When to DIY and when to hire a pro


One reason to DIY (do it yourself) instead of hire a contractor for your home’s energy efficiency projects is if you’re convinced you can do a better job. Naturally, this depends on the scope of the project and how knowledgeable you are about the work. And there are additional reasons to tackle a home energy efficiency project yourself:

  • You’re unable to find a contractor who is available and reasonably priced.
  • You need the work completed in a tight time frame or during odd hours.
  • You’re certain you can save a lot of money. 
  • The job is one you’d really enjoy doing yourself. 

On the flipside, there are also several good reasons to hire a contractor and not tackle projects yourself:

  • Specialized equipment is required. For example, the best wall insulators use a fill tube, which results in a higher R-value performance. Some contractors use an infrared camera to review wall framing and air leaks.
  • Specialized materials are needed. Attics need proper ventilation, and contractors might have easier access to attic insulation baffles or roof vents.
  • There’s a safety issue. Jobs, such as insulating an attic, can be dangerous; you could accidentally step onto the sheetrock ceiling and fall through it. 
  • Expertise is required beyond the homeowner’s capability, like tuning a furnace or repairing holes in a sheetrock wall to match the wall around it.
  • Tackling the project yourself will save little or no money. Sometimes contractors can do the project at a lower cost than you could.

As you consider whether to do the job yourself, be sure to research the tools and supplies needed.

Some do-it-yourselfers are comfortable tackling an attic insulation project. The steep pitch of this roof and the plywood decking this person is kneeling on makes this project appear easy, but in most homes, you’ll only be able to stand on the floor joists or rafters.

Fortunately, there are amazing resources online. 

When you search for information like “how to insulate an attic” or “how to air seal a home,” you’ll find fact sheets and video tutorials from contractors, home improvement shows, big-box suppliers and material manufacturers. YouTube videos often show experts making the installation of anything seem simple, but beware, some of these videos are aimed at other experts and not DIY homeowners. 

To ensure you’re getting technically sound information, visit the ENERGY STAR® website (energystar.gov). Also, if you have good energy auditors in your area, they can be another great source of information. Be sure to check with your local electric co-op about energy audits.

Our advice: Don’t tackle energy efficiency projects yourself unless you’ve thoroughly researched them and have become very knowledgeable. Another benefit of doing the research upfront is that it will help you even if you decide to hire a contractor. You’ll be able to identify a knowledgeable contractor and hire one who knows you recognize a quality job. Good luck!

Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency write on energy efficiency topics for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. For additional energy tips and information on Collaborative Efficiency, visit: collaborativeefficiency.com/energytips.