Home Performance Contractors
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Because the whole-house, or systems, approach to homes is a fairly new concept, not everyone in the building trades is familiar with it. And it goes against traditional building practice, which is based on specialty trades. You probably already know how that goes: a different contractor for every task. And none of them has any idea what the other is doing.
This is changing with the emergence of the home performance contractor, a person trained and equipped to test homes to see where problems exist. These contractors go by a variety of names, such as house doctor, or comfort solutions specialist. Often there is a reference to energy on their calling cards since many of them learned their trade as weatherization technicians or energy auditors and retrofitters. More and more traditional heating/air conditioning contractors, insulation contractors, and general contractors are being trained in the whole-house approach, so the only way to know if this is part of their practice is simply to ask.
What To Look For
Contractors trained to approach the house as a system will use special tools, especially a blower door, to evaluate your home. The blower door is a fan in an adjustable frame that fits into your doorway. When the fan is running, the contractor can identify air leakage sites. Other tools are used to test for duct leakage or to help you see how good an insulation job was done in your walls or ceiling. The home performance contractor will also test any combustion appliances for safe operation. This includes testing house pressures, because if a room is very depressurized it can pull exhaust air back down the flue pipes of appliances into the house.
These tests should be done as you begin your remodel to identify problem areas, and again after the work is done to check to see that no new problems arose as a result of changes made to the house.
Excerpted with permission from No-Regrets Remodeling by Home Energy (1997)