Choose the right HVAC contractor for lower energy costs

April 23, 2021   By Terri Williams

Choose the right HVAC contractor for lower energy costs

Your HVAC system has a big job to do. Heating and cooling your home make up about 32 percent of the average residential electricity bill. So, it’s important to make sure that your HVAC is maintained by a proper contractor.

Whether you need your HVAC serviced or replaced, the right contractor is as important as the equipment. In fact, the wrong contactor can ruin your equipment and make your heating and cooling problems worse. 

As the summer months roll in, it’s time to give your HVAC some attention. Hot temperatures will not only lead to higher electricity rates – especially in a deregulated market such as Texas – but will also increase your reliance on your air conditioner. But how do you choose the right contractor? SaveOnEnergy® asked two HVAC experts for their advice.

Licensing and certification

Your HVAC is too expensive to have someone tinkering on it. You need a qualified expert. “If the contractor is licensed, this is a great indicator that they have been properly trained and have experience in the field,” says Mark Dawson, COO of One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning. 

While qualifications can vary, Dawson says some states require five years of experience before a contractor can be licensed. “This criterion ensures the technician has spent ample time learning the trade, which is important for both safety and reliability,” he explains. 

Insurance

In addition to licensed and certified contractors, Richard Ciresi, franchise owner of Aire Serv, says they should be insured – and if they’re not, he advises walking away. “No matter how good a technician might be, things can go wrong,” he states.  “If that company is not insured, you’re going to be left with a lot more than you asked for.” 

Ciresi says choosing a contractor with the right insurance can give you peace of mind and provide a safety net if something goes wrong. In 2021, the average cost to replace an HVAC system is a little more than $8,000. If your contractor doesn’t have a solid insurance plan, you could be left footing the bill if things don’t go according to plan. Discuss insurance with a contractor before hiring them.

Pricing

Everyone is looking for the best price, and while you don’t want to get taken to the cleaners, you should also be wary of unusually low prices. “Choosing a contractor simply because they offer the lowest price may not be the best decision,” Ciresi says. “Unusually low prices could mean that you might not be getting what you’re hoping for.”

An experienced technician might cost more, but Ciresi says this individual is more likely to have seen and heard everything that could be causing problems in your HVAC equipment. In other words, you may be paying for that experience and training, whereas a rock-bottom price could be a sign of someone with less experience.

Evaluation and estimate

You should always get an estimate before any work begins. In fact, the estimate should be agreed upon to ensure both parties are aligned on the pricing, timing, and services involved. “A thorough contractor will do an evaluation of the HVAC system and then survey the entire house to understand the square footage, insulation, and layout of the property,” Dawson explains. “Receiving an estimate will ensure that you can negotiate details before work has begun to avoid any miscommunications or disputes later.”  

One thing you should never do: get a quote over the phone.  “In order to properly assess any issues you’re having, a thorough inspection must be done – only then can a contractor give you an accurate and fair quote,” Ciresi says.  “Also make sure to ask for a written estimate.”

Here’s one thing you should do: make sure the tech can answer all of your questions. “The wrong HVAC company will likely just tell you what needs to be fixed with no explanation as to what’s causing the problem,” Ciresi explains. On the other hand, the right contractor won’t hesitate to answer your questions thoroughly and truthfully.

References

HVAC contractors work in a referral-based industry. Take the time to check reviews, ask your friends for referrals, and request references before choosing a contractor.

“Ask the contractor for references or referrals and call those individuals to hear about the service they received, as this is a great way to get an honest evaluation of the contractor’s work,” Dawson advises. And he says an honest, reputable HVAC contractor won’t hesitate to provide references for you to check. “You can also ask your friends, neighbors, and co-workers for recommendations,” Dawson adds.

Ciresi shares this view. “More experienced and equipped contractors will have plenty of previous customers willing to vouch for their skill and trustworthiness,” he says. When calling, be sure to ask about not only the contractor’s performance but also if the project was completed in a timely manner and at the agreed-upon price.

 

Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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