There are many good points to keep in mind when selecting a heating & air conditioning contractor. Use the list below to help you make that decision.
11 Things to Look For, Before Calling
With just a little observation, you can determine much about a company. You can find the following by direct observation, talking with friends and neighbors, and a quick review of the company's website or advertising. If you do not know an answer, ask when you call.
- Is the contractor referred by a friend or neighbor?: The best source of information about the quality of work, friendliness, and customer service is the experiences of friends or neighbors.
- Does the company fleet reassure you?: Contractors driving unmarked, beat up, dirty vehicles are likely to treat your home similarly. In addition, these contractors may be skating on the edge of bankruptcy and unwilling or unable to fulfill their warranty requirements.
- Does the company have a physical address?: While many contractors may operate out of a home office when starting, they do have a physical address. Fly-by-nights and moonlighters, who will not remain around to stand behind their work, do not. They operate companies from cell phones.
- Are company employees neat, clean, and professional?: Companies that provide employees with uniforms and insist on moderate levels of grooming tend to take a more professional approach across the board. Fly-by-nights are more likely to wear dirty jeans and tee shirts.
- What equipment brands are carried?: Manufacturers of the better known equipment brands are selective about the contractors they allow to sell and install their equipment.
- Will the company guarantee a price before work begins?: Most contractors utilize a national flat rate pricing service today. The service uses national standard times for repairs, allowing the contractor to offer a fixed price quote before work begins, rather than an open-ended parts and labor estimate.
- What warranties are offered?: Better contractors, who are more confident in their work, offer better warranties.
- Is the contractor licensed?: If an employee of an uninsured contractor is hurt on your property, you can be held liable for medical expenses. Reputable contractors will provide copies of their general liability and workers compensation insurance. If the contractor uses subcontractors (e.g., an electrician or an insulation company), ask for copies of their insurance.
- Is the contractor fully insured?: If an employee of an uninsured contractor is hurt on your property, you can be held liable for medical expenses. Reputable contractors will provide copies of their general liability and workers compensation insurance. If the contractor uses subcontractors (e.g., an electrician or an insulation company), ask for copies of their insurance.
- Is the company part of your community?: A company that's involved in your community has a greater stake in their local reputation than one not involved. Problems will arise from time to time and companies with a stake in the community tend to put forth an extra effort to resolve problems.
- Is the company part of a professional community?: Companies that belong to a trade association or business alliance are companies committed to their craft. They care more. Quality is better. The level of professionalism is higher.
4 Things to Beware
Be especially careful about the following four pitfalls.
- Beware the lowest price: You want to spend the least amount possible for quality work. However, cheap contractors typically cut corners, which costs more in the long run. Cheap contractors cannot afford to fix mistakes, resulting in the need to pay twice. Often the lowest price is not the lowest at all.
- Beware the yellow pages: Selecting a contractor from the yellow pages is tantamount to throwing a dart. Maybe you will get lucky. Maybe not. The yellow pages should be used as a tool of last resort.
- Beware companies without a track record: Every company has to start sometime. Yet, heating and air conditioning companies tend to fail frequently. In fact, one company in five closes annually. The best indicator that a company will survive long enough to honor its warranty obligations is that it has survived in the past.
- Beware anything that sounds too good to be true: Usually, something too good to be true really is too good to be true.
Lists Compiled by Service Roundtable ©, used with permission