We’ve all heard the horror stories.
Someone you know (or someone they know, or someone they read about) has, at least once, been ripped off by HVAC contractors. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. There are a few shady companies out there, and they’re giving the rest of us a bad name.
That’s part of the reason that trust is so important in this industry. It’s also why the best companies find that, over time, more and more of our work comes in the form of referrals.
In the same way that you may have had a friend warn you away from a certain air conditioning service contractor, a good HVAC technician will often find himself working for a friend or relative of a client with whom he’s done business.
That is one of the great joys of the job. But what do you do if you don’t have a friend who “knows a guy” who can install or repair your heating and cooling system? Maybe you just moved down to Spring Hill – AC repair insider tips don’t come with the welcome mat!
Choosing a reliable contractor doesn’t have to be a gamble, though. The tips in this article will help you make absolutely certain that you’re hiring someone fair and reputable.
Read on to find out how to weed out the fly-by-night, bait-and-switching weasels who are more interested in your cash than your comfort.
1. Online reviews are a goldmine – if you’re thorough.
Everyone knows that the Internet is a giant hole full of buzzwords and meaningless white noise, right? It’s rare to meet someone who has never idly looked something up on Wikipedia and then found themselves three hours later, far more educated on some absurdly unimportant subject than they’d ever expected.
For instance – this author knows far too much about Alligators. Why? Because when you live in Florida, it crosses your mind – and when you have time to kill, you end up trapped in some kind of Google daydream where you learn all the differences between alligators, crocodiles, caimans, and gharials.
But enough digression – let’s talk about online reviews. Because despite how ridiculous the internet can be on occasion, it’s been an incredible resource for consumers.
Your go-to for reviews should be sites like Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, and, Yelp. A little Google search never hurt, either – although if you find an HVAC technician via Google, we’d suggest searching them on one of the other sites mentioned, as well.
Google has, by far, the most information available, but sometimes it’s a lot to wade through. On the other hand, Google doesn’t filter their reviews, which means you’ll get the good, the bad, and yes – the ugly.
If you’re looking into a company and they’ve got fantastic reviews, that’s great! It should help put you at ease. If they’ve got one or two bad reviews, that may not be a reason to immediately write them off; it’s always worth seeing if the company responded to the review, which could have simply come from an unfairly irate customer.
However, regardless of the nature of the reviews, what’s important is that they have reviews. It establishes a history and shows you that this company is out there, doing business and working in the world.
You don’t want to be someone’s first customer if you can help it.
2. If they don’t have their papers in order, they don’t get your business.
No contractor has any business working in this field without all the licenses, certifications, and official rubber stamps that prove that they’re professionals. It is sadly all too common to hear of homeowners in our area going with a Spring Hill HVAC contractor who’s got unbelievably low prices, only to discover that they were low for all the wrong reasons.
We work hard to keep our prices low, as well – but they’re fair. When people are undercutting us, it usually means that they’re cutting corners on their own business to maximize those slim profit margins. When that happens, it’s always the customer that suffers. You’ll know a charlatan if they don’t have ALL of the following:
It also doesn’t hurt if they’ve got the NATE (North American Technician Excellence) certificate. You should feel confident that you’re in good hands.
Also, on the topic of paperwork …
3. Get it in writing!
In most industries, it is pretty common practice to get quotes over the phone. In our industry, that can be tricky, or even downright misleading.
Why is that?
That’s simple. You see, no two jobs are the same. Spring Hill AC Repair has a policy of making sure we see the site before we commit to a price. That means that over the phone, we’ll be happy to talk you through the average price range of the kind of work you might be looking at, but we’ll avoid giving you a definite number.
That’s not us playing coy; we’re protecting you.
When HVAC contractors give you phone estimates, they’re probably engaging in a bait-and-switch sales tactic. We see it every day: they’ll give you a promising lowball number that makes you breathe easy, get you to hire them, and then surprise you with a bunch of “unforeseeable” additional fees later.
At that point, most homeowners are overwhelmed and frustrated. They just want the experience to be over, and so, unfortunately, they pay far too much.
With us – and any reputable air conditioning service provider – you’ll get a different experience. We’ll give you an idea of what to expect, and we’ll schedule a time to come out and take a look. An HVAC technician will crawl around your system for a few minutes, and we’ll come out with a clear picture of the job.
Then we’ll provide you with a WRITTEN estimate, which will itemize every part the job requires, and the number of hours we anticipate needing to get things done. That written estimate is more than a guess, and because we took the time to do things right, you can truly breathe easy.
4. If you need AC repair on a specific brand, you’ve got a huge advantage.
Most manufacturers use authorized repair providers, and those AC repair companies have to maintain a certain standard; their technicians have to attend trainings, and if customer reviews don’t remain consistently high, the manufacturer often withdraws their stamp of approval.
That means if you’ve got a reputable brand system – or are looking to install one – you have a massive advantage in your search. You can usually navigate to the website of the company, or call the local distributor, and get the name of a trusted HVAC technician who is certified on their equipment.
It helps when you don’t have to worry that you’re working with an HVAC technician who is figuring it out as they go, or referring to a step-by-step manual to carry out your air conditioning service.
Spring Hill AC Repair technicians work very hard to maintain current certifications on all major brands!
5. Ask a lot of questions about the equipment.
First, do this because it will tell you whether or not you’re dealing with patient contractors.
Second, ask questions about the kind of equipment you have, and the kind of equipment you want. Shady contractors will direct you toward whatever is cheapest and easiest to install. Contractors who are looking out for you will direct you toward equipment with a better SEER rating and more user-friendly features.
They will also be ready to volunteer information about tax credits and incentives, manufacturer rebates, dealer specials, and anything else that will benefit you, long-term, instead of them, now.
There is absolutely no reason for you to be hesitant when it comes to vetting your potential contractors. It’s your money, your home, and your comfort at stake.
6. Experience matters – but it isn’t everything.
A lot of companies will use experience as a hook.
Now, don’t worry about us or our 40+ years as Spring Hill air conditioning service contractors – there’s nothing wrong with experience.
But it isn’t the only thing, or even the most important thing. What a company has done with their time in the industry is far more important than how many years they’ve racked up.
Oftentimes, we’ll hear of a company that boasts 25 or even 30 years of service getting bad reviews, and it’s for the most obvious reason imaginable: they’ve stopped evolving.
Our industry is in a constant state of innovation, and an AC repair company that can’t stay with the times is doomed to obsolescence. Don’t let someone wow you with experience. Confirm that they’ve got more to offer than sage wisdom or stories about the glory days.
If the answer to any of those questions is no, then we’ll kindly offer this opinion:
Time doesn’t make a great contractor. Hard work does that.
This is a great spot for us to boast a little: We have hundreds of VERIFIED reviews
7. The lowest bid is rarely the best bid.
We talked a little bit earlier about bids and estimates, and how some contractors offer prices that are too good to be true.
On that score, we’d like to get a little more involved. Because, you see, it really grinds our gears when a new customer calls us to repair their air conditioner, and we find out it’s less than a year old.
Unfortunately, last year, a pretty disheartening percentage of our new business came from fixing shoddy installations or redoing botched repairs. It may sound a little suspect coming from another HVAC contractor, but bargain-bin HVAC technicians aren’t worth the time or money.
We’re talking about the guys who are working out of a pickup truck, using a borrowed license or no license at all, passing secondhand equipment off as new, or worse.
Our advice? Listen to Billy Joel and get it right the first time.
If you simply go with the lowest bid, regardless of qualifications, the likeliest scenario is that you’ll be calling another air conditioning service provider within six months and spending a few thousand dollars – if you’re lucky – having a real contractor fix what the con artist you hired the first time messed up.
It will cost you more money in the long run to hire cheap. Instead, look for the right balance of price and value.
And feel free to shop around – the more estimates you get, the better sense you will have of who is offering you a fair price and who is taking you for a walk.
8. Talk to people you trust.
We began our article by discussing referrals, and it’s only fitting that we return to that topic for our last tip. Your friends and family who own homes have likely dealt with HVAC technicians. Spring Hill HVAC contractors aren’t exactly rare, so your circle is a great resource to help narrow down that list.
People who have no agenda other than to help you are going to tell you the truth. Ask them whom they’ve used. Find out whether they were satisfied with the quality of the work. Find out whether they felt that the price was fair.
Ask them some pointed questions, too:
Then find out if their recommendations are a good fit for you. It’s the oldest and best form of advertising, and we use it ourselves when we’re looking for someone to fix something in our homes that we’re not trained for.
At the end of the day, it’s about trust. You can trust the people who love you to watch your back. You can trust yourself to make informed decisions if you’re provided with all the tools you need.
You can trust Spring Hill AC Repair to help you whittle a seemingly endless list of potential contractors down to the select few who are worth their fee.
Call us at 352-436-1876 if you need help finding an HVAC contractor for your home or office; we just happen to know a really good one ;)