Finding an Insulation Contractor
Last updated in March 2015
To get PG&E’s rebate on insulation work, you’ll have to hire a company from its “approved contractors” list to do the work. The first step is to get an energy audit from a PG&E-approved company. Then contract with that company, or another PG&E-approved contractor, to get any recommended work done. PG&E’s list of contractors can be found at PGE.com/homeupgrade.
The quality of an insulation job is vital to maximizing the effectiveness of insulation work. Fortunately, several area contractors are equal to the job. Our Ratings Tables for insulation contractors show reviews submitted by area consumers (primarily Consumers' Checkbook and Consumer Reports subscribers) for insulation installers. The ratings and comments for insulation contractors are for the most part positive.
Ask prospective companies how they plan to do the work, what materials they plan to use, and why. Be wary of exaggerated claims of energy savings. And be sure to ask firms for proof of worker’s compensation and liability coverage.
Since most insulation contractors seem to do satisfactory work, and because prices vary widely from company to company, get several price quotes. It’s worth your time to collect at least a few prices. Consumers' Checkbook’s mystery shoppers called a sample of area contractors and obtained price quotes to add loose-fill insulation to the attic of a specific house. The price quotes are shown on the table below. As you can see, we found dramatic price differences, from $1,332 to more than $2,500.
For straightforward jobs like insulating an attic, most companies will quote a price over the phone, so long as you know about how much insulation you want added and the dimensions of the area.
In general, we have not seen a consistent relationship between prices charged and quality of work; some companies with low prices get very favorable ratings from customers—and some do not.
Before contracting with any company, have one of its representatives come out to see your house and provide a written proposal. While there, the rep should inspect the job site and check for any issues—for example, to make sure there is no exposed wiring in any area before it is insulated. (Insulation cannot be installed over old knob-and-tube–style wiring.)
Get a contract that details the size of the area to be insulated, how much insulation will be installed, the type of insulation, and the resulting R-value (the Federal Trade Commission requires firms to do this). For blown-in loose-fill insulation, the contract should also state the depth in inches of insulation present before new insulation is added and the depth after the work is done. If the firm will be sealing cracks and other infiltration points, make sure the contract specifies the location of these areas.
Other matters to cover in the contract—
- In attic spaces, the contract should promise that the company will keep attic vents free of blockage. Typically, a company will use fiberglass batts to build a dam around spaces that should not be covered by insulation. In addition, be sure the firm will insulate the attic’s access panel or pull-down stairway.
- Check for any recessed lighting fixtures (like can lights) that are exposed in the attic. If they are marked “IC,” it means insulation can contact them. If they are not IC-rated, be sure the contractor promises to keep insulation a minimum of three inches away to avoid fire hazard.
- If ductwork, boiler pipes, or hot-water supply pipes run through the area to be insulated, the contract should require the contractor to insulate them with R-6 insulation.
- If you will be insulating walls, the contract should specify where the company will create holes, how many, and how the openings will be closed and repaired.
- Reference in the contract a material fact sheet, which the company should attach, describing the insulation that will be installed (contractors are legally obligated to provide a fact sheet, upon request).
- Unless your job requires more than one day’s work (most don’t), don’t agree to pay for any work until all work has been completed.
Before paying, check that all cracks were sealed as agreed upon, that the amount of insulation added matches the proposal, and that loose-fill insulation was applied evenly. Also, make sure the crew has cleaned up the area.
Prices Quoted by Companies to Add Insulation
|Bay Valley Insulation, Fremont, 510-791-5535||$1,332|
|All Seasons Insulation, Pleasant Hill, 925-935-7965||$1,450|
|Cal West Insulation, San Jose, 408-644-7942||$1,500|
|Alcal Specialty Contracting, Fremont, 510-477-9380||$1,600|
|City-Wide Insulation, San Francisco, 415-652-0260||$1,600-$1,900|
|West Coast Insulation, Redwood City, 650-369-7111||$1,700-$1,800|
|McCoy Insulation, Oakland, 510-553-1003||$1,800|
|Universal Insulation, Campbell, 408-374-2080||$1,800|
|Eagle Shield, Danville, 800-408-2375||$1,710-$2,250|
|McHale Insulation, Martinez, 925-825-9780||$1,980|
|O’Conner Insulation, Burlingame, 650-342-7233||$2,000|
|Shel Harris Energy Conservation, Berkeley, 510-549-3290||$2,000|
|SDI Insulation, Burlingame, 650-875-1628||$2,250|
|Advanced Home Energy, Richmond, 510-540-4860||$2,520|
|EnerG Shield, San Jose, 408-225-5544||$2,500-$2,700|