My Journey as a Weatherization Technician

Man in attic blowing insulation

Oct. 30 marks National Weatherization Day, a day focusing local, state, and national attention on the Weatherization Assistance Program and the work being performed by dedicated members of the weatherization assistance network.

In honor of this national day, we spoke to Richard Wagner, a weatherization specialist at the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) who has had a long career in many different aspects of weatherization to learn more about his background and the different jobs available within the varied field of weatherization.

How did you get your start in Weatherization?

I started in energy by doing green building inspections and Energy Star ratings and inspections for new construction. As new construction took a downturn, there was less and less of that work, so I went to full-blown weatherization. I started in it as an auditor, going out and doing testing and work scopes in houses. But then I quickly got into other ends of weatherization, such as crisis and no heat calls, and other special projects, such as home rehabilitation projects and various pilot programs.

We also did quick home energy checkups where we worked with homeowners to recommend energy conservation measures – some would be installed at no cost, such as LED lighting, low flow water devices, and energy saving measures. We wanted to see if we could get the community’s entire energy reduced with the monitoring work we did, coupled with whoever took our advice and went further with the projects for their homes.

You’ve worked in a few different areas of the Weatherization field. How did your career progress and lead you to where you are today?

I advanced up into the management part of weatherization for two or three companies before coming to DCED as a monitor. I was doing a lot of weatherization work in Maryland for a company where I managed the department. And then I left management and floated between several positions. I was a utility guy. I could go out and do an install or an audit or an inspection if they needed it. But I mostly trained new hires – auditors, installation crews, etc. – on how to understand building science.

How has weatherization changed over your career?

The neat thing about weatherization and what I like to call “building science” is that from the point I got into it, it changed from doing the same thing in every house to incorporating a lot more on the technical side relating to testing. There is so much more to modeling a house and really, really diving in deep to see what that individual house needs. Every house is different.

What’s also unique about weatherization is that the best way to learn this stuff is from the ground up. If you have the eagerness to work and learn, you can really make some advancements in this career path, which is what I really like about it. You can start as an installer, for example, and there’s so much training you can go get for free – and if you’re geeky like me and you want to sit at home at night and Google stuff and watch presentations, you can learn so much to help you climb the ladder in your field.

Not everybody wants to be a manager, and that’s fine. Weatherization needs people that just want to go do the work and that’s all the further they want to go with it. The neat thing about this career path is you can go to the top, you can stay at the bottom, or anywhere between. And at every point weatherization gave me a way to support my family.

What has been your favorite project?

My favorite thing is being out there with the younger staff who have ambition and drive. They really want to learn, and they come up to you like, “Man, I want to be able to do that.”

What do you love most about your job?

What I like about it is the versatility. There’s no monotony. I love being in the office a couple days, and I love being in the field a couple days, and this career provides that balance.

If you want to become a crew lead or installer within weatherization, you’re probably going to always be in the field. If you want to be a manager, most of the time you’re probably going to be in the office. If you want to be an auditor or a quality control inspector, that’s a good mix of the field and office. That’s what I like about it – the freedom to basically do your own schedule, be out in the field or in the office.

What are your recommendations to someone who is thinking about Weatherization as a career?

It’s a great career path. It’s probably always going to be there. it’s continually changing and growing. And there’s so many avenues you can take with it – whether you want to start out residentially and go to a commercial facility manager job, or you want to be just an auditor, or after you’re an auditor you want to take the next step up and perform quality control inspections, or you want to be a coordinator or the director of an agency or a manager in the private sector of the business.

Weatherization has so many opportunities. There’s a conservation side, which is what we do, and there’s a renewables sides – such as solar and wind. There’s just so many angles that it would be hard to fail if you have drive and motivation.

To learn more about DCED’s Weatherization Assistance Program, visit the DCED website or to see if you qualify for assistance, connect with one of our weatherization partner agencies serving your county. To learn more about how WAP projects help communities around the state, check out our case studies located in Allegheny, Blair, and Schuylkill Counties. Stay up-to-date on all of our Pennsylvania news and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


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