For many, finding the right contractor is the biggest hurdle to improving their home. Below is a list of different types of contractors you may need to hire. Under each type is a brief description of the service they provide and questions or suggestions for working with them. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission offers general tips for hiring a contractor Exit ENERGY STAR that you should always follow.

Energy Specialists

Home Energy Raters

A Home Energy Rater is a specialized contractor who performs a standardized evaluation of the energy efficiency of your home. The evaluation includes:

  • on-site inspection
  • air leakage test of your home and duct work
  • computer analysis
  • estimated savings
  • home energy rating
  • Home Energy Raters typically perform the role of an independent consultant, but some will offer to make improvements.

Energy Auditor

An Energy Auditor performs an evaluation of the energy efficiency of your home that may or may not be as comprehensive as a home energy rating.

Finding an Energy Specialist

To find a home energy rater visit the Residential Energy Services Network Exit ENERGY STAR

Energy audits are often provided by utilities for free or at a discounted rate. Contact your electric or gas utility and ask if they offer an energy audit.

Tips for working with an Energy Specialist

  • Ask how long the evaluation will take (a comprehensive evaluation can take about 3 hours depending on the size of the home)
  • Ask if they will provide a list of improvements
  • Ask if they will make any of the improvements
  • Ask if they can recommend someone who can make the improvements

Home PerformanceHome Performance with ENERGY STAR

Find out if Home Performance with ENERGY STAR is available in your area. A qualified contractor inspects your home and recommends customized and cost-effective energy and comfort improvements.

Heating and Cooling Contractors

A Heating and Cooling Contractor is a specialized contractor who installs and services heating, cooling and ventilation equipment. They sell, service and install ducts, programmable thermostats, furnaces, boilers, central air conditioners, and heat pumps. Some contractors provide specialized services like air balancing, duct sealing and energy or comfort audits.

Tips for working with a Heating and Cooling Contractor

  • Ask about the technical qualifications of the technician, who will work on your equipment.
  • Ask if there are special offers or rebates available for purchasing ENERGY STAR qualified equipment.
  • Ask the contractor to size your new equipment to meet the needs of your house. A bigger system isn't always better. New equipment should be sized based on the size of your house, level of insulation, type of windows and other factors. The Manual J, from the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), is a common method used by contractors to properly size heating and cooling equipment.
  • Ask the contractor to inspect your ducts for air leaks and insulation if you have a forced-air system (i.e. furnace, heat pump or central air conditioner). It is especially important to check ducts located in an attic or crawlspace.
  • Ask the contractor for an itemized estimate of the work and equipment they propose.

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Air Sealing Contractors

An Air Sealing Contractor is a specialized contractor that seals air leaks in the building's envelope (a key part of Home Sealing). They commonly use spray foam and other materials to seal bypasses, gaps, and cracks in attics, basement, walls and floors.

Finding an Air Sealing Contractor

Air Sealing Contractors are not commonly listed in the yellow pages under “air sealing”. To find an air sealing contractor contact a Home Energy Rater in your area and ask if they perform air sealing services or can refer you to someone who does. To find a home energy rater visit the Residential Energy Services Network Exit ENERGY STAR

Air Sealing is a common improvement offered through the U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program. State weatherization contacts Exit ENERGY STAR may be able to refer you to an air sealing contractor in your area.

Tips for working with Air Sealing Contractors

  • Ask if they measure air leakage before and after sealing using a blower door.
  • Ask if they will test the safety of combustion appliances after sealing.
  • Air Sealing should be completed before adding insulation. Some Air Sealing contractors also install insulation or can recommend an insulation contractor they typically work with.
  • Ask if they install insulation or can refer an insulation contractor.

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Insulation Contractors

An Insulation Contractor is a specialized contractor who installs thermal insulation. Insulation contractors usually specialize in one type of insulation (e.g. fiberglass, cellulose, spray foam), but some will offer to install more than one type.

Finding an Insulation Contractor

Insulation contractors can be found by looking in the yellow pages.

Tips for working with Insulation Contractors

Ask the contractor what “R-value” of insulation they will install. “R” means resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulation power. When insulation is installed, your contractor should provide you with a written statement of the R-value as required in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) insulation regulations. For more information see Home Insulation Basics from the FTC PDF Exit ENERGY STAR.

To find out the right R-value for your home, see the Department of Energy's insulation fact sheet Exit ENERGY STAR.

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