While equipment choices in important, it’s remains vital to choose a high quality HVAC contractor. Not only will they recommend the equipment best suited to your needs, they’ll make sure it’s installed properly and be around should it have any problems.
Avoid contractors who want to recommend equipment without thorough analysis of your home comfort situation – no matter how many similar homes they say they’ve worked on, the fact remains that all homes have differences. A professional estimator does the work on each and every home in order to make the best recommendation, just like a professional pilot inspects his plane each and every time he flies.
Here is a list of common mistakes homeowners make when choosing a heating & cooling contractor, and how to avoid them:
1. Don’t think that all contractors are as good as each other except price – ‘you get what you pay for’…
Like people, there are many different types of contractors. Some have withstood the test of time, others are ‘fly-by-night’, some focus on their customer satisfaction as a strategy, other focus on making as many equipment sales as possible, hoping that they can always get new customers to replace the ones they haven’t looked after.
While most HVAC are honest and hard working, the majority don’t have the right business systems in place to ensure a good customer experience. Between not performing a proper analysis and manual J heat load before recommending equipment, not doing a proper survey before the installation, or not having the capacity to properly support the customer after the installation, many contractors find themselves unable to ensure a good consistent experience.
2. Don’t get talked into installing HVAC equipment without a permit
It is a requirement in Tucson and Pima County that non-portable HVAC equipment requires a permit – although most HVAC contractors don’t do it because it takes extra work. See http://webcms.pima.gov/cms/One.aspx?pageId=61589 and take a look at item 1.(As a side note, Rite Way pulls more permits than any other HVAC contractor in Pima County because we believe it’s important to do a safe, legal and high quality installation every time. Ask about our Permit Guarantee.)
3. Don’t choose a ‘fly-by-night’ contractor
HVAC Installation is a complicated business, so please make sure you choose someone with a long track record. Most contractors go underwater and disappear within 5 to 10 years. Given the approximate 15 year lifespan of HVAC equipment, and the fact that it’s always best to have the installer continue to service the system, you are always best served by a company who has proven itself by being in business for at least 15 years.
Questions to Ask:
How Long Have You Been In Business?
Are you registered with the BBB?
Do you have both general liability and workers’ compensation insurance? (so that nothing can land on you if someone is injured on the job.)
Do you have a commercial office space, and what is the address? (to avoid the guys working out of their garages!)
Do installers and staff wear a uniform? (again, this shows evidence of good business practices.)
Are there written guarantees of satisfaction?
Do they have good relationships with the manufacturers? (this is vital if anything ever goes awry with your equipment.)
One more tip – a good contractor usually has a nice, clean and organized office space. If you are planning to spend a large amount of money with a contractor, it doesn’t hurt to visit their place of business…if they take care of their own space, they are more likely to take care of your home.
4. Don’t work with a contractor who doesn’t properly analyze your needs
Doing a full Manual J Heat Load calculation is the only way to properly size a new system to your home. Without this, an estimator is guessing what size of equipment will meet your needs and give you the best energy efficiency (i.e. lowest energy bills.)
Doing this calculation takes both time and expertise – if a contractor doesn’t do this automatically (without you asking for it) it’s a sure sign he is looking for a quick sale rather than a long time relationship.
You wouldn’t trust a doctor who prescribes medicine without examining you first, would you?
5.Don’t choose a contractor who doesn’t ask you (a lot of) questions
Many contractors just want to tell you about their services and products. The best companies will take a lot of time to get to know you, and your specific needs. It takes longer, but it’s all about giving you as a the customer a great experience and solution. It’s about you, not about them. They should also take the time to explain different options to you, and answer any and all questions you may have so that you can feel confident in your decision.
6. Don’t base your decision only on initial cost
Price is definitely a factor, but how many times have you bought something based on price, only to find that you got what you paid for?
Price is a good indication of quality, and it is worth paying more for the peace of mind of a good quality installation, with proper permits, company support and long term energy savings.
Price should also be fixed, unless there are major changes to the scope of work. Once you sign that contract, your price should be fixed. This is why we at Rite Way prefer to do a full analysis before giving a price, rather than making guesses over the phone without ever seeing the home.
7. Don’t give in to high pressure sales tactics
A good estimator is there to make sure you get the best equipment for your unique situation. He should be firm and confident in his recommendation, but not pushy or aggressive. He certainly should be not be using high pressure sales tactics, such as guilting you into signing, telling you about ‘limited numbers’ of units available, etc.
Remember that purchasing a new HVAC unit is a long term relationship – the company you use will be servicing it for years, looking after your warrantees, etc – and the estimator is a representative of the company culture.
8. Don’t be forced into paying cash
Beware a contractor who wants you to pay cash – either you are walking into a relationship with a company who has tax or payroll problems, or you are dealing with someone who is doing work ‘on the side’ rather than for the company who’s uniform they are wearing – which we’ve seen happen and which will void most of your warranties.
9. Don’t work with a contractor who doesn’t do proper testing
A good contractor will ‘test in’ and ‘test out’ – in other words, they will run an analysis on both the old and the new system to ensure proper running and efficiency. This is a the mark of a true HVAC professional – rather than testing your system after installation, the other guys will be well on their way to finding the next person to take money from.
At Rite Way, we aim to be the Air Conditioning & Heating contractor who offers the best end-to-end experience in Southern Arizona. We do a great installation of quality equipment without pretending that every installation is without hitch. Given that every home is different, challenges in installing the system always exist – where Rite Way is different from our competition is our commitment to making our installations right, and in working with our clients until they are satisfied, no matter what that takes.