This page gives a quick overview on how to select a local contractor.
(1) Location, licensing and length of time in business.
Make sure the HVAC contractor’s license is current, and see if the governing agency publishes a history of disciplinary actions or complaints you can see.
Be sure to find out how long the contractor has been operating in the same city under the same name, and if the company has any additional operating names. Longer, of course, is better. The contractor should be able to provide a physical address, or some way to contact them other than a mobile phone number.
(2) Level of technician and installer training
As heating and air equipment increases in efficiency and features, it gets more complex and requires better technicians. Select a HVAC contractor whose technicians are certified and have hands-on experience. Due to rapid advances in the industry, technician updates on equipment are essential. Four organizations that provide technical certifications and/or training are:
- HVAC Excellence
- NATE - North American Technician Excellence
- RSES - Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
(3) Comfortable to you
Ideally, the HVAC contractor you choose will install, maintain and repair your heating and air conditioning system for many years. You should pick one that has the kind of employees you will feel comfortable having in your home.
(4) Easy to reach by telephone and 24 hour emergency service available
The local air conditioning and heating company you rely on should be easy to reach by telephone. They should also have a reliable system for reaching them after regular office hours, on weekends and holidays. Although not needed very often, when you do need emergency heating or cooling service, it helps to have it available from a company with whom you are already familiar.
(5) Relying on referrals
If a lot of people recommend the same company, that is usually a very good sign.
Most HVAC contractors can provide a list of recent references from satisfied customers. If not, then you should cross them off your list and keep looking. Having knowledge of any unresolved complaints also provides a useful measure of contractor reliability. For general business performance, the Better Business Bureau provides useful information on both member and non-member companies. On their website, they provide a quick way to search a company’s basic history and complaints-resolved and un-resolved--using just the telephone number or the name of the business.
(6) Number of bids and price ranking
Get the number of bids that allows you to feel confident to move forward with your decision. For some owners, getting up to three bids on a long term, substantial purchase can be worth the time and effort.
Regarding price, most experienced owners recommend accepting the bid that offers the best value--combination of product, service, and price. If one bid comes in far below the others, dig deeper before accepting it based on price alone. Don’t hesitate to ask about any details that seem unclear, or even why their bid is lower than others you have. Ideally, this is the beginning of your relationship with the company you select, not a one-time event.
(7) Get the details in writing
Make sure you receive a detailed written description before work begins. This will protect both you and the contractor. If you have questions, remember to ask. This is the only way to be sure that you are getting what you asked for.
I hope that these hints help you when you decide to choose a heating and air conditioning company.