If You Need a Contractor
You may find that many improvements involving energy efficiency require a contractor for installation. While finding a quality contractor at the best price can be a little confusing, these suggestions may help along the way.
- Try to limit your choices to local contractors. They are usually less expensive. Check the Yellow Pages for the type of contractor you need. Inquiring about contractors through friends and relatives can help you narrow the field.
- Obtain at least three bids before signing a contract. The greater the selection, the greater the chances of finding the right contractor for the job. All terms in the bids should be similar and all details should be in writing. Depending on the job, you should have the contractors visit the site before bidding on a project.
- Make sure that the contractors are licensed and have liability insurance.
- Find out the contractors’ previous experience and ask for references. How many jobs have they completed? Have they had any formal training in installing the specified product or system? You should also check their record with the Better Business Bureau.
- Include in the contract the dates that you expect services to begin and end. This protects you from contractors who begin a job very late or leave a job and return at a much later date. You may also want to specify payment for starting a project late. (You can lose money when contractors are late because the savings that the project would have incurred had it been installed are lost.)
- Never fully pay contractors before they start the work. Pay the contractor in increments (e.g., at the beginning, the middle, and the end of the job).
- Find out if the contractor will allow you to buy the materials. Sometimes the materials are less expensive when you purchase them yourself.
- Note whether you need permits and whether permits are included in the contract. Some contractors require you to purchase and obtain these yourself. Obtaining permits can take many hours. If the contractor is obtaining the permits and is being paid at an hourly rate, find out if he or she is charging by the hour to obtain the permits.
- Beware of contractors who bid much lower than others for the same job. You should thoroughly read and understand the contract before signing it. Make sure that a cancellation form is attached as required by consumer protection laws. This allows you to cancel a contract worth over $25 before midnight of the third business day after the transaction.