Regardless of the work needed or the urgency of the need, there are tried-and-true steps to consider when identifying, selecting, and working with an HVAC service provider. HVAC refers to the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems that make our homes safe and comfortable, with most HVAC providers handling all of those systems. Some also handle the built-in refrigeration systems in entertainment rooms and wine cellars.
Not all HVAC providers are alike. Some providers, often called HVAC contractors, can handle the design and installation of HVAC systems when remodeling a home and the far more common maintenance and repair services most homeowners require. While this article focuses on repair and maintenance services, firms that provide broad and complex services generally have expertise that can sometimes be useful.
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Identifying Potential HVAC Providers
Among the top priorities for people who move to a new city or a different part of a metro area is to select their physicians and dentists. Rather than wait until they have a toothache, most people proactively seek out and choose a dentist, schedule their next teeth cleaning, and then rest easy knowing they are in good hands. Since homeowners can also experience an emergency need for HVAC service at any time, we recommend being proactive about your HVAC provider. Proactively selecting an HVAC provider ensures that you schedule the appropriate maintenance services and allows you to rest easy knowing a qualified team is just one phone call away if you suddenly need heating or air conditioning repair in Austin, TX.
You can identify potential HVAC providers using steps similar to those in selecting a dentist. Asking neighbors and other acquaintances for their recommendations provides valuable word-of-mouth (no pun intended) information. At the same time, online searches for HVAC providers “near me” and sources such as Angi can be valuable for identifying candidate providers.
During the search process, you perform an initial screening based on the types of services provided, the brands they handle, their certifications and experience, their ratings and comments, and other criteria you can assess in depth after narrowing your search to a subset of candidates.
Selecting an HVAC Provider
The thoroughness of your vetting process may depend on whether you are proactive or facing an emergency, but you should consider the same criteria in either situation. Ideally, you have or take the time to contact multiple candidates to review their qualifications, experience, and the impression they make when talking with you. (If you have not already done so, it is helpful to document the brand, model number, and any documentation you may have regarding the system in question.
The first criterion is to confirm that the provider handles the type of work needed, whether it involves:
- Heating: Heating system installation, replacement, repair, and maintenance
- Ventilation: Air exhaust and supply system installation, upgrade, repair, and maintenance
- Air Conditioning: Air conditioning system installation, replacement, repair, and maintenance
- Refrigeration: Built-in refrigeration systems
Each provider should be able to discuss their technician credentials and experience. About 80% of states, including Texas, require HVAC technicians to be state-certified. Many national testing-based certifications confirm a technician’s general knowledge or experience, and numerous specialized certifications confirm knowledge of particular equipment and techniques.
Questions concerning their typical inspection, estimating, and contracting process will reveal differences in how providers approach their business. Useful questions include:
- How does the provider handle the initial inspection and diagnosis of problems?
- Do they charge for inspections and diagnoses or absorb them in their costs?
- Do they provide written, itemized estimates of the work needed?
- Do they provide 24-hour service?
- What is the typical turnaround time for specific types of services?
- Do they charge on a per-service or hourly basis?
- How do they handle changes for misdiagnosed problems or when additional issues are identified?
- What are the warranty terms for both labor and equipment?
- How is the provider insured and bonded?
- What are their payment terms, including deposits?
- Will they provide references from past customers, particularly those who needed similar services?
While most HVAC providers are good, reputable businesses, some are not. Signs that a potential provider may not be on the up-and-up include their request for payment up-front, especially amounts higher than the stated deposit. Lack of certifications, limited online presence, and identifying “extra” problems once on-site are potential problem signs.
Your interviews with prospective providers may cause some candidates to drop out while others may become favored. Assuming the provider provides customer reference contact information, contacting the references can provide additional insight into whether the provider meets their promises. How providers respond to problems generally indicates whether they stand behind their work, so a helpful question is to ask whether the customer experienced problems or annoyances and how they resolved them.
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Working With an HVAC Provider
Once you decide on a preferred provider, obtain a signed contract describing the detailed services and the timeline. Be sure the contract documents unusual conditions (if any), such as limited access to the equipment, removal of old equipment, and returning the workspace to proper order.
HVAC work typically requires only one visit to complete, and to ensure that is the case, keep pets, children, and others from interfering with the technician. Please give the technicians the necessary space to return your space to the desired condition. For more complicated projects, it can be helpful to document the progress of the work with images, video, and notes about the progress made.
After the Work Is Completed
Once the work is complete, leave honest reviews and comments about your experience with the information sources that were helpful to you during your selection process. Providing current feedback is beneficial to other consumers regardless of whether your experience was positive or negative, and the best providers take the feedback to heart and work to address their issues.
It is also appropriate to schedule regular maintenance procedures to ensure your new or repaired equipment remains in working order. It is easy to take your home HVAC system for granted until an urgent air conditioning repair is needed, and you need help fast. To avoid making a quick decision, we recommend that those living in areas that experience extreme heat, like Austin, TX, identify a preferred HVAC service provider before needing one. This guide outlines the steps necessary to make a good choice. Your next step is only a phone call away.