Monday, March 14, 2011

Guest Columnist Dowd Discusses Installing Energy Efficient Windows

The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) is concerned with energy performance rating and certification programs for windows, doors, and skylights, otherwise known as fenestration products.

While NFRC focuses on educating the public about these activities and programs, we also recognize that once we have assisted consumers in choosing products to improve energy efficiency, many of them still have questions about installing the products.

NFRC does not recommend or endorse any products, retailers, or installation companies. Nevertheless, we are pleased to welcome comments from Dean Dowd at NFRC member company, CalFinder. Here Dean provides consumers of energy efficient windows with some peripheral insight.

By Dean Dowd

Working with Your Contractor to Ensure a Successful Window Installation

Installing new, energy-efficient windows not only increases your home’s resale value, it also reduces your heating and cooling bills. But choosing the right contractor—and then working with them throughout the installation—can sometimes be a real chore. Consider the following tips that any homeowner looking to replace their windows should know before hiring and working with a contractor.

Choosing the Right Contractor—Your 5-Step Checklist

1. To get an accurate estimate, collect information about your existing windows. Take pictures, get measurements, and ascertain the basic condition of the frames.

2. Obtain at least three bids in writing, and remember, do not always assume that the lowest bidder will be just as good as the next guy—it could go either way. Paying a little more to get a better contractor is often worth the added expense.

3. Most states have some form of licensing bureau, so it’s best to check with them to make sure your contractor has the right licenses or permits. In addition, you can check other credentials, like memberships with the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) and Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA).

4. Demand references, check your local BBB office, and find out from previous clients if they were completely satisfied and that the work began and ended punctually.

5. Also demand proof from the contractor that he is fully insured and bonded. Any good contractor should have a minimum of liability and workers-compensation insurance, as well as some sort of waiver of liability in case the contractor does not pay his own bills.

Selected a Contractor and Ready to Go?

Once you’ve done your homework and found the perfect contractor, the single most important thing to do is to get a contract written and signed. Any sound construction contract will include, at a minimum:

• The contractor or business's full name, address (never accept only a P/O box), and applicable phone numbers—especially that of the lead person(s).

• License number if applicable in your locale.

• A comprehensive ‘blueprint’ of the window installation/replacement process, the materials needed and the contractor’s guarantee on quality of materials and workmanship.

• Charges: This fundamental component should detail the expected cost, e.g. hours billable and cost of materials.

Additionally, do not let a contractor charge you more than 15% of the total cost before starting work. Homeowners sometimes elect to pay somewhere around 30% at the midpoint and the remainder upon completion of installation.