Want a High-Performing Home? Find a High Performing Contractor
Finding the right contractor for your home energy project (like upgrading your HVAC or adding attic insulation) isn't an easy job. But unless you have residential construction experience and a desire to climb around in the darkest and dirtiest corners of your crawl space, you'll have to interview some home performance contractors to help you get the work done. How do you know you've got the right one?
Does the contractor know anything about “home performance”?
Why do you want a contractor who knows something about home performance? Well, a house is essentially a system of interconnected components, and changes to any one part often affect the others. For instance, air sealing your walls, ceiling and basement is great to reduce loss of hot and cold air. But if you seal too tightly without properly ventilating, the air quality in your home is often made worse -- and serious safety issues are created if there is insufficient air supply for your oil and gas appliances.
Finding a good home performance contractor isn't easy, but when interviewing HVAC or insulation contractors, you should be ready to ask them important questions like:
- Are they licensed, bonded and insured? The correct answer is: yes, yes and yes. These are essential qualifications for any professional you hire to work on your home.
- What kind of warranty do they offer on the installation? While the manufacturer will warranty the product, you will want to ask about the installation of the product as well.
- How many years of experience do they have doing energy upgrades? How many do they do per month? Experience matters. And with so many newcomers to the field, don't be afraid to ask them directly.
- How did they learn their trade? Although “home performance” contracting is a relatively new field, low-income weatherization work has been going on for quite some time. Many of today's home performance contractors have gained valuable experience working for low-income weatherization agencies or other weatherization contractors. If not, what is their background, and where did they get their training?
- What's their plan for making your home more comfortable and healthier while reducing your energy bills at the same time? You shouldn't have to choose among these three goals. If they are not able to do this, they don't understand good home performance practices.
- Will the contractor be doing the work him/herself? If they have a crew who does the work, ask what certifications their crew leads hold. If they work with sub-contractors, ask them what certifications the sub-contractors hold and how they'll be overseeing and quality-checking the work their sub-contractors do.
- Can you provide me with contact information for a few reference customers? As with hiring any home contractor, past customers can verify the contractor's credentials and often add valuable information about what they're like to work with.
- In their proposal to you, are they recommending the installation of particular products — like a new furnace or new windows — or are they talking with you about how your house functions as an interconnected system? There's a big difference between the motivations of someone who is trying to sell you a particular product and someone who is committed to finding the best overall methods to reduce your house's energy usage. Be wary of a contractor who tries to sell you on insulation without talking to you about air sealing at the same time. Or a contractor who wants to put in a new heating system without talking to you about improving the effectiveness of your existing distribution system by sealing ducts or insulating hot water pipes in order to maximize performance.
Remember: everything is connected. Improving comfort should result in better indoor air quality and lower bills! If you want to know more or connect with a vetted Pearl Certification contractor,visit our website.