AC Repair Scams

July 14, 2015

Summer has arrived in Southern California, which means the weather is getting warmer and temperatures are rising. Consumers will want to be sure their AC units are tuned up and functioning properly to avoid a break down during these hot months, which can be awful. BBB serving San Diego, Orange and Imperial Counties is advising consumers to plan ahead when searching for an HVAC contractor. If you’re its an emergency and you need a repair fast, don’t make a hast decision.

It’s important to be able to recognize a scam, so BBB has provided you with some of the popular ways HVAC repair scams:

  • Sense of urgency or danger: Some companies try to scare the client into making big purchases. The technician may state your family is at risk unless you buy a new HVAC unit, or make another large purchase. For example A technician might claim a risk of toxic mold, and suggest replacement.
  • Bait and switch: The contractor may offer you a good deal on name-brand equipment. When you decide to make the purchase, they tell you that specific product is sold out. Since they already know you’re interested, they’ll try selling you other products and services you most likely don’t need.
  • Using technician lingo: The technician may purposely use words that only HVAC experts understand. This may leave the costumer confused, making it easier for the technician to sell products that are unnecessary.
  • Telemarketing solicitations: Company may call you claiming they’ll charge you a low price because they’re in your neighborhood. Shortly after arriving to the home, the technician will claim you need to make expensive repairs.

BBB offers you these tips to take in consideration to prevent you from falling for a scam:

  • Do your research: Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers for contractor referrals. You can also contact local trade organizations for names of members in your area. Check out prospective contractor at to see Business Reviews, which indicate the company’s rating and whether or not there are complaints against the business. Does the contractor have a local address and phone number? You can search for BBB Accredited Businesses in your service area too. Click here for a list of BBB Accredited Air Conditioning and Heating Contractors in the San Diego Service area.
  • Know what you need: before you call a contractor, know the model of your current system and its maintenance history. Also make note of uncomfortable temperatures in your rooms. This will help potential contractors better understand your AC needs.
  • Expect a home evaluation: the contractor should spend significant time inspecting your current system and home to assess your needs. A bigger system isn’t always better; a contractor should size the heating and cooling system based on the size of your house, level of insulation and windows. A good contractor will inspect your duct system for air leaks and insulation to measure airflow to make sure it meets manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Get a second opinion: Ask for a second, or even third, opinion. Contractors usually give free estimates. This will give you options, and you’ll know if the first price you received is acceptable.
  • Get everything in writing: Ask for a detailed written quote from the contractor. This should include the price, work, and time frame of the job. When comparing bids, make sure they are for the same specifications. Be sure to compare cost, energy efficiency and warranties. The lowest price may not be the best deal if it’s an inefficient system.
  • Warranties and guarantees: what type of warranty and/or guarantee accompanies the AC and heating system? Be sure to get this information in writing.
  • Licensed and insured: make sure that the contractor or business is license and insured by asking for proof of appropriate documentations as well as workers’ compensation insurance in case an employee is injured while working on your system.
  • Who’s doing the work: find out who will perform the job. Will it be the contractor, employee of the company or a subcontractor? Make sure to ask about start and completion dates.
  • Get documentation: sign a written proposal with a contractor before work starts. It’ll protect you by specifying project costs, model numbers, job schedule and warranty information. However, never sign a contract that has blanks left intentionally.
  • Ask for the parts that were replaced: If you already went through the repair process, ask for the old, broken parts after they’ve been replaced. This is a good way to prevent technicians from charging you for parts they never replaced.
  • Paying for the job: Checks need to be written for the company’s name, not the technician. You shouldn’t have to pay the full amount until the job is finished. Your BBB recommends paying with a credit card, this way you’ll be protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act.


For more tips, tricks and scam warnings visit our daily BBBlog or call (858) 496-2131.