How to Select a Good Heating and Cooling Contractor
The most important part of shopping for a new indoor comfort system or shopping for a heating and cooling company is to pick the right contractor. Choose the wrong one, and you risk getting a new system that won’t keep you comfortable, won’t save you much if anything on your monthly utility bills, and may even fail after only a few years of operation. Choose the wrong one, and you risk paying for unneeded service and repairs to your system due to inexperienced and poorly trained technicians.
In order to get the efficiency and comfort you deserve, you must find a contractor who will:
- Accurately assess and diagnose your current air conditioning and heating system,
- Select the right size of equipment for your home,
- Install it properly, and
- Uncover- and solve- any pre-existing problems with your duct system or house insulation.
Here’s how to identify an air conditioning and heating contractor who will do the best job, be the easiest to work with, and provide professional, reliable service. Avoid picking one of the many contractors who might take shortcuts at your expense.
Don’t Assume That All Contractors Are “Pretty Much The Same”- Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions
All heating and cooling contractors are NOT the same. Use great heed and care in choosing your licensed and insured air conditioning contractor. Many will boast the features and benefits of a manufacturer’s brand of equipment, when in reality; the quality of the installation process is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of every comfort system’s installation. Choosing a contractor that does not use ALL N.A.T.E. Certified technicians and installers, who doesn’t follow industry standards in refrigeration practices, perform proper system start up and “skips” those little items, is what will end up costing you money, time, comfort and peace of mind down the road.
Sad to say, a small minority of contractors are downright dishonest. Fortunately, the great majority of contractors are honest. They work hard, and mean well. Unfortunately, most simply don’t have the business systems in place to properly serve the client. Even though they are honest, most companies don’t invest enough in ongoing staff training and are “behind the times” when it comes to diagnosing problems with today’s more complicated air conditioners and furnaces. Most simply are not aware and are uninformed regarding common defects with duct systems and house insulation that are so critical to your comfort and indoor air quality.
- Do Ask About Training and Experience.
- Do choose a contractor that employees only highly- skilled factory trained, N.A.T.E. and E.P.A Certified technicians that are Drug FREE, uniformed, badged and have passed an extensive background check for your safety. Reputable companies require 100% N.A.T.E. Certification by its employees. Fortunately, there are some contractors who are ethical, use ALL N.A.T.E. Certified Technicians-placing them at the leading edge in service, repair and installation of all types of air conditioning and heating systems and have critical customer service systems in place that ensure the highest level of continuous client satisfaction.
Don’t Choose a “Fly-By-Night” Contractor
You cannot risk having an amateur working on your home comfort system. A lower price can be very tempting to some, but hiring “Pete in a Pickup”, “Side Work Sal”, “Chuck in a Truck” or “Mike on a Bike” rarely and almost NEVER works out.
Individuals or companies performing air conditioning, heating and refrigeration work in the State of Florida are required to maintain a current Air Conditioning license in good standing, liability insurance, worker’s compensation insurance, and local business licenses as required by individual municipalities. Personal injury or damage claims are NOT reimbursed by homeowner’s insurance when unlicensed and uninsured individuals have performed work illegally. Should a worker become injured on your property while performing services without worker’s compensation insurance you can be liable. Skipping permitting leaves you, the homeowner, at risk of poor job performance and possible injuries from safety violations. The governing municipality will issue fines to homeowners or businesses for non-permitted work.
- Do Check Credentials.
- Do hire ONLY licensed, insured reputable contractors committed to 100% client satisfaction and strict adherence to state and local codes and ordinances. For your safety, choose a contractor that has a long- standing presence and reputation in the community for quality installation or service performance. Ask references about the contractor’s performance, timeliness of job completion and respect for your home and property. Before signing an agreement, insist on seeing copies of all certificates and licenses, and check to ensure they have no unresolved complaints with the Better Business Bureau.
- Do be sure all permitting and inspections are applied for and performed as required by law. ALL equipment replacement and duct replacement projects require permitting by your state and local building departments.
- Do make sure permits are present on site and clearly visible PRIOR to work being initiated.
Don’t Choose a Contractor Who Doesn’t Ask A Lot Of Questions or Doesn’t Perform Needed Testing
The typical contractor is only interested in swapping the metal boxes, and won’t try to help you take full advantage of evaluating your options. Most contractors will try to minimize the importance of a proper sizing calculation (Manual J-equipment or Manual D- ductwork) and diagnostic testing. They’ll say, “ I looked up your square footage on the property appraisers. I’ve done hundreds of houses just like this one. I don’t need to go through all those measurements and tests.” DO NOT BELIEVE THEM! No two houses or duct systems are exactly the same: each has different characteristics, unique problems and unique needs. Most won’t even ask you regarding the presence of hot/cold spots, humidity issues or issues with excessive dust or respiratory issues. Don’t be misled by the many contractors who either don’t know how to do it right, or just don’t care.
- Do expect a home evaluation. The contractor should spend significant time inspecting your current system and home to assess your needs. Hire a contractor that visits your home personally and performs required sizing calculations. A BIGGER SYSTEM IS NOT BETTER! He will always start by meeting with you and asking many questions regarding your home as well as addressing your needs and wishes for your new home comfort system. Don’t offer information to the contractor. Wait and see if the contractor asks first. Contractors should be able to show you calculations of savings on a purchase of new heating and cooling systems. A quality contractor is more interested in serving you than in selling you. He builds his business on long term service relationships and referrals from extremely happy clients, rather than making the quick buck. He believes in truly solving his clients’ problems and only putting in systems that really work right, even if it may mean he initially sells new equipment to fewer homeowners.
Don’t Try To Buy A New System Over The Phone Without a Written Estimate
Don’t try to buy a new system by collecting bids over the telephone. While price matters, don’t let the initial price be the only consideration when choosing a heating and cooling contractor. As with most things in life, price is usually an indication of quality. Another concern is that the low price you see advertised or are quoted may not be the price you end up paying. It is our experience that the low priced contractor is rarely the best value.
- Do Get a Written, Itemized Estimate-In order to ensure 100% customer satisfaction, honest, reputable companies need to meet with you, and will want to perform equipment sizing calculations, diagnostic testing as indicated and obtain important other facts needed to provide an accurate proposal of incurred costs. When comparing contractors’ proposals (bids), be sure to compare cost, energy efficiency, warranties, and most importantly, the “Contractor”. So, if a contractor won’t give you a price for new equipment over the phone, don’t dismiss them as if they don’t know what they are doing. On the contrary, you should be EXTREMELY wary of any contractor that is willing to give you a price over the phone.
- Do sign a written proposal with a contractor before work gets started.
Your home’s indoor comfort is important. Don’t gamble by selecting a heating and air conditioning contractor by chance.
Confidence NOT Compromise
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Air Care Systems, Inc.
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