How to Hire an HVAC Contractor

As with any home improvement project, homeowners looking to hire a skilled HVAC technician should conduct a fair amount of research. Closely examining options will greatly increase your chances of finding a contractor who can fulfill your heating, ventilation and air conditioning needs and do so at the right price point.

An HVAC professional will offer experience and a high level of service.An HVAC contractor should offer a wide range of knowledge regarding various air conditioning problems.

Where to Find HVAC Contractors

The key to finding a skilled HVAC service technician lies in knowing where to look. These are just a few options homeowners can use to kick off their search:

Ask for Referrals
Many homeowners find service providers and repair professionals through referrals. These suggestions typically come from conversations with friends or acquaintances, either directly in person or on social media.

Look Online
A simple Internet search could yield a number of results for HVAC technicians in your area. Before you reach out to these companies, however, be sure to read any reviews previous customers might have posted online. While not always the case, reviews can be a sound reflection of what your experience will look like if you choose to work with a given company.

Local Publications
Finally, you might encounter or even seek out more regional sources as you begin your search for a reputable HVAC contractor. Newspapers, phone books and discount mailers can be excellent resources for homeowners looking to hire local service technicians.

Making Contact

Once you've come up with a list of potential providers, it's time to start making contact. While you certainly don't want to spend all your free time reaching out to contractors, don't be afraid to talk to a number of potential servicers. It only gives you more options and keeps you from settling for the first contractor who comes your way. After all, there could potentially be a better deal or service agent available.

Don't make cost estimates the focus of your search.

At the same time, don't make the focus of your search retrieving cost estimates. In fact, you should be wary of the contractor willing to give you a quote over the phone. To provide the most precise estimate, a technician will need to physically see what your system looks like and what the work will potentially entail. Consequently, you should look for someone who is willing to take the time to inspect your home and give you a more accurate assessment.

Ensuring Reputability

As you embark on your search for an HVAC expert, it's important to remember not all contractors are created equal. Each will come with his or her own experience, price, level of service and, perhaps most importantly, reputation. Though a business's image is based on a number of differing factors, the cohesive makeup of these components will paint a clear picture of the company. These are the points you'll want to look into and ask about as you research:

Check Licenses and Verify Qualifications
This part of the process requires a bit of extra effort, but it's an important one. Be sure to ask the following questions to examine qualifications and vet HVAC professionals during the early stages of your search:

  • Are you registered with your city and state to do heating and air conditioning work?
  • Do you have copies of your current licenses or certifications I can see? While there are are a variety of certifications a service provider can hold, it's worth noting many HVAC contractors boast NATE certifications, a professional standard in the industry.
  • Are you certified to be handling refrigerant gas?
  • Do you have a seal of safety? These seals provide assurance that the company has thoroughly tested its contractors and employees and can guarantee those individuals are engaging in safe on-site practices.
  • Are you a member of any industry associations?

Call References
Similar to online reviews, phone references will go a long way in filling in the blanks that riddle the hiring process. A professional contractor will have a list of past and current clients you could reach out to for more information. Be sure to ask the following questions in order to obtain a proper evaluation of how their projects came together:

  • Was the job completed in a timely manner?
  • Did the contractor communicate throughout the process? 
  • How would you describe the quality of the work that was done?
  • Did the contractor keep the project on budget?
  • How would you rate the technician's customer service?
  • Was there anything that could be improved?

Pay Attention to the Payment Process
It's commonplace for businesses to accept a variety of payment forms, including cash, check and credit and debit cards. Consequently, you should avoid working with companies that only accept cash and refuse to provide a receipt or record of the transaction - this could be an indicator of tax fraud.

How to Avoid Being Scammed

Ensuring the reputability of a potential HVAC company will greatly decrease your chances of being scammed. At the same time, there are additional tips you should keep in mind as you evaluate your options.

Having an idea of what your repair will entail will help you avoid the contractor trying to take shortcuts with your system or, alternatively, add unnecessary tasks or equipment to your project. If you're unsure of what your repair might include, you can form an idea by simply collecting information and estimates. From there, you'll be able to clearly spot a contractor whose information isn't aligning with quotes you've received from other companies. For this reason, it's especially important to reach out to a number of companies as you research.

Questions to Get Answered

Once you've set up appointments with the companies you're considering, it's important to have a list of questions prepared so you get a better sense of what each one can provide. Those inquiries should include the following:

What Does Your Insurance Policy Look Like?
Professional technicians will carry both liability and workers' compensation insurance to protect homeowners, should an accident occur on their property. Don't assume they have it though; it's always better to ask.

How Many Years of Experience Do You Have?
Experience is practically a must for any qualified technician. At the same time, it's important to keep in mind every contractor has to start somewhere, and you could potentially score a deal by choosing to hire a technician with less experience. If you opt to bring on a newer contractor, be sure they have the proper certifications and training to get the job done.

Do You Offer Flexibility in Terms of Payment?
The cost of your HVAC repairs can add up quickly and can be particularly daunting if you find yourself in a position where you don't have enough money on hand to foot the bill. Some companies might offer to set up a payment schedule or extend a line of credit should you not have all the money at your immediate disposal.

Who Will Be Working on My Project?
Many HVAC companies employ a number of employees in different roles, so don't assume the person you originally speak with is the one who will perform the work. Instead, you should ask exactly who will be assigned to the job and who you should reach out to with questions or concerns in the future.

Do Technicians Wear Uniforms and ID Badges?
If you find out there will be a team involved in your repair project, be sure to ask this question. After all, it will be helpful to know who will be moving in and out of the area, particularly in larger commercial spaces where more unfamiliar faces might abound.

What Is Your Area of Specialty?
HVAC professionals often hold certifications in a specialty area. If you're looking into installing solar air conditioning or radiant-floor heating, for example, you might consider seeking out a contractor who has additional experience or knowledge in this area.

What Recent Training, if Any, Have You Gone Through?
Relevant experience is essential to any HVAC project. For this reason, you should ask how the technician is taking initiative to stay up to date on the most recent technology.

Ask how the technician stays up to date on recent technology.

What Brands Do You Carry?
You shouldn't be solely impressed by an HVAC company that carries a variety of systems. After all, brand name inclusion does not necessarily equate to quality work or customer service. At the same time, however, it is important to select a brand you're happy with. If your contractor is known for a high level of service in addition to their selection, it may make the decision easier for you.

How Are You Environmentally Conscious?
If sustainability is important to you, it's worth asking potential HVAC companies about their procedures and how they might conserve energy and water for your particular projects. Additionally, you should inquire about energy-efficient heating or cooling systems. By installing or upgrading to such a system, you may qualify for tax credits or rebates as long as the project is properly documented to meet requirements.

How Will You Keep My House Clean During the Project?
You want your HVAC repairs to be as minimally disruptive to your life as possible. Consequently, you should ask your contractor about plans to keep the project contained and operating efficiently.

Do You Offer 24-Hour Service?
We've all either had it happen or seen it happen to someone else: It's the coldest night of the year and the heater malfunctions. What now? There's no need to be left in an uncomfortable situation when you're facing a heating or cooling emergency. Be sure to ask potential contractors if they provide 24-hour service should a problem that requires a fix beyond your own level of expertise be needed in the middle of the night.

How Can I Maintain the System Once It's Been Put in Place?
It's imperative you ask your technician about maintaining your heating or cooling system once it's been installed. Doing so will put you in a position to avoid emergency situations and, instead, reap the full benefits of your investment.

Do You Offer Service Contracts?
Participating in a company's service contract program, which ensures your new or upgraded HVAC system is serviced regularly by a technician, can provide extra peace of mind. Having a professional conduct routine maintenance on a heating or cooling unit can improve its efficiency and increase its lifespan overall.

What's Your Refund Policy?
No homeowner wants to hire someone who's going to take their money and run. An HVAC professional will ensure you're happy with the product and the service you've received. As a result, they'll likely offer a guarantee or refund policy to ensure you're satisfied with your experience.

These are some of the essential questions to ask as you interview potential HVAC contractors and ultimately aim to hire one. Alternatively, a quality professional should have a number of questions for you as well. Contractors who don't may not be as interested in providing excellent service as you think they are. In order to do the best job, they need information such as the following:

  • Areas that are difficult to heat or cool due to air flow or insulation issues
  • Excessive dryness or humidity within the space
  • The need to remove dust for allergy purposes
  • How your old system did - and didn't - work
  • What you'd like to see from a new system

Evaluating Your Options

As you weigh potential contractors and their offerings, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Don't review choices at the end of the day when you're tired. Similarly, you shouldn't be attempting to make a final choice when you're in the middle of another task and can be easily distracted. This is a significant decision and you'll want to have a clear head and be able to evaluate critically.
  • As you're poring over your options, It's important to remember price isn't everything. Of course, you want to select a contractor who can fit within your budget, but at the same time, you might receive a lower quote from an inexperienced technician who might not have the know-how to complete your project. Consequently, don't get too caught up in focusing on initial costs. Instead, evaluate whether a contractor can provide more energy-efficient options or longer warranties that may reduce expenses in the long run.
  • On another price-related note, be sure to ask contractors for an itemized breakdown when they're providing estimates. Not only will this allow you to see exactly where costs are coming from and compare potential contractors on even ground, it may also help if you're looking to cut costs and save some less vital aspects of the project for down the road.

Making the Final Decision

Once you've carefully considered all factors - including but not limited to reputation, price, level of expertise, equipment offerings and guarantee - you should be able to confidently select the professional contractor who best fits your home's needs.

Upon hiring the technician or company, be sure to hammer out the terms of the contract. Any professional will put their proposal in writing and allow you the chance to review services before signing on the dotted line. Additionally, you might want to work with your contractor to break down the procedure into action steps so you're in a better position to evaluate progress throughout the project.

Though this may seem like a large undertaking, it can actually be a simple enough process that will go a long way in helping you hire the right technician. The key to this multi-step progression often lies in asking the right questions, which will ultimately enable you to choose a company that's trustworthy and reliable. By hiring with confidence, your HVAC professional will be able to install or repair a system so it provides comfort and convenience in your household for years to come.