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Monday, December 4, 2023
Dec. 4, 2023

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Energy Adviser: Research before a purchase


Smart shoppers do their research before making a big purchase, but in the highly specialized world of home improvement and energy savings, it can be hard to recognize when something is marketing hype or when the investment will yield cost-effective results.

While there are plenty of honest contractors and salespeople motivated by a happy customer and the satisfaction of a job well done, others can be more focused on closing the deal and getting a contract signed.

The ability to separate one from the other is critical but can be difficult without product knowledge or trade experience.

“Even the most straightforward home improvement projects can be expensive and stressful, so homeowners rely on companies offering those services to guide them in the right direction,” said Clark Public Utilities Energy Services Supervisor DuWayne Dunham. “That’s why we’re so adamant that customers research the companies and the products they want to install, get bids from at least three different businesses, and some time to consider options before signing any contracts.”

When meeting with a contractor or salesperson, listen for telltale signs of salesmanship. As they saying goes: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Many older homes in Clark County could significantly reduce energy waste by investing in energy-efficiency projects. Many homes could also reduce monthly energy bills by investing in a rooftop solar array. But, simply put: there is no one-size-fits-all solution and results can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors. These projects can be very expensive, require years to recoup the cost of investment or just flat out won’t fit. An honest contractor will be upfront about your situation.

Be wary of “limited-time offers.” Sales professionals know a time constraint, real or imagined, can move a deal along. But big decisions deserve careful consideration and multiple bids. An ethical contractor will provide time for consideration and honor a previous offer.

Watch for the upsell. Sometimes salespeople try to sell customers a product that is far above their needs.

“We’ve heard stories that are the home improvement equivalent of a salesperson selling the customer a Corvette when what they really needed, and asked for, was a Corolla,” Dunham said.

The best thing customers can do is take their time. Find companies with solid reputations and then contact them to discuss your goals. Listen to the proposed solutions, the products they recommend, and then ask them to explain their reasoning. Take notes and compare bids from more than one vendor. If there are differences in cost or type of solution, ask questions.

The Clark Public Utilities Contractor Network is a good resource for finding contractors who do energy-efficiency work in Clark County. Customers must select from it in order to qualify for rebates or incentives offered by the utility.

The network isn’t an endorsement, recommendation or warranty. But, if you’ve chosen to do business with a contractor in the network and aren’t satisfied with the process or performance, call Clark Public Utilities right away.

To be eligible for the Contractor Network and to perform work eligible for utility rebates and incentives, contractors must meet the utility’s standard of customer service, stay up to date on the utility’s current programs, while also maintaining all essential bonds, licenses, insurance and professional credentials their fields require.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98688.

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