Home Performance Contractors vs. General Contractors: What’s the Difference?

When your home needs improvements, repairs, or new HVAC equipment, you typically call a contractor, or maybe even a “general contractor” (GC). A GC typically hires subcontractors to do the actual work, as in kitchen and bath remodels, or building new homes. While some general contractors can address small, isolated issues within your home, they often don’t look at the whole picture.

Home Performance Contractors (HPC’s), on the other hand, specialize in taking a “whole-house approach” at solving your home’s needs with respect to comfort, indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and health & safety.

What is Home Performance Contracting?

Home Performance Contracting treats your entire home as a system. This building science-based approach utilizes diagnostic tools like “blower-doors” and “infrared cameras” to inspect and test your house to locate the areas that need the most help.

After the initial inspection, the HPC analyzes the findings and creates a scope of work for the needed improvements which can include, but aren’t limited to: insulation, air sealing, heating/cooling systems and ductwork, windows/doors, and ventilation among other things. It’s comparable to creating a set of blueprints before you start building a house, or getting a X-ray of your teeth before the dentist starts drilling!

This approach takes into account all the interacting systems within a home (HVAC, appliances, insulation, water heating, ventilation, etc.) and by using this approach, HPC’s are able to make strategic upgrades that specifically target the sources of the problems, rather than putting “band-aids” on the symptoms.

The HPC then coordinates with the proper workers and subcontractors needed to get the job done right. A detailed scope of work is given to each person or subcontractor on the job, along with expectations for testing the improvements afterwards.

Once improvements are complete, the house is tested again to verify that the intended improvements have been installed effectively, and these homes become much more healthy, comfortable, and efficient. Check out this recent case-study as an example.

How Does Home Performance Contracting Differ From General Contracting?

General contracting usually addresses one or two problems that you as the homeowner have told the contractor you want fixed (symptoms). Most of the time the contractor isn’t going to explore deeper to see what else may need to be fixed, they’re just going to address whatever it is you’ve asked them to.

This is especially true when it comes to tackling home comfort problems. Most contractors just guess at what the causes of the symptoms are, they never test! They’re not trained and educated in building-science in the way RESNET HERS Raters and Home Performance Contractors are, and they likely don’t have the proper equipment necessary to inspect and test for the source(s) of your problems anyway.

For example, you might be experiencing high humidity inside your home during the summer, where your windows are “sweating” all the time and the A/C is running non-stop. A general contractor might suggest installing new windows, or a ventilation system in the house, or perhaps even a dehumidifier to help remove the moisture. An HVAC contractor may tell you that an entirely new and “bigger” system is needed to fix your problem. These are examples of “band-aids” that address the symptoms, not the problems themselves, and you can end up wasting a lot of money guessing at the problem, and even make the problem worse!

A Home Performance Contractor like us, on the other hand, would conduct a much more thorough assessment of the home to determine why the windows are sweating in the first place. Think of it like going to the doctor when you’re feeling sick. If they don’t test to see what exactly is making you sick, then they can’t possibly prescribe effective medication to stop it. So in this scenario, the HPC would test to determine if the high humidity is caused by a leaky house, a lack of insulation, poor quality windows, or possibly something else with the HVAC system before they ever provide recommendations for improvements.

The Benefits of Working With a Home Performance Contractor (HPC)

Examining your house as a system with a HPC has many benefits over general contracting. These benefits include:

A More Healthy Home 

Many factors contribute to your home’s health. A major element to having a healthy home is good indoor air quality (IAQ). Indoor air quality is affected by more than just appropriate ventilation systems. Having proper insulation, air sealing, and maintaining gas-combustion systems to prevent the possibility of carbon monoxide buildup also have a significant influence on IAQ.

A More Comfortable Home

Being more comfortable year-round is what everyone wants. At Building Performance, we know what makes you uncomfortable and how to fix it. By using diagnostic tools and taking the whole-house approach, we can locate and attack the problems causing your discomfort quickly and efficiently. This takes building-science knowledge, which the vast majority of general contractors simply do NOT have.

Energy Efficiency Savings

A primary concern of home performance contractors is to ensure your home and its systems are performing at their best. By optimizing your systems and helping you find cost-effective energy efficient solutions, a home performance contractor will help you save money.

After a home energy audit, you might get a range of recommendations ranging from something as simple as switching to energy efficient light bulbs (CFL or LED), to something more complex such as air-sealing and insulating your house, along with a heating & cooling system renovation.

Saving you money on your utility bills is something that will inherently come out of working with a home performance contractor.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

In addition to saving you money on your energy costs, contractors specializing in home performance can help you be more environmentally friendly by reducing your carbon footprint. In addition to being experts in home energy efficiency and comfort, home performance contractors are well-versed in how renewable energy resources like solar, wind, and geothermal available in your area can reduce your impact on the environment and lower or even eliminate your utility bills!

Choosing a Home Performance Contractor over a general contractor helps ensure that every part of your house will be taken into consideration for improvement to help create a more comfortable, healthy, and efficient home, that’s also environmentally friendly!

Contact Building Performance to schedule your Home Performance energy audit today, and see why we’re the best Home Performance Contractors around Louisville, KY!