for NABCEP, it’s really only useful when you apply for NABCEP. So you take your test, you pass the exam, and then you fill out the application. This certificate will be one of those things that you need to submit. They have on record the number of hours that, for example, level I solar hot water training, will be good for. So if you have any questions regarding this please let us know and we can be sure to send you out another copy if you don’t have yours.

What is professional experience? Many of the criteria identified one year of professional experience. If you’ve worked in a trade-union plumbers union for two years, then you only need one year of professional experience. It says very clearly: One year of experience must include service, repair, installation of solar thermal systems and it must include a responsible role. What is this responsible role? A foreman, supervisor, site manager, or the experienced worker that has performed the installation that did the sweating, and installed the tank, and installed the collectors. But you must have been working without direct supervision. I’m not exactly sure how you define direct supervision. If you’re in the field alone and if you’re making decision on your own then your boss or superior should be able to certify that in a letter form that says “Joe, or John installed this system on his own and made his own decisions”. The professional experience is two solar hot water systems. So you have to have professional experience for one year. That one year of professional experience means you have to have installed two solar hot water systems. Those systems do require permitting. You want to try to be sure that your name is on the permit. That’s the sure way of guaranteeing that you will get credit. So one full year with two systems each will count towards one year of professional experience.

Many people have asked when you do a hands-on training with SunMaxx, do those installations count towards professional experience? The answer is no. Unfortunately, you are not working without direct supervision. However, we do have opportunities for many of you who are having trouble becoming certified because you can’t get that professional experience. We do have opportunities that you can inquire about whereby we can put you in the field doing a system without direct supervision and help coordinate some of those efforts. Please do contact me if you have any questions about that.

Lastly, I wanted to show you – yes, Steve if you go to after this webinar you will be able to open up the PDF which will have these hyperlinks all downloadable and it’s especially important for this slide that we’re on here. What I’ve done is put together some of the most useful resources that I think will help you get your certification. Obviously the solar thermal study guide was developed by NABCEP so it would be in a sense the Bible of solar thermal NABCEP accreditation. It defines step-by-step – it’s a good study guide. For those of you who study for tests, this would be the thing that you want to download.

Also the copper hand book – this is a pretty big document but it helps in design of systems and flow-rates and pressure drops and there is a lot of useful information. Probably not something you’re going to read cover to cover but it’s a good resource to have, especially when you’re trying to determine pressure drops, and volumes and piping and what not. Obviously the NABCEP application is downloadable right there. The exam scheduling form – in order for you to sit for an exam, like I mentioned before, you have to apply for that. This is the form that you would apply to in order to sit for the exam, and just to remind you the next exam I believe is going to be in March of 2011. There is also a nice article from Renewable Energy World describing NABCEPs growth and experience in the field over the last couple years. It gives you some good background information.

Solar Thermal Incentives – many of you are familiar with but what you’ll see when you go to Desire is that more states are turning towards NABCEP certification in order to receive those incentives. Many of you may know that the PB incentives are driven based on the certified installers. It is very important for you to begin the process of becoming NABCEP certified because I anticipate many more states adopting that same requirement where the installers must be NABCEP certified as a general rule. There will be some incentives that are not installation driven, rather they are system certification. For instances, OG300. For systems that are OG300 it may not require that NABCEP certified installer put the system on the roof. But for systems that are not OG300, for example New York State, is likely to adopt the initiative where any system that’s not OG300 must be installed by a NABCEP solar thermal installer as one of the requirements. That would immediately give you and your company a huge advantage because there’s going to be a lot of funding coming down, as an example New York state, for this type of program – either OG300 or NABCEP.

There is another resource guide I’d like to share with you for local requirements and you can see that NABCEP is becoming more and more common, not just for local utility programs but also state and federal level. The US Solar Codes is another very good resource, Uniform Plumbing Code. NABCEP certification handbook – this shows step-by-step what you need to do. It lays out what I’ve just discussed over the last few minutes. It lays out what you need to do in order to acquire that certification. It also gives you a nice time-line to work with and sort of keeps you on track.

I would like to open it up to any questions if you have. I’d like to thank you first of all for joining me. NABCEP, in closing, is probably the single most important certification, I think, that you can get as a professional solar thermal installer. It’s early enough now that you can still use it to your advantage. It separates yourself from your clients, and it separates your business. Someone mentioned that NABCEP is not very well known, particularly with home-owners, but what is important is that they recognize that you have acquired the gold standard certification for installations. Anything short of that would be a huge portfolio with case studies and testimonies from all of your home-owners. They’re probably going to want to see existing installations. So if you can show them that you’ve taken the initiative to become NABCEP certified, I think it’s probably the single more important thing that you can do to create a sustainable business for yourself.

As always, I like to keep it short, and I would like to thank you for your attention. Please join us again next week. We have a pretty good schedule over the next couple months in place, always open to new ideas. Tim, the references I just listed are probably the best ones that I found: the solar thermal task analysis, the study guide. I don’t have any others that I can recommend right now other than what I’ve put there. Here is the weblink: If you go to, give our IT department just a few minutes and they will upload this and you should be able to download the PDF where all of the hyperlinks. That website, I think it’s SolarABCs Theresa. Check it out, open up all those hyperlinks and I think you’ll find they’re pretty worth while. It has been a whole year, what would that be one year requirement? So if you have installed two domestic hot water systems, then you will meet that requirement.

If you’d like to e-mail me and ask me some specific questions, if you’d like me to take a look at a system or some pictures to see if it would meet the requirement, I would be more than happy to. I’m more than happy to help all of you out and I thank you again for joining us. Please stay tuned for your next invitation and have a great solar day. Luckily up here in upstate New York the sun is out so I think we’re going to be making some BTUs today. Okay, take care all and have a great week. Bye-bye.

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