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Educational Consumer Tips

HVAC Contractors : Hot & Cold Tips

Author: Better Business Bureau
Category: Service

Hot Tips for Hiring an HVAC Contractor

Know what you need. Before you call a contractor, know the model of your current system and its maintenance history. Also make note of any uncomfortable rooms. This will help potential contractors better understand your heating needs.

Ask for referrals — 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 contractors at BBB Business Reviews will indicate the company’s rating and whether or not there is a pattern of complaints. Does the contractor have a local address and phone number?

Call references — Ask contractors for customer references and call them. Ask about the contractor's installation or service performance, and if the job was completed on time and within budget.

Find special offers — A heating and cooling system is one of the largest purchases you'll make as a homeowner. Keep utility costs down by checking around for available rebates on energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment. Begin your search at

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 (if applicable) for air leaks and insulation and measure airflow to make sure it meets manufacturer’s specifications.

Get written, itemized estimates — 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 for an inefficient system that will create higher energy costs.

Warranties and guarantees – What type of warranty and/or guarantee accompanies the heating or A/C system?

Licenses and insurance. – Ask for proof of appropriate business licenses and workers’ compensation insurance.

Who’s doing the work? – Find out who will perform the job: the contractor, employees or subcontractors? Ask about start and completion dates.

Get it in ink — Sign a written proposal with a contractor before work gets started. 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.

What HVAC checkups should entail:
Cooling System
During a typical checkup, the technician should:

  • Inspect and/or clean condenser and evaporator coils.

  • Check voltage and amperage on motors.

  • Check pressures for proper refrigerant charge.

  • Inspect and adjust blower components.

  • Inspect condensate drain, clean if necessary.

  • Inspect air filters.

  • Check thermostat calibration.

  • Lubricate moving parts where necessary.

  • Inspect safety controls where applicable.

  • Check airflow.

  • Inspect appropriate electrical connections.

  • Start and operate the unit.

Heating System
A technician checking your heating system should:

  • Inspect thermostat.

  • Check filters.

  • Check furnace for cracked heat exchanger.

  • Inspect burners and heat for rust.

  • Check for gas leaks at furnace.

  • Check vent pipe and draft diverter.

  • Check vent clearance.

  • Inspect for obstructions and proper clearance at roof jack.

  • Clean and adjust pilot assembly.

  • Check and clean blower, if required.

  • Check belt and adjust tension.

  • Lubricate bearings.

  • Check flame rollout.

  • Check manifold pressure when necessary and adjust.

  • Check burner for efficiency and adjust when necessary.

  • Clean and adjust all safety cut-offs.

  • Check high temperature safety cut-off.

  • Check fan control for proper setting.

  • Check complete furnace cycle.