Guide to Hiring an HVAC Contractor

Do you need to hire an HVAC contractor? If you’re having problems with heating or cooling or ventilation in your home or building, an HVAC contractor is the professional that you need. For air conditioning repair, furnace repair, and service on any component of your HVAC system, this is the service provider who can address the issues and restore comfortable temperatures to your spaces.

Finding a good, dependable, and honest HVAC service provider does not have to be like a search for the holy grail. It may take some time, but if you follow our suggestions below, you should find a contractor that you’ll be pleased with.

How to Find an HVAC Contractor

  1. Ask family, friends, and neighbors for referrals. Although it’s not foolproof, getting a recommendation from someone who has hired an HVAC contractor in the past and has been happy with their service is a great place to start.
  2. Run a Google search for “HVAC contractor near me” or “ac repair near me” or “furnace repair near me.” That search will bring up a list of heating and cooling repair companies in your local area.
  3. Run a local search on service directory sites such as Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, and Angie’s List. Check the Yellow Pages online or its print version. Also look on your local Craigslist site.
  4. Hang out in the ac filter aisle or the furnace repair parts section at your local home improvement store and ask shoppers for their recommendations.

How to Screen an HVAC Contractor

Once you’ve come up with a list of potential HVAC contractors, the next step is to narrow down the list to three candidates that you’ll interview. This is the stage where you will refine your information.

  1. Look at review sites such as Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, and Angie’s list. Read the reviews of each contractor on these sites.
  2. Search for the HVAC company’s Google business page. Read the reviews that have been posted by their customers.
  3. Visit each contractor’s company website. You can get a feel for a contractor by the appearance and content of the website. Look to see if the company belongs to industry associations, has won awards, or holds any special certifications.
  4. Check the contractor’s social media pages. This will round out the impressions you have of the company and the people who work in it.

Selecting a Heating or Cooling Contractor

This is the point where you pick up the phone and call the top three HVAC contractors on your list. You want to confirm a few important things before going further in the selection process. The technicians with the HVAC company you hire will be coming into your home and working around your family, so do your homework.  

Check for Safe HVAC Contractors

Confirm that the business:

  • Is A+ accredited with the Better Business Bureau
  • Is Insured
  • Is Licensed
  • Conducts background checks on all technicians
  • Conducts criminal checks on all technicians
  • Drug tests all technicians
  • Has been in business for at least 5 years

Set Up a Visit for Your AC Repair or Furnace Repair Estimate

Next, in the phone call, you will describe what you need—ac repair, ac replacement, furnace repair, furnace replacement, etc.—and request an estimate visit.

When the air conditioning or heating contractor arrives for the service estimate appointment, be attentive. Is he or she wearing a company uniform? Driving a company truck? Displaying their credentials in a clear pocket on a lanyard? Does his or her face match the photo on the ID card?

While it may feel like you’re going over the top in confirming the contractor’s identity, remember, he or she is entering your home and working on your property. Confirming identity is being smart and safe.

What to Ask an HVAC Contractor

During your initial visit with an HVAC contractor, you should ask additional questions. Remember, you are still vetting this contractor by getting all important information. You will be repeating this process with two additional contractors and then deciding on the best one to fix your heating or cooling problems.

Questions About HVAC Service and Repair

Additional questions should include the following:

  • Will you handle the permits necessary to do my job?
  • Will you be doing a manual J load calculation?
  • When will I be able to see the load calculation?
  • Will you confirm that my system is the right size for the load calculation?
  • Will you check my ductwork for leaks?
  • How long are your labor and material warranties?
  • How long are the manufacturer warranties?
  • Can I get the warranties in writing?
  • Are there restrictions on warranty work?
  • What are the details of the money-back guarantee?

What HVAC Guarantees Are Offered?

It’s good to be crystal clear about what guarantees accompany air conditioning repair, new air conditioning units and parts, new furnaces, furnace repair parts, ductwork, ductwork repairs, etc. HVAC contractors are human, and they make mistakes. Be prepared for possible mistakes that result in system inefficiencies or malfunctions and know the company’s guarantees. Additionally, components of systems sometimes fail prematurely or are defective. Know your protections in these cases as well.

Is there a money-back guarantee? Make sure it is in writing, and make sure the language of the guarantee includes the duration as well as statements that you, the homeowner, will receive a full refund.

Understand the equipment warranties. All systems should be fully warrantied (parts and labor) for a certain time period.

Know that your property is protected. Any part of your property that gets damaged in the course of the work—walls, furniture, door frames, tile, carpet, wood flooring, even shrubs and lawn—should be covered by the contractor’s guarantees and the repairs paid for in full.

Make sure the language of the contract states that the correct unit size will be installed, and if it’s not, that it will be replaced free of charge for one that is.

Temperature guarantee: your equipment should be guaranteed to function properly to specific temperatures. If the heating or cooling system isn’t performing as promised, the guarantee should state that it will be repaired or replaced for free.

What Can Go Wrong with an HVAC Contractor

If you’ve gone through the steps above in finding three air conditioning, heating, or ventilation contractors, you’re ready to make your final selection.

Before you do, here are a few last tips.

  1. Don’t ever pay any money upfront. All reputable HVAC companies require payment when the work is done. Those that require a down-payment all too often disappear with the money and don’t come back to finish the job.
  2. Avoid signing a contract that has multiple pages of small print. The contract should be comprehensive but brief, with all guarantees and warranties clearly and succinctly stated.
  3. Make sure the company has its own parts inventory. If your system goes down off-hours, you want the assurance that the 24/7 emergency technician will arrive with all necessary HVAC repair or replacement parts.
  4. Don’t be shy to press for information about the technicians who will be working in your home. Heating and air conditioning service and repair technicians should be dressed properly, speak without profanity, and clean up the messes they create before they leave.
  5. Ask the HVAC contractor if they own the equipment being installed in your home. If they don’t own it outright and instead are making payments on it to their supplier, you will be held liable if they default on their payments. Their supplier could put a lien on your home in order to receive their payment.

Understanding the Parts of Your HVAC System

HVAC systems can be confusing to homeowners. Here we give a run-down of the components of your system to help you in your conversations with HVAC contractors and technicians.

HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning.

Heating System Parts

The heating component of an HVAC system comprises a heat pump, furnace, boiler, or geothermal unit. These may be fueled with electricity, gas, propane, or fuel oil.

It’s good to know what type of equipment heats your home, what company manufactured it, the model number, when it was installed, and when it was last cleaned and checked.

Cooling System Parts

The cooling components of an HVAC system may comprise an air conditioning split system, a mini split system, ductless air conditioning, central air conditioning, a geothermal ac unit, or a heat pump (which converts hot air to cool air).

As with your heating equipment, it’s good to know what kind of component cools your home, its manufacturer and model number, and when it was installed and last serviced. (A split or two-part system includes an outdoor unit that contains a compressor, condenser coil, electrical components, and fan, plus an indoor evaporator coil usually installed on top of a gas furnace.)

Ventilation System Parts

Ventilation has to do with the quality of air inside the home or building and how it circulates. The important components of the ventilation system are the ductwork and air filtration equipment.

Ductwork should be regularly cleaned and checked for leaks.

Air filtration systems should also be checked periodically. There are two main kinds of air filtration systems, mechanical and electronic. Mechanical systems utilize filters that trap pollutants in the air. Electronic systems utilize a charge that causes pollutants to stick to an opposite-charged surface.

Regarding the components of your ventilation system, know when your ductwork was last checked and cleaned, and know what kind of air filtration is in your home.

Knowing the above information about your HVAC system will help you feel more confident in speaking with your HVAC contractor. It will also help you take care of your system by scheduling annual maintenance visits. A system that is well maintained will deliver optimal performance and usually last a long time.