Now when repairs or improvements are done in tandem with energy bills, we really don't want mistakes. However, hiring a contractor does NOT guarantee that mistakes will not happen. I can say with almost every improvement I made on my house when using an outside contractor, I found errors that would cost me more money on my energy bills.
Errors and lies were made almost all the time. Half truths were told to me just to sell me something I did not need. If the contractor took some time to realize what I was about as an Environmental Scientist and Energy Consultant, they wouldn't have been so surprised, when I questioned them about their half truths, flat out lies and errors! I must confess, seeing their mouths drop open when I hit them with facts that proved them wrong, was rewarding. Especially when they made the changes to do the job correctly.
The photo shows an old house being repaired. The outside wall was damaged and the old inefficient "bat" insulation was pulled out and replaced with new fiberglass insulation. This would be fine, but the new insulation was installed backwards and stuffed in between the wooden joists, thus compromising the integrity of the insulation. In the photo you can see the brown paper vapor barrier facing outward. This is completely wrong. The vapor barrier ALWAYS faces in toward the warmer side. Also the insulation was made for placement between joists 16 inches apart on center. These joists are 12 inches apart on center. So stuffing the insulation in with the vapor barrier facing the wrong way will cause mold and mildew build up, heat lost and condensation build up inside the wall.
These facts are the basics for insulation jobs and yet these contractors had no idea what they were doing. What makes this worse are our so called political leaders yelling for more weather stripping around doors and windows to save our Earth. Well, here is a News Flash - We have been doing those actions since the late 1970s!
How about testing contractors to be licensed? Make the tests easy by breaking the exams down for each trade or topic. For example, doing insulation jobs, then test for just that work. No need to know how to install a multi-set back thermostat or replacement windows. We test accountants, doctors, but if the world is doomed why are contractors unlicensed and free to do anything... especially when their labor produces energy inefficiency?!
I had to take classes to be certified and everyone who works on my team is certified or licensed in their field. They are experts. Therefore, all contractors need to be tested on their craft, not just the managers. I say this because after catching employees installing the wrong insulation in my attic, they called their manager and over the phone that manager tried to sell me the mistake his employees made. I knew the facts, but the average American does not! The manager that spoke to me didn't stand a chance and had no choice but to order the costly change so the job was done correctly. My house ended up being done correctly because I knew the facts as an energy consultant, but my house is only one of the many dwellings in our country. Sadly, the majority of Americans are unaware of these details and as such, across our nation, this creates an abundance of wasted energy due to uneducated, careless or corrupt contractors.
Most political leaders would do us all a world of good by stopping to pretend they are experts in everything. Most of the time they do not know what they are talking about, especially when it comes to energy and our environment.
Bill Lauto, at GoingTrueGreen.com
International Sustainability and Energy Consultant
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