Depending on the climate in which you live, a good HVAC technician might be one of the most important companies to have on speed dial. The question is, how do you know if you’re choosing a good HVAC contractor or not? In order to better answer that question, it’s important to learn some background information about the subject in general. If you want to put it in terms that are easier to think about, imagine what it would be like if you had to live in your house when the outside temperature is beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and you don’t have a working air conditioner.
By the same token, you might be in a home where the temperature outside is well below freezing, yet you don’t have reliable heat. Unfortunately, this is something that some people have to deal with on a daily basis. Most people are fortunate enough to be able to contact an HVAC technician and get the problem fixed. With that being said, it’s a lot easier to choose the right contractor if you have at least a little knowledge about the subject in the first place.
What does HVAC Stand For?
It seems that nearly every profession these days uses an acronym instead of merely saying what they want to say. The medical community does it, the military does it, and just about everyone in between does it. This includes individuals in the heating and air conditioning industry. In short, HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning. It makes sense when you think about it, especially when you break these three key points down instead of considering them all together.
When you’re talking about an HVAC system, you’re usually talking about a system that is capable of both heating and cooling the home utilizing the same system. Some people refer to this as a heat pump, but that isn’t always technically correct. It depends on the exact type of system that you use. One of the things that make the HVAC field so complicated is that there are so many different types of systems out there.
Furthermore, upgrades are constantly being made and therefore the technology changes on a fairly routine basis. This means that people have to train a lot in order to keep up with what’s going on. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to adequately address the problems that you might be having with your system at home or at work.
When it comes to heating, the same core system that is used for air conditioning is used for heating in an HVAC system, as previously mentioned. The major difference is that the compressor, the large machine that is located outside the structure, doesn’t operate in the same way when the heat is running as it does when it’s set to air conditioning mode.
So many times, people have the misconception that the only thing that matters in an HVAC system is a compressor and a motor that works well. That really couldn’t be further from the truth. Without proper ventilation, you’re not going to have good air movement, which means you won’t have good air conditioning or good heating, no matter how sophisticated the system you’re using might be.
Ventilation involves the ductwork inside the home or office in question. It needs to be cleaned on a routine basis, and every once in awhile, it needs some maintenance in order to make sure that air is moving properly. If there is a leak or a blockage for any reason, everything else is going to be adversely affected.
- Air Conditioning
If you live in the southern states, this is probably the part you’re most concerned with. It involves utilizing a motor and a fan to push cold air through the ductwork. The cold air is created by the compressor that runs outside the building. The system is much more complicated than that, but that is a basic view of how most air conditioning systems work.
There is no doubt that the system is complicated enough that it needs a true expert in order to keep it running smoothly. In reality, you shouldn’t just be calling an HVAC technician when something goes wrong, but instead, you should treat it much like you would treat your automobile. Call someone out to do preventive maintenance on the system in order to make sure that it keeps working well. Generally speaking, you want to do this about twice a year, once before the weather gets hot and once before it gets cold.
How to Choose a Good HVAC Contractor
There is nothing more frustrating than sweltering in the middle of a hot summer day with a broken air conditioner. Even worse when the contractor that you called fails to address the problem adequately. Chances are, you’re going to be out several hundred dollars whether they properly fix the issue or not. If they don’t, you’re left to find yet another contractor and pay for the repairs a second time. It’s a lot better to make sure you have someone you can trust the first time around. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make sure that happens.
- Look at Customer Reviews
Granted, you can’t take all customer reviews at face value, especially not these days where people can post anything and everything they want online. However, you can look at certain trends and see if the contractor that you’re considering hiring has a generally favorable or unfavorable record. This definitely shouldn’t be the only thing you look at, but it does provide a good starting point.
- Check References
People are often apprehensive about calling an HVAC technician and asking them for references. You shouldn’t be apprehensive in the slightest. You’re about to spend a lot of money, so don’t be afraid to make sure you’re choosing the right person in the first place. If they do a good job and they have decent customer service, they’re not going to be afraid to provide you with a number of references. The only reason they would refrain from providing that information to you is if they have something to hide.
- Compare Options
Chances are, you have more than one HVAC contractor in your area. Put all of them through their paces and then compare the information you find. This will help you choose the best one in your area so that you can get reliable work done at a fair price.
Remember, you certainly will not want to do all of these things when your air conditioning or heating system is already broken. At that point, you just want to get it fixed as quickly as possible. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have an HVAC contractor that you routinely use. That way, you have someone to do preventive maintenance, and you know who to call when you actually have a problem.
Now that you know what you should be looking for when it comes to hiring an HVAC contractor, it’s important to get a few more HVAC facts so that you know exactly what you need to do whenever it comes time to call a technician. Rest assured, it’s much easier to gain a little bit of knowledge about your HVAC system, as it will make it much more pleasant when you’re working with a contractor. It’s similar to knowing what size engine you have in your car.
When you call a mechanic and ask them a question, the first thing they’re going to ask you is the make and model of your car. It’s the same thing when it comes to your HVAC system – they need to know the facts about the system. Therefore, it’s important for you to know those facts before you hire anybody. It’s equally important to know when it’s appropriate to call an HVAC contractor in the first place.
3 Must-Known Facts for Hiring an HVAC Contractor
Think about how frustrating it might be if a contractor can’t get all of the information they need in order to provide you with accurate responses to your questions. As always, it’s important to be an informed consumer. It’s never a good idea to purchase anything when you’re not quite sure exactly what you’re getting into. Therefore, you need to know the answers to these three questions before you decide to hire anyone.
1. What Kind of Experience Do They Have with Your Unit?
Most people have HVAC systems that are commonly manufactured and can be readily found in neighborhoods all around the country. However, that isn’t always the case. Every once in a while, you run into a unit that is extremely rare. Most of the time, this happens because the unit is very old, and it might not even be in production anymore. You obviously want to know if the HVAC contractor you’re planning to hire has a solid amount of basic experience, but you also want to know if they have worked on that unit in the past. It doesn’t take much effort to find out what type of unit you have, as the name should be displayed on the casing, both inside and outside. Make sure that you write this down so you can ask them if they work on this type of system.
2. Are They Licensed? What About Insurance? Are They Bonded?
You frequently see contractors of all kinds running around with the words licensed, bonded and insured painted on their vehicles. There’s a reason for this. You don’t want to hire any contractor that isn’t fully insured or licensed. If they don’t have a license, they have no way of proving they know what they’re doing. If they’re not insured, you might end up with a real problem if they do something that damages the system because it could void the warranty and leave you paying for everything out of your pocket.
In addition, any problem that occurs with a contractor that isn’t insured can leave you hoping that your homeowner’s insurance will cover some portion of the cost, but homeowner’s insurance is complex, and you can’t guarantee that it will cover everything if anything at all. You also want a contractor to be bonded because you want to be able to have the reassurance that they are reliable. You don’t want them to run off with your money without fixing the problem. In other words, any contractor that is worth hiring will be licensed, bonded and insured, no matter what the situation might be. If they’re not, you’re treading on some dangerous ground if you decide to hire them.
3. Do They Handle All the Work Themselves?
You have to be careful here because some contractors actually subcontract their work out to third parties. Do you really want your HVAC technician to do this? If they subcontract work out to someone else, how do you know if that person is reliable? That’s why it’s important to find an answer to this question before you hire anyone. At least then you can make an educated decision about how you want to move forward.
How Can an HVAC Contractor Help Me?
Chances are, you’ve had a similar question in the past. You may not always know exactly when it’s time to call an HVAC technician. Generally speaking, they deal with just about anything involving your heating and air conditioning system. Therefore, you shouldn’t hesitate to call them whenever you have an issue with it, even if you’re not entirely sure what’s going on with the system itself. Anytime you have one of the following situations, you should immediately contact an HVAC technician.
- Installing A New System
If you’re planning to install a new system, you’ll need a good HVAC contractor to do it. More than likely, they’ll be more than happy to give you a free estimate, so you know approximately how much it’s going to cost to have it installed. That way, you can compare offers from different companies.
- Needing Repairs
Anytime you think something isn’t working quite right with your HVAC system, it’s better to call someone than it is to wait it out. The situation might not really be anything all that serious, but if you wait and continue to operate the system, it could become more serious very quickly. That means it’s also likely to cost you more money to fix the problem once you do call someone.
- Cleaning and Repairing Ductwork
It’s important that you ask your HVAC contractor if this is something they’re willing to do. Not every HVAC contractor provides this type of service, but in most cases, you can get the ductwork cleaned and repaired by the same individual that services the rest of your HVAC unit. They’ll also provide you with a free estimate, so you know how much it would cost to have the entire system cleaned at least once a year.
This gives you a solid plan of action so that you know what you need to find out and why you should know these things before you choose to hire someone. It’s all about making sure that you get your system up and running and ensure that it’s in good shape without emptying out your pocketbook in order to do it.
So far, you’ve learned what you should be looking for in an HVAC contractor, as well as some more specific questions that you need to ask before you decide to hire someone to perform any work. You might think that alone would prepare you to go ahead and contact an HVAC technician, but it really depends on exactly why you need to contact one in the first place. In short, the contracting professional that you want to hire is going to differ based on your exact needs.
It’s always a good idea to be knowledgeable about the subject as opposed to taking a shot in the dark and hoping you choose the right person. That’s why you will find additional questions that you should be asking your HVAC contractor below. We’ve also listed what you should do if you want to do something different with your HVAC system, such as installing solar panels.
4 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an HVAC Contractor
1. Are You Licensed?
Remember that the importance of having someone that is licensed bonded and insured has already been discussed in detail above. We mention it again because it’s imperative to have a licensed contractor. The last thing you want to do is forget to ask and then find out the person you’ve agreed to hire doesn’t have a license to work on your HVAC system. Since this question is so important, we’ve listed it as #1. It should always be the first question you ask. If the answer is no, thank that individual for their time and move on.
2. How Much Will the Final Cost Vary from The Estimate?
This can be an exceedingly difficult question to answer. Nevertheless, it’s one that you should be asking unless you want to pay a lot more than you think you’re going to pay. Your contractor might not be able to give you an exact number, but they should be able to give you both a low-end range and a high-end range. That way, you have a good idea of what you’re likely to be paying, and you also have a better idea of what you might end up paying if things are more complicated than your contractor expected. If you don’t ask this question, you might end up with a lot of unpleasant surprises, as the number on the estimate is hardly ever what you end up being charged when it’s all said and done.
3. What Is the Payment Schedule?
Having work done on your HVAC system can cost a ridiculous amount of money. Most people don’t have enough money to simply pay out of pocket, especially if the repairs are extensive or it involves installing a new system. Fortunately, many contractors allow their customers to pay these types of expenses out over time. Additionally, they might have a connection with a finance company that can help you out. Be sure to ask any contractor that you’re considering hiring whether or not they offer a payment plan and if so, what are the terms. It can do a lot to alleviate your worry about being able to pay for repairs if you know that you don’t have to come up with all the money at one time.
4. How Long Do You Guarantee Your Work?
This is equally important to find out before you hire anyone. The last thing you want to do is shell out several hundred dollars for an expensive repair and have the system break down the next day or the next week, so you can do it all over again. Ask them if they guarantee their work and if so, how long that guarantee is good for. You might also consider getting on a preferred customer list, as you usually can get a better guarantee and even a little bit better deal on the price by doing this.
Can I Add Solar Panels to My HVAC System?
This is something that more and more people are trying to find out about. Some people are trying to be more environmentally friendly, and others are trying to save money. Chances are, it’s a combination of the two. Before you decide to do something like this, it’s important to contact someone that knows a lot about your HVAC system and ask them certain questions. You might be surprised at the answers.
- Is It Practical?
A lot of people have the idea that installing solar panels is more practical than not using them. In some cases, this is correct but not in every case. That’s why it’s important to sit down with an HVAC technician that you know you can trust and ask them these questions. Depending on your particular situation, this might be a great idea, or it might be more trouble than it’s worth.
- Is It Really More Affordable in The Long Run?
People think that utilizing solar panels is going to save them a ton of money when it comes to their heating and cooling costs. Again, the amount of money saved depends on where you live and your situation, but it’s not likely that you’re going to save a dramatic amount of money in any case. In some cases, you might actually end up spending more money.
- How Much Sunlight Would Be Required for Solar Panels to Work?
On average, you need to live in a place where you can get a minimum of 10 hours of sunlight reliably. This means that you need to have a lot more sunshine than any other weather condition. You need 10 hours of bright sunlight each day in order to generate enough electrical power to run an HVAC system. In some cases, you might need more.
When you stop and think about the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day, it quickly becomes evident that this might not be your best solution unless you live in an area where the sun shines almost all the time with very little rain and very few clouds.
- What About Days That Are Hot and Humid with Little Sunshine?
If you live in a hot climate, you know that it can be absolutely miserable even if the sun isn’t shining. The problem is, an HVAC system that runs on solar panels may not have enough power to run on those types of days. That basically defeats the whole point of having an HVAC system in the first place.
Now that you have a little more knowledge about the way HVAC systems work, it should be a little easier to figure out exactly what you want to say to your HVAC technician when you place a call to them. This is especially true if you’re considering having any type of major work done or you want alterations performed on the system.
When it comes to your air conditioning system, knowing who to call and which questions to ask isn’t always enough. Even if your system is working perfectly, it’s equally important to know how to save money on air conditioning without being miserable, even during the hottest parts of the year. If you happen to live in a climate where the temperatures climb into the 90s and above, you know how important it is to find ways to stay cool without having your air conditioning system running 24 hours a day. Not only is such a thing hard on your system, but it’s equally hard on your bank account.
There are two main ways to keep things comfortable and affordable at the same time. Even though it seems counterproductive, you should never wait to call an HVAC technician in order to have repairs made. In addition, it’s imperative that you find ways to stay cool and help your air conditioner do its job when the temperatures become unbearably hot.
Why It’s Important Not to Wait on Air Conditioning Repairs
Much of the time, people have a habit of refraining from calling an HVAC technician even if they know something isn’t quite right. It usually comes down to a matter of money. You might not be able to pay for costly repairs right then, or you might just have trouble finding the time to organize it. Below are three reasons why you should never wait when it comes to air conditioning repairs.
1. It Can End Up Costing You More Money
If you’re trying to hold off when it comes to air conditioning repairs because you’re apprehensive about spending the money, it’s important to remember that it can end up costing you a lot more if you don’t call someone right away. Your air conditioning system is just like any other machine. If there’s something wrong with it and you’re not addressing the problem, that issue isn’t going to go away all by itself. In fact, you could make things a lot worse by ignoring what might be a minor problem to begin with until it becomes a major problem that involves a lot of costly repairs.
2. Your System Might Break When It Can’t Be Fixed Right Away
If your air conditioning system has been making strange noises for two weeks and you haven’t taken the steps to do something about it, you might be setting yourself up for misery. Obviously, the system can’t go on like that forever. What are you going to do if it breaks on a holiday weekend during the hottest time of the year? You’re either going to be scrambling for another place to stay, paying a lot more money to get someone out there to fix it than you would have paid originally, or you’re going to suffer in the heat. None of those options are very appealing, to say the least. That’s why you should always contact someone right away when your system starts acting up.
3. You Could Be Doing Permanent Damage to Your HVAC System
If you think that something is wrong with your system and you keep running it anyway, you could be doing a great deal of damage without realizing it. It might be a lot worse than just being forced to spend a little more money when you finally do make the repairs. Something that starts out as a relatively minor issue could go on to damage the system so severely that you have to have it replaced in its entirety. It just isn’t worth it.
3 Ways to Stay Cool and Still Lower Energy Costs
Nobody wants to spend more money than they have to when it comes to their energy bills. Below are three things that you can do that will help you stay comfortable and save money at the same time.
1. Keep Your Blinds Closed During the Hottest Part of the Day
You’d be surprised how much this can help. Everybody likes to have the chance to look outside, but it’s not worth forcing you to swelter inside your own home. Closing the blinds during the heat of the day can keep your house a lot cooler, meaning that your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard. If you’re dealing with an excessive amount of heat, consider adding blackout panels behind your blinds. You might even want to put curtains over them. In short, do whatever you need to do to keep the heat out when the temperatures are high.
2. Use Fans to Keep Things Comfortable
Using fans without an air conditioning system doesn’t do anything but move a lot of hot air around. However, using the two in conjunction with each other can make the house a lot more comfortable in a relatively short amount of time. For best results, utilize ceiling fans in every room of the home except the bathrooms. In rooms where you spend a lot of time, such as the living room or the bedroom, go ahead and add an extra oscillating fan, maybe even two. The idea is to reduce the workload on the air conditioner so that your home stays comfortable and it doesn’t have to run as frequently.
3. Keep Your Thermostat Set at A Comfortable Level and Leave It Alone
For years, people were told that the best way to save on energy costs was to push their thermostat up during the day keeping the temperature inside the house is warmer. The problem is, you come home to a hot house, so you turn the thermostat way down. Your air conditioner then spends the rest of the evening trying to catch up. It’s actually better if you set it at a constant level and leave it alone, utilizing the techniques mentioned above to keep things cool, so it doesn’t have to run as often.
Now that you know some things you can do to save money when it comes to your air conditioning system, you can hopefully start to use it with more confidence. If you really want to save money, take a few simple steps to help the air conditioner do its job so that it doesn’t have to run all day and all night just to keep the house livable.
Last but not least, it’s important to know what you can do to improve the indoor air quality that you and your family breathe while the HVAC system is in operation. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to perform all of the maintenance yourself, but it is important to keep up with things in order to know what needs to be done and when. Some of the maintenance can be performed with just a few minutes of your time, so it’s important to know how to do that. As a final reminder, you’ll also learn some of the possible perils of hiring a handyman instead of a professional contractor. Keep reading to find out what you can be doing to ensure that the air quality inside your home is the best it can possibly be.
How to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality
Basically, there are three main things that you need to do on a routine basis. They involve having your HVAC system checked at least once a year, if not twice a year. Remember, that it is a good rule of thumb to have the system checked every year when the weather starts to get warm and again when it starts to get cold. This might seem like a lot, but it’s better to catch potential problems before they get out of hand. At a minimum, make sure you have it checked at least annually. There are also some other things you can do to make sure that your air quality isn’t adversely impacted.
- Yearly Check-Ups
Even if you only have your HVAC system checked once a year, it’s imperative that you do that at a minimum. People have the tendency to turn the air conditioner on every time the weather gets warm without ever having the system checked. That might work out just fine for a few years, but sooner or later your system is going to start becoming less efficient.
The best way to maintain your system’s efficiency is to have regular routine maintenance. It’s interesting to note that the HVAC system is usually the one that gets used and abused the most inside a home, yet it’s also the one that is most frequently ignored until something breaks. Having it checked routinely can prevent this from happening and improve your air quality all at the same time.
- Change Out Filters
This is a simple task that any homeowner can do for themselves. If you’re running your air conditioner with a dirty filter, you’re not just making the system work harder than it needs to, you’re also costing yourself more money on your energy bills and you and your family are breathing in all of the dirt and debris that happens as a result of a dirty filter. In order to change it, all you need to do is take the door off the system that is located inside your home, remove the old filter and install a new one of the same size. If you don’t know how to do this, have your HVAC technician show you. After you do it once or twice, it will become commonplace. Ideally, you need to change that filter every three months.
- Have Your Ductwork Cleaned
For some reason, this is one of the most overlooked things when it comes to maintaining an HVAC system. If you look inside your air conditioning and heating vents, especially if they’re located in the floor, you’re probably going to notice a lot of dirt, debris and possibly even rodent feces in the ductwork. Not only is this disgusting to look at, but it’s also potentially harmful to breathe. That stuff doesn’t just stay at the bottom when the air conditioning system is running. Instead, microscopic particles are blown right up through the vents and into the air. You and your loved ones end up breathing that stuff in. That’s why it’s imperative that you have your ductwork cleaned every year.
Hiring a Handyman vs. a Professional
This is something that has already been discussed a great deal. Remember all of those questions that you need to be asking your HVAC contractor about being licensed, bonded and insured, not to mention their level of experience? It simply doesn’t make sense that you would choose to hire a handyman that knows little or nothing about an air conditioning system, especially when you consider the fact that so much time has been spent talking about how carefully you need to screen a professional HVAC technician before you hire them. With that being said, some people are bound and determined to save money wherever they can, even if that means hiring a handyman instead of a professional HVAC technician. Below are three questions that you need to consider if that’s what you’re thinking about doing.
- Have They Ever Worked On an HVAC System?
You have to be careful with this question because most of them will tell you that they have, but they’re usually talking about working on their own system. If they want to work on their system, that’s great, but that doesn’t mean they need to be working on yours. If you hire someone that just does odd jobs here and there, how are you going to know that they have the slightest idea what they’re doing when it comes to your air conditioning system?
- Are They Familiar with Most Systems?
Unless they are a retired HVAC technician, they’re probably not familiar with any system except their own, and maybe one or two more. That doesn’t necessarily make them qualified to work on yours, and if they tell you that all HVAC systems are basically the same, it’s time for you to find someone else to do the work. HVAC systems vary a great deal when it comes to their operation, and the only person that should be performing maintenance on them is someone who has dedicated the time and the effort to be currently trained on that system.
- Are They Licensed?
If you remember from much earlier, the question about hiring someone who is licensed has already been discussed at least twice. The fact that you should never hire somebody who isn’t licensed to work on your HVAC system cannot be overstated. Once again, you’re not likely to find a handyman that’s licensed to work on an HVAC system unless that is the field they retired from and they have kept their qualifications current.
When it’s all said and done, your air conditioning system is one of the most important things that you have when you live in a hot climate, especially during the hotter months of the year. Trying to go without one makes you and everyone else in the home absolutely miserable. In a worst-case scenario, it can become dangerous if someone living in that home has certain health conditions.
It’s so important that you learn a little bit about your HVAC system. Do what you can to save on your energy bills by helping your air conditioner with fans and keeping the heat away from the windows during the day. Learn how to change filters on a routine basis. It’s also why you should always contact a licensed, professional contractor as soon as you notice anything that doesn’t seem right, not to mention having routine maintenance performed.