In our current economic climate, there is intensified concern by consumers that certain unscrupulous contractors may take advantage of them. This is especially true of HVAC contractors in the summer, when desperation caused by a faulty air conditioning system may push residential and commercial building owners to a speedy and often uninformed decision. Recently on the Today Show a hidden camera proved just how easily consumers are duped into overpaying during Jeff Rossen’s HVAC service contractor sting .
There are several qualifications a quality HVAC contractor should fulfill that may indicate to the consumer that he or she is hiring the best possible business for the value, including the attitude of the contractor, their knowledge and eagerness to stay informed, business documents and references and technician skill level (including NATE certification). A quality HVAC contractor will provide prompt, courteous and reliable service that is convenient. They will have the skills to service as well as design and install systems and equipment. They will be up to date on the newest developments in equipment technology and design procedures so that a consumer is given the opportunity to pick the most efficient and reliable system, and they will seek to prove this through membership to certain associations and continuing education and training.
A quality HVAC contractor will comply with state and local codes and regulations and carries proper business documents proving their qualifications, such as mechanical or consumer affairs licenses, business license, insurance and permits, and will do their best to make sure that you are well-informed by providing you with written and itemized proposals, equipment literature, owners manuals, manufacturers’ warranties, their warranties, a copy of recommended maintenance requirements for your new equipment and a list of references so you can see what others thought of their service. They will endeavor to certify their technicians with NATE (North American Technician Excellence) and will have a wide range of types of equipment, including Energy Star products. They will provide routine maintenance of your system, have proper concern for the environment and will explain how to care for your system on a day to day basis. They will offer planned preventative maintenance service to maximize the life of your equipment and will honor the terms of your warranty, review heating and cooling load calculations for your home with you, and will review manufacturers’ performance data with you to demonstrate why the unit you’re buying is the right size, and will present proof that your system will deliver specified efficiency based on AHRI certification.
Here in New York State, consumers and businesses must be even more wary because unlike electricians and plumbers, there is no HVACl contractors license requirement. Contractors dealing with residential consumers must obtain a local (county or city) Consumer Affairs license in some regions (although many do not). Commercial contractors in this state actually require no licensing, with the exception of business incorporation and sales tax licensing. Licensed residential contractors in New York City and Long Island are required to have workers’ compensation insurance and have passed written examinations on contracting laws in addition to a criminal background check. If a homeowner does business with an unlicensed contractor, they will not be entitled to reimbursement through New York City’s consumer protection program if the contractor fails to perform. The NYS Department of State has recommendations for background checks on contractors on its web site, but these are no insurance against fraud.
By the way, if the contractor you called to repair your investment shows up in shorts, a wife beater tshirt and sneakers, its a good sign that you didn’t do your homework!