Finding A Supplier
Although not directly related to energy saving we get continuous questions about how to find a reliable supplier to carry out energy saving work. The guide below is what we use whenever we are spending large sums of money having work done for us. It has worked successfully for us for jobs costing between £500 and £20,000 over fifteen years. If despite having made all the checks you are still uneasy about a supplier the advice is don't use them. Good suppliers are used to doing this and will be willing to document what they agree with you. It never ceases to amaze me how many suppliers disappear the minute you mention written quotes. To protect yourself it is important that you have a signed agreement with the supplier.
The start of obtaining a quote is to write down exactly what you want done, when and any constraints such as limited access. Rather than descriptive paragraphs write a list of items. Once written down take a few days to think about what you have written and get a few people to read your requirements asking whether they understand what you want and if they think anything is missing.
It may seem like hard work but can save a lot of money. With one building job we saw a difference in cost of over 100% (£4000 to £9000) but the cheapest one was only an estimate as was the most expensive one strangely enough. For this job we found seven suitable suppliers, narrowed it down to four by checking their reputation out on the internet. The remaining four were invited to give a quote against a written specification. Only two were willing to give a quote and off these we chose the one that insisted on agreeing all the details of the written specification which grew considerably but at the end both we and the supplier knew each others expectations. This specification included staged payments linked to start and finish times for each stage of the work and penalty clauses if either of us failed to do what we said. It was also the cheapest quote but did go through several iterations with the final cost being just under £6000. The job was completed on time and we got exactly what we asked for plus the supplier was paid when he expected..
- Always get quotes (not estimates) from at least 3 suppliers
A Quote is a fixed price and estimate is a guess which may be accurate
- Always ask for a quote in writing
It helps the supplier understand more clearly what you want and what questions they need answering.
- Insist on a detailed quote listing everything that will be done and what is not covered
This helps identify areas of misunderstanding.
- Do a search for the supplier on the internet
Looking for problems and complaints plus checking the business address is as you have been told. There are various web sites that rate suppliers - worth doing a search. Local trading standards may also be able to help.
- Ask for a copy of the suppliers insurance with the quote
Check that it is valid with the insurance company.
- Ask neighbors and friends who they use
Go and see examples of work since your standards may be different to friends and neighbors.
- Never pay till the job is complete to your satisfaction
For large jobs it is best to agree staged payments. Never give more than a 10% deposit.
- Ask for references and follow them up
It doesn't take long to make a few phone calls and it could save you a lot of money. Just be cautious and ask what is their relationship to the supplier and what the supplier did for them.
- Are they a member of a recognised professional body
Check what you are being told is true.
- Do they turn up on time for the appointment to do the quote
If no be suspicious, it may be they are unreliable.
- Agree in writing exactly who will be doing the work
There is nothing worse on a large job to have different people arrive every day.
- Do they need any professional qualifications to do some or all of the work
Particularly true for gas and electrical jobs.
- Make sure the company has a proper address and phone number not just a mobile phone number
This is to make sure you know where to go if the worst happens.
- Agree when the job will be done and how long as part of the quote
Linking payments to stage completion is a good incentive. Remember bad weather may delay jobs.here relevant agree how this will be dealt with.
- Agree what the guarantee period is
This may be different for different parts of the job - go for the longest period you can.
- Ask the supplier to document any risks to completing the job properly to a high standard and on time
This helps concentrate both yours and the suppliers mind on things that could go wrong and how to deal with them.
- Read the contract you sign very carefully
Never be afraid to challenge things you are not happy with and insist on changes - yes even on pre printed contracts..