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When the renovation begins, your job does, too

We used last month’s tips to hire a contractor for an energy-efficiency renovation. How do we make sure the project turns out right?—Bridget and Neil

First, you should decide who will be the main contact with your contractor. Clear communication is critical, because a renovation that includes energy-efficiency improvements comes with extra challenges. A single point of contact will help avoid confusion, conflicts and cost overruns. Commit to having someone overseeing the work daily.

Before the project begins, be sure to talk with your electric co-op about possible rebates.

Likewise, talk with your contractor about quality before the project kicks off. You want the contractor to know you’ll be carefully overseeing the work and that there may be others involved in this oversight, such as building inspectors, your electric cooperative or an independent energy auditor.

Discuss the standards of a professional, high-quality job, and you can agree on interim stopping points for you or your designee to review the work. At a minimum, an inspection should take place before you make an interim payment.

One such example: Stop to ensure that the building envelope is properly sealed before insulation is installed, because air leaks increase energy use and reduce comfort.

It’s also a good idea to maintain accurate records as the project progresses. These records could be helpful for building inspectors or to qualify for rebates or tax credits.

Final steps

Almost all efficiency measures require some type of final inspection. For example, infrared thermometers can show voids in blown insulation, and fiberglass batts can be visually inspected to ensure there are no air gaps and the batts are not compressed.

HVAC work requires special attention, since nearly half of all HVAC systems are not installed correctly, which often causes uneven temperature distribution throughout the home, along with higher energy bills. ENERGY STAR has a special program to ensure quality HVAC installation. 

When you review the completed work, it may be helpful to take photos or to bring in an energy auditor. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, it may be worth the extra step of having a final audit by a licensed energy auditor before making the final payment. Be sure to have these inspections outlined in the contract.

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

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