Contractors for an energy audit?

energy audit door fanMartin emails:

I'm going to schedule a home energy audit in the near future. I contacted NYSERDA and I was approved an audit award. Now I'm looking over the list of NYSRDA approved contractors. The Capital Region's list is long, and I don't want someone who's only goal is to pressure me into buying services and products I don't really need.
Does anyone out there have recommendation this area' listing?

Got a suggestion for Martin? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: Furnace cleaning and tune-ups?
+ Keep up with the Joneses? Pfft. Beat 'em.

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Comments

I used WellHome. They are a national company and have a pretty descent chain of command. They performed the audit within a short period of time and found an active gas leak, a major safety hazard with my chimney and hot water heater.

Their quote was reasonable, they offered financing, and did all the paperwork for the rebates that I qualified for. I even had a basement door that was highly unsecure (previous owner just put in foamboard) and they got someone to put in a professional, insulated highly secure metal door.

They do use subs - I had a bunch, the foam guys, attic insulation guys, door guys, hot water heater guys, and a few visits to put in some other items. That was the only annoying thing - multiple visits.

However - they do not ask you to pay until the entire job is done, so they have a reason to move it.

Over all I Recommend them - this will be my first winter to test all the items they addressed. And they guarantee lower bills for the first year.

As is the case with all home-renovation work... get a second opinion. Unless you're *only* allowed to contact one of those contractors, I would recommend getting 2-3 different ones in to look at your house. You can cross-reference the quotes from each to see if any one in particular is trying to take you for a ride, or if they are all seeing the same issues.

Of course, the responsibility of running the cost-benefit analysis of their findings falls squarely on yourself. This is where it pays dividends to speak to a residential Architect, or similarly unbiased (but well-informed) third-party. Seeing as how they deal with these sorts of issues on a daily basis, they can often provide excellent guidance as to what is and isn't worth it. As the "Albany DUI" guy says in his commercial, you can pay a little ($) now for great advice or be paying a lot more later for poor advice!

My first call would be to the Cornell Cooperative Extension. They have local offices across the state, and in my many professional dealings with them, they are honest and committed to the communities that they serve. They won't try to make a buck off you and always hire the very best people. My second choice would be Main Care. They have a pretty good reputation for heating and cooling and are local as well. Good luck!

Sean, I would say that applies to most jobs, but not to this so much. Sure, you can shop around for prices on the audit, but the contractors aren't going to tell you what your problems are, how they would recommend fixing them and what the cost is until you pay for the audit. That's the whole point of the audit! Once you know what's wrong, sure you can shop the work around, but I'm not sure you can get the NYSERDA rebates unless you use the contractor you did the audit with. Could be wrong on that last one, though.

I had an audit done by Summit Construction in late 2009. The report was great and it presented several options for possible work I could have done, with costs and estimated payback time. No hard sell at all. I chose to have several items done, including air sealing (this is where you get the biggest improvement for the smallest cost), installation of an insulated attic hatch and addition of blown in insulation. It has made a huge difference - the comfort level of my home is greatly improved, and my energy bills are $50-100 lower each month.

Keep in mind that there may be additional rebates - I got a big check from National Grid for my air sealing work and then a rebate from NYSERDA for the remainder.

We used Howard Vicks through the same service, very happy.

Some great points, Megan! Being immersed in the profession, I still want to reinforce the idea that a good contractor would be more than willing to discuss what some possible improvements might be before actually performing the audit. Speaking as an architect, we regularly engage potential clients on ideas for their projects. Sure, if they like what they hear and hire us, we go back and hold the magnifying lens much closer. But, I like to think a little good faith on our end is a great way to establish trust. After all, we wouldn't get much work if we made our clients pay us before we gave them any idea as to what they might get in return for our services, right? :)

And it's the same way with a lot of contractors I know. They would be more than willing to walk around your house and have a good discussion with you to, talking about what you might expect to hear after a full battery of tests. Just don't be afraid to ask!

Impeccable timing of this question. We're about to drop some serious coinage on a hybrid solar-geothermal HVAC system. We're committed to a contractor who we found very impressive after three other interviews. I'm not sure I should mention their name at this point where we haven't broken ground yet, but so far they've been very upfront about the costs. I have academic and work experience in Civ. Eng. and Architecture and know smoke when blown. None here so far, except from my leaky wall outlets (get a blower door test and you'll understand).

Anyway, a while back I had the good fortune to hire Dan Gibson to do an audit and it was a great experience. I believe he's still BPI accredited. He's recently started the website "Our Energy Independence Community" (http://www.oeic.us) dealing with all things renewable/sustainable in the Capital District. He'd be my top pick.

I'm not sure if he is on the list or not, but I know Greg Sanchez (Certified Home Inspections) does this. Greg inspected my home when we bought it and was honest, straight forward, and gave tips as to how we could fix and improve aspects of our home. He never pushed anything. I appreciated his work and am still trying to take the advice he gave us.

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