How to Choose an HVAC Contractor?
Learn about HVAC & Home Performance in Houston.
Almost every homeowner will eventually have a reason to contact an HVAC contractor, whether for the repair of a malfunctioning freezer or for assistance with heating and cooling installation. HVAC stands for “heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration,” and qualified HVAC professionals are experts in a variety of systems that keep your home comfortable year-round. Whether you choose an HVAC company or an independent contractor, knowing what qualifications to look for and what questions to ask can save you time, money, and stress.
What to do Before Hiring an HVAC Contractor
Any homeowner would be wise to establish a relationship with a qualified HVAC contractor in advance, as this can alleviate the stress of not knowing who to contact in the event of a problem. Start your search for an HVAC contractor by conducting research on national and local companies, reading online reviews, and soliciting recommendations.
Consider the fact that HVAC systems vary from home to home during your search. For example, if your home has a boiler system, you should seek out HVAC contractors who have experience with boiler systems. Once you have narrowed down the pool of candidates, schedule a time to ask them about their qualifications, experience, availability, and more.
Recommended Questions to Ask a Prospective Contractor
- What training and experience do you have?
- What HVAC certifications do you hold?
- How do you determine and charge rates, whether hourly or fixed?
- Have you worked with this type of HVAC system before?
- What are your terms of payment?
- How do you determine a project estimate?
- How are alterations to the estimate dealt with?
You’re looking for an HVAC contractor who has at least a few years of experience, all the required certifications, a rate you’re comfortable with, references they can provide, and documentation of their work on systems similar to yours. Additionally, they shouldn’t demand payment in advance and should be completely transparent about the estimate-to-payment process.
Choosing the Right HVAC Contractor
How important it is to hire the right HVAC contractor depends on how big your project is. Finding someone to fix a broken ice maker is one thing, but hiring a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor to design and install a whole system is something else entirely. In either case, you want to be sure you’re making the right choice. However, an HVAC professional who fixes an ice maker might not need as much experience as one who works on a home system.
Keep this in mind when searching for a HVAC contractor:
- Examine an HVAC contractor’s reviews across multiple platforms and contact references.
- Search the Better Business Bureau website for the person or company.
- Inquire with several HVAC contractors about their experience, availability, and rates.
- Inquire about their experience with your type of job, as well as their knowledge of specific equipment and/or brands.
- Before hiring, obtain a written estimate and understand how changes to the estimate are handled.
The Right Contractor Will Have the Required Credentials
The licensing requirements for HVAC professionals vary by state, which is why considering nationally standardized certifications can be beneficial. Many HVAC professionals learn their trade through school programs, which may provide certificate degrees after nine months of training.
Licenses & Certifications
Your HVAC system is most likely the most expensive piece of equipment in your home, and you want to know that whoever works on it is properly trained. Every state requires proper licensing for HVAC contractors and to obtain a license, a contractor must have at least five years of experience in the field (this can vary) prior to the date the license application is filed.
North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
Additionally, you should inquire about the prospective contractor’s experience. Although longevity alone does not guarantee that a contractor will do a good job, stability in the industry suggests that the contractor is doing something right. In addition, you can inquire about the contractors’ and technicians’ certification. Certification through organizations like North American Technician Excellence (NATE) ensures that a technician’s education and experience are current.
Bonding and Insurance Requirements
In addition to the operating license, an HVAC company should hold a level of bonding and insurance to ensure homeowners and onsite workers are covered in case of injury or accidental damage onsite. If you have any questions regarding your HVAC contactor’s bonding and insurance status, don’t hesitate to ask for that information.
Your HVAC system breaking down is one of the most uncomfortable home system failures. This always seems to occur during the height of a heat wave or during the coldest part of the year, and to make matters worse, the fix is expensive. Make sure you are aware of the warranty information of a new HVAC unit. For example, an entirely new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system will typically cost between $3,500 and $7,525.
Ask About Previous HVAC Jobs
Request references and referrals and contact them. Inquire whether jobs were completed on time and on budget. Inquire whether the company performed clean installations and respected the homeowner’s property. Did the company test the system after it was installed to ensure maximum efficiency? Check the Better Business Bureau for any complaints about potential contractors. You can also check online for complaints or ratings, but keep in mind that many online reviews are fake. Glowing reviews and bitter diatribes without specifics are suspect.
Quality Service and HVAC Equipment
Inquire about the installation or service performance of the contractor. Examine whether the contractor cleaned up properly and whether the project was completed on time and within budget. Did your air quality and home heating improve in the end? If so, this is an excellent sign that you’ve hired a competent HVAC contractor.
HVAC Services Offered
HVAC contractors are skilled not only in dealing with HVAC equipment, but also in comprehending the frequently complex HVAC systems at work in a structure. This includes the design of the system, the planning of the wiring, the installation of heating and cooling systems, and adherence to code regulations, among other functions. Make sure your HVAC contactor offers these services for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration.
Check for Reviews Online
Online business reviews have become the preferred method for consumers to check the credibility and reliability of a product or service. Don’t be afraid to hesitate to contact previous clients for feedback and trusted advice when you need to upgrade your furnace or central air conditioner. Customer reviews are beneficial because they allow you to hear firsthand accounts from real people who have direct experience with local HVAC companies.
Check for Energy Efficient Systems (Energy Star)
ENERGY STAR qualified products adhere to the strict energy efficiency guidelines established by the United States and are excellent money savers if you desire energy efficiency in your new system. Before you hire a contractor, ensure that they are familiar with these energy-efficient systems so that they can provide you with significant long-term energy savings. For ENERGY STAR heating and cooling equipment, contractors should be able to provide you with savings calculations.
Compare Costs and Pricing (Ask for Estimates)
Request written, itemized estimates detailing the total cost of the project. Cost, energy efficiency, and warranties should be compared when comparing contractor bids. Be sure to comparison shop and obtain multiple quotes. Keep in mind that the lowest bid may not represent the best value if it is not the most energy-efficient option.
Keep a Look out for Rebates and Special Offers
Most people consider affordability when selecting an HVAC contracting company to install a new heating and cooling unit. However, before choosing a unit and an installer, consider the total cost of ownership. Many HVAC companies have special relationships with well-known HVAC brands. This enables them to provide you with incentives such as rebates and other sale offers that reduce the overall cost of your unit.
Additional tax breaks may make purchasing an energy-efficient HVAC system more cost-effective in the long run. Local HVAC contractors are typically aware of state and federal tax credits that can be obtained by installing a new HVAC system that meets certain energy-efficiency criteria established by the U.S. The Department of Energy is established.
Expect a Home Evaluation
The contractor should devote considerable time to inspecting your current system and residence in order to determine your needs. A contractor should size the heating and cooling system based on the size of your home, the level of insulation, and the number of windows. A reputable contractor will inspect your duct system (if applicable) for air leaks and insulation, as well as measure airflow to ensure it meets the manufacturer’s requirements.
Routine Maintenance Services
You should have a regular HVAC tune up (one for your air conditioner and one for your furnace) twice a year, usually at the start of each heating and cooling season, to make sure your system is working well before it gets too hot or too cold. But maintenance can be set up for any time. Make sure that your HVAC contactor has a maintenance schedule so that your HVAC system stays in good shape all year.
Get a Contract and Arrange Payments
When hiring any professional in your home, a contract is always your best friend. Even for emergency work, never proceed without first signing and understanding your contract.
Your written contract must include:
- A fixed price and itemized charge breakdown
- The proposed schedule of work
- Plans for subsequent maintenance
- The exact down payment
- Transparent payment schedule and accepted payment methods
- Proof of a building permit prior to construction
Keep Records of Your HVAC Repairs
Whenever possible, photograph your HVAC system before, during, and after the work is performed. Throughout the process, your local building department should also perform inspections.
Additionally, take note of:
- Hours worked by your technician
- Work performed during each meeting
- Changes to your home system reported before and after work
- All financial transactions
Know Your Power as a Consumer
Check your contract for the so-called “cooling-off rule,” which allows you to cancel the agreement within three days of signing. If you signed the contract under duress, this is an excellent clause to help you rethink your decision. HVAC scams are out there unfortunately, and it’s important to be well-researched, knowledgeable, and ready to mitigate these intrusions in business.
Look out for these red flags as vet qualified heating and air conditioning pros:
- Asked for payment before the work started (beyond the contracted deposit)
- Unknowable online presence
- Unplanned maintenance on a different component of your device
- Inability to obtain a license, permit, professional certification, or insurance