You may be wondering how to choose an HVAC contractor if you need repair services or are planning to have a system installed or replaced. In this guide, we provide 5 tips for how to choose an HVAC contractor you can depend on to do a good job.
Tip #1: Get Firsthand Recommendations
Ask neighbors, friends, and colleagues if they have used a heating and air conditioning company they could recommend. You’ll hear some horror stories about companies to steer clear of, but you’ll hear good reports about companies too. When someone offers positive comments about a company, ask follow-up questions related to the crew’s qualifications and professionalism, the quality of the work and the fairness of the pricing. Make a list of companies worth a look and when you have 6-8 positive recommendations, move on to tip #2.
Tip #2: Read HVAC Contractor Reviews
Angie’s List and other review sites offer consumer-written reviews of contractors in your area. Look specifically at the contractors on your list. If the reviews affirm the positive things you’ve heard about the company, keep them on the list. If the reviews raise red flags, cross them off. Pare your list down to 4 or 5 companies for the next step. Our sister site HVAC reviews has a long list of information about new and older model HVAC systems.
Tip #3: Call Each Company Still On your List
Ask to speak to the owner or a service manager. Prepare a list of question to ask, including these.
1. How long have you been in business in this area? Look for companies with a track record in your community because time has a way of weeding out the poor-quality companies.
2. What training and certification do your technicians and installers have? Give high marks to companies that use crews certified by NATE, or North American Technician Excellence. It is a trade organization that offers standardized testing to determine expertise. Having factory-trained crews helps too. This means they have been specifically trained to repair and install the brand they sell.
3. Are background checks and ongoing drug-testing in place? Since the crews will be working in your home, around you and your family possibly, you want to know that measures are in place for your protection.
4. Will you get a permit for the work?
Most communities require permits for HVAC system replacement. It ensures that the system will be inspected for your safety. Gas or carbon monoxide leaks, fires from faulty wiring and other mishaps are possible with HVAC installation so it is essential that it be inspected by someone whose job it is to look for safety issues.
Tip #4: Get 3 Written Estimates
Use the interview process to select the top 3 companies on your list and call them back to request a written estimate. They will send out a representative to look at the job, possibly do a load calculation to determine the size of the system you need, ask you questions about the efficiency level and features you want in the equipment, and then provide a written estimate. Ask about potential hidden fees or upcharges so you know exactly what your final costs will be.
Tip #5: Make Your Choice
Knowing how to choose a contractor includes evaluating both the company and the costs. Quality installation is very important to the performance and durability of the equipment. If you prefer one contractor over the others, but that contractor doesn’t offer the best pricing, consider negotiating a lower price with them. Let them know you’d like to hire them, but their competitor’s prices are better. Show them the lower estimate and there is a good chance that they will lower their price to get the work.
This can be a time-consuming process, but it really is worth it to find a quality contractor that will do a superior job. The quality of the installation will have a direct bearing on whether or not the system gets the level of efficiency it should and whether or not it runs problem-free into the future. If you are in a hurry to get a new system, another option is to request free estimates online from a service that provides them. The contractors in the service are pre-screened to ensure quality control. There is no cost for the service, and you are always free to seek other estimates. There is no obligation. Whichever route you choose, proceed with care. Knowing how to choose an HVAC contractor will pay dividends in the long-term performance of your HVAC system.