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Educational Consumer Tips

Home Improvements - Heating & Cooling

Author: Better Business Bureau

This report is general in nature and is not intended as a reliability report on any company, service or product.


When considering a contractor, check to see if they are licensed with the state of PA at or 1-888-520-6680. You may also ask whether they belong to a professional association with standards for membership and ask that they will obtain any necessary building permits. Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors-National Association (PHCC) is a professional trade association serving the public and plumbing heating and cooling industries.

·          Check with your local building inspector or town clerk to see if a building permit is required

·          Check with your local municipality to see what licensing requirements the contractor must have

·          Solicit two or three bids for the work you are planning, make sure all bids are based on the same specifications and materials and length of time. Do not automatically accept the lowest bid, sometimes this can be due to inferior product quality or workmanship

·          Once you have found a contractor, request proof of a current insurance certificate covering workman’s compensation, property damage and personal liability

·          Read and understand any contract in it’s entirety, don’t sign a blank contract or any with blank lines, a copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at time of signature

·          Do not pay for a job in its entirety or in cash. The PA Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act(517.9. Prohibited acts) states for any sale of over $5000, the contractor cannot accept a deposit of more than 1/3 of the price, or 1/3 of the price plus the cost of special order materials. Never make a final payment or sign an affidavit of release until the job has completed any inspections and any subcontractors have been paid and you are satisfied that the work has been done to your specifications

·          Effective April 22, 2010, all work in homes that pre-date 1978 must be done by contractors that have completed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) course entitled: Certification to Conduct Lead-Based Paint Activities and Renovations. Contractors must provide the consumer with proof of course completion with a certificate. Certification may be verified by visiting the EPA website and using the search feature.

***EPA provides extension
Home improvement contractors will have more time to meet new federal requirements for dealing with lead paint. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it will delay the April 22 deadline until Oct. 1, 2010 to register for training. This delay allows contractors to sign up for training by Sept. 30. All training must be completed by Dec. 31.

ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping consumers save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. Energy Star qualified products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and offer long-term energy savings. To locate a heating or cooling product such as a central AC unit or a furnace that is Energy Star qualified, click here.


Energy efficiency and safety also relate to chimneys. If a contractor finds major problems with the chimney itself, consumers should get other written estimates before deciding on repair or replacement.


It is a good idea to have your furnace checked annually in late summer during the off-peak season. In addition, gas furnaces need to be cleaned no less than every two years, and oil furnaces no less than every year. Look into service agreements. Many contractors also offer service agreements that provide periodic check-ups of your plumbing, heating or cooling system. They are offered at an additional cost, which may be less compared with the cost of a major emergency that periodic inspections can avoid.

For more advice you can trust from your local BBB on avoiding scams and fraud, go to