Home Renovations and Upgrades Questions & Answers

When you’re planning for or just starting a renovation or upgrade, you’ll likely have quite a few questions. Asking the right questions at the beginning of the project—especially when it comes to energy efficiency—will help you get the best return on investment. Here are some of the most important questions to ask.

Energy Efficiency: Top Things to Ask a General Contractor

1. What certifications do your technicians hold? What training do you require of your staff?

Find out whether the contractors or subcontractors hold any designations from professional associations, such as the National Association of the Remodeling IndustryLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page.. You should also ask if they hold any energy-specific designations, such as from the Building Performance InstituteLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page.. Find out if they have invested in trainings for their staff related to energy efficiency.

Ask the contractors how they identify and work with subcontractors when the need arises—for example, if you need to replace your heating or cooling system. Can they help you find and work with a contractor who is properly trained to install heating and cooling equipment?

2. How do you incorporate energy performance into your work?

Ask the contractors how they include energy efficiency upgrades when they complete renovation and upgrade projects. Prospective contractors should be able to provide you with examples of projects in which they paired energy performance upgrades with a renovation. Ask for the name and contact information of past customers. Before you call those references, make sure you have prepared a list of specific questions to ask. For example, “If you were to take on another project, would you hire the contractor again?”

3. What energy efficiency upgrades will help me get the best return on investment out of this renovation?

Ask your contractor if there are energy efficiency upgrades you should be making to ensure you get the most out of your renovation. For example, if you are adding, removing, or altering floors, ceilings, or exterior walls during the renovation, ask your contractor about making weatherization upgrades. This could include added insulation and air sealing.

You should also ask the contractor if you should consider improving the energy efficiency of your existing windows, skylights, and doors. Get a professional home energy audit or rating to get the best understanding of where your home is wasting energy and what upgrades will help you get the best return on investment from your renovation.

4. Is it better to make energy performance upgrades now or wait until later?

Although making additional upgrades will add to the total cost of your project, they will most likely offer a better return on investment in the long run. For example, if you are already adding, removing, or altering floors, ceilings, or exterior walls, it will be more cost-effective and less disruptive to make weatherization upgrades during the renovation rather than later. This also applies to purchasing new energy-efficient appliances if you are already thinking about buying new equipment and fixtures. Talk to your contractor or lender about including energy performance upgrades in your renovation financing package.

5. Additional upgrades will add to the total cost of this project. What are my loan options for making energy performance upgrades?

If you are making additional upgrades to improve the energy efficiency of your home, ask your contractor or lender about including them in your renovation financing package. If that is not possible, ask your contractor if there are loan or financing options to help pay for the additional upgrades. For example, you may be eligible for an energy efficiency loan or an on-bill recovery or smart energy loan through NYSERDA.

Depending on what upgrades you are making, you may also qualify for tax credits and financial incentives available through New York State or your utility. Some incentives and financing programs require that you get a professional home energy audit or rating first.

6. What should I be thinking about that I’m not?

A good contractor will help you get the most out of your investment, which includes energy efficiency. Ask your contractor if there are any additional upgrades you should be considering, such as weatherization improvements like adding insulation or air sealing. These additional improvements will add long-term value to your home through increased comfort and reduced energy bills.