energy efficiency financing

8 Questions to Ask Your Contractor Before Starting Your Energy Efficiency Project

By Megan Porter

The first step in undertaking a successful energy saving project — aside from having the wherewithal and forethought to pursue it in the first place — is finding a contractor who has experience with energy efficiency for small businesses.

Qualified contractors can guide you through your project. They will point out places where you can reduce energy consumption, help you choose the right equipment, direct you to energy efficiency financing and, ultimately, save you a lot of money. Once you have found that contractor, though, how do you properly communicate your project goals?

The way in which you communicate with your contractor is just as important as your vision for the project. In order to better facilitate a productive working relationship, consider asking your contractor the following eight questions to help initiate a dialogue.

8 questions to ask your contractor

    1. Repair, retrofit or install?

Old equipment doesn’t necessarily have to be replaced. Ask your contractor if there are repairs that can improve efficiency. If that route is ruled out, then explore retrofitting and new installation options.

    1. What equipment would you recommend installing and how much would that save?

Eventually, you’ll want to know your equipment almost as well as the contractor does. Ask for details about the products the contractor intends to install. Rely on the contractor’s product knowledge, but you should also use that information to do further research and get to know more about what you’re installing and running, including how much money you can expect to save.

    1. What is a typical project timeline?

Asking about timelines not only helps you project your business’s future, it sets standards that can be used as measuring sticks as the process moves along.

    1. What is the expected return on investment (ROI) of this project?[1]

Calculating an ROI should be somewhat easier once you’ve gone over the equipment and timeline information. The ROI is key in determining your energy efficiency budgeting and to assessing the project’s feasibility.

    1. Will this project meet the latest building and energy codes?

Building codes and regulations are constantly evolving, especially in California. Many of those codes and regulations are related to energy efficiency. Make sure your project is fully compliant, and you might even want to try to get ahead of potential future efficiency requirements.[2]

    1. Will you handle securing any necessary permits?

A qualified contractor will know the permitting process inside and out. Permitting is also probably a part of the project that most business owners are the least interested in doing. Cover your bases by asking your contractor about this step.

    1. What kinds of energy efficiency financing options are available for this project?

Between utility companies like Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and government programs, your energy efficiency financing options can be numerous. Contractors with energy efficiency experience can lower your upfront costs by directing you to the many pieces of equipment that come with energy efficiency financing, rebates or incentives.[3]

    1. How will the energy savings be measured?

It’s always good to know where your energy efficiency journey is going to end. Your contractor should have a system for calculating energy and cost savings once the project is up and running. Set savings benchmarks that you can use as concrete goals.

These questions should serve as a starting point. Once you and your contractor have gone through them, it will give you a much clearer idea of the way the project should unfold and build the bedrock for a positive professional interaction. Looking for further assistance? Download PG&E’s "Complete Guide to Working with a Lighting and HVAC Contractor".

  1. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)
  2. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)
  3. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)

8 Questions to Ask Your Contractor Before Starting Your Energy Efficiency Project
  • SMB Blog Author
    Megan Porter
    Senior Program Marketing Manager at PG&E, is a recognized leader in solutions marketing for small and medium-sized businesses. Megan uses her proven and practical expertise to bring energy efficiency education to businesses in every industry. In this vital role, she develops and oversees highly successful initiatives that result in the adoption of more efficient long-term energy management behaviors.

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