We are definitely not strangers to the sweltering heat that visits our beautiful city every year. Even though it gets brutally hot each and every year, isn’t it ironic we still continue to say, ​“It’s a hot one today”.

When the mercury rises most of us can rest assured knowing that it’s cool and comfortable inside our home. Now imagine for a moment it’s well over 100 degrees outside when you get home from work only to discover your air conditioner has completely gone out. What would you do? Many would open the yellow pages or Google, call every outfit in town to get a price on a replacement system and whoever comes in the lowest and the fastest is all too often the winning bidder. This is a huge mistake.

So What Should You EXPECT From Your HVAC Contractor When You are in the Market for a New Heating and Cooling System?

It needs to be realized that there are both professional HVAC companies and fly-by-night companies. Since the average HVAC job will be installed and used for decades, it is extremely important that you arm yourself with the knowledge to make an educated decision.

First and foremost, when calling around for an estimate (by the way, system replacement estimates should always be FREE) ask the salesperson this simple question: ​“How does your company determine the size of the heating/​cooling equipment for my house?” There is only one correct answer to this question: it’s by Manual J Calculation. Other acceptable answers may be ​“By an engineering analysis”, ​“By a block load analysis”, ​“By measuring and calculating the load of the home”, ​“By ACCA software”, ​“By using a computer design” or similar methods that specify an actual mathematical calculation was done that is based on solid science.

A common misconception in this industry is estimates should be able to be given over the telephone, but in actuality, it’s a far more scientic method than most are aware. Do not expect any company of this caliber to be ​‘cheap’. In fact, the added value they bring to the table will likely put their quote substantially above a company that shoots from the hip or uses square footage to determine sizing. Improperly sized equipment can lead to discomfort, short cycling, higher energy costs, and shorter equipment life. You’re investing thousands of dollars do you really want to take a gamble? Some unacceptable answers are: ​“By square footage”, ​“By looking at the size of your existing equipment”, ​“I’ve got XX years’ experience I can tell by just looking”. What they are really saying is, ​“I guess.” These air conditioning contractors who are good at one thing: cutting corners to the point that they are the low bidder on a job.

My family has been in the air conditioning industry for over 100 years combined and I can tell you with complete confidence the only way you can be assured you are getting an accurate estimate that is custom-designed to your particular house is by measuring the entire house, including the windows, checking the insulation, determining construction techniques and calculating the actual heat gain or loss of the entire home.

With that important factor out of the way, there are some other qualities you should look for when talking or meeting with an HVAC contractor. Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding the company’s licensing, certifications, and what insurance coverage they carry. You may also contact the local building authorities to see if there are any complaints or violations on any of your candidates. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for references from past customers they’ve done work for. A reputable company that stands behind their work would have no problem sharing that information with you. If they can’t provide references, I suggest you move on. Also, be leery of any contractor that openly bad mouth’s a competitor; that’s just bad business practices. Lastly, be sure to check Google reviews, the more reviews and the higher the rating are typically indicative of the quality of the contractor.

Good Contractors Think About More Than Just Dollars and Cents

Ultimately, the HVAC contractor you choose should make you feel comfortable right from the beginning, be willing and able to answer any and all of your inquiries and should never make you feel like you’re being pressured into anything. A good contractor will be interested in building a good working relationship with you and ensuring you are satisfied with the level of service they provide. Bottom line, it pays to do your homework. And remember, that the lowest bid isn’t necessarily the right one, it’s best to hire the best you can afford. After all, you’re investing in your home.

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