Troy Tanner: The Home Energy Detective

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By Jennifer Rader, Contributing Writer

Troy Tanner, founder and CEO of the Manassas-based energy- efficiency service company, The Home Energy Detective, Inc. seems to be part entrepreneur, part superhero. In addition to running his company, Tanner shares his knowledge at  industry gatherings and as an adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College. He also lends his skills to a variety of federal and state-sponsored programs.
troy tannerThe U.S. Departments of Energy and Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regularly call upon Tanner and his company to teach at national conferences and to speak to foreign delegations about home energy performance. Northwest Laboratories, a national research laboratory managed by the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Building Performance Institute, Inc. (BPI), a national standards development and credentialing organization for home energy efficiency retrofit work, produced a case study detailing how  The Home Energy Detective, Inc., has been successful despite there being no state-sponsored energy incentive program for Virginia  homeowners.In March, Tanner’s affiliation with Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) progressed to being a paid consultant as well as a “network partner”. LEAP sponsors the national Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program in Northern and Central Virginia.

Prince William Living caught up with Tanner, a long-time Manassas resident, for an enlightening conversation about how he’s found success in business.

PWL: When did the company begin and what was the inspiration behind its start?

Tanner: We started about six years ago and The Home Energy Detective has become known worldwide. … I have been a certified remodeler with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and a Class A contractor. When I got married, we decided we were going to do an addition to our house. I remodeled the house and then the first winter we couldn’t get the heat to turn ooff but it was always cold. It was built to code.

What we found was that I know how to put bricks and sticks together but didn’t know why and what the best method was to make it energy efficient; it’s just not [widely]taught. I had an epiphany. I started to search around to see if there was anyone around that could figure out what was going on with the house to make it operate better. I couldn’t find anybody. I began to think, well, there’s a whole new revenue stream. I was working for a large remodeling company at the time and started to develop this company and have never looked back.PWL: What is The Home Energy Detective about?Tanner: We work with the Building Performance Institute, Inc., and Home Performance with ENERGY STAR programs. We’re an accredited contractor with BPI, which means we work at a


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Tools of the trade for Troy Tanner, owner of The Home Energy Detective, Inc.



very high level and get third-party verification of our work, which is extremely rare in any construction business. It sets us apart from competition.

When we talk about home performance, we talk about energy savings, health and safety of the dwelling and comfort. With an energy audit, it’s more of an educational process. We have all these scientific tools that we use to diagnose what is going on inside a house, [and]we can educate the homeowner while saving them money at the same time.

PWL:  What  business  challenges  have  you  overcome?

Tanner: Switching from the sales side of business to learning how to run a business. We have a plateau so we are looking to change something to move forward. This is all the learned part of having a business. Also knowing when to let people go that aren’t performing, but [are instead]costing the company money. This leads to finding motivated people that have a basis of entrepreneurial skill, getting the “right” people. The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to be objective.

PWL: How have economic factors  affected  your  company?

Tanner: This is how it occurs to me: we’ve gotten complacent. Every time I hear someone blame the economy, and I’m talking about my industry, I can’t speak to other industries, all it does is make me go back to where we began. How did we start our company? We had to go find it because it wasn’t there yet. You just have to go find it. It’s out there; you just need to work a bit harder. This is where the cream rises to the top.

PWL: What is your vision for The Home Energy Detective?

Tanner: We’ve been a very small company. We do basically $500,000 to 750,000 a year with three people, which is okay. The future of our company will include HVAC supply and repair. We will have our own internal air-sealing and insulation company. We’re also going to have the ability to show people how to purchase their own fuels for their house. We can reduce, through a business arrangement, by five to 15 percent, the homeowner’s gas [cost]. All this is launching fairly soon. I’m expanding operations.

PWL: What advice would you give others considering starting a business?

Tanner: Do your research. Write a good business plan. Find a good mentor. People that don’t have a stake in it can have an objective look at what you are trying to accomplish and provide feedback. Don’t go to an industry expert or competitor that may have bad habits. You don’t want to emulate that. A competitor may be kind enough to share, but he may be sharing all his failures, too.

Don’t join every trade association right off the bat; you’ll go broke. Certifications, get them. They’re valuable.

Finally, if something doesn’t sound right, it’s probably not. Find out why you are feeling a red flag. Follow your intuition; you’re probably right.

A nonprofit development director for more than 10 years, Jennifer Rader now works as a freelance writer while studying nutrition and wellness. She lives with her son and husband in Manassas and can be  reached  at


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