PREP TALKS: Michael Nadeau – Get a jump start on a green-energy career

By MICHAEL NADEAU

For the Ledger-Transcript

Published: 05-27-2024 11:01 AM

The demand for heat pumps is, well, heating up.

Projections for growth in the U.S. heat pump market are solidly in the 10% range each year through 2030. That’s about twice the current rate for oil furnace sales, which have been slowing.

It’s no secret why heat pumps are gaining steam. They are now the most-efficient way to heat and cool homes and commercial buildings. Heat pumps, which include mini-splits, use electricity and refrigerants to heat or cool a building, exchanging hot air for cold in warm weather and cold for hot in cooler months. The rise in heat pump demand is also creating a greater need for related services such as home weatherization and energy audits.

This trend, however, has created a problem – New Hampshire does not have enough qualified heat pump installers, energy auditors and weatherization specialists to meet this rising need. This problem could be an opportunity for those seeking a new career. Heat pump installers in New Hampshire make on average $25 an hour, and that can be as much as $35 an hour, according to ZipRecruiter. The firm claims that weatherization installers earn $48,766 a year on average in the United States. CareerExplorer reports that salaries for energy auditors in the U.S. range from $38,000 to $128,000; $67,390 is the average salary in New Hampshire.

If you consider the growth projections for energy-saving products and services through the end of the decade, a career in the field looks to provide long-term stability. The Peterborough Renewable Energy Project (PREP) is working with partners in the region to train people for the skills needed to make area homes and businesses more energy-efficient. These programs are designed to help those who complete them to enter apprenticeships or achieve certifications.

MAXT Makerspace at Vose Farm Road in Peterborough is offering an Introduction to Building Energy course, which is based on materials from the Business Performance Institute. It is essentially the same course offered by the Lakes Region Community College described below but instructor-led in the Monadnock region for the first time. This course is the first step in a training sequence for energy auditors and weatherization specialists.

The course is free to individuals planning to work in the clean energy field in the Monadnock region, thanks to funding secured by PREP, and $600 for everyone else. Participants can earn the BPI Building Science Principles credential upon completion. The course covers home energy performance, insulation and weatherization and heating and cooling systems. It is intended as a first step to becoming an energy auditor, weatherization specialist or heat pump installer.

The next scheduled Introduction to Building Energy course runs on Tuesdays from July 9 to Aug. 6, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at MAXT Makerspace. Go to maxtmakerspace.org/workforce for more information and to register.

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MAXT is also offering a cold-climate heat pump course, led by Doug Wiatt of Design Day Mechanical. It teaches students how to properly evaluate existing residential heating systems for conversion to cold climate heat pumps. The course will provide an overview of the different types of heat pumps, including their properties and efficiencies. It will also explain how to calculate heating loads; assess, measure and document existing residential building envelopes; and observe the operation, maintenance and troubleshooting of heat pump systems.

The cold-climate heat pump course is free to students who agree to work in the building energy-efficiency or heat pump installation fields. The cost is $400 for everyone else. It will run on Fridays from June 7 to June 28, 1 to 5 p.m. Go to maxtmakerspace.org/workforce for information.

Lakes Region Community College offers a building science principles course. It includes 12 hours of live instructor-led virtual classes based on BPI’s Building Science Principles Reference Guide. No prior experience is needed to enroll. The course, which is customized for New Hampshire’s climate, has four three-hour modules that participants can take over one to four weeks.

The full course covers general building science concepts such as heat transfer and insulation. You will also learn about airflow and air-sealing, as well as moisture dynamics and control. Heating, cooling, and mechanical ventilation are also covered.

Participants earn the nationally recognized BPI Building Science Principles Certificate of Knowledge upon completion of the certification exam and are prepared for subsequent courses leading to a career as an energy auditor or weatherization specialist.

Tuition is $500, and a lower-cost version is available for self-directed learners. See bpi.org for information. To register, contact the LRCC registrar’s office at lrccregistrar@ccsnh.edu. For course information, contact Andy Duncan at aduncan@ccsnh.edu.

The Peterborough Renewable Energy Project (PREP) encourages those looking for a new career with growth potential to consider any of these courses.

Michael Nadeau is a member of the Community Power Committee.