How to Choose a Heating/Air Conditioning Contractor

11Jun12

Not too long ago a customer called us for a second opinion on a furnace repair. But, when we arrived…the furnace was missing! It had been removed the evening before. Turns out the homeowner remembered a radio commercial from another company and gave them a call. Their technician looked at the furnace, and told her it would need to go to their “repair facility.”

She was given a contract to sign and a price for replacing the furnace with a basic “Builder’s” model. It was winter …and cold, so she agreed. That company called the next day to say her furnace was beyond repair. Her husband sensed something was wrong, and called us for a second opinion. We concluded this was just a scheme to sell a furnace and not really offer a repair option. Since the old furnace was gone, we could only offer choices on new furnaces. Turns out our top-of-the-line furnace was $1,000 less than the other company’s entry level furnace.

We often run into similar situations, but this was one of the worst. You’re without heat, your family is cold, you don’t want to miss work, and it’s a gas or high voltage appliance … all the things you think about when a service tech is asking for a snap decision.

Our nature to be trusting, and desire to solve the problem, can sometimes lead us down the wrong path. So how do you know what and whom to trust? First, find a company that stands behind their work and cares about their reputation. Start by looking online.

  • Check online reviews. See what others say about them.
  • Are they accredited?  Better Business Bureau accredited companies meet basic criteria.
  • Check their vital signs: How long in business? Licensed, Bonded, and Insured?
  • Evaluate the people you’re inviting into your home. Drug screened and background checked? Trained and licensed?
  • Determine their company culture. Visit their web page, Facebook, blog. Are they local? What is their Mission Statement & Code of Ethics?

When you call to discuss your problem, ask questions to gauge how professional and helpful they are. Remember you’re a customer…not a bother. Here are questions you should ask every time:

  • Are you coming with a well stocked truck? Some companies don’t carry any repair parts. They order as needed for each job. This could delay getting you back in service.
  • What is your warranty? Do they stand behind their work and guaranty most repairs.
  • How will I recognize the technician? In uniform? Marked truck?

So you’ve done your research and feel comfortable with the company. Here’s what to expect from a Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning technician:

  • They should care about your property. Shoe covers, tarps, gloves, etc.
  • Technicians should explain diagnostics and options. How did they conclude a part failed? Why did it fail?
  • Replacement or Repair? It’s rare a new furnace is the only option. They should be able to justify a new furnace, and the pros and cons of repair vs. replacement.
  • Heat exchanger failures (one of the most abused diagnoses in our industry). Heat exchangers fail for a reason. For heat exchanger’s less than 20-years old, age is not an acceptable reason. When a heat exchanger fails, the tech should explain your options.
  • Furnaces are NEVER taken to a “repair facility.” Furnaces are fixed onsite.
  • Never sign a repair authorization that also includes an agreement for a new furnace. A new furnace should be on a “contract”, not an “estimate.” Prices can be changed on an “estimate.” Look for the term Contract, Proposal, or Agreement when purchasing new equipment. Never pay more than ½ down before the job.
  • Was your furnace “Red Tagged”? An unsafe furnace is “red tagged” and disabled. The technician should explain your repair and replacement options.
  • Trust your gut. Unsure about a diagnosis? …don’t feel trapped! Get a second opinion. For Carbon Monoxide issues or gas leaks, confer with your local utility.

Most plumbing and heating service techs are in this field because they like helping people. A company that makes helping people a priority is a company worthy of your business. Informed customers make the best decisions. As experts, it’s our duty to inform our customer. For more information on Choosing a Contractor and Protecting Yourself visit: http://www.lni.wa.gov/

Bruce Davis Jr.

General Manager

Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating, Inc.

Bruce is a second generation plumber and HVAC technician. He earned his Commercial Plumbing License and later became N.A.T.E. Certified and E.P.A. Refrigerant Certified for HVAC service and repair for commercial and residential HVAC appliances. Bruce has years of experience as an HVAC Technician, Boiler Technician, and Plumber. He is now General Manager for the company he has been with his entire career and oversees the Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning business for Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating, Inc.

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2 Responses to “How to Choose a Heating/Air Conditioning Contractor”

  1. I often do not publish in Blogs however your blog pushed
    me to, awesome work. beautiful. Very much appreciated!


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