Guide to Finding the Top HVAC Contractor in Your Area
When you face problems with your HVAC system, whether with the heating, cooling, or ventilation components, you need the services of a reliable HVAC contractor. This is the professional that will perform air conditioning repairs, ventilation system repairs, and furnace repairs.
Looking for a good HVAC contractor takes some time. Identifying the one company you want to hire takes even more time. Read through this guide for our step-by-step suggestions.
How to Start Looking for an HVAC Contractor
Take these five steps to find heating and cooling companies in your area.
- Personal recommendations are usually the best place to start. If someone you trust has hired a contractor that did great work for them, get the name of that contractor.
- Do a search online. In any browser, type these terms in the search bar: “HVAC contractor near me,” “HVAC companies near me,” “air conditioning repair near me,” “ac repair near me,” or “furnace repair near me.” Any of these search terms will bring up a string of companies in your area.
- Go to online service directories and search for “HVAC contractor” with your city name. National directories such as Angie’s List, Yelp, the Yellow Pages, and the Better Business Bureau will bring up local results if you include your city in the search.
- Visit the furnace repair parts section of your local hardware store or DIY store. Ask other store patrons for HVAC contractor recommendations.
- Join your city or county’s watchdog Facebook group. In that group, ask for recommendations for good HVAC companies. Call your local Chamber of Commerce and ask for member HVAC contractors.
How to Narrow the List to 3 Best Heating & Cooling Companies
If you follow the steps above, you’ll generate a list of HVAC company names. The next step is to narrow that list down to three names. (These three are the ones you will call and schedule estimate visits with.) To narrow your initial list to three companies, follow these steps.
- Visit each heating and cooling company’s website. This is a good way to get an overall feel for the company and to learn about its services. Look for awards won or memberships held in industry associations. These demonstrate credibility and legitimacy.
- Visit each company’s Facebook page as well as Instagram and YouTube. A company’s social channels give another view into the workings of the business.
- Find the HVAC contractor’s Google business page. Reviews left there are not manufactured or manipulated, so they are fairly trustworthy.
- Read reviews on sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Facebook, and the Better Business Bureau.
After completing the above steps, look at the information you’ve gathered and select the best three companies as your top candidates.
Finalizing Your Choice of Best Air Conditioning Contractor
Now that you have your top three candidates, it’s time for a person-to-person conversation with each one and an estimate visit.
In the initial phone call, find out if the air conditioning and furnace company is licensed and insured; if technicians are background checked, drug-tested, and criminal-checked; if the company has been in operation for five years or more, and if it is A+ rated with the Better Business Bureau.
Next, describe your job (ac repair, ac replacement, furnace repair, furnace replacement, etc.) and set up a time at your home for an estimate visit. Find out the name of the contractor or technician who will be doing the estimate.
The HVAC Company Estimate Visit
Pay attention to details from the start of the visit to the end.
When the technician arrives, note if he or she drove a marked company vehicle, is wearing a company uniform, and carrying a visible identification tag. Look at the tag and make sure the photo matches the face and that it is the person whom the company representative said would be coming out.
Remember that this person will be entering your home. It is simply being safety-conscious and proactive to verify identity.
At some point in the visit, if you did not ask the following questions in your initial phone call, ask them now:
- Who handles getting the permits (if needed) for my job?
- May I see your report for the J load calculation?
- How will I know that my system is the correct size for the load calculations?
- May I look at your guarantees in writing?
- What are your guarantees for labor, materials, and equipment?
- How is warranty work done and will there ever be a cost to me?
Air Conditioning, Furnace, and Ventilation Guarantees
It is important to know the details of a company’s guarantees, so we dedicate a section of this guide to that topic.
Before any work begins, make sure you understand all guarantees that cover air conditioning repair, new air conditioning units, new furnaces, furnace repair, heat pump repair, and ductwork cleaning.
Technicians may make mistakes and newly installed equipment may be defective or may underperform. Guarantees should cover these events. Know the details.
Typically, companies have money-back guarantees for certain situations. Make sure you get these guarantees in writing; know exactly what they cover, how long they last, and how much of your money you actually get back.
Look at the warranties on newly installed equipment. All new equipment should be fully warrantied, including parts and labor, for a certain amount of time.
Guarantee for properly sized equipment: Your technician should install the size of a unit that is correct for your space and J load calculations. If it is incorrect, the guarantee should provide for a replacement to be installed free of charge.
Temperature guarantee: Whether it is an air conditioner or a furnace, your equipment should perform to standard temperatures. If it does not, a guarantee should provide for repair or replacement.
Property protection guarantee: If your property is damaged in the course of a company’s work, whether indoors or outdoors, a guarantee should provide for repair or replacement. This can include walls, doors frames, wood flooring, carpet, tiles, furniture, lawn, and shrubs.
How to Avoid a Bad HVAC Contractor
At some point in your process of searching for and vetting heating and cooling contractors, pay attention to these last considerations.
- Go the extra mile in obtaining information about the technicians who will be working in your home. They should be dressed neatly in uniform, use language without swearing, and clean up messes in your home generated by their work.
- Avoid HVAC contractors who want you to pay before the work is done. Even if they only request a deposit, stay away from the company. All reputable HVAC companies take payment upon completion of a job and not before.
- Look at the length of the contract. If it contains many pages of small print, be on the alert. Hard-to-read, long contracts can be easy places to bury clauses that give contractors an escape from responsibility for problems.
- Ask if the company has its own round-the-clock-accessible repair parts depot. When your system goes down off-hours, as it surely will, you want to know that the emergency-service technician can get the parts you need.
- Ask if the company owns outright the equipment that is going into your home. If they do not own it and are instead financing it from a supplier, avoid the company. You only want equipment in your home that you pay for once. If the HVAC company does not fulfill their repayment obligations, the supplier will require payment from you.
Knowing Your HVAC System
Interacting with an HVAC contractor is easier when you know the basics of your HVAC system. Here is an overview of HVAC systems and components.
The H in HVAC
The “H” in HVAC stands for Heating. The heating part of your system warms air temperatures with a heat pump, boiler, geothermal unit, or furnace. Yours may be powered with electricity or fueled with gas, fuel oil, or propane.
When you speak with a technician about an issue with your heat, he or she will want to know what type of heating unit you have, the manufacturer, and the dates it was installed and last serviced.
The V in HVAC
The “V” in HVAC stands for Ventilation. Ventilation has to do with air quality and air circulation. Ductwork is what transports cool air throughout the house. Air filtration units govern air quality.
Ductwork should be monitored for cracks and leaks; it should also be cleaned periodically.
Air filtration systems should be checked monthly. Mechanical systems that utilize filters to trap pollutants should see regular replacing of the filters. Electronic systems make use of a charged surface that collects oppositely-charged pollutants. These systems should be checked periodically to make sure they are holding the charge.
The AC in HVAC
The “AC” in HVAC stands for air conditioning. Your air conditioner may be a split ac system, a mini-split system, ductless, geothermal, or central ac system. Or you may have a heat pump which converts hot air to cool air.
Split, or two-part, systems have units inside and outside the house. An evaporator coil is inside the house, generally installed on top of a furnace. The outdoor equipment comprises a fan, condenser coil, compressor, and electrical components.
As with the heating and ventilation components of your HVAC system, when issues arise with your air conditioning, it helps to know what you have. Record the type of air conditioning unit installed in your home, the manufacturer, the installation date, and the date it was last serviced.
When you are knowledgeable about your HVAC system, at least at a basic level, you can maintain it better. A well-maintained HVAC system will perform optimally for years.