There are 7 things you should do before you hire an HVAC contractor.
1. Do your background research.
Our state, California, has license and insurance requirements for 43 different types of contractors. The types of licenses required depend on which system your home has installed in it. Because HVAC work can include electrical work, you may want to work with a company that has both a C-10 (electrical) and C20 license (warm-air heating, ventilating and air-conditioning). You should also make sure the business has a valid business license. Any contractor you consider hiring should meet these requirements. You put your comfort at risk (and possibly your pocket-book as well) if you hire someone who has not met these state and local requirements.
Another aspect of doing background research includes a visit to the Better Business Bureau website. An HVAC company doesn’t have to be a member to be reported on. If there have been problems, the BBB is one of the first places unhappy customers go to seek assistance. How the HVAC business resolved any issues is recorded there.
2. Ask around.
Ask people you know if they have used an HVAC company in the area. You can also contract one of the local trade associations, such as the Air Conditioning Trade Association (ACTA), for referrals to members of the organization.
3. Call any references.
Once you locate a local HVAC contractor you might want to work with, ask for references. Then place the call. Common questions you should ask are: 1) How did the contractor perform? How happy are you with the work? Was the job completed on time? Did the contractor do the work within the budget agreed upon?
4. Look for an HVAC company that has a special running.
The first place to look for an HVAC special is the U.S. government. www.energystar.gov will connect you with rebate programs. You should also see if your county has any special energy rebate programs. Often you can get a better deal on HVAC service or replacement if the service you want is off-season. Consider servicing air conditioning units in the fall or winter and heating units in the spring.
5. Look for a HVAC contractor that deals with ENERGY STAR products.
A knowledgeable HVAC contractor will be able to calculate the savings you can expect if your system isn’t ENERGY STAR compliant. The HVAC company should also be able to provide comparisons of various ENERGY STAR options.
6. Expect a careful HVAC home evaluation.
If a local HVAC contractor isn’t willing to look over your system before giving you a quote, question the quality of service you will receive. While a thorough inspection will usually come with a reasonable price tag, you should expect a clear breakdown of what your HVAC system’s strengths and/or weaknesses are. You should be given a breakdown of how well your home is insulated and how much space the system needs to heat and/or cool. The HVAC specialist should also inspect your duct system, if you have one, to ensure that there aren’t any air leaks or blockages.
7. Get it in writing.
Never hire a contractor without getting a detailed, itemized estimate. In this way, you can compare different HVAC companies. Just because one company has a low price, doesn’t make it the best deal. Compare estimates line by line. Confirm what the contractor is promising you. Once you agree that you like the estimate, you’ll want to get a signature on the bottom line.
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