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Put some energy into hiring the right contractor

We want to make energy-efficient home renovations, but how can we make sure we hire a good contractor who will stay within our budget?—Bridget and Neil


The first step is to educate yourself so you can be in control of your project. Helpful, easy-to-understand energy-efficiency information is available for virtually any area of your home and any renovation project. Just be sure to use reputable sources, like, or your local electric co-op.

You’ll need that knowledge so you can judge the solutions each potential contractor proposes. Use your research to ask the right questions—about the product to be installed, the energy savings it should yield and whether it will improve comfort. Because energy-efficiency projects are specialized, be sure the installer has experience, appropriate training or certification.

TIPS: How to hire a home contractor

It’s crucial to hire someone with a contractor’s license, a local business
license and three types of insurance: liability, personal injury and workers’ compensation. Check references to verify the contractor has a solid history of cost control, timeliness, good communication and excellent results, including significant energy savings.

As you evaluate contractors, quality should be a more important consideration than price. Poor-quality energy-efficiency work will not deliver maximum savings.

The contract

Once you have settled on a contractor, be sure to get a written contract. It should include “as built” details and specifications that include energy performance ratings you have researched ahead of time, such as the R value if insulation is being installed and efficiency ratings specific to equipment like furnaces and air conditioners.

Be sure the contract includes the name of the individual doing the installation and states whether the contractor pays for the necessary building permits. Ask that an efficiency test be conducted before and after the work.

Finally, be cautious about pre-paying. Keep the upfront payment as low as possible and set benchmarks the contractor must meet to receive the next payment. Make sure a reasonable amount of the payment is not due until the project is completed, it passes building inspections and you are fully satisfied.

PAT KEEGAN and BRAD THIESSEN write on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

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