Contractor's Guide to Success

Select the section applicable to your current situation, depending on whether you have an existing contracting business ready for growth or are just getting started.

Growing Your Business

Explore: Chapter 1. Getting Started

Chapter 1. Getting Started

1.1 What Is a Weatherization Assistance Program Contractor?

A Weatherization Assistance Program contractor is a professional or company that specializes in helping households become more energy efficient with support from the Weatherization Assistance Program. This multibillion-dollar program is part of the U.S. Department of Energy. Weatherization helps low-income households make their homes more energy efficient, healthier, and safer. 

Here’s how the Weatherization Assistance Program works. Energy experts from the program visit eligible homes to see how they use energy. They create a work order for energy efficiency measures and health and safety improvements. This is where Weatherization Assistance Program contractors come in.

Finding Opportunities for Contracting Jobs

Different local Weatherization Assistance Programs have different rules for contractors. It’s important to know how the program works where you live. In some areas, the people who run the Weatherization Assistance Program hire their own workers. In other places, they hire contractors like you. And in some areas, they hire a mix of both.

The way program providers find contractors also varies. Some use a bidding process where they ask for proposals or bids on their website. Others keep a list of preferred contractors. If you want to work with the Weatherization Assistance Program, you should get in touch with the people who run it in your area. 

Weatherization Career Spotlight

Alejandro Cueto
Crew Lead at Moore Renovations

After emigrating to the United States for a better future for himself and his family, Alejandro Cueto found a new home and career in Pennsylvania.

“Weatherization reduces the operating costs of a house, so when a person saves money on fuel, it’s the best benefit for the people, it’s a savings!”

1.2 The Role of the Weatherization Assistance Program Contractor

As a weatherization installer, you help make homes more energy efficient and comfortable. You do things such as adding insulation, sealing any gaps or holes, installing efficient lighting, and making sure heating and cooling systems are safe to operate. 

You use many different tools, know a lot about how buildings work, and make sure everything is safe. 

Your skills help families use less energy, spend less on utility bills, and have healthier and more eco-friendly homes.

Weatherization contractors must have a variety of construction skills. You need to know how to install insulation, do carpentry work, air seal spaces, and understand heating and cooling systems. 

You also must follow safety rules, know a bit about electrical and plumbing work, be good at figuring out problems, and be friendly with customers. Plus, you have to pay attention to small details and manage your time well.

As a weatherization contractor, you get training and certifications for two important reasons: to be good at your job and to stay safe. You earn certifications such as the Building Performance Institute’s Air Leakage Control Installer certification, OSHA’s 10-hour certification, EPA’s Renovator Remodeler Professional certification, and more. 

These certifications help to make sure you know how to do your work well, follow safety rules, and adhere to building codes. You also keep learning to stay up-to-date with new technology and find better ways of doing things.

Weatherization contractors make safety and quality a top priority in everything they do. You carefully follow safety rules, use tools correctly, and meet industry standards to keep your team and client households safe. 

You’re trained to spot and fix hazards to make sure everyone stays safe. This helps homes use energy more efficiently and become more comfortable and healthy places to live.

As a weatherization contractor, you document the job from start to finish. You take photos before and after the installation and give Weatherization Assistance Program administrators a detailed report. 

This report shows how the home has been improved, how much energy will be saved, and what needs to be done later. This report provides useful documentation for households and helps keep track of how well the weatherization program is working.

Weatherization Assistance Program contractors need to provide excellent customer service. You’ll be working with families who may need extra help, so it’s especially important to be friendly and professional. 

You’ll need to explain the work clearly, respond quickly, and treat everyone with respect. This helps build trust and make sure that households get the most out of the energy-saving changes in the home.

Following the Weatherization Assistance Program guidelines is a very important part of your job. It makes sure that the Program works well and helps families save energy and money as it’s supposed to. It ensures that energy-saving changes in homes are done properly and people get the intended benefits. 

The guidelines also prevent any cheating or wasting money, which keeps the program honest and trusted by the public. Following the rules helps the program do its best to help families save energy, protect the environment, and use public funds wisely.

1.3 What Are the Benefits of Being a Weatherization Assistance Program Contractor?

Working in the Weatherization Assistance Program comes with many benefits. It not only helps your business but allows you to improve the quality of life for low-income families, while also doing something good for the environment. 

The Weatherization Assistance Program provides a steady stream of work opportunities, ensuring a reliable source of income for your business.

The program offers valuable training, certifications, and resources that keep you updated on the latest energy efficiency technologies and techniques. This helps improve your knowledge and skills in the field.

You’ll make a positive impact on your community by reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to a more sustainable future.

You’ll help low-income households make their homes more energy efficient, reduce their energy bills, and create a more comfortable living environment.

1.4 Examples of Weatherization Measures

Installing Insulation

You’ll use special materials like fiberglass, cellulose, and foam to slow down the heat moving in and out of the walls, ceiling, and floor.

Air-Sealing/Caulking

Caulking means sealing gaps with a gooey material to stop air from getting in or out of the home. To do this, you need to find gaps, clean them, apply the caulk, smooth it, and then let it dry.

Duct Sealing

Duct sealing means fixing holes and gaps in a heating or cooling system’s pipes or ducts. It stops air from escaping, saving energy and money. Your job is to locate leaks and seal them, making the home more comfortable and efficient.

Installing Basic Water-Saving Controls

Adding water-saving controls in weatherization means making simple changes to the plumbing system to use less water. This includes installing low-flow faucets and showerheads, efficient toilets, and fixing leaks.

Installing Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

When weatherizing a home, installing safety measures is crucial. This includes smoke detectors that warn occupants about fires and CO alarms that detect harmful carbon monoxide.

Light Bulb Replacement

As part of weatherization, it’s important to replace old light bulbs with energy efficient ones. These bulbs use less electricity, last longer, and help households save money on energy bills. It’s a simple way to make a home more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Installing Exhaust Fans

Installing an exhaust fan means adding a fan in places like kitchens and bathrooms to remove old air, moisture, and smells. It involves making a hole, attaching the fan, connecting it to a pipe that goes outside, and sealing it properly. This improves the indoor air, reduces humidity, and saves energy.

Installing Programmable Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostats are devices that can adjust the home’s temperature automatically, making it more comfortable while saving energy. They can learn the occupant’s preferences and schedule, helping to reduce energy bills.

Window & Door Upgrades

Upgrading windows and doors can make a home more comfortable by preventing drafts and keeping outside weather from getting inside.

Replacing Dryer Vents

Replacing dryer vents can help the dryer work better and save energy. This also reduces the risk of lint buildup, which can be a fire hazard.

Clean/Tune-Up Heating & Cooling Systems

Home heating and cooling systems must be cleaned and serviced regularly, just like a car. A regular checkup will make sure the system is working efficiently and well.

Client Education

During weatherization, the contractor provides client education as part of the weatherization process. It helps the client understand how to take advantage of the improvements made in the home.

Video From the Field

Rick Helwig
DNR Construction

Discover how small business owner Rick Helwig grew his business, and helped make buildings more energy efficient and weather-proof, by offering weatherization services to residents of metropolitan Chicago.

1.5 The Weatherization Contractor Career Path

There are many options for you to begin a career as a weatherization contractor.

Visit the IREC Green Buildings Career Map to learn more about specialized training, preferred skills, and opportunities for weatherization and home performance contractors

Visit Green Workforce Connect to find local employers, training providers, and opportunities for contractors in your area. Green Workforce Connect is now active in three states and will be expanded nationwide in the fall of 2024.

1.6 Necessary Equipment & Tools

Starting a weatherization business may have some upfront costs. You’ll need access to critical tools such as insulation machines, thermal cameras, HEPA vacuums, and a blower door. Getting a truck and setting up a warehouse for materials are additional expenses.

Cellulose Insulation Machine

Cellulose Insulation Machine

A cellulose insulation machine is a special device used in construction. It blows or sprays recycled paper insulation into walls and attics, making homes more comfy and energy efficient. They may be rented or purchased.

Blower Door

Blower Door

A blower door machine is a diagnostic tool to test how airtight a building is. It has a powerful fan that can either blow air into a building or suck air out of it. By measuring how much air moves in or out, it helps find drafts and leaks that need to be sealed. Sealing the gaps allows you to make homes more comfortable and save energy by keeping outside air from getting in or inside air from escaping.

Tools

Tools

Just like carpenters have a toolbox with the equipment they need, you'll need a collection of tools focused on making homes more energy efficient. These tools include common items such as tape measures, and ones especially for air sealing like caulking guns and a spray foam rig. They help in sealing gaps, adding insulation, and fixing things around the house.

Click here to view a comprehensive list of tools.

HEPA Vacuum

HEPA Vacuum

A HEPA vacuum is an important tool for your weatherization company. It is a super-powered vacuum cleaner with an advanced filter that can suck up tiny particles and allergens from the air. This helps keep homes clean and safe during weatherization projects. It ensures that any dust or debris created during the work is captured and not left behind, making the home healthier for the residents and you and your crew.

Thermal Imaging Cameras

Thermal Imaging Cameras

A thermal imaging camera is a special tool used by weatherization experts to "see" heat. This special camera shows heat and cold in different colors, so that you can see hot and cold spots in the home.This helps find areas where insulation or sealing is needed, making homes more comfortable and energy efficient. It's like having a superpower to find hidden problems and fix them, all to save energy and keep homes cozy.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is a must-have for weatherization contractors. PPE keeps you and your crew safe while you're working on weatherization projects. Tiny particles of dust, insulation, and chemicals often float in the air of weatherization workspaces. PPE will protect your lungs and eyes from them. Ear protection should be used when power tools and machinery are in operation. Wearing PPE also shows the customer that you follow safety rules and are professional. It makes your work easier so you can be more efficient. Plus, it helps manage risks, which means fewer accidents.

Box Truck or Covered Trailer

Box Truck or Covered Trailer

A box truck or a large covered trailer is used for carrying equipment and materials to job sites. The truck or covered trailer helps weatherization teams transport everything they need to make homes more energy efficient. It's like your mobile workshop, making it easier to do the job effectively and efficiently while keeping your tools and equipment safe and dry, safe, and secure.

Supply Warehouse

Supply Warehouse

You will need a secure and dry location to store tools and materials when they aren't in the truck. Some people purchase bulky supplies like insulation only as needed, so they need less storage space. Others prefer a larger storage space so that plenty of materials are always on hand or so they can take advantage of bulk rates. Either way, having an inventory of supplies helps you save time and avoid multiple runs to the hardware store.

1.7 General Business Costs

There are important costs to consider when getting started in weatherization. These may include getting the right licenses, paying for office space and utilities, investing in marketing to find customers, making sure you have insurance to protect your business and employees, and hiring workers to help you get the job done. These costs are necessary to set up your company, find customers, follow the law, and keep everything safe and efficient.

General and Workers’ Compensation Insurance

General and workers’ compensation insurance plans are an important protection for a weatherization business. General insurance helps cover unexpected accidents or damage to property, while workers’ compensation insurance takes care of employees if they get hurt while on the job. 

Licenses

Licenses are official permissions for a weatherization company to do its job. They show that the company is qualified and allowed to work on people’s homes. It’s like a green light from the government, saying, “You can make homes more energy efficient and comfortable.” Having the right licenses keeps your business legal and helps build trust with customers. Be sure to check with your local state and program administrator to confirm which licenses are required in your area. 

Administrative Expenses

Administrative expenses are the costs of running the office for a weatherization company. They include paying for office space, electricity, accounting and scheduling software, and other things needed to keep the business running smoothly. It’s the behind-the-scenes stuff that makes sure everything works and everyone gets paid. The time spent keeping the books, sending invoices, and managing payroll are also administrative expenses, whether you do it yourself or pay an employee or contractor.

Promotion

Marketing is the way a company tells people about its professional services. Marketing may include a website, a logo, a sign on your truck, and other forms of public presence for your business. It’s how you let your community know about your work and your company. These expenses help you find customers and grow your business.

Weatherization Workers

Building a team for a weatherization company comes with costs. This includes paying salaries, providing training, and giving your workers the tools they need to do the job. You’ll need to assemble a strong crew to help make homes more energy efficient and comfortable. These expenses are an important part of growing the business and getting the job done right.

1.8 Training & Certifications

Weatherization workers must have certain certifications to ensure that they are qualified to do the work. You will need to budget money and time for training and certification. Costs include fees for training programs, study materials, and sometimes travel expenses. Certifications must be renewed every few years. These expenses are important investments in your team’s knowledge and skills, ensuring top-quality services and a good reputation for your business. Some certifications may be required by the Weatherization Assistance Program administrator or are necessary to obtain insurance. 

1.9
Tips of the Trade

Potential Barriers

As a Weatherization Assistance Program contractor, you’ll have some other rules and requirements to consider. These requirements, such as a driver’s license or background check, may vary depending on your location. Check with your local WAP agency to find out what’s required.

Maintaining Cash Flow

Maintaining a healthy cash flow as a Weatherization Assistance Program contractor is crucial. It helps you operate your business and pay your workers on time. It also acts as a safety net for unexpected problems and enables your business to grow.