Deciding to make energy efficient upgrades on your home can be exciting. You are ready to lower your energy bill, increase the comfort and value of your home and feel good about helping the environment. You’ve also done your research including looking into NB Power programs like the Total Home Energy Savings Program. This program can offer you money back on upgrades from insulation and air-sealing to high efficiency central heating systems to windows, doors, and more.
Now you must decide if you can manage the upgrades on your own or if you need to hire a contractor, which can be a bit stressful. You want to ensure you have the right contractor for the work you want to do, and that you choose someone who is reliable. There is currently a high demand for skilled trades and that may mean you have to wait a little. Don’t just select the contractor that is available right now. We recommend doing a bit of homework first.
Here are some things you should keep in mind when selecting a contractor.
- Define your requirements – What upgrades do you want to do and what is the budget you want to spend? The Total Home Energy Savings Program can help you understand what upgrades will make the biggest impact in terms of energy and cost savings. For $99 plus HST, a Certified Energy Advisor will evaluate your home, from the attic to the basement to find where you need upgrades. Your advisor will take detailed measurements of your home, document your home’s insulation, heating, cooling and ventilation systems, and complete a blower door test which measures air leakage. The Home Energy Evaluation will give you customized recommendations on all items that were evaluated which could include insulation, space and water heating equipment, doors and windows, air sealing, and heat recovery equipment.
- Get three quotes – Always ask more than one contractor to quote on your project and requirements. Compare pricing, deliverables, and timelines and remember, the lowest price is not always the best choice. If there is a large gap in pricing from different contractors, then you know something is wrong or has been overlooked. You should also always ask for a work schedule and completion timeline.
- Check credentials – When hiring any contractor always ensure they carry the necessary liability and workers’ compensation coverage and will be responsible for any permits or licenses required by your municipality. Also confirm that they will only hire licensed tradespeople to work on your home.
- Home visit – Never hire anyone without meeting them and having them do a walkthrough of your home. In these types of situations there is always the potential for misunderstanding if the contractor does not visit your home and understand what they are dealing with.
- Ask for references from previous customers and then call them – Were they happy with the results? Was the work up to code? Did they deliver on time and on budget? Were they professional? Did they clean up after themselves? These are just some of the questions you should ask people who have hired them in the past.
- Get it in writing – While we would all love to have “handshake agreements” this is not the best way to protect your investment. Check out the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and their “Get it in writing” campaign for more tips and helpful hints. A written and agreed-on contract helps to protect everyone.
Along with the tips mentioned above, you should consider asking your contractor the following questions:
- Do they have photos from previous jobs they can share with you?
- Do they use popular project development apps? For large scale projects, these apps can help you stay close to your upgrades and view daily progress.
- Do they anticipate supply chain delays? Over the last two years, we have seen many construction projects delayed by supply chain issues. Asking this question upfront will help manage expectations.
- Do they offer a warranty on their work and for how long?
- Do they do the work themselves or hire out to sub-contractors?
While your upgrades are being completed you should prepare yourself and everyone in your home for some small inconveniences. A little disruption is short-lived but a more comfortable home in the end will be worth it.