Don’t Get Ripped Off By HVAC Company (14 tips)

  1. Check the reviews for the company, but don’t be gullible
  2. On your maps app, look for pictures of a real HVACR shop
  3. Deal only with companies driving marked vehicles with logos and phone numbers
  4. Look for contractors phone number on their truck and local license plates
  5. Does your heating service company have the required business licenses?
  6. Know what licenses are required by your state and ask for proof
  7. Ask for a few referrals from jobs they completed
  8. Get to know the owner of the company
  9. Be aware of scare tactics
  10. Don’t be in a hurry, be prepared to get by for a while
  11. Call the BBB and get a report, maybe?
  12. Make sure they have other payment methods besides cash
  13. Absolutely request any required permits
  14. If in doubt, throw it out. Listen to your gut and get a second opinion

Not any one or two of these tips will give you complete confidence about the honesty and integrity of a company and it’s employees and no doubt not very many people will do anywhere near all of these when in a position to choose a contractor, but these are “tips” to help you be aware of how you can detect someone trying to pull the wool over your eyes, so to speak.

Check The Reviews For The Company, But Don’t Be Gullible

Most heating, venting and air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) companies have a limited number of reviews. The majority of those reviews are given by invitation from the service technician, installer or salesman associated with the call. Naturally the invitation to leave a review wouldn’t be offered to a disgruntled customer.

Some companies I know of will give incentives to their employees that ask customers for reviews. It’s not a wrong or deceptive practice. The company is encouraging their people to do a good job and ask for a review. Then when people search to find a company the one with the most reviews gets to the top of the search list.

Electronic word of mouth (eWOM) is a segment of the internet that has flourished in recent years. We recently returned from a European country where we met our daughter and three of our grand kids. According to our daughter, everywhere we went to eat had to be a five star restaurant. I would not have rated many of them even a three star.

The need to detect wrong reviews decreases where many correct reviews have been posted, but even where large amounts of reviews exist, the platform has to ensure that most of these reviews are true.

To be a little extreme, compare a company that has ten or so 5 star reviews with a company that has a hundred or more 5 star reviews combined with a few 3 and 4 star reviews. I recall a customer that just didn’t like me. What kind of reflection is that on the quality of my work in a review.

The truth about local company reviews is that lot’s of reviews is a better representation of the companies real image and ability to serve the public.

Another very serious problem regarding reviews of heating and air conditioning companies is that reviews are usually left immediately following the repair or installation of your HVAC equipment. The job could have flaws or poor quality that are not obvious to an untrained or experienced eye.

Most home owners would look at the duct work in the image below and think to themselves, well it’s just duct work, it doesn’t have to look pretty.

Poor Duct Work Results In A System That Operates Poorly

But truth is that’s a 14 inch duct into the return of a 4 ton electric furnace on a heat pump system. It’s about half as much cold air return as needed. I can’t explain how it lived for 12 years. I know it had a very inefficient life.

And the design and craftsmanship is in line with the worst I’ve seen. The 90 degree elbow stuffed into the top of the unit and partially blocked inside by the top of coil pressed up against it.

Reviews are just one of the tools needed to find a good heating company. Used wisely they can be part of what’s needed to guide you through what can be a difficult journey.

On Your Maps App Look For Pictures Of A Real HVACR Shop

A real shop is only an indicator of what you may or may not be looking to find. The one man outfit working out of his garage can be a very experienced technician who doesn’t want to mess with having a bunch of employee’s to babysit.

The squared away shop with salesmen, installers, service techs, an office to manage calls and a history of being established has a certain appeal over the garage guy.

It’s a little harder for the established business to fold and disappear than the guy working out of his garage with no overhead, but it does happen.

Deal Only With Companies Driving Marked Vehicles With Logos And Phone Number

Every indicator of a legit company has it’s pros and cons. For the last several years my insurance company has asked if my truck has my company decals on the sides and back. My agent says that company signs on truck are a target for scammers.

Look For Contractors Phone Number On Their Truck And Local License Plates

Some business owners are fed up with phone calls stating that one of their trucks just pulled out in front of them or cut them off in traffic. So they don’t have numbers on their company trucks.

Having the number on the truck is merely a sign that this company cares about it’s presence and reputation enough to put up with an occasional incident (that we all have probably had) and has those safety meetings that covers drivers safety.

Phone numbers on trucks and other company vehicles indicates that this outfit probably practices some sort of discipline with their employees.

Local license plates should be an immediate red flag. Fly-by-nighters will drift from state to state and pick up a quick buck and be gone leaving home owners with little to no recourse.

Does Your Heating Service Company Have The Required Business Licenses?

Know your state requirement as they vary everywhere. Even counties and cities have different rules and regulations that sometimes supersede one another.

In my three county area if my jobs are over a certain dollar amount the individual city will require a business license before I can obtain a permit for the job.

My state requires a business license and if my insurance was to lapse then my license would be revoked. When revoked I would receive a nasty letter from the state telling me to cease doing business.

It requires very little research on your part to know what’s required for your area, but worth every bit of time it will take. These days it’s all online. A search for construction contractors board in your state or country will tell you who is licensed.

Know What Additional Licenses May Be Required By Your State And Ask For Proof

Licenses are another thing that varies depending on where you live. The awesome thing about searching for licensing in your state if it’s at all like mine, you will find a ton of information about who is doing or about to do work for you.

  1. License # and status. When first licensed.
  2. Unpaid debt for the last 10 years
  3. Complaint history for 10 years
  4. Discipline history for 10 years
  5. Administrative suspensions for 10 years
  6. And, license information from other agencies

Other agencies in my state covers whether contractors have workmans comp insurance or not. If your contractor has no insurance that covers him while working on your property your liability could be an issue.

Still other required state licenses would need to be checked. Sometimes a heating contractor is required to have certain electrical licensing such as a license to work inside an appliance (like a furnace) from the disconnect switch to and including any electrical in the furnace.

Another needed license here is to pull thermostat wire. As ridiculous as that may sound it’s just one of the many requirements.

Ask For A Few Referrals From Jobs They’ve Completed

We ask customers from time to time, when it’s appropriate, it they would mind receiving an occasional phone call from one of our new customers that may be looking for some additional security about what kind of work we do.

You would be surprised at how many would say yes. What an fantastic way to build customer loyalty. These are powerful testimonies from people in your own area that will give candid straight forward opinions of the workers and company.

Get To Know The Owner Of The Company

This won’t always be possible as some owners aren’t that obliging to be your friend, but it never hurts to try. You are possibly about to make a rather large investment. Owners see that and are usually very anxious to meet people who are holding a check book.

Invite the owner out to lunch and tell him or her about your concerns.

Be Aware Of Scare Tactics

Be careful of falling victim to someone telling you that your life is in danger and you have to do this right now. This is a common practice in the heating and air conditioning industry.

The warning in the heating season might be, “your heat exchanger is cracked and you could wake up dead” from the silent killer, carbon monoxide poisoning.

If the warning has to do with freon in heat pumps or air conditioning, then it’s probably got to do with the type of refrigerant in your system being illegal.

Don’t Be In A Hurry, Be Prepared To Get By For A While

Have another source of heat. This is just another survival tactic that anyone who lives in an area of extreme weather should practice. Be it wood, a gas fireplace or some electric heaters that you know are safe to use. When you are prepared you can make a decision based on the proper research and analysis.

Call The BBB And Get A Report, Maybe?

I’m not a fan of the Better Business Bureau. They are not my friend. Ultimately all they want is my money. But, you can be rest assured that if someone called them to report some shady deal that I’d committed they would have a report that would incriminate me.

Our competitor is a member of the BBB, we are not. He has complaints against him, we do not. He is ranked higher than we are..

In this same Reddit thread they talk about as being just another BBB 2.0

This is why I share 14 ways to HELP you keep from getting ripped off. There are just a lot of crooks out there looking for the weak spots with consumers to get an edge on the competition and you will probably not be able to claim any satisfaction from a poor installation on any kind of lemon law.

I also know their are a lot of honest hard working air conditioning companies and individuals out there who care and will do such a fantastic job for you because they love what they do and they want to be around for a very long time.

You are closer now than ever to knowing how to sort through the maze of qualifications that will give you that great product you need or want.

Make Sure They Have Other Payment Methods Besides Cash

I got scammed, big time. We had a storm and lost some limbs on the five elm trees that line one border of our property. I know this isn’t a furnace or an air conditioner, but it’s a story about a relationship with a contractor. Same diff, right.

Some of these limbs were hanging over a sidewalk and dangerous to passersby.

The storm had every contractor busy and I was very far down the list. The one contractor that did respond came by early one morning before the job he had for the day. Told me he could come by that night on the way home and take down the bad ones. For $700.00 and I was desperate.

That night he came by with his crew and in one hour had the job done. $700 cash. Which his boss never saw.

That employee was subject to a $2000 fine from the state and probably lost his job.

Other forms of payment are good so you have some recourse. You don’t want to pay cash when an alternative method of payment would be better protection in the event of a problem.

Absolutely Request Any Required Permits

Ever sell a home or buy one? If you’re reading this then I’m guessing your have. When you sign the closing documents did you notice the little section that says something about, did you do any work without the required permits.

I always ask my customers if they want a permit and then explain this clause. Invariably they want a permit. As much as we hate to involve government in our lives, it’s the best way to protect yourself.

If your contractor says you don’t need a permit then find out for yourself. If it’s just a service call for a repair then no, you don’t need one. If it involves a replacement or add on of equipment then you better find out for sure. The answer is probably yes.

More than once in my career I know of instances where home owners have had to go to there local permit center and apply for a permit on work that had been done in the past. The permit fees are usually larger and the difficulty in getting a final approval is sometimes greater than if the permit were obtained initially.

If In Doubt, Throw It Out. Listen To Your Gut And Get A Second Opinion

Always follow your gut! It’s the best instinct we have a human beings. You can always go against your gut after doing all the research.

No matter how deep a study you make. What you really have to rely on is your own intuition and when it comes down to it, you really don’t know what’s going to happen until you do it.

Chad Peterson

Chad Peterson is a veteran of the HVAC industry since 1977. "I like to explain heating and air conditioning problems in a way the average home owner can understand. "

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