Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system could be the most expensive equipment in your home, and you want assurance that whoever works on it has appropriate training. With so many companies to choose from, the decision can be a bit intimidating.
This guide will help you choose a professional heating and cooling contractor that is right for you. Knowing the right questions to ask and what to look for in a professional contractor will go a long way to help keep your home comfortable and heating and cooling system reliable.
References and Referrals
One of the best places to start looking for a contractor is by asking people you trust. Friends and family can be a great resource! You can ask them when they had work done at their home, and if the contractor met their expectations. Was the cost of the work roughly what they had been promised by the contractor before the work took place? Were they provided with options? Were the technicians punctual and professional?
Be sure to ask people who had the same specific needs you do. If you need a new boiler, talk to someone who recently had a boiler installed. The more specific you can be, the more accurate the feedback will be. Not all contractors are equally skilled in all areas. For example, an HVAC company that installs a lot of mini-split heat pumps may or may not be your area’s leading boiler installer or service company.
If you don’t know anyone who has hired an HVAC contractor for the type of service you need, ask the contractors on your list to provide you with references for that specific type of work.
Checking online reviews about a potential HVAC company is a good idea! You can use a variety of online tools including Google Reviews, Facebook Recommendations, Yelp, and Angie’s List. However, keep in mind that you should be more concerned about a company’s overall online presence rather than one or two complaints among many positive reviews. Is the contracting firm responsive to the complaints? Does there seem to be prompt and polite responses? These are important factors to look for as it shows the company takes pride in customer satisfaction.
If you’re looking to have an HVAC system installed, contractors should offer a thorough home evaluation to determine the best heating and cooling solution. To accurately size a heating or cooling system, a contractor needs to know the square footage of the home, the R-value of insulation, and the number and size of the windows and exterior doors. Contractors may also inspect the duct system for leaks, loose segments and insulation. The sizing of a new system should not be done based on square footage alone, but rather on calculations. The contractor should also ask you about problems you are having with your existing system, where improvements can be made, and what you are hoping to get from a new system.
After their visit, the contractor should give you a written, itemized estimate so you can compare costs, warranties and energy efficiency among the proposals.
Check for licenses, certifications and insurance
Every state in the U.S. has a different set of requirements for contractors in the HVAC industry. It’s important to ask prospective contractors to provide copies of their current licenses or certifications. It’s also important to inquire about their minimal level of bonding and insurance. Insurance will protect homeowners in case of injury or accidental damage.
Further, ask if the contractor if they have relevant experience with your particular system. If you’re looking to have an HVAC system installed, ask the contractor if they carry top brands, and about their technicians training with these brands. Remember, each system/manufacturer is unique. A reliable company will ensure that technicians have had the right training to accurately service existing systems and optimize new installations.
Service Contracts and Payment Schedules
If you’re hiring a company for maintenance or having new equipment installed, ask the prospective contractor about service contracts. Enrolling in a company’s service contract program may give you added peace of mind. Service contracts ensure that the company services your HVAC system regularly.
While having your equipment professionally maintained on a regular basis may extend the useful lifespan and improve its efficiency, make sure you know what you’re paying for. Ask the contractor to write out the details of the service. More than likely, a good contractor will ask you to sign a contract before beginning any projects. Important items to clarify are dates on which the work will be performed, the cost of all fees, labor and equipment, and when payment is due.
On a big job, especially when installing new equipment, you may need to make a deposit and make progressive payments. Be sure to ask if a potential contractor offers financing. If you use a payment plan or apply for financing through the HVAC company’s line of credit, make sure you read all the fine print and know what you’ll be financially responsible for.
Get several opinions
Remember, you do not need to hire the first HVAC contractor that visits your home. Interview several contractors and, for new installations, collect several bids before making a decision. Be consistent in what you’re asking for, though. If you tell one contractor that you want a premium, high efficiency system, be sure to tell the other competing contractors the same. This will help you compare apples to apples.
Tax credits or rebates
Depending on the type of home heating or cooling equipment you are having installed, your new system may qualify for federal or state tax credits or rebates. Be sure to ask about what incentives are available for a new system and make sure the project is properly documented to meet federal, state or local incentive requirements.
Contractor locator tools
Many manufacturers of heating and cooling equipment provide a HVAC contractor locator tool for homeowners. Contractor locators are also a good place to start looking if you already know a brand that you would like to purchase. For example, we offer a contractor locator on our website in order to make it easier for you to find a reputable installer of U.S. Boiler brand products in your area.