Improving energy efficiency is a great way to reduce operating expenses and enhance your profitability. However, it's important to find the right contractor. A project gone wrong can cost you in terms of money, time and productivity. By doing your homework and asking the right questions, you can ensure the success of your next energy efficiency upgrade.
You're ready to improve the energy efficiency of your facility, but where do you begin? A walkthrough energy audit is a great starting point. It consists of an analysis of your energy bills and an inspection of your facility and mechanical systems.
Key things to consider include lighting systems and controls; the age and efficiency of heating and cooling systems; and the level of insulation. The goal is to look at your facility as a whole and identify the best energy-saving opportunities.
You can perform an audit yourself or hire a professional consultant. Organizations certifying energy auditors include:
- American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers
- Association of Energy Engineers
After you've identified the right energy efficiency measures, it's time to begin your search for a contractor in your area. The following resources will help:
- Find a Professional Contractor from Air Conditioning Contractors of America
- Find an Energy Service and Product Provider from ENERGY STAR®
- Find a Qualified Electrical Contractor from the National Electrical Contractors Association
Get the answers
Once you've assembled a list of prospective contractors, contact them and ask:
- How many years has your company been in business?
- Do you use subcontractors? If so, how long have you worked with them?
- What types of insurance do you carry (liability, workers compensation)?
- Can you provide a list of previous clients as references?
- What licenses or certifications do you have?
The answers to these and other questions should give you valuable information about the contractor's experience, qualifications and reliability.
Follow up by contacting references and asking them about the contractor's performance. Check with your state consumer protection agency or local Better Business Bureau for information about any past complaints or problems. Contact your state licensing agency to make sure the contractor is licensed appropriately.
Get it in writing
You've narrowed your list to two or three contractors that appear to be experienced and reliable. Now it's time to get written, itemized estimates and compare them. The estimate should include all work to be completed and a detailed list of expenses, such as labor and materials. Don't just take the lowest bid. Choose the offer you feel most comfortable with, and the one that matches both your budget and your goals.
Sign a written contract before the work begins. The contract should include the start date and estimated time of completion, payment schedule, warranties and proof of insurance, as well as products and materials to be used. Although your contract may include items specific to your project, make sure you have a clear proposal understood by both parties. Withhold final payment until the project is completed to your satisfaction.