A well-installed and high-quality HVAC system can save you hundreds in heating and electricity in the long run, so it's a worthwhile investment.
That being said, HVAC work can be very expensive. In this guide, we’ll look at some of the ways you can save money before, during, and after using an HVAC professional.
Educate Yourself on Your Upcoming Repair or Installation
Having a basic knowledge of your home’s HVAC setup will allow you to make informed decisions, discuss technical details with your HVAC professional, and avoid scams and mark-ups. A simple online search will provide you with a wealth of knowledge, and just a few hours of research now may save you thousands of dollars down the line.
It takes years of experience and training to become an HVAC professional, so don’t think of this as a replacement for a good professional. The goal is to have a basic understanding of how your current or intended HVAC system works, so you can take part in any discussions. A good HVAC professional will appreciate that you’ve done your research and be more willing to provide you with thorough answers to your questions.
The efficiency of your HVAC unit has a direct impact on your energy bills, and while regular maintenance should be expected to keep everything running smoothly, you want to avoid unnecessary and costly repairs by getting it right the first time. Don’t just go with the cheapest option. The old adage is true in this case: you get what you pay for. Try to find a professional service that balances quality materials, installation, and upkeep with reasonable pricing.
This goes for materials as much as for service. Your HVAC professional may present you with several options, some more expensive than others. Spending more now on a high-efficiency, quality design can help save on your energy bills in the future. Specifically, ask your contractor about Energy Star-rated (or similar) models. This is the official efficiency standard for rigorously tested HVAC units.
Do some research on your options, and discuss anything you find with your HVAC professional, whose experience and knowledge is a good resource. Many HVAC professionals are able to offer payment plans for parts and labor, which can increase your range of options—just be sure you read the fine print carefully to know what you’re agreeing to.
Ask Around or Use an Online Service
Because HVAC units are common in homes and require regular maintenance, it’s likely your neighbors, friends, and family have already had experience hiring somebody. This is one of your best resources for finding a reliable, honest, expert HVAC professional. Ask them what they liked about the service, whether they encountered any hidden fees or unexpected costs, and whether they would hire them again.
Otherwise, using an online service is a great way to go about hiring an HVAC professional. These services have experts on staff who can help put you in touch with the right professional for your job, based on your current or intended HVAC system. Furthermore, they help ensure affordable and upfront pricing, and go through the process of verifying identity, doing criminal background checks and reviewing state business filings.
Check for Licensing, Bonds and Insurance
Most states require HVAC professionals to hold a license to operate, based on experience. Whether you go through an online service or word-of-mouth, ask your HVAC contractor which licenses they hold. With so many quality, licensed professionals out there, there’s just no reason to risk it with an unlicensed contractor. Be sure to hire somebody with sufficient bonding and insurance as well, which will protect you in the event of accidental damage or injury.
Get a Proper Home Evaluation Done
Be wary of any HVAC professional who offers you a quote over the phone. As we’ve said, HVAC systems are highly complex—so complex, in fact, that determining the right units, materials, and sizing usually needs to be done by a computer. Prospective contractors should perform a thorough evaluation of your home, including square footage of each room, insulation R-value, the number and direction of windows, and the state of the duct system.
Part of this evaluation, of course, will be looking at your current HVAC unit—this is an important step, as you’ll want to be sure that your HVAC professional has access to the right parts. Contractors tend to work with a limited number of brands, so be sure to hire one that can easily get their hands on whatever parts they need, to avoid the costs and delays of ordering them from a third party.
Get Written Quotes and Compare
Once you’ve found a few HVAC professionals, it’s time to compare. You’ll want to get three to five estimates from different contractors. A good estimate should thoroughly itemize every step of the installation or maintenance project, with pricing breakdown and estimated completion dates.
Not only will this let you make an informed decision, but a detailed estimate will help you gauge the progress of the project, and is an invaluable document in the unlikely event of a dispute on your final bill.
Maintenance and Service Contracts
HVAC units require regular maintenance to continue working efficiently. There are some serious advantages to sticking with the same HVAC professional who installed the unit, as they’ll be familiar with your home and any problems that were encountered. Enroll in the company’s service contract program if you were happy with the job they did. A good contract can also help you save in the long run, as you’re going to need maintenance anyway.
Ideally, you want to have your unit checked once a year, to keep things running smoothly and keep your energy bills down. Ask your HVAC professional about things you can do at home to extend the life of your unit and increase efficiency, like cleaning and replacing air filters, keeping indoor vents open to reduce pressure, or using a programmable thermostat. Having installed the unit, they’ll be most familiar with its particular quirks.
Follow these guidelines, and you can find a reliable HVAC professional without spending a fortune, while still investing in the future of your home.