HVAC Contractor: Qualities that Make a Quality Contractor
Six qualities you should know that suggest a reliable HVAC contractor
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The cost of installation by an HVAC contractor makes up almost half the price for a new cooling or heating system, but makes up more than half of the importance when it comes to getting the best value. For the most part, heating and cooling systems of similar size and efficiency are roughly the same price regardless of brand, meaning shopping around for the best value often means finding the best HVAC contractor.
How do you know if you’re hiring the best HVAC contractor? The “best” is a stew of different factors that range from price to reliability. The more of these factors thrown into the stew, the better your HVAC contractor. Here are some qualities to look for when you’re shopping around for a contractor.
Quality #1: Location, Location, Location
Any HVAC contractor you’re considering should have a permanent location, including address, phone number, and tax ID number. The lack of a permanent location should be taken as a very large, very bright red flag of an untrustworthy contractor who might disappear in the night with your money. That’s not to say all contractors without permanent locations are thieves, but it’s recommended that you take a long look at any contractor without a permanent location and ask why. Better yet, reject them outright. The risk isn’t worth it.
Quality #2: Licensed
Ask for proof that the HVAC contractor is licensed. It’s a step some homeowners neglect and pay for later. The paperwork should include a contractor’s license, bonding, and insurance. Insurance should include worker’s compensation and general liability insurance. Without licensing and insurance, responsibility for accidents and injuries will be the responsibility of the homeowner.
Quality #3: References
Quality contractors retain contact information for past clients to use as referrals for new clients. Ask your contractor for a handful of references--you may want to ask for more than you’re planning to call to ensure a larger pool. Call or e-mail references to check whether the contractor performed up to a high standard.
Quality #4: Covered Fees
Government fees involved with removal of old heating and cooling systems can be steep. Make sure any permit and disposal fees are clearly outlined on your proposal.
Quality #5: One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Sizing is a key issue for heating and cooling that’s best left to your HVAC contractor. That said, proper sizing can be a tedious, time-consuming effort. Some contractors cut corners to speed up the process. Square footage of your home plays a large role in sizing, but not all of it. Insulation quality, home orientation, windows, outdoor shading, local climate, and other factors can alter the size of heating and cooling needed for your home. The best contractors use industry standard sizing guides. For heating and cooling, the most popular sizing guide is the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s Manual J “Residential Load Calculation.”
Quality #6: A Clear Estimate
Before you sign on the dotted line, a contractor should provide a clear proposal, including a payment schedule that shows initial deposit and all work to be performed with costs associated with each specific task. A general estimate without specifics could lead to unexpected costs down the road.