We act like doctors. Or more correctly nurses.

Solving Complex Problems

Solving complex problems really doesn’t lend itself to “it’s as easy as 1-2-3.” It’s not. Energy Smart is to your home as a doctor or nurse is to your body. Both deal with complicated problems. The four steps above really are the steps in our process, but it’s more complicated than that. I need to bring in another profession’s perspective.

In nursing, they use a process called ADPIE to heal patients:


It’s an excellent process for solving complex problems, and it’s very close to what we do:

Assess: Gather patient history and current problems with subjective and objective data.
Diagnose: Ask questions and run appropriate tests to develop a diagnosis.
Plan: Create a multidisciplinary treatment plan.
Implement: Execute the treatment plan.
Evaluate: Did it work? Gather subjective and objective data to find out. Repeat the process if necessary.

Prescription without Diagnosis is Malpractice

Note that a plan is not created until after diagnosis. We adhere to that as well. Prescription without diagnosis really is malpractice. We don’t go off half-cocked. We won’t tell you what to do until our diagnosis is complete.

We want to have a high degree of certainty that something will work. Like a doctor or nurse, we’ll never give you a guarantee that something will work. Just like a doctor, we will give you odds.

Here’s how our process fits the ADPIE model:

Initial Consultation (Step 2, Define)

1. Assess

  • Patient History: What was done the house? What have you done to it? Subjective data.
  • Problems: What do you want to solve? Prioritize them.
  • Trial Budget: What is it worth to solve problems? Is it enough to justify a Home Performance project?

2a. Diagnose

Air leakage testing with blower door. Find total leakage. Find which rooms leak worst. Objective data.
Infrared testing. Where are the major problems? Infrared testing is weather dependent.

Comprehensive Planning Process (Step 3, Plan)

2b. Diagnose

  • Energy Audit – Detailed look at your home looking for root causes.
  • Photos – Take pictures of root causes and house as a whole.
  • Measurements – Measure house for building energy model.

3. Plan

  • Energy model. Takes the emotion out of the decision. Shows how much different changes will save.
  • Create 3 plans using priority list, budget, and energy model. Complete, Sweet Spot, and Budget.
  • Deliver plans. Return to show you plans and begin discussion of what final treatment plan will be.

Implementation (Step 4, Implement)

4. Implement

  • Finalize budget and treatment plan. Who is responsible for each task?
  • Get bids.
  • Execute. We are on site to catch major misses
  • Quality assurance. Come back the next day to test and make sure work was done well.

Continuous Optimization

5. Evaluate

  • How well were problems solved? What changes do you notice in your home?
  • Make tweaks. Adjust HVAC system settings to optimize your home.
  • Datalogging. Place continuous monitors to track how well things are working.

That’s the short version of what we do. We’ve tried a bunch of shortcuts. All of them lead to problems and make the process longer and more expensive. This process consistently solves client problems within client budgets, which is our goal. Every house is a case study.

Step 1, Learn – Where it all begins.

Remember, the first step in our problem solving process is to learn.

  • Download and read one or more of our guides. Many are free.
  • Pick the case study most like your home and read it.
  • Read the blog.
  • Surf the website.
  • Soak up information on Building Science.
  • Then, and only then, act.

Getting an Initial Consultation

Hopefully it’s clear we are different. We won’t tell you what you want to hear, we will help you actually solve problems. Every house is a case study. Please don’t engage us unless you really want to solve a problem. Be sure to do some groundwork and reading.

When you’re ready, sign up for an initial consultation. That begins the real process. At the initial, we’ll decide together if it makes sense to move on towards the Comprehensive Planning Process. No solutions will be discussed, we’re still in diagnosis phase.

You can sign up for an initial by clicking the “Get Started” link at the top of every page and filling out the form. Good luck on your journey!

  • TedKidd

    Our process is designed from trial and error to help you avoid the common pitfalls that occur when people attempt to solve Home Performance problems. The basics are provided here, for you, for free. Follow them and you will feel about the process and your house the way our clients feel (see reviews).

    Take shortcuts and responsibility the disappointments fall solely on your shoulders. Here is a summary to refer back to:

    1) Get Educated – An educated homeowner is our best client. There are some basic concepts that are counter-intuitive, and if you don’t understand these things you will be your worst enemy. Furthermore, your home, your problems, the value of solving these problems, all these things are very specific to you. There is a lot of content on our website, and we provide many free chapters of our Home Performance Book. Take advantage of these resources.
    2) Clearly define the problems – we will help you Get ready to pay for professionals to perform diagnostics – Again, your homes problems are unique. Diagnostics are the “see a doctor, get a physical” step.
    3) Get ready to pay a professional for design – this is the step most often rushed past or through. If you rush the design step, there is a very good chance you will pay dearly for it. We provide ample evidence of the importance and risks and can’t emphasize enough that putting time and thought to the planning step is crucial. Home Performance work is NOT simple and people make all kinds of little, avoidable, mistakes that add up to outcome failure. If you want to avoid the “Gulf of Disappointment” don’t rush the design process, embrace it.
    4) Get ready to be the bad guy – or hire someone to do it. DO NOT SIMPLY EXPECT WORK TO BE “DONE RIGHT!” Every job has errors and catching them can make a huge difference. After design, implementation is your next big area of risk. Don’t skip the testing and quality control steps. People assume work is “done right” without testing, when they should assume it is done wrong. People are human and imperfect. All projects are unique and have unique traps. Much of our success comes from adding small amounts of time for checking and fixing small errors while they are small and easy to address.
    5) Treat your project like a case study – there is some magic that occurs when people realize the outcome of their work will be published. When made aware that they have opportunity to shine, and accountability if they don’t, they consciously and subconsciously raise the quality of their work.

    Yes, this will take some time. Yes, being methodical here will add a little time and cost to your project, but in the scheme of how long you will be living with the outcomes it’s really a very small incremental investment. When you feel the inclination to hurry or skip steps, come back and read stories of people whose prior efforts we had to completely un-do.

    Build a good plan.