HVAC repairs are one of the most expensive repairs that a homeowner will face – and with this kind of repair, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
Due to the expensive nature of hiring an HVAC contractor, you are going to want to make sure that you make the right choice and get the most for your money.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who claim to be HVAC technicians when they really aren’t. They may know how to work on your system and the job might even turn out good, but if you want to have the peace of mind that comes with hiring a licensed HVAC contractor then there are some things you need to look for before making a final decision.
Know Your System
Before contacting an HVAC contractor, you need to familiarize yourself with the air conditioning and heating system in your home.
In order to help them address your system, you need to know the make and model of the system as well as any repairs that have been done in the past.
Make and Model
This can usually be found on the exterior of your home’s heating and cooling system. If it Is not then you can take the cover off and read the system’s specs and serial number on the info sheet.
The repair history helps the technician accurately diagnose the problem with your home’s HVAC system.
If the unit is new and has not had any repairs done to it then you won’t need to worry about it – if the unit is older but you haven’t had to repair anything since you moved in then you can try contacting the previous homeowner to find out if they have ever had any work done to it.
An experienced and licensed technician will be able to diagnose and repair your system with or without this information but it makes their job much easier if they have a full understanding of your specific unit.
When looking for a contractor for your home’s HVAC unit you want to make sure that they perform a thorough home evaluation to assess every component of your entire heating and air conditioning system.
When contacting contractors, you want to ask them if they perform evaluations, and what all is included with it. If they don’t offer a home evaluation then you should keep looking until you find a contractor that does. You can be confident that the evaluation is thorough if they perform most of the following.
This test is performed to ensure that all of the electrical components in your HVAC system are functioning properly. If the voltage reading is off then the technician knows there is an issue with an electrical connection somewhere in the system.
An airflow test is performed by the technician to ensure that the proper duct system was installed in your home and that it is providing enough air to every vent. If there isn’t enough air coming out of the vents then something is either blocking your ductwork or the wrong size ducts were installed.
Thermostat Test and Calibration
Although it is fairly uncommon thermostats can become uncalibrated – this is usually caused by a power outage but it can just happen over time as well. During the home evaluation, the technician should check the settings on the thermostat as well as ensure that it is calibrated.
Technicians do this by testing the temperature of the air inside your home and comparing it to the reading on the thermostat.
A dirty air filter not only obstructs the intake of air but it can also be a cause for poor air quality – this is why a technician will always check the state of your air filter during a thorough home evaluation.
Refrigerant Pressure Test
HVAC systems contain finely balanced pressures within the refrigerant coils and if not properly pressurized can cause issues. Over pressurization can cause the coils on an air conditioner to freeze while not enough pressure can cause the motor to overheat and need to be replaced.
Due to the delicate balance of pressures in the coils and the potential damage it can cause if done wrong you should always make sure that the HVAC contractor checks the pressure as part of their evaluation.
If you have a gas-powered furnace in your home then you want to make sure that the contractor you choose will check your gas lines to make sure that there are no gas leaks.
This is something that you should have done regularly as a gas leak in heating systems can lead to dire consequences if it goes unnoticed.
Some contractors will offer more or less than what is listed in a home evaluation, but you want to make sure that they offer most of the services listed above.
References and Referrals
One of the most effective steps you can take to ensure a satisfactory job is to ask for references and referrals.
The first thing you want to do is to ask co-workers and other people you know if they know of any local HVAC contractors– you can trust that your family and friends are going to have your best interest in mind, which makes them the best place to start.
Contacting trade organizations can narrow your search down as well as they only suggest companies that meet a minimum standard of work.
Ask the HVAC company themselves for some reference names and numbers so you can call them directly. These are usually going to be past customers of theirs, but they are in control of the numbers they give you so be wary if the references sound suspicious.
Aside from asking people you know, and the air conditioning company for references, you can further ensure the quality of their work by checking online outlets like the Better Business Bureau or Google Reviews.
For online reviews, you need to avoid using Yelp and other websites because companies can easily flood their business’s listing with fake reviews to improve their overall rating. The BBB and Google prevent companies from doing this so you can be sure the review is an honest reflection of the contractor and their work.
Before Work Starts
Get Multiple Quotes
Once you have narrowed your choice down to a couple of contractors through references and online reviews from the BBB and Google you can start calling around for quotes.
You want to cast the net wide here and get as many quotes from reputable HVAC contractors as you can so you can ensure you get the best job for your money.
Another thing you need to remember when getting quotes is that cheaper is not always better. If the estimate sounds too good to be true it more than likely is, and you should be wary.
Get It In Writing
When you are getting quotes make sure that you get them in writing on a piece of paper that clearly identifies the company you are dealing with.
If you don’t have the estimate in writing, the contractor is free to jack the price up on the final bill and you could end up spending a lot more money than you originally thought.
It is important to be cautious when you are dealing with a contractor that gives estimates over the phone, especially if they haven’t looked at the job yet.
Licensing and Insurance
Make sure that the contractor you are dealing with is licensed and insured locally in your area. The licensing ensures the contractor knows what they are doing and knows local laws and codes.
Liability insurance is important because it protects you, the homeowner, in case anything were to happen to the worker on the job.
Contracts and Payment
Do not let any work be done to your home without a signed contract. This protects you by ensuring that all of the agreed-upon work is completed and satisfactory.
Without a contract, the contractor is not bound by anything so they can leave without finishing the job or change the price on you after the work is completed.
No matter what they tell you, never pay a contractor before the work is completed. This should be avoided at all costs for obvious reasons.
The list of horror stories where a contractor gets paid and never shows up to do the work is endless and you don’t want it to happen to you.
Things to Look For
Energy Star Certification and Rebates
Heating and air conditioning systems are some of the most expensive pieces of equipment you will have installed in your home – there are ways to save money though, the best is by making sure your equipment is Energy-Star certified.
Energy-Star certification is given to equipment that meets the strict energy efficiency guidelines that the U.S. environmental protection agency, or EPA, has set in place.
You can save even more money through rebates offered by your energy company by using Energy-Star energy-efficient products.
Who’s Doing the Work?
Is it the contractor you hired or are they subcontracting the job to somebody else? You will want to ask this early on in the hiring stage because if you spend all this time researching a contractor and they end up hiring somebody else to do the job then you’re back at square one just hoping for a job well done.
A company’s address should be a stand-alone address for their business. If the address used for their business is a home address be wary.
One of the best indicators of a professional company is the state of its fleet. Are their trucks and vans clean? Is the company name and logo clearly printed on the side? A company that takes pride in their work is going to take pride in their appearance as well.
In addition to a professional-looking fleet, you should expect the technicians that come out to your home to look clean and be in a company shirt or uniform. This is indicative of a company that cares about their image and more than likely their work too.
NATE Certified Technicians
NATE stands for North American Technician Excellence and is a certification granted to licensed HVAC technicians who are experts in their field. Does the HVAC contractor you plan on hiring use NATE-certified technicians? They will usually have the NATE badge listed on their website if they do, but you should always ask.
If you are having new equipment installed in your home ask the contractor about any warranties that may come with it. You should only let the contractor install equipment that comes with some kind of warranty.
Hiring an HVAC contractor is going to be a costly investment so make sure you follow the tips listed above to ensure that you get the work done the right way and for the best price.