In this guide, we discuss common upcharges from HVAC contractor services. An upcharge is a fee for services that are not part of the original agreement. They can be construed as “hidden fees” unless the contractor tells you upfront that they are possible. For example, let’s say you decide to take advantage of an HVAC company’s “Spring AC Maintenance Special” for $xxx.yy and that adding refrigerant is not a part of that cost — since often the system doesn’t need more refrigerant. If the company clearly states that charging the system with refrigerant if needed will be an added cost, most consumers would consider than an ethical upcharge. If you get hit with an unexpected charge for that service, you might feel its an unethical upcharge and your attitude would be consistent with how most consumers feel.
Read the fine print carefully before you sign a contract for service. If potential upcharges are stated, ask for details. If no possible upcharges are listed, it will be wise to ask about them. Find out what services would be considered an upcharge and what the cost would be. Other than charging an air conditioning system with refrigerant, here are the most common upcharges from HVAC contractor.
Overtime Charges: Some contractors add an upcharge for working past a certain time of day or working evenings or weekends. This is typically done when it is in your interest to have them working “overtime” hours.
Disposal Fees: When you have equipment replaced, the HVAC contractor will remove the old equipment for proper disposal. There may be landfill charges, for example. It may be impossible to know what the contractor actually does with the equipment but it won’t hurt to ask.
Repair Charges added to Maintenance Fees: Most HVAC contractors offer maintenance agreements to clean and check your HVAC system on a regular basis in order to keep it running properly and to reduce the need for costly repairs. When managed with integrity, these maintenance agreements will likely reduce your repair costs over the life of the system. Unscrupulous HVAC contractors see a maintenance agreement as their foot in the door to find all kinds of things wrong with your system, leading to substantial upcharge repair fees. If the contractor tells you costly repairs are needed, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion.
Repair Charges added to Duct Cleaning Fees: Duct cleaning is already a subject of debate in the industry. Some contractors claim its a waste of money while others swear to the importance of it for maintaining indoor air quality. That’s not the subject of this guide, but we will mention that duct cleaning can lead to significant upcharges including duct repair and cleaning of the furnace or air handler and coil.
Permit Fees: Most counties require a permit to be pulled when an HVAC system is replaced. The permit fee covers the cost of having the work inspected to make sure it is safe. Some HVAC contractors charge the permit fee and then never actually get a permit. Ask to see the permit in order to ensure one has been paid for and issued.
When deciding how to choose a hvac contractor all of upcharges are important issues to consider. Expected potential upcharges are far easier to accept than unexpected ones. Ask the company about these common upcharges from an HVAC contractor. If they mention potential upcharges, ask how likely they are and how expensive they will be. Clarify possible issues ahead of time. If you get hit with unexpected upcharges before the work is done, seek a second estimate. If you get hit with them after the work is done, you may not be responsible for paying them. Still, to avoid that scenario, get everything in writing ahead of time so that you are aware of common upcharges from the HVAC contractor for the work he is doing on your system.