A Guide on How to Find the Best HVAC Contractor
Do you need air conditioning or heating services? The trade professional you must call is an HVAC contractor.
HVAC stands for “Heating, Venting, and Air Conditioning.” HVAC companies are the experts that install, repair, and maintain air conditioning and heating components and systems. They make sure your HVAC system is optimally managing the temperatures inside your home or building.
Finding a reliable, affordable HVAC contractor doesn’t have to be hard. You aren’t searching for the Holy Grail. Follow our suggestions below, and you will identify an HVAC company that can be your go-to for years to come.
How to Find a Good HVAC Company
- Begin with asking neighbors and local family and friends for recommendations. Someone you trust who has personally hired an HVAC company will likely provide the most dependable referral. Their idea of affordable, quality service might vary from yours, but their suggestions nevertheless make a good starting point.
- Run a query on your favorite search engine. Type “HVAC contract near me” or “ac repair near me” or “furnace repair near me” into the search bar and see what comes up. You should see a list of all the heating and cooling service companies in your area.
- Visit online service directories such as Yelp, Angie’s List, and The Better Business Bureau. Search for HVAC contractors in your city. Also check the Yellow Pages—either their printed book or their online platform.
- Many communities have a Facebook page where you can request recommendations. Keep in mind that Facebook user Sally will highly recommend her brother-in-law or her childhood friend. You’ll still need to evaluate her recommendation.
- Go to your local hardware store or home improvement store and loiter in the air conditioning and heating aisle. Ask other shoppers for their recommendations. They may be ardent DIY-ers, but they may still have some good ideas.
How to Vet an HVAC Contractor
When you’ve run through the steps above and generated a list of potential HVAC candidates, the next thing to do is narrow the list down to three names.
- If you did not thoroughly read contractor reviews on Angie’s List, Yelp, or other directory sites, go back, and read the reviews for all companies on your list.
- Look for Google business pages for each company. Note how many reviews have been left and the cumulative star ranking. Let that be a guide in vetting the prospects.
- Now visit the websites for each contractor. Is the company part of any industry associations? Has it won any awards? Does it belong to your city’s Chamber of Commerce? What certifications are listed on the site? Any of these assets will underscore the company’s quality and professionalism.
- Look at each HVAC contractor’s social media pages. Companies with an active social media presence will post photos of jobs done and happy clients. These give you a boots-on-the-ground sense of how the contractor does business and how he or she relates to customers.
Narrowing the List Down to Three
The next step is to take your list and narrow it down to three companies, each of whom you will call. In the call, as you speak to a live person, you will ask some questions.
Remember that the technicians you hire will most likely come inside your home. Among other things, it is important to confirm that anyone inside the home will be safe around the HVAC technician.
What Happens in the First Phone Call?
When you speak to a company representative, first tell the person you are looking for the best HVAC company to provide services at your home (or business). Then say you want to check out a few things about the company before setting up a service call or an estimate call.
Check Credentials and Safety Precautions
Confirm the following with the company rep:
- The company is licensed and insured
- The company has been in business for at least 5 years
- The Better Business Bureau has granted the company an A+ rating
- All technicians are background-checked and criminal-checked
- All technicians are drug tested
Set Up a Visit for AC Repairs or an AC Repair Estimate
The visit you schedule may be for a same-day repair job or an estimate for a larger job. The service you need—ac repair, ac replacement, new furnace installation, furnace maintenance, furnace repair, etc.—will determine what will occur in the visit.
Schedule this visit during the first phone call, after you’ve checked out company credentials with the representative.
What Happens During the First Visit?
Confirm the Tech’s Identity
When the HVAC tech arrives, and throughout the visit, pay attention to the details.
- Did the tech arrive on time?
- Was the tech driving a company truck and wearing a company uniform?
- Did the tech display his or her credentials on a lanyard or otherwise show them to you?
- Did his or her face match the photo ID on the company card?
You may feel a little like Detective Hercule Poirot but remember that this person will be coming inside your home. It is important to verify that he or she does work for the company you booked.
Ask the Tech These Questions
Read through the questions below, but keep in mind, if the HVAC tech is only doing a small repair or maintenance task, you will not need answers for most of the questions.
Ask these questions for larger projects, such as a system installation.
- Do you handle all permits?
- Do you do manual J load calculations, and can I see them?
- Will you make sure that my system is the right size for the J load calculation?
- Do you check ductwork for leaks?
- Do you guarantee your work, and if so, for how long?
- Are guarantees 100%?
- Do all system parts have manufacturer warranties?
- Are there any limits on warranty work?
Understand HVAC Guarantees and Warrantees
Air conditioning, vent, and heating components are all parts of a large and important system in your home or building. An air compressor alone can be expensive, as can be the furnace or air handler.
It is important to understand the guarantees and warranties that accompany new air conditioner installation, new air handler installation, new furnace installation, furnace repair, HVAC repair, ductwork repair, etc. Technicians sometimes make mistakes (they’re human) and components sometimes fail prematurely. Know your protections so that you don’t pay for something that is covered.
If money-back guarantees accompany products or labor, make sure you have the guarantees in writing. Understand the scope of the guarantee. After how many months or years does it expire? Do you get 100% of your money back, or does the percentage reduce as time goes on?
Understand equipment warranties as well. All equipment should have full-coverage warranties for a certain number of years.
Know if the HVAC company protects your property from damage during an installation. For example, if a door frame gets bashed as techs carry an air handler upstairs, will the company pay for the repair of the trim? If your laminate wood floor gets a giant scrape as techs repair ductwork, is the repair covered by the company?
It’s not paranoia or drawing negativity to ask these questions. You are covering your bases in case something unexpected happens.
Understand what temperatures you can expect an HVAC system to deliver. If it is 105 degrees outside, will your air conditioning unit cool your house to 62 degrees? Check the guarantees. HVAC equipment has limitations, and this surprises many homeowners.
What Components Are in An HVAC System?
You don’t have to be an HVAC expert, but it helps to understand the basic components of an HVAC system. A little knowledge will help you track better with any technician that comes out and asks questions or explains things.
It is also good idea to know the equipment brand and models you have installed, as well as the dates of installation and last maintenance.
The Cooling System
There are different kinds of cooling systems incorporated in an HVAC system. You may have an air conditioning split system, a mini split system, central air conditioning, ductless air conditioning, a heat pump, or a geothermal ac unit.
Split or two-part a/c systems have an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. The outdoor unit is a compressor with condenser coils, a fan, and electrical components. The unit inside has an evaporator coil, usually located on top of a furnace.
The Heating System
Heating components vary in structure from region to region and according to preference. You may have a heat pump, furnace, geothermal unit, or boiler. Fuel sources also vary by region and preference and can include gas, fuel oil, propane, or electricity.
The Ventilation System
The ventilation components in an HVAC system control air quality in a home or building. Ductwork and air filtration components comprise the heavy lifting parts of a ventilation system.
Over time, ductwork gets dirty inside and can develop leaks. It should be cleaned periodically and checked for breaches.
Air filtration systems should be inspected periodically as well. The two main kinds of systems are mechanical and electronic. They filter air particles in different ways. Mechanical systems make use of filters that trap and hold pollutants. Electronic systems employ electric charges that draw pollutants to an oppositely charged surface.
Know what kind of air filtration system services your home or building. Also, keep records of when the air filtration system and ductwork were last checked and cleaned, and what repairs (if any) were made.
Last Words about Your HVAC System and HVAC Contractor
Respect your HVAC system for the integral part it plays in keeping your life and work environment comfortable. As soon as any component fails, homeowners realize what a difference these systems make. HVAC systems perform at capacity for many years if they are maintained well.
In this guide, we have given steps to follow when searching for a dependable, affordable HVAC contractor. We’ve outlined the process for vetting a contractor and knowing what questions to ask.
It is important to find a quality HVAC contractor for installation and repair work. It is also good to schedule that contractor for maintenance visits. An HVAC system that is annually inspected will perform well consistently and will last a long time.