How to Hire the Best HVAC Contractor
Are you experiencing trouble with your HVAC system? Do you have heating or cooling or ventilation problems or equipment malfunctions? Do you need repairs done or components replaced?
An HVAC contractor is the service professional you need to hire. An HVAC contractor will handle furnace repair, air conditioning repair, and general servicing of your HVAC system.
Hiring an HVAC professional that you can trust and who does great work can be difficult. Follow our tips to find the best heating and cooling company.
4 Ways to Find an HVAC Company
- Start with referrals. The people you know may have recently used the services of an HVAC contractor. They will be able to pass on the names of ones they had good experiences with (and names of contractors to avoid!).
- Use a search engine and type in “HVAC contractor near me” or “furnace repair near me” or “ac repair near me.” This search will produce a list of all HVAC companies near you.
- Check out online directories and marketplaces. Look at Yellow Pages (yellowpages.com), White Pages (whitepages.com), Dexknows, Yelp, Angie’s List, and the Better Business Bureau. You’ll want to run a local search of these national directories to find companies in your area.
- Ask at your local hardware store or home improvement store. Even shoppers in the air conditioning filter aisle or furnace repair parts aisle can be sources of ideas.
Settle on an HVAC Candidate Shortlist
When you have a list of possible heating and cooling contractors in your area, the next step is to hone the list down to three candidates. Here’s how.
- Look at each company’s website. From the look of the site to the services listed, you’ll get a sense of the company. Check for awards won, reviews left, and industry association memberships.
- Look at each company’s social media pages, starting with Facebook. Here is where you can get a feel for what happens every day or every week.
- Visit the contractor’s Google business page. Reviews posted by customers can be enlightening.
- Read company reviews on sites like Yelp, the local Better Business Bureau, and Angie’s List.
After going through the steps above, you should be able to come up with your top three HVAC contractors.
Questions to Ask a Heating and Cooling Contractor
It’s time now to call your top three contractors, ask some questions, and set up an estimate visit.
In each call, you’ll begin with some foundational questions. The answers will determine if you continue the call to give your job specifics and calendar an estimate visit.
Identify Safe HVAC Contractors
Remembering that the HVAC technicians will come in to your home to do air conditioning repairs or furnace repairs or air conditioning replacement or furnace replacement, you want to make sure they are safe.
In your first phone call, ask these questions:
- Is the business A+ rated with the Better Business Bureau?
- Is the company insured?
- Is it licensed? Is each individual technician also licensed?
- Does the company run background checks on all technicians?
- Does the company run criminal checks on all technicians?
- Are all technicians drug tested?
- How long has the company been in business? (Look for 5 years or more.)
When the AC Repair or Furnace Repair Technician Arrives
When you’ve established that the company is solid, reputable, and safety-conscious, the next step is to set up an estimate visit for the work you need to have done—ac repair, ac replacement, furnace repair, furnace replacement, etc.
On the day of the estimate visit, be observant. When the heating and cooling contractor arrives, make note if they arrived in a marked company truck, are clearly displaying company identification (is it their face on the I.D. card?), and are wearing a company uniform.
Remember that this person (or their technician for the actual job) will be entering your home. Confirming that he or she does work for the HVAC company is simply being careful and safe.
Find Out About HVAC Service and Repair Details
During this estimate visit, the HVAC contractor is still being screened. You will be doing this kind of visit again with the other two HVAC contractors on your list, and then you will make your final selection.
Ask the contractor some more questions.
- How many years are your labor and material warranties for?
- How many years are the manufacturer warranties for?
- Will you give me the warranties in writing?
- Does the warranty work have any restrictions?
- What about the money-back guarantee? Do I get all my money back?
- Who is responsible to get the permits for the job?
- Will you do a manual J load calculation, and will I see it?
- Will you show me that my system is right for the load calculation?
- Will my ductwork get checked?
Look at the HVAC Guarantees Provided
Make sure you understand all the company’s guarantees before any work is done. Ask: what guarantees come with air conditioning repair, ductwork repair, furnace repair, replacement air conditioning units, replacement furnaces, air conditioning repair parts, furnace repair parts, and new air conditioners and furnaces?
It’s possible that the technician installing or repairing your HVAC equipment will make a mistake. It’s also possible that the equipment installed will malfunction or fail. When you know the guarantees and warranties up front, it can streamline the replacements or repair work.
Regarding the money-back guarantee, be sure to read the fine print. Look closely at the terms of the money-back guarantee (does it expire?) and be sure that you will get 100% of your money back for issues that are the technician’s or manufacturer’s responsibility.
Be aware that your property should also be protected. In other words, if anything is damaged in the course of the work—walls, doorframes, floors, ceilings, carpets, tile, lawns, shrubs—you should be 100% covered. The damage should be repaired or compensated for.
The correct unit size for your home or building is important. If one is installed that is too small or too large, there should be a guarantee that a correctly-sized replacement will be put in at the company’s expense.
Heating and cooling equipment should function properly to certain temperatures. If the HVAC system doesn’t perform according to published specifications, there should be a guarantee in place that provides for replacing the equipment free of charge.
How to Identify a Bad HVAC Contractor
Before nailing down your choice of HVAC contractor, check out these last few points on how to tell if you’re considering a bad company.
- They ask for money upfront. No good HVAC company requires money upfront. Payment should be made upon completion of work. If you pay for the work upfront, you risk the company taking off with the funds and not doing the job.
- Their contract contains many pages of small print. Don’t sign one like that. It’s an easy way to bury loopholes that will get the company out of obligations either related to the current job or related to warranty work. The contract should be thorough but concise and clear.
- They don’t have their own parts inventory on-site. If you have an emergency after 5 p.m. and your company’s parts source is off-site and closed, you may be stuck until the next business day.
- They don’t own the equipment being installed in your home. If they are making payments on the equipment to a supplier and they default on the payments, the supplier will come after you. You could even end up with a lien on your house. You want an HVAC company that owns all equipment outright.
Knowing the Components of Your Heating and Cooling System
Many homeowners find their HVAC system components confusing. This is understandable because there are many kinds of equipment and different power sources. Here is a brief overview of the components of an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system.
The Heating System
The furnace, heat pump, boiler, or geothermal unit are different heating components that can be in an HVAC system. They are powered with electricity or fueled with propane, fuel oil, or gas.
Find your heating component and write down what kind it is, the manufacturer and model number, installation date, and the date of the most recent service.
The Cooling System
The cooling system may be a heat pump, which converts hot air to cool air, a geothermal air conditioning unit, an air conditioning split system or mini split system, central air conditioning, or ductless air conditioning.
Split or two-part air conditioning systems have an indoor and outdoor unit. The outdoor unit comprises a compressor, fan, electrical components, and condenser coil. The indoor unit is an evaporator coil often installed on top of a furnace.
Write down the type of air conditioning system you have, plus its manufacturer and model number, and its installation and last service dates.
The Ventilation System
The ventilation system is all about air quality and air circulation. The ductwork and air filtration systems are the key parts of the ventilation system.
Air filtration systems are generally one of two kinds. Mechanical systems make use of filters that catch and contain airborne pollutants. Electronic systems use an electrical charge to get pollutants to stick to a collection surface.
As with the cooling and heating parts of the HVAC system, write down what sort of air filtration is installed in your home or building. Also note when the ductwork in your house or building was last cleaned and checked for leaks.
Homeowners who have a general working knowledge of their HVAC system and its components will feel more confident when interacting with an HVAC contractor or technician. Additionally, they will be better able to keep the system maintained. A well-maintained HVAC system should serve its homeowner for many years.
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