Starting an Energy Audit Side Business

Due to the gradual rise in energy costs in recent years, the energy efficiency industry has become big business. One great way for the savvy entrepreneur to profit from this new state of affairs is by launching an energy audit business. Basically, energy auditors analyze how buildings use energy and suggest ways that home and business owners can reduce their consumption and save money. If you like the Earth and love burgeoning opportunities, do the following to start your own energy-auditing outfit.

Select a Niche Worth Exploiting

There are a couple of different directions that you can go in when starting an energy audit side shop. At the most basic level, you could act as a residential specialist that advises homeowners on the best ways to cut heating, cooling and electricity costs. You could also work in concert with business owners in a particular sector to help them reduce their energy consumption. Your existing knowledge of energy systems will largely dictate the best way to proceed.

Come Up with a Business Model

While niches matter, how you actually deliver your services matters more. For instance, you could go solo and offer your services as a standalone auditor. Alternatively, you could team up with a local contracting business and act as their in-house auditing specialist. In addition, there’s the little question of delivery method. You can either offer consulting services in person or do it online. Digital consulting can be just as effective and provide you with greater profits due to lower overhead if you can swing it.

Learn the Trade & Get Certified

Obviously, the biggest piece of the puzzle is acquiring the actual skills you’ll need to thrive. The Association of Energy Engineers offers a job training program that will help you to obtain a Certified Energy Auditor (CEA) designation. The biggest challenge for energy auditors is learning the pitfalls that many operators encounter in the field. Once you’ve become certified as an auditor, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty as far as business formation and paperwork are concerned.

Structure Your Business Wisely

Like any enterprise, an energy auditor outfit will require you to file for a business license from the local authorities. As per usual, the specific requirements depend on state regulations. Contact the nearby chamber of commerce for guidance. Form an LLC or other corporate entity , get insured and bonded, obtain an EIN and a DBA if necessary. Last but not least, rent some commercial space if you can’t operate out of your own home.

Assemble the Necessary Gear

The last step to take before that first energy audit is selecting and buying the necessary equipment. Most energy auditors will require a blower door, a combustion analyzer, a CO monitor, an infrared camera, a moisture meter, an electricity monitor such as Kill-A-Watt and a gas leak detector. All in all, you’re looking at $5,000 or so for decent gear. Many companies sell general-purpose toolkits that will get you most of the way there for a reasonable price.

Launch the Outfit Incrementally

Going hell-for-leather when starting your energy audit business probably isn’t the best strategy. It’s wiser to ease yourself into the work by offering reduced-rate inspections to clients that you’ve locked down through word-of-mouth advertising. As your experience and clout grow, you can ramp up the pace. The key is to cover your costs and make a small profit in the first few months. Build a reputation from the ground up to create a solid footing for your business.

Market Your Talents with Savvy

Once you’ve established yourself as a local fixture via the friends-and-family network, it’s time to get serious about marketing. Obviously, listing yourself on the social media networks such as Yelp and Google+ is a necessity nowadays. Allying yourself with local trade groups comprised of general contractors, electricians and plumbers is a great way to drum up business. Use real estate agents and handymen to distribute your business cards to interested homeowners and prospective home buyers in your area.

Find New Ways to Boost Revenue

As an energy audit specialist, you’ll find that boosting revenue isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Fleshing out your qualifications by attaining RESNET or BPI certification is a good way to bolster your reputation. Branch out from your initial niche into other areas like inspecting agricultural buildings and outdoor recreational structures such as boathouses and yurts. With a little brainstorming, you’re sure to discover new classes of clients that can benefit from your expertise.

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