Adam Carr graduated in 2012. And was eager to get started. He had a meandering pathway to his success but he is now an "Energy God" as Roger likes to say. Below is Adam's story. Adam shared this with us and it is his story now ours. We very much love to see the great progress our students have and the impact they have on the industry. It is a long journey, but please read it all!! Thank you Adam!!
This was not an easy course for me. I was 35 when I started and had been out of school for 16 years and had never been good at math. For me to graduate, I had to go to EVERY class EVERY day without fail. I had to spend over 40 hours a term in both the Excel and Math labs, get together with a small group of study buddies, and turn in EVERY extra credit opportunity given to me. I was kicked off Financial Aid three times and I saw a lot of students drop out in the first year, but I kept my head buried in the books and was determined to get through. Every teacher and program director I met there was far more than helpful, and I couldn’t have passed without their help too.
After I graduated with the Energy Management degree in 2012, the first job I found was in Western Massachusetts. I had applied for every available PUD and Efficiency job I could find out west, but there seemed to be a lack of opportunities near Eugene, probably due to the number of previous graduates.
Multiple phone interviews and lots of time waiting to hear back from resume submissions (it can take months to secure and start a well-paid position), I found an Energy Efficiency company in Western Massachusetts willing to hire me. My position was to be an “Energy Advisor” and my duties were to inspect every aspect of a home’s energy usage including: testing natural gas HVAC systems, checking all the insulation levels, doors/windows, install LEDs, run a blower door test if no asbestos was present or in “bad “shape, and generate a report that listed all the efficiency measures that would help the home be more energy efficient.
There were at least 10 emails and two zoom interviews before it was decided I was a good applicant, so I packed up whatever wasn’t sold in the garage sale, and after 11 years in Eugene I headed out to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere in Western Mass.
I was green.. greener than I had imagined. It wasn’t totally because I lacked experience, the learning curve is very steep once you’re in the field, it was the fact that I was hired due to a build-up of work this company needed to get done. I was ready and eager to do a good job, but I did such a good job they ran out of work for me, and just before I was eligible for unemployment, you guessed it. When they let me go, I had zero money in the bank, was 1,000’s of miles away from any friends or support and without any student loans coming in I was flat broke in a $700/month apartment in a town I knew no one.
Still 2012, I’m sending out applications all over the country desperate for anything. I don’t have money to pay rent, so I had to borrow from my family. It took over a month to find another company ready to hire me, and it was all the way back on the West Coast in Olympia WA. Fortunately, I didn’t have a lot of possessions left so I made the trip back on an airplane. I landed in Eugene and an old classmate let me stay at the apartment for less time than it takes fish, socks, and visitors to smell. I found a used Subaru and drove up to Olympia for the job interview. I had to stop the business owner in the middle of the interview and explain that this was a make it or break it situation for me and if they didn’t hire me right then and there that I would have to go back to Eugene immediately and drive a taxi again. Luckily, they decided to give me a shot and gave me the keys to their vacant rental house. I started work the very next day as an Energy Advisor just like my first position in Mass. I ended up working for that company for over a year, performing three Home Energy Audits a day five days a week. I was able to perform audits on over 400 houses that year and was given the opportunity to truly start mastering the skills I learned during my education.
I contacted Roger throughout my times of trouble, and he said “Adam, you’re an Energy God now!” to assure me that everything was going to be okay. He was right, but I didn’t realize how much more I knew about Energy Management and Energy Efficiency than anyone else until I moved back to Michigan. I was on par with everyone’s skill level on the East and West coast, but in Michigan I was 10 years in the future comparatively speaking.
Even though I did my best and worked without complaint or taking a single day off, the small mom and pop company ran out of work for me, and I had to find another position. I had anticipated this and was proactively sending out applications and resumes once again, ad nauseum. Within a month I was hired by one of the biggest HVAC, window, and insulation contractors outside Seattle and assumed the position of “Energy Advisor” of Southern WA state. After three years, over $1 million worth of energy efficiency retrofit projects, personally performing 10% of the entire State of WA’s Home Energy Audits (450 audits in one year), and countless LED installations throughout the beautiful state of WA, I had a family emergency back in my hometown of Ann Arbor MI and had to return to the headwaters of my life’s story.
Prior to moving back, I scoured Ann Arbor looking for a position like the one I had in Olympia, but 8 out of the 12 energy efficiency companies I contacted had gone out of business. After some patience I did acquire a position with a prominent builder in Ann Arbor, but after 6 weeks of arriving I was told they couldn’t afford to keep me employed.
In 2016 Shortly after losing the only “Energy Advisor” position in the immediate area, there was an addendum to the State building/energy code requiring Blower Door tests on all new construction. Without wasting a second I started Washtenaw Blower Door Services (pick a shorter name trust me) and ventured out into the great wide open of self-employment. I built my own website, started an LCC, created a Square account, and was ready to hit the ground running in my old home town after 18 years of being away.
To help get things started I diligently called and emailed every building inspector, code official, and builder I could find along with some cries for help on Facebook. Within the first month, Habitat for Humanity called, and we signed a contract to perform Home Energy Audits on 35 homes in Flint. Immediately, the ball was rolling.
Having four very busy years in the Energy Efficiency field across the country gave me the experience not too many people in Michigan had. Because Blower Door testing had never been enforced in Michigan before, it was up to me to help teach and show everyone who enforced the code and builders who hired me what a BDT was and how the process worked. It’s not easy doing a blue job in a red state, but the law’s the law, and there’s no arguing with State Code Officials.
After six years of being in business, I now tell the inspectors and code officials what passes and what doesn’t. I help the builders that fail my BDT with a thermal camera and all the experience I’ve picked up along to way. I personally built the excel based Blower Door test report inspectors and officials now use and have convinced several officials to enforce the BDT on older home additions.
If the code officials were to start enforcing the BDT in every county across Michigan, it would generate a $17 million/yr economy. It would be impossible for me to perform all the BDT’s myself, so I had to figure something out. A few years into my time here I met a colleague in the field, and he turned into my “go-to guy” for all my questions. He had just moved out of state, so I asked if I could commandeer the comprehensive list of technicians he had accumulated over his time in the field here. He had no problem with it, so I personally vetted everyone on his list and had the most wonderful experience talking with over 25 technicians just like me across the entire state and named it Michigan Blower Doors. Business is good, and I’m currently looking for a lobbyist who can encourage the state to get the lame officials not enforcing the BDT code off their butts and let me finish building the empire of Energy Efficiency this state needs.
It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve proved it’s possible, and I encourage every student in the Energy Management program to not just pass their Excel, Algebra, Physics, LCCA, writing, lighting, and sustainability classes, but to also get BPI “Shmeepeeyed” certified, obtain your refrigerant card, learn to write better than I, understand it can take longer than you expect to secure and start a well-paid position, don’t be afraid to negotiate for a higher wage, and to know full-heartedly that once you graduate, you will be an “Energy God”!