It’s hard to over-emphasize the potentially dire consequences of using an untrustworthy HVAC contractor. If you don’t do a background check on who you’re working with, you could end up with an over budget repair bill, workers that never show up or, worse still, an HVAC system in a worse state than when you started.
Fortunately, working out if an HVAC contractor is the real thing isn’t as hard as you might think. In this guide, we’re going to go over the straightforward steps you can take to judge whether or not an HVAC business you’ve found truly is a professional, legitimate service.
Are They Licensed? Ask to For Proof
As with any contracting business, HVAC specialists need to hold an appropriate license from your state or local area to operate legitimately. You should look up what the rules are in your local as these often vary state-by-state. For example, in some states, HVAC workers need to have at least 5 years of experience in the industry before applying for permission to work on their own.
One of the most hazardous parts of an HVAC system is the use and handling of highly toxic air conditioning refrigerants. The Clean Air Act stipulates that only certified individuals should handle refrigerants so it’s important to know if your HVAC specialist has been trained to test for leaks and balance a system correctly.
Once you’ve found out how things work in your area, you can ask for the license information of any HVAC specialist you consider working with, and then verify the details with your State’s Contractors’ License Board.
Licenses determine whether or not a contractor is operating legally, but you should also ask about other qualifications a specialist holds. These will indicate if they’re really going to be able to complete your tasks to a high standard. In particular, be on the lookout for certificates from North American Technician Excellence (NATE) which state that a specialist’s HVAC training and education are up to date.
Check Insurance and Other Paperwork
Besides licensing, legitimate HVAC contractors will need to hold some level of bonding. Put simply, a bond is a kind of contract between two parties as well as a form of financial insurance to prevent unfair dealing. Normally, this is a prerequisite to get an HVAC technician license so, once again, check how things work in your area and contact the appropriate local government office to see if a contractor has a bond.
Insurance is also vital. A basic level of worker’s insurance should protect you from any claims if a technician gets injured while working on your property while other categories of business insurance will cover property damage during an HVAC repair or installation.
Beware of Phone-Only Bids
When repairing or upgrading an HVAC system, a specialist will have to consider numerous factors to give you an accurate quote. These include the state and capacity of your current unit, the size of your home, the quality of your insulation, and the extent of your current ducting.
Because of this, you should be wary of any contractor willing to give you a firm estimate for work without seeing your property in person. If an HVAC specialist is willing to commit to a quote for a property they haven’t visited, it means they are probably inexperienced or a scammer who will upcharge you when they see the real extent of the work that needs to be done. In either case, you should look for an alternative specialist.
And remember, just because a prospective specialist appears to be carrying out a thorough inspection of your property before giving an estimate, it doesn’t mean they’re looking at the right things. After an evaluation is carried out, you should ask for a line-by-line estimate in writing. Check this over carefully and do your own research to see if the itemized costs seem reasonable for your area.
Avoid Specialists Who Push For Large Units
When it comes to upgrading HVAC systems, a common scam is to push the customer into buying a larger-than-necessary unit for their property. An oversized unit won’t provide any extra benefit to you and will be significantly more expensive to buy and install. Even worse, costs will continue to mount up over time because an extra-large unit will consume more energy than needed.
To catch out an HVAC contractor who attempts to pull this kind of move on you, simply look up the recommended unit size for the square footage of your home. If, after inspecting your property, a specialist suggests a significantly larger unit than you were expecting, walk away.
Don’t Trust Recommendations to Buy Your Old HVAC Model Again
Another major red flag to look out for is an HVAC specialist who suggests that your worn-out old HVAC unit should be replaced with the exact same one model. The HVAC industry is moving forward all the time, meaning newer models benefit from improved efficiency and features. Because of this, and the fact that HVAC units have a typical lifespan of more than a decade, it’s very rare to swap in the same model during an upgrade or after a severe failure.
An HVAC specialist who attempts to sell you a seriously outdated unit is probably attempting to dump their old stock on you, without any regard for the efficiency of your HVAC system or user experience. Needless to say, this is not the kind of specialist you should trust.
Identifying a Legitimate HVAC Specialist
As long as you stick to these recommendations, you should have no trouble working out whether an HVAC specialist is legit. Before hiring someone, take your time to work through this checklist thoroughly. It’s absolutely worth the investment to be sure that the HVAC contractor you hire is fair-dealing and experienced enough to carry out your work to a satisfactory standard.