It is always best to hire a Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) contractor that has been recommended by someone you trust. If you can’t find someone to give you a referral, here are the top 17 tips for hiring HVAC contractors & some scams to watch out for:
To avoid scams, you should be aware that most reputable HVAC experts have licenses from their states or at least registrations with state departments of labor. You can usually verify these online. Some contractors may also have memberships in trade organizations or special certifications from manufacturers or even the EPA.
When talking to an HVAC expert by phone, text, or email, you need to get a little information upfront from them before inviting them to your home. Follow these guidelines, and you will save yourself time, money, and frustration. Ask a contractor’s name and the company’s name and for a state license and insurance. Then ask what they charge per hour and whether they will give you a fixed dollar cost in a written estimate. If the contractor answers all your questions to your satisfaction, then set an appointment.
Prior to your appointment, call the state HVAC department or licensing department to verify that your contractor’s license is in good standing.
Top 17 Tips For Hiring HVAC Contractors | Typical scams:
1. Fake or Fraudulent License
Get a copy of the contractor’s license, write down the license number, and then verify with the licensing agency. Dishonest contractors may use fake licenses or show you a business license which is not the same as an HVAC license. If you can’t obtain or verify a contractor’s license, call someone else. Once you’ve verified the license, let the contractor know that your home insurance company requires a copy of the insurance certificate for any work done on your home. Most reputable HVAC experts will have a package with all this information to give to you along with any manufacturer training and federal agency or organization approvals and memberships. A reputable contractor usually has a business card with general information.
2. Bait and Switch
Bait and switch is a scam tactic used in many businesses, and it is common when dealing with unethical HVAC companies. One trick is to tell you that they can tune up your furnace for some low dollar amount only to get their foot in the door and then try to sell you something else you do not need. Another trick has to do with the materials and equipment they try to sell you. The HVAC industry has many types of equipment and products and different grades of materials and piping sizes. Unethical or shady, companies will give you a quote for expensive materials only to use lighter gauge piping or bad equipment. The bait and switch may leave you paying thousands of dollars more for inferior service and equipment. To avoid this scam, make sure your contractor outlines the scope of work and the specific materials they will use.
(Download and use the free CHP HVAC agreement at HomeManager.io.)
3. Pad the Hours
Try to get a fixed cost estimate or keep tabs on how many hours your contractor works if it is a smaller job. Shady HVAC companies have been known to pad or overreport hours if you do not keep tabs on them, causing you to pay more than you should.
4. Money Up Front
Shady HVAC companies often ask you to pay for an entire job upfront before they do any work. Everyone deserves to be paid for their work, but good companies will never ask for money upfront unless you request a special-order item or expensive equipment. Asking for a modest deposit for jobs over $1000 or 25% is common for small contactors, but requests for more substantial money upfront should be red flags.
5. Cash Payments
Reliable contractors do not need to be paid in cash, especially before work is completed. If a contractor asks to be paid in cash or offers a discount for cash, it may signify that they have trouble completing satisfactory work, or worse, do not intend to finish the work. Avoid paying any cash upfront.
6. High-Pressure Selling
Offering discounts on additional equipment or upgrades without you asking about them may be a warning sign. If you ask for a discount from a contractor on your terms, it is usually okay; discount offers on services or products that you did not request, or need may indicate a contractor has more interest in selling you as much as possible than in helping you fix your HVAC issue.
7. No Permit
A contractor may offer to save you money by skipping a permit. The extra cost for a permit and possibly having an inspector come out to check a contractor’s work is well worth it; inspectors are there to protect you. Check with your local building department to see if you need a permit for replacing your HVAC.
8. Higher Price
A contractor changing the job cost after giving you a price is usually a red flag unless you ask for more work to be done.
9. Complicated Repair
A shady contractor may make the repair sound complicated and confusing. Since a typical homeowner is not familiar with all the workings of an HVAC system, you may just go along and agree to pay their inflated price. If it is difficult to understand the work a contractor describes, it may be a red flag and time to get a second opinion. Any reputable HVAC contractor will give you a written estimate and be happy to explain any heating or air conditioning terms or processes you don’t understand. Just ask questions.
10. Old System
A contractor may tell you that your heating and air conditioning unit is old and not up to code. They may even show you a complicated codebook. Heating codes do change, but most systems are grandfathered in or do not require a change, depending on how and when the systems are installed. However, you want to make sure your system functions properly and is safe for you and your family. Upgrading your heating or air conditioning is an expensive process. With a big expense like this, it’s worth the time to get another bid and opinion. Get an opinion from another contractor and consider asking a neighbor about their system. Often the house next to yours was built simultaneously and may have had an HVAC system upgrade. You can learn from your neighbors’ experiences and ask them about cost.
11. Need to Replace the System
Heating and air conditioning systems do need repairs from time to time, especially as they become older. If your system is not working properly, you may have only a leaking seal or gasket or a faulty pump or circuit board that can be replaced much lower than replacing the whole unit. If a contractor says you need to replace your system, you should get a second opinion, especially if the contractor did not spend time finding the issue or clearly explaining the issue.
12. Charge for New
Cleaning up and using existing parts and charging you for new is another scam to charge you for more than you’re actually getting. Have a contractor show you a replacement part and the old part.
13. Leftover Material
A contractor may tell you they have leftover materials from another job that they will sell you very cheaply. Or they may say they have a used part on the truck that they can install right away to get you up and running. Make sure you need the part they are selling and that the part is new or in good order and exactly what your system requires.
14. Need a Bigger Unit
With HVAC units, bigger does not always mean better. Aggressive contractors may push the biggest unit they have on you without regard for the size of your home. An oversized unit is more expensive to purchase and install upfront, more expensive to run and repair over time, and less efficient. A unit should cycle on and off as little as possible. If you have one that’s too big, it will take no time to adjust temperatures and shut off quickly. Then it will turn on and off again quickly, back and forth, wearing out parts. The unit should run less frequently if sized properly. Ask for the numbers and the formula a contractor uses to calculate the load and size of the unit. If you are unsure about your contractor’s recommendation, get a second opinion.
HVAC system tune-ups are usually needed every two years. Some contractors will try to have you tune your system every 6 months. Save your money and skip the additional cost of unnecessary tune-ups.
16. Need Freon
In most areas, techs need to be certified to work with Freon. If you are low, it usually means there is a leak. Make sure a contractor shows you that you are low and where the leak is. Door-to-door sales scams for Freon recharging are common. A salesperson at your door may tell you they can recharge your AC to make it cooler and more efficient, but they only carry a bottle around and charge unsuspecting homeowners money for nothing.
17. Install Low-Quality Units
Bad HVAC companies may install low-quality units. Whether or not they overcharge for the unit, they may count on returning to charge more for frequently needed repairs. Especially with budget-conscious customers, they may suggest subpar equipment to get a sale. Some don’t know that while most old furnaces and condensers were engineered to blow about 300 CFMs of air per ton of air conditioning, new condensers need about 400 CFMs per ton. Customers will simply be happy they saved money. There is no need to tell them that their electrical costs will be high or the new condenser will not make it to a ripe old age!
There are the top 17 tips for hiring HVAC contractors! I hope these were helpful for you & hopefully, they help find the right contractor for you!
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Also, check out another interesting article- Top 13 Tips For Hiring a Plumber!