Between lighting, flooring, painting, and roofing, you have more than your fair share of decisions to make as a homeowner.
Yet, before you pore over the nitty-gritty details, it's important to make sure your home's critical systems are up to par. This includes your heating and air conditioning units.
Whether you're installing a brand new system or replacing an outdated one, it's important to team with an experienced and reputable HVAC contractor. This way, you can make sure that your investment is a sound one.
Today, we're sharing a few of the top ways to vet your prospects to make sure you're partnering with the right team.
Ready to learn more? Let's get started!
1. Prioritize Site Visits
In today's fast-paced digital age, there are plenty of things you can do over the phone or with a few clicks on the internet. You can order groceries, take a college course, rent a movie or check your credit score.
You cannot, however, receive an accurate quote for HVAC services sight unseen.
Be wary of any contractor who tries to give you a quote or a bid without looking at your current setup first. This applies to both new construction and remodel projects.
From ductwork and room registers to insulation and windows, there are myriad factors that an installation team will need to take into account before talking numbers. This is because residential installers follow a complex calculation known as Manual J to size your unit just right.
This calculation requires that they examine your entire house, including your attic and crawlspace, taking important measurements as they go.
If they insist on skipping this step and discussing pricing over the phone or online, keep searching. It's likely they're just in it for a quick buck and aren't truly interested in your long-term satisfaction.
2. Require Licensing and Certification
Your HVAC unit (or units) will be one of the most expensive parts of your house. If you're going to spend a substantial amount of money, you want to make sure you're getting the full package.
This means prioritizing an HVAC contractor who has industry experience and credentials to back up any claims of legitimacy. There's too much at stake to partner with someone who's working under the radar.
Before allowing anyone to begin work, ask to see the contractor's HVAC license or certifications. Their license number should be easy to find on their website and any literature (such as a business card) that you receive.
Specific legal requirements vary by state, so not every HVAC professional will an official license, though anyone you partner with should have at least some level of certification to share. One to look for is certification through the North American Technician Excellence (NATE).
One of the first steps required to obtain an HVAC license is rigorous education and training, provided by a technical college, on-the-job work or an official apprenticeship. These programs can take between six months and a few years to complete. From there, contractors must pass an official exam before they can earn their license.
Texas-based technicians can pursue a Class A license or a Class B license in the HVAC field. The former allows you to work on any unit, of any size. The latter restricts you from working on cooling systems that exceed 25 tons and heating systems rated at more than 1.5 million BTUs per hour.
3. Ask About Experience
In addition to paper-based accreditations, you should also require that your contractor have a solid work history within the HVAC industry. While it's true that everyone has to start somewhere, do you want your brand-new home to be a first-time student's guinea pig?
While teaming with a seasoned pro doesn't necessarily guarantee you top-notch work, it's a major step in the right direction. At the same time, think twice about anyone who explains that "We've been doing it this way for 20 years."
Like any industry, the HVAC niche is rapidly changing and evolving. As such, methods and tools that were ideal even a few years ago could be obsolete or even dangerous now. Look for someone who has time in the field, but is up-to-date on all the latest technologies designed to make it as safe as possible.
Ask about the experience that each technician has, in addition to formal training completed to secure certification. It's especially important to make sure that anyone working on your HVAC units is qualified to handle refrigerant and air balancing tools.
Section 608 of the Clean Air Act mandates that any technician working with ozone-depleting refrigerants must hold the proper certification to do so.
4. Check Bonding and Insurance
Any HVAC contractor working in your home should have at least a minimal level of insurance and bonding.
This is to protect all parties in the event that an injury or accidental damage occurs at the work sites.
Bonding means that the contractor has a surety bond that can protect you as a homeowner if there is any issue with the job's completion. A few concerns that could arise include:
- Poor workmanship
- Incomplete work
- Work permits that go unpaid
- Required materials that go unpaid
If anything happens that renders you unsatisfied with the quality of the work, you can contact the bonding company for appropriate compensation.
In a similar vein, insurance protects your contractor in two important ways.
First, it helps to provide financial support in the event that your home or property becomes damaged during the project. It also protects the contractor if any workers become injured on the job.
If you hire blindly without inquiring about insurance, you could be held responsible for covering the cost of any damages or injuries sustained while the HVAC team worked in your home.
5. Contact References and Referrals
Before signing on the dotted line with a potential contractor, ask for a list of referrals. Then, call them up! Key questions to ask include:
- Was the job completed on time?
- Was the job within your budget?
- Was the installation clean and respectful of your property?
- Did the technicians check the system after they installed it?
Even if you're satisfied with the answers you receive, go ahead and perform online research, too. Start by checking the company's rating with the Better Business Bureau. You can also locate its online business listings to see what kind of feedback and others are sharing.
However, there's one caveat.
While research shows that 84% of internet users trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family members, keep in mind that many of those reviews are fake.
Your best route? Prioritize firsthand accounts over those from strangers. Be especially wary of any glowing reviews devoid of details or angry rants with no direction.
6. Seek New, Energy-Efficient Models
Any HVAC technician who's in touch with industry updates will have a bevy of energy-efficient systems to offer you.
If you're looking for a replacement unit to upgrade your existing system, look for a contractor who carries Energy Star-rated models.
Operating under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this is a government program that requires HVAC equipment to undergo rigorous testing. Units that pass the requirements receive a coveted Energy Star rating recognizing them as some of the most efficient in the industry.
It's important to ensure that your newly installed unit is as recent and energy-efficient as possible. To this end, make sure your contractor doesn't try to replace your malfunctioning HVAC unit with the same make and model.
Most units last between 10 and 15 years and even then, what was popular and efficient back then won't be today. Think about it. If you're ready to upgrade your 2005 Chevrolet Silverado, would you replace it with a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado?
A well-trained technician will offer you a few options to help you modernize your system and improve the performance of your home. If you receive pushback and a plea to check out older models, it's likely that the team has some outdated inventory it's looking to shed.
Find an HVAC Contractor You Can Trust
Your HVAC unit is one of those systems that you might not think about on a regular basis, but you miss it when it stops working.
Whether you're installing your first unit or replacing the one you've had for years, it pays to partner with a qualified, licensed, experienced HVAC contractor.
That's where we come in.
We've been providing professional HVAC services around the greater Bastrop County, TX community since 1980 and we know the industry inside and out. Contact us today to discuss your needs and let's tackle them together.