Before hiring an HVAC company,inquire about licensing,liability insurance and bonding.The heating & cooling system is among one of the most complex systems that can be found in a home. It’s essential that the HVAC company you hire is well-trained to deal with the inherent safety issues in heating unit– electricity,gas,oil– or cooling units that use toxic refrigerants such as Freon.
A few decades ago,before home cooling,the job was simply known as “furnace repair,” and even ductwork was an afterthought since heat rose naturally and air flow was only marginally understood. Today,ventilation has become a technology of its own.
An HVAC contractor will play a crucial role in your house’s comfort,air quality and safety. Consider these steps when making your hiring decision.
HVAC Contractor Requirements
Many states that license HVAC contractors require that the applicant have a minimum amount of on-the-job or training experience– typically 2 to 5 years– working with HVAC systems.
That experience is critical since an HVAC contractor will need to have a competent understanding of how things like electrical wiring,refrigerant,combustion systems,and airflow through heating ducts all interact to add cooling or heating comfort to a home.
Not only is comfort important,but safety is critical– knowing the proper operation of home ventilation and exhaust systems when working with a furnace can be the key to avoid death or injury from events like carbon monoxide poisoning,which can occur if an HVAC system is malfunctioning or improperly installed.
Checking LicensesMany states require HVAC contractors to be licensed and many state governments offer license look-up websites where you can check the status of a HVAC contractor’s license. Sometimes individual cities and municipalities have their own specific requirements for HVAC contractors,too.
Since heating & cooling work may also require repairing or installing plumbing to supply oil or gas to heating equipment,an HVAC contractor may also be required to hold a separate plumber’s license or have a licensed plumber on call. However,some jurisdictions license HVAC contractors specifically for this line of work. When getting an estimate,make certain to ask not only if a company is licensed,but also what kind of license it holds.
Questions to Ask
If your furnace has just died in sub-zero temperatures or your air conditioning system has gone kaput on a sweltering day,you’ll probably be glad to hire the first repairman who comes to your house that day. But,if you’re planning a major or costly upgrade to your home’s heating,cooling or air ducts,itdeserves the time to research and interview several companies before hiring one.
When interviewing candidates,don’t forget to inquire about:
License,bond and insurance: Many states and municipalities mandate that heating & cooling contractors meet minimum education and on-the-job experience requirements,in addition to pass written exams in order to be licensed to work in the heating and cooling industry.
So as to receive and continue to hold that license,HVAC companies frequently need to hold a minimum level of insurance and bonding. Any professional that operates in your home should carry liability insurance to protect the homeowner in the case of accidental damage or injury.
References: A professional heating and cooling company should have a list of recent customers you can contact in order to verify that the company performed the work in a timely manner and to the customer’s satisfaction. Itis essential to actually call those references to get relevant details about how their projects fared.
Estimates: As a result of the high cost of repairing,replacing or installing new HVAC equipment,it’s important to get at least three written estimates from three different companies.
The project’s cost is likely your essential consideration– and costs may vary widely from one company to the next – but it’s also very important to ensure that the project’s overall scope,details and completion dates are thoroughly documented.
Brands carried: When seeking estimates for new or replacement heating or cooling equipment be sure to ask prospective companies what specific manufacturers or equipment brands they carry. Unlike other home improvement contractors,HVAC companies often only carry a small selection of brands. If you’re doing your own price comparison research on new equipment,you may need to limit your hiring choices to companies that specialize in your equipment brand of choice.
Experience with your system: If your cooling or heating systems features cutting-edge energy-efficiency design,such as a geothermal system,or counts on an old-school os,such as steam-driven radiators,make sure the company you choose has relevant experience with your particular system.
Tax credits or rebates: Depending upon the kind of home heating or cooling equipment you’re installing or upgrading,your project may receive federal or state tax credits or rebates. Make sure to inquire about what incentives are available for your project and make sure the project is properly documented to meet federal,state or local incentive requirements.
Payment schedule: On a big job,especially when installing new equipment,you may need to make a deposit and make progress payments or planned payments to satisfy the bill. If you use a payment plan or get financing through the HVAC company’s line of credit,make sure you read all the small print and know what you’ll be financially in charge of.
Service contracts: If you’re hiring a company for maintenance or having new equipment installed,enrolling in a service company’s service contract program may give you added assurance. Service contracts are just that,a contract that ensures your HVAC system is serviced regularly by the company.
While having your equipment professionally maintained on a regular basis may extend the useful lifespan and improve its efficiency,as with any contract,make sure you know what you’re spending for.