How to Hire a Contractor
Hiring the Right Heating and Air Contractor for the Job.
There are two important considerations when selecting the system to best fit your needs:
Ask the contractor the right questions. Because heating or cooling purchases happen maybe once every 16-20 years, you may not be up to speed on the various solutions available to correct common indoor problems. If you don't speak up, the contractor may assume you're not interested in lowering utility bills, saving energy, or correcting hot and cold spots. Check out our expert tips on what questions to ask.
Select a skilled contractor, not a cheap one. When it comes to central heating and air, product performance and reliability are contingent on the contractor's ability to design and install a system compatible for your home.
Here's how to make sure you are selecting the right contractor for your new heating and air system. You'll be happiest with an appropriately sized system that is also installed correctly.
- A dealer coming into your home should do more than just inspect your current system. The dealer should also check air flow, inspect the duct system, make note of the windows and the direction your home faces, etc.
- Ask if the dealer possesses all of the appropriate licensing for installing HVAC equipment in your state and local area.
- Review the dealer's listing on the Better Business Bureau.
- Ask how long the company has been in business and if they offer 24/7 service, financing or accept credit cards.
- A knowledgeable dealer that has your best interest in mind will ask about your experiences in the home how long you have lived there, how long you plan to stay, if you have allergies, pets, smokers, hot and cold spots and or excessive noise.
- Be skeptical of a dealer who quotes you a price on the back of a business card after being in your home for just a few minutes and especially if it's over the phone.
- A dealer with the tools to address your home comfort problems will offer viable solutions such as programmable thermostats, air cleaners, humidifiers, zoning equipment, variable speed and two-stage technology. If the company does not offer these solutions, they may not be the right company for you.
- A proper installation takes more time to complete. Expect to pay more upfront for comprehensive service, but much less in the long run for your system's performance and maintenance.
- Typically, manufacturer warranties cover the replacement of faulty components for a limited time (Westinghouse is 10 years when the warranty is registered). Failure due to poor installation is typically not warranted by manufacturers. Select a dealer who will do a good job the first time and be around to service your system and assist you as needed.
The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) suggests
this worksheet to evaluate a potential contractor.
What to Expect From Your Heating and Air Contractor.
Here are the things you can expect a qualified heating and air dealer to address when you are purchasing a new
- Using the proper industry manual procedures and manufacturer's data to select, size and place equipment, supply outlets, ducts and returns.
- Selecting the type of system and equipment (plus operating and safety controls) that are compatible with the architecture of your home, fuel availability, fuel costs, the space available for equipment and duct runs, appearance issues and project cost.
- Calculating energy savings with a new system. You may find that investing in a new energy-efficient system with yield monthly savings greater than money earned on a CD investment or savings account.
- Performing load or sizing calculations for each room and the load on the central unit(s). New homes are better insulated and do not have the same capacity requirements as older homes. Over-sizing a unit can contribute to uncomfortable temperatures and inefficient performance.
- Disposing of old equipment.
- Installing the refrigerant lines.
- Installing to local, state and federal codes and utility regulations.
- Installing the indoor and outdoor equipment. A split system is the most common installation.
- Installing supply air outlets and returns if they do not exist or are inadequate.
- Installing duct runs (must be sealed and insulated to R-6 or R-8 if in unconditioned space) if they do not exist or are inadequate.
- Installing control system(s), such as thermostats and/or zoning controls.
- Installing furnace gas piping and vent (if applicable).
- Checking refrigerant charge.
- Charging the refrigerant system.
- Checking all control cycles.
- Measuring and adjusting air flow at the unit and at the rooms (balancing work).
- Checking all power supplies, connections, fuel trains and vents.
- Educating the homeowner about the system and equipment (provide all instructions and manufacturer's documents, including warranties).