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Planning Your Job and Finding a Contractor  

One of the biggest challenges in starting a home energy improvement is finding a contractor that you can trust.  Contractors lacking the required training, poor workmanship, and inferior quality products can greatly compromise the energy, health, comfort, and utility cost savings benefits of undertaking your home improvement.    

Here's some important tips for planning your job and finding a good contractor for:

Window Replacements

Do Your Homework

The Siding and Window Dealers Association of Canada (SAWDAC) files/images/icon_external_sites.gif provides good general information about windows to help you understand your window replacement better.

Finding and Choosing a Window Contractor

  • First find a reputable contractor by contacting SAWDAC files/images/icon_external_sites.gif, the national window contractors association or by asking friends and neighbours for recommendations. All SAWDAC members have been in business for a minimum of three years, carry liability insurance, provide a five-year workmanship guarantee and abide by the SAWDAC Code of Ethics.
  • Ask contractors how long they've been in business, what kind of warranty is provided on their work and materials, and if they will obtain all the required permits for their work.
  • Ask contractors if they use Energy Star rated windows.  These windows are certified to ensure quality manufacturing and good energy performance. N addition, using these windows is a requirement for receiving the BC Hydro Power Smart incentives for energy efficient windows.  If the windows your contractor is proposing are not Energy Star rated, confirm that they are at least CSA A440 rated.
  • Ask contractors for their business license number and check them out at your Better Business Bureau or municipal business license office.
  • Ask contractors for references and contact at least one reference.
  • Get one or more estimates - note: there are widely varying degrees of quality and professionalism; the lowest bid is not always a good investment as these contractors may not have appropriate training or be using quality materials.
  • Be wary of contractors that offer a reduced-price offer for a cash deal.
  • Get a written contract.

For a more detailed explanation of how to choose any contractor, download or order the CMHC general guidelines.
The Gold Standard for window installations is Window Wise.  Window Wise is a program that incorporates strict quality assurance and was developed by the national window contractors association (SAWDAC).  Window Wise requires that certified contractors install an approved window using approved SAWDAC installation methods.  All installations registered with Window Wise are subject to random inspections to ensure standards compliance.

Advice for Heritage Homes

Windows are one of the most important aspects of a home's originality.  Careful weather stripping of older, single-pane, wood-frame windows will do much to improve their energy efficiency.  If the original wooden storm windows have been destroyed, it's possible to have custom wood storms made to order.  If the object is to preserve the appearance of the building, avoid metal storms or storm-and-screen combinations.
If exterior wood storms are not desirable because of the maintenance factor, interior storms offer a good alternative.  These are less noticeable than exterior metal storms, and they can be made to fit on the sash or the window trim.  If the window sash is badly deteriorated, replacement units can be made to fit the existing frame.

Heating and Furnace Replacements

Do Your Homework

For detailed information about heating equipment and controls, visit the Natural Resource's Canada Office of Energy Efficiency website.

Finding and Choosing a Heating and Furnace Contractor

Proper installation and quality products are critical to realizing the benefits of replacing your furnace.  While replacing your furnace, get a new variable-speed fan motor at the same time.
First, find a reputable contractor by contacting HRAC files/images/icon_external_sites.gif, the national heating contractors association, or HVCI files/images/icon_external_sites.gif, the provincial heating contractors association.  All HRAC members must have valid trade certificates, fuel licenses (e.g. gas fitters ticket), business license, WCB coverage and liability insurance.

  • Ask contractors how long they've been in business, what kind of warranty is provided on their work and materials, if they will obtain all the required permits for their work, and if their installers have completed HVCI's Quality First training.
  • Ask contractors to base their bid on the installation of a high-efficiency Energy Star qualified furnace with a high-efficiency circulating fan motor.
  • Many factors affect your home-heating needs, so require your contractor perform a heating-load calculation to properly size your furnace (heating capacity). 
  • Ask contractors for their business license number and check them out with your local Better Business Bureau or municipal business license office.
  • Ask contractors for references and contact at least one reference.
  • Get one or more estimates - note: there are widely varying degrees of quality and professionalism; the lowest bid is not always a good investment as these contractors may not have appropriate training or be using quality materials.
  • Be wary of contractors that offer a reduced price offer for a cash deal.
  • Get a written contract.

For a more detailed explanation of how to choose any contractor, download or order the CMHC general guidelines or check out our Finding a Contractor section.

Other Home Improvements

Do Your Homework

The Natural Resources Canada's Office of Energy Efficiency website provides good general information about a wide variety of home improvements to help you understand your renovation better.
It's important to know that proper installation and quality products are critical to enjoying the benefits of your renovation.  The lowest priced bid is not always your best option as some contractors lack the proper training or cut corners to land a job.  In addition to the advice offered in these links, always ask what experience they have in doing energy efficient renovations and whether they (and their subcontractors) use Energy Star equipment and materials.

Finding and Choosing a Contractor

Start by visiting the Get It in Writing files/images/icon_external_sites.gif website for an overview of what you need to know when hiring a contractor.
Then to find a contractor, visit the Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association files/images/icon_external_sites.gif website and select either renovations or the specific type of job you have in mind if it is listed.

Integrated Home Energy Service

If your renovation is specifically targeted at reducing energy consumption or you are looking for a one stop service, some companies offer a comprehensive service that includes an energy assessment, selecting a pre-qualified contractor, conducting independent quality control on the contractors work, arranging low interest financing, and helping you apply for grants and rebates. Visit http://www.homeworks.ca/about/index.php files/images/icon_external_sites.gif.


Notice: Links marked with a globe icon files/images/icon_external_sites.gif will take you to private web sites not maintained by the City of Vancouver. These links will open in a new browser window. Our provision of these links does not imply approval, warrant the accuracy of any information, or endorse any opinions expressed on any of these private web sites.


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