A Guide to Finding the Top HVAC Contractor
If you’re having trouble with a malfunctioning or underperforming HVAC system, you need to hire an HVAC expert. Whether it’s the cooling, heating, or ventilation components of the system that aren’t working right or need to be replaced, an HVAC contractor is the professional to call.
A heating and cooling contractor will take care of general servicing of your HVAC system, maintenance, furnace repair, and air conditioning repair.
It can be daunting to find a great HVAC professional that you can trust to do great work. Follow our suggestions below to find the right one.
Five Tips for Identifying Local HVAC Companies
- Ask people you know for suggestions. A family member, friend, or neighbor who has had a good experience with a heating and cooling company may be able to give you a name. Equally helpful would be the name of a contractor that you should avoid.
- Run a search online for “ac repair near me” or “furnace repair near me” or “HVAC contractor near me.” This sort of online search will yield a list of all HVAC companies in your area.
- Online directories are good places to find HVAC contractors. Run local searches of the following national directories to look for heating and cooling companies in your area: Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Angie’s List, the Yellow Pages, Dexknows, Craigslist, and the White Pages.
- Visit your local home improvement store. Ask fellow shoppers for HVAC contractor recommendations, particularly those shoppers in the area of the store with air conditioner filters and furnace repair parts.
- Call your city’s Chamber of Commerce and ask for recommendations.
Narrowing Down the List of HVAC Candidates
Once you have identified HVAC companies in your area, it is time to narrow the list to the three top contenders.
- Visit each contractor’s website. Look for their membership in industry associations; note awards that the company has won. Read customer reviews. Get a feel for the company by browsing the pages of the website and noting all services offered.
- Visit each contractor’s social media pages, including Facebook and YouTube. Social media posts give a more immediate and current picture of what a company is like.
- Read customer reviews on a company’s Google business page. These cannot be easily faked or manipulated so are more trustworthy than reviews found on the company’s website.
- Read reviews of the contractors on sites such as Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, and Angie’s List.
After completing the above four steps, eliminate all but the top three HVAC contractors from your list of potentials.
Preparing for the HVAC Contractor’s Arrival
The next step in finding an HVAC service provider is to call each of the top three contractors on your list. You will ask some additional questions and, assuming the answers are satisfactory, arrange for an on-site estimate visit.
Pre-Visit Questions to Ensure Safe HVAC Contractors
To replace HVAC equipment or execute maintenance or repairs, HVAC technicians most of the time must access a customer’s home. Ensure your family’s safety by asking the following questions during the first phone call with the contractor.
- Are background checks run on all employees?
- Are criminal checks run on all employees?
- Do technicians get drug tested regularly?
- Is the company insured?
- Is each technician licensed?
- Has the company been in business for more than five years?
- Is the company rated A+ with the Better Business Bureau?
During the HVAC Estimate Visit
The estimate visit is not binding and does not obligate you to retain a company’s services. You will have three HVAC vendors come to your home, look at the work that needs to be done, and give you a price.
One day prior to the estimate visit, call the contractor to confirm the visit and to find out the name of the technician who will be coming to your home.
When the HVAC contractor or technician arrives at your home to do the estimate, pay attention to a few things. He or she should be in a vehicle with the company name on it; wearing a company uniform; and carrying or wearing a personalized identification tag. Look at their ID tag and make sure their face matches the photo on the tag and that they are the person the company said would be coming to your house.
This person will be working in your home and around your family. Be thorough in verifying his or her identity.
Questions to Ask During the Estimate Visit
If you did not ask these questions in your initial phone calls, be sure to ask them now.
- How long are your labor and material warranties for?
- How long are manufacturer warranties for?
- Does warranty work have limitations?
- What does the money-back guarantee actually mean?
- Will you secure any permits required to do the job?
- Will you do a manual J load calculation?
- Will you be able to show me that my system is right for your calculations?
Understand the HVAC Company Guarantees
Before any work is done, know and understand company guarantees on labor and equipment. Ask about these during the estimate visit, before you settle on any one vendor.
Find out details of any guarantees that cover air conditioner repair, furnace repair, air conditioning replacement, furnace replacement, ductwork repair, ductwork replacement, new furnaces, and new HVAC systems.
Consumers don’t think about the fact that service technicians sometimes make mistakes. Consumers also usually assume that newly installed equipment will work properly. Guarantees and warranties will cover technician mistakes and new equipment malfunctions.
Thoroughly understand a promised money-back guarantee. What are the parameters around the guarantee? Does it expire? Will you get all your money back or just some? When you know the language of the guarantee and its terms, you may be able to modify and improve it in negotiations with the contractor.
Installing equipment that is the right size for your home is important. If a technician accidentally installs equipment that is the wrong size, a guarantee should be in place that covers replacement units at no cost to you.
Additionally, newly installed equipment should perform to manufacturer-specified temperatures. If a new HVAC system is underperforming, it should be replaced free of charge. Confirm company guarantees regarding new equipment performance.
How to Avoid a Bad HVAC Contractor
You may be ready to make your final choice of HVAC contractor and to schedule the job. Before signing on the dotted line, check these few miscellaneous but important considerations.
- Stay away if they ask for money upfront. No established and reputable HVAC company is going to require pre-payment. Often, companies that require money before they start work will just take your cash and run.
- Does their contract contain many pages of fine print? Be very careful. The fine print can include guarantee loopholes that will let the company off the hook for shoddy services or malfunctioning equipment. While the contract should be thorough, it doesn’t need to be the length of a dissertation.
- Where does the contractor house his or her spare-parts inventory? At the shop? Or are spare parts ordered from another source that closes at 5 p.m.? Make sure your contractor has 24/7 access to spare parts for your off-hours emergency.
- Is the contractor making payments on the new equipment being installed in your home? Avoid this contractor. Or make sure that he or she has completed payments on the equipment. You will be held liable for equipment payments if the contractor reneges on their obligation.
Understand the Basics of Your HVAC System
HVAC systems can be confusing for the average homeowner because they contain different subsystems (heating, cooling, and ventilation) and power sources are varied. While you don’t need to understand the micro-workings of your HVAC equipment, it can be helpful to know some of the basics—like what kinds of units you have and when they were last serviced.
The heating part of an HVAC system contains one of the following units: a furnace, heat pump, boiler, or geothermal unit. Fuel/power sources for these components may be electricity, propane, fuel oil, or gas.
Identify what kind of heating unit you have. Record the manufacturer, model, model number, installation date, and last maintenance date.
Cooling units may be air conditioners or heat pumps. A heat pump is a single unit that can either heat air or cool it. Air conditioners may be geothermal, split, mini split, central, or ductless.
Split air conditioner systems are so called because the system is split between inside and outside. The indoor component is an evaporator coil generally located on top of a furnace. The outdoor unit includes electrical components, a fan, a condenser coil, and a compressor.
Identify the type of system you have as well as its manufacturer, model, model number, installation date, and last maintenance date.
Air quality and air circulation are the concerns in the ventilation part of an HVAC system. Air filtration and ductwork are the specific components that facilitate air quality and circulation.
Air filtrations systems are either mechanical or electronic. Filters in mechanical systems catch air pollutants and contain them. Electric charges in electronic systems cause pollutants to adhere to an oppositely-charged collection surface.
Record what kind of air filtration system is in your home. Note when filters were last changed, or an electronic system was last serviced.
Write down when your ductwork was last cleaned and checked for leaks.
Homeowners and property managers who have a working knowledge of their HVAC components will have an advantage when speaking with HVAC contractors. Being able to identify components and give accurate information about your system helps a heating and cooling contractor provide faster and more accurate service.
Keeping good records about HVAC system maintenance enables home and property owners to keep systems regularly serviced. This extends the life of an HVAC system and ensures its continued optimum performance.
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