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By Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen

If you’re handy or like taking on a challenge, do-it-yourself (DIY) projects can be rewarding. There’s something rewarding about rolling up your sleeves and seeing the result of your hard work. But when it comes to home improvement, some projects – including energy efficiency improvements – are best left up to the professionals.

Weighing the DIY option

When it comes to home energy efficiency projects, there are a variety of reasons you may want to try DIY. One reason is if you’re convinced you can do a better job than a contractor. Naturally, this depends on the scope of the project and how knowledgeable you are about the work. Here are some reasons for tackling a project on your own:

  • You’re unable to find a contractor that 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.
Deciding to hire a contractor

On the flipside, there are also several good reasons to hire a contractor:

  • Specialized equipment is required. For example, 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 or risk.
  • Tackling the project yourself will save little or no money. I discovered years ago that some contractors could install insulation cheaper than I could buy it.
Research energy efficiency projects upfront

As you consider whether to do the job yourself, be sure to research the tools and supplies you’ll need. Fortunately, there are amazing resources online.

When you search for information like “how to insulate an attic” or “how to air seal a home” online, 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 projects 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 ( Also, energy auditors can be another great source of information. They can provide specifics about the materials you’ll need as well as information about local contractors and suppliers.

We don’t recommend tackling energy efficiency projects yourself unless you’ve done thorough research. Another benefit of doing 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 recognize a quality job.   

Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency write on energy efficiency topics for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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