How to Choose an HVAC Contractor

hvac technician

North Alabama homeowners understand how important a reliable heating and cooling system can be. The region’s weather varies dramatically over the year, which means conditions one day may be dramatically different than the next. When it’s time to contact an HVAC expert for help, choosing the right one will always be necessary. Your comfort and safety are at stake. Here are a few things to consider when choosing an HVAC contractor.

Review Your Needs

Not all HVAC systems are alike, which means heating and cooling professionals must have the training, tools, and parts to install, maintain, and repair each one properly. That also means property owners should know what type of system they have before calling for help. 

The brand name and model of your heating and cooling units will generally be printed on the case. If they’re not visible, there will be an information plate that identifies the brand and model along with other relevant information on the unit. It may be hidden behind an access cover, so don’t give up if you don’t see it right away. 

Next, take the time to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for service intervals. That information is usually available on the company’s website if there is no owner’s manual available. Once you have this information, it’s easier to discuss your needs with a service provider.

Ask for Referrals

While this step is recommended whenever any type of service is required, far too many people don’t bother to ask for referrals. They go online or reach for the Yellow Pages and look for a promising ad. That’s not the best strategy. Ask those around you for advice. If they have the same type of heating or cooling system that’s installed in your home, their recommendation will have added value. 

Of course, it’s also easy to check online review sites. The problem here is that not all sites contain valid reviews. When possible, check more than one local review site to see what other homeowners in the area are saying about specific contractors. However, keep an open mind. Look for trends rather than focusing on one or two exceptionally good or bad reviews. 

Check Each Company’s History

The longer a company has been in business, the more experience its team members will have. Ask how long they’ve been in business and how much experience and training their technicians have. A qualified HVAC contractor will be happy to share that type of information with clients.

Here’s where letting the contractor know what type of system you have is important, as they’ll be able to tell you how much experience they have with your brand and model. They’ll also be able to let you know if they stock the most common parts needed for your heating and cooling appliances.

Ask About the Types of HVAC Equipment a Contractor Recommends

Most HVAC contractors will have several systems they recommend to clients who need replacement equipment. The quality levels and ENERGY STAR ratings of those appliances should always be highly rated by industry organizations. 

The contractors should also be knowledgeable about the various options available and how each would work in your home. In other words, they must be able to evaluate a home and determine which system would perform the best in that environment. 

Look to the Future

Remember that the systems commonly used today may not be as popular in a few years. Ask the HVAC company about trends that may impact the practicality of some devices in the future. Smart home features like programmable thermostats that can be controlled remotely are already common, which means transitioning to modern options now may pay off.

The use of natural gas and propane may also see a decline in the future. Don’t be afraid to ask about options like heat pumps rather than simply replacing an existing gas appliance with a similar model. While gas will be around for a long time, will it be the best option for your home and needs?

 Determine When the HVAC Company is Available

Heating and cooling systems never seem to fail during regular business hours. Heating systems seem to fail at 2:00 AM during the coldest night of the year. AC systems, on the other hand, quit during the hottest times of the day when they’re needed most—on a Saturday or Sunday when the whole family (and maybe a few guests) are all at home.

Verify the company your select will be available to help when problems arise at inopportune times. Many companies advertise 24-hour service, but do they deliver on that promise? Again, ask for referrals and look at reviews to determine if a service provider actually shows up when they say they will. 

Expect Written Proposals and Estimates

Always ask for written repair estimates or proposals for replacing an HVAC appliance. Ballpark verbal guesses should never be accepted. They leave too many questions unanswered and commonly result in disputes when it’s time to pay the bill. Get everything in writing. Doing so is always recommended by industry experts, as there is little room for misunderstandings when everything is in black and white. 

At the same time, customers should expect a written warranty that covers HVAC repairs and replacements. Determine how a contractor deals with repair issues when appliances are under warranty. How much of the labor is covered? Asking questions before work is done makes life simpler for everyone.

Developing a Relationship with Your Provider

When working with an HVAC contractor, preparing for the future is always recommended. Let the contractor know you’ll be contacting them again for maintenance or repairs if you’re happy with their work. At the same time, contractors generally go into a client’s home with the intent to develop a long-term relationship with that client. That’s a win-win situation for both parties.

Once you’ve worked with a contractor, they’ll know what type of systems your home has and what their general condition is. They’ll be able to make recommendations for future maintenance or repairs and let each client know when it’s time to update their systems. That means you’ll have allies in the heating and cooling business that will look out for your interests.