Why is it that heating and cooling systems seem to go out during the middle of a heatwave or in the midst of freezing temperatures? If you believe in Murphy’s Law, if it can happen, it will happen. This adage definitely applies to the breakdown of appliances, particularly your heating and cooling system. So, I need an HVAC Contractor? How do I choose a reputable contractor who won’t overcharge me and will do the right work? It might be a little easier than you think! Even though you’re likely searching for an HVAC contractor while you’re either burning up or freezing, you’ll do well to stop and take a few steps to finding a licensed, reputable HVAC Contractor. These tips will also assist you should you simply want to upgrade your HVAC system.
What is an HVAC system? HVAC stands for heating, ventilating, and air conditioning, and an HVAC Contractor typically works on central heat and air units, but they can do other work such as installing or maintaining a building’s HVAC system. They may do both home and residential work.
Tips and Tricks to Finding A Reputable HVAC Contractor
01. Do some research
First, you’ll want to research your state’s licensing requirements for a heating, ventilating and air conditioning contractor. When you begin making a list of potential contractors to contact, be sure to ask if they are licensed and bonded in your state.
Next, before you ever reach out to the possible contractor, you’ll want to be aware of the type of unit as well as serial numbers or model numbers of your own air conditioning unit or cooling system. If you have that data available, you’ll also want to notate any service calls or maintenance history regarding your system. Is your system working fairly well in some areas of the home but not in others? This is pertinent information your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning consultant will need to know. Furthermore, any information you can give the contractor that helps them to isolate the issue and correct it quickly – saving you money!
02. Talk to trusted neighbors, friends, and family in your town or state regarding a contractor they recommend.
Do you have a friend you suddenly remember had to call an HVAC Contractor last summer? Pick up the phone and ask for that contractor’s name, and be sure to get contact information. Although you should exercise some caution when doing so, get on social media and ask for recommendations from family and friends this way. (Often, this will weed out any nefarious contractors because people on social platforms WILL tell you exactly how satisfied they are with someone’s work.) Has your office recently had maintenance work done on the heating and cooling system? Ask your supervisors about the contractor the company utilized. When you talk to others, you can start to make yourself a list of names. You can also begin to find out as to whether the contractor is properly licensed, and you can make notes about his or her professional reputation.
03. Begin calling the contractors you’ve listed.
When you speak to each potential contractor, ask them for a list of professional references. They should be able to supply you with at least three individuals or business owners that can attest to the professional abilities of the contractor. Also, don’t forget to ask them if they are licensed (some states also require HVAC contractors to be bonded as well). Be sure to make notations as to the contractor’s certifications.
04. Call the contractor’s references.
Keep track of all contractors, their licensing and bonding information, and their positive (and negative) references.
Note: You may get great references and confirm that the contractor is licensed as required by your state. You may get many referrals and have several reputable contractors’ information. How does one choose that point?
You’d also be wise to contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in your area. The BBB will have information regarding any negative reports lodged against a contractor or the company for which the contractor works. Steer clear of contractors who have multiple complaints.
05. Schedule a home evaluation; ask if they will do this as a part of a free estimate.
This is often where you get to “feel out” the available contractors. Some contractors will not offer free estimates. Then, there’s always the possibility once you meet a contractor, you simply won’t hit it off. You can eliminate these individuals and move on to others with more potential. Was the contractor fairly punctual regarding the home evaluation? If not, did he take the time to call and explain the delay? Was the contractor polite and overall courteous to you? Was the contractor’s demeanor professional? These small traits are often indicative of a contractor who tends to be as professional as possible.
Another sign that will relieve those of us who aren’t mechanically inclined – does the contractor explain the problem to you without using language you can’t understand? If he or she does lean more toward the jargon of the profession, will they willingly break it down for you, should you ask? Each of these suggestions will help you to assess the professionalism of the HVAC contractor so that you can choose who will give you the best service possible. Many contractors offer free estimates. Be sure to take notes of these interactions as well. Write down names, dates, whether the contractor tells you a possible issue that will need to be repaired, etc.
Take notice of how the contractor carries him or herself when carrying out the home evaluation. Does the contractor seem to be in a hurry? Does the contractor seem dismissive of your questions and concerns? Does the individual really look at your cooling (or heating) system before giving you a price? If you feel that the contractor is not going to repair your issue properly or to carry out whatever work you need doing, then cross that name off your list of potential contractors. The contractor should check things such as the airflow of the unit as well as your ductwork during a home evaluation. When the contractor carries out the evaluation, do they take care to do all these things? Does the contractor look at the unit, the ductwork, maybe even the wiring of the system? These actions indicate the contractor takes pride in a job well done and is conscious about the business’s reputation.
If the contractor is not willing to come by and look at your home to give an estimate, you might want to steer clear of that individual. Most reputable contractors can’t give a reliable quote over the phone, and they won’t even attempt to. Plus, the contractor will need to look at the heating and cooling unit (as well as parts of your home associated with the unit’s performance) in order to give you the most accurate quote possible. We should also mention here that while it’s a good thing for a company to offer specials, companies that offer free service calls (this is almost unheard of in the contractor business) or service rates that are far below the competition’s prices may be doing so to draw business to an otherwise disreputable company. Remember, if a price quote seems too good, it probably really isn’t!
06. Ask that any estimate be not only verbal but written into an itemized list.
Yes, it is difficult to be patient and wait for a written estimate if your heat is broken or the air conditioner has suddenly stopped working, but you’ll be glad you took the time to ask for a line-item estimate when dealing with an HVAC Contractor. When the contractor comes for a home evaluation, they will likely quote you a price. Be sure to ask, “Could you put that in writing for me?” Ask for this information before you agree to let the contractor come in to do the repairs or any other work to your heating and cooling system.
It’s also important to remember that you need to get an explanation of what these repairs (or the replacement of a unit) will cost you over the long run. If you choose to have an outdated unit simply patched to save money, you will either end up replacing it eventually, or you may have to absorb the higher costs of energy because the older unit isn’t as efficient. Ask about warranties regarding the work and any warranties for the parts used to make repairs. If you will be replacing your current unit, you’ll want the warranty information on this as well. Each of these should be put in writing and should accompany your written estimate.
07. Take the time to get a contract drawn up.
Again, when it’s sweltering or you’re freezing, you might not want to take the time to get everything in writing, but it will save you many potential headaches in the long run. You want the contract to list all potential dates that work should be done or finished – be sure to have some flexibility written into the contract. Remember that weather or other unforeseeable circumstances could affect your contractor’s ability to get the work done on time. You’ll also want the contract to specify the exact work to be done, a list of estimated costs, as well as the serial numbers of the cooling units you’re adding to your home. You’ll also want the contractor’s warranty information included in the contract, as well as the manufacturer’s warranty of the unit or other materials. Having all this information in one place is not just wise, but it protects both you and the contractor. Get this signed before you ever allow the contractor to begin work.
In all, when you are getting ready to hire a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning specialist, set aside time to vet the contractor before allowing work to be done on your home. Get your contract in writing as well. You’ll save more money on a quality repair or replacement of equipment when you do.