Q What should I look at when evaluating a lighting contractor?
AUnfortunately, the majority of the lighting jobs I see when driving around at night stink. Either they weren't designed right from the beginning or the systems haven't been properly maintained. Experience is very important, if the sales representative has only been in the business a few years or doesn't visit his or her jobsites, his jobs probably look bad. Here is a list of things to ask or do in your research:
1) Look at their website, how does their portfolio look? If those pictures don't look good than there is a good chance your jobs won't either. What brands do they list? The major brand names are Kichler, Hadco, Vista, Unique, BR, and Cast. If you don't see those companies listed, they are probably using cheaps knock-off brands made in China or cheap plastic Home Depot lights.
2) Does the sales representative have any pictures to show of jobs he or she has done
3) How long has the sales representative been doing lighting? What training have they received? Are they Certified?
4) Ask general questions such as "How many amps will the system need" "How much will it cost me a month" "Will you voltage test my lights to avoid premature burn-outs" "How do you compensate for voltage drop". These questions probably don't mean anything to you at the moment but a great lighting designer will be able to explain what these things mean and why it is important for the longevity and safety of your lighting system.
5) What brand lights do you use? Be leary of companies that only offer one brand. Lights all have different price points. Some customers may be more value focused, others may prefer to pay a little bit more for a better light if they understand the value. Also, certain manufacturers manufacturer bettter lights for certain applications. A good company should carry at least 3 different brands.