Air Conditioning and Heating Services: Best Options and How to Get Them
Finding Comfort in All Seasons
Breathing Good Air
Not too long ago, I had a heating and air conditioning company come to my home to service my furnace. After a few minutes, they said, "Your furnace is leaking carbon monoxide. We need to fix it immediately." I asked the cost, then said, "No". The technician insisted I fix the problem, saying, "You'll die in your sleep of carbon monoxide poisoning if you don't fix this now!" I said, "No I won't. I turn off my heat and sleep with my windows open at night," which I do.
Still, knowing that a carbon monoxide leak is serious, I called a different company to service my furnace, without telling them of the first company. The technician didn't say a thing about my carbon monoxide leak. This guy told me I had a different, urgent problem that needed hundreds of dollars to repair.
So, I called a third company to service my furnace. And, a third time I was told that I had a different, urgent problem that needed my money, but no mention of the other two urgent problems that the previous technicians had (supposedly) found.
Find Out How You Would Choose Right Now
Which would you choose as the best option in finding an honest company?See results without voting
Your best option would be the small company with uniformed technicians and labeled trucks (#3). Why not the large company? Large companies have large overhead. To make a profit they often have to turn their technicians into salesmen, selling you whatever they can at the highest price they can get. The higher profit technician (not the best technician) will be the least likely to be laid off during slow seasons. On the other hand, the small company with uniforms and labeled trucks is a company that is probably working with enough capital to stock the technicians and trucks with the proper equipment to service your heating and cooling units properly.
Finding the Right Technician
Below are 14 ways to find the most qualified company/technician to work on your air conditioning and heating systems. I was able to find an honest, well qualified, heating and air person, Mike Murphy of North Denver, Colorado. Mike provided me with the information below. Mike has worked in the heating and cooling business for 27 years, working and teaching technicians, and owned his own business, Mid America Heating and Cooling.Mike is a 20-yr. decorated, Air Force veteran who decided to bring honesty and integrity to the furnace and air conditioning business. He is a licensed owner, insured, experienced, and NATE Certified.
HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning)
HVAC Licensing Study Guide, Second Edition by Rex Miller and Mark Miller
Mid America Heating and Cooling
14 Checks for Best HVAC Service
1. Ask your neighbors. Find out what was done, and if they were happy with both the price and the service.
2. Find a company with the most NATE certified technicians, as opposed to a company that just states, “We have certified technicians.” (NATE: North American Technical Excellence)
3. Remember one thing: BIG COMPANIES are PROFIT DRIVEN. Even though their ads sound great, big companies have large overhead costs. Sometimes technicians are required to sell a certain amount of repair services every day when they come out to tune-up or clean and check.
4. Ask for references. Before you use a company, get several referrals from satisfied customers. Call those referrals and ask questions: what was done, what did it cost, did you pay more than expected, did you call in an emergency situation, did you have any concerns or questions about the technician or work done?
5. Did the technician arrive in a uniform? The company you hire should have standards and expectations of their employees, including wearing a company uniform.
6. Ask the technician for proof that he is licensed and insured.
7. Ask the technician how long he has been with the company. If he's new to the company, find out how long he's been a technician. Find out what type of training and experience he has. Ask what he would do if an unfamiliar problem arose.
8. If you feel at all uncomfortable with the technician, ask the tech to leave a written estimate with his findings, then, get a second opinion.
9. Always get several bids on an expensive project. If critical items have been suggested, make sure you are not working with slick-talking Joe Crooked. DO NOT MAKE AN ON-THE-SPOT DECISION! When the cost of the project proposed seems exorbitant, get a second opinion. Most companies will give you a free estimate. (Get three.) Get all of your options and bids in writing.
Instead of making an on-the-spot decision about a repair or purchase, say something like, “I’m going to wait until my husband/wife gets home.” Give yourself at least a little time to think. The technician or supervisor may say something like, “I can give you $200 off today, because I need to keep my installation crew busy,” as opposed to “What time will your husband be home? I’ll swing back around.” Don't be tricked into the suggested discount.
10. What are the warranties and guarantees for his repairs on parts and labor. Get this in writing, and make sure you understand what is written.
11. Before buying a new system, make sure that the technician who is going to select the system did a “load calculation”.
12. Before a technician recommends a new system, he should have measured the size of the ducts. This is a MUST to have a proper system installed.
13. Ask: Will my new unit be installed according to all local codes and will all applicable codes be met (like electrical)?
14.When buying a house, get the furnace “certified” first, not “cleaned and checked”. If the inspector or contractor doesn’t know the difference, RUN. To get the furnace “certified” the furnace would also be cleaned and checked. Certification should take 3-4 hours and should cost about $300-$400.
Finding a Good A/C or Furnace Tech
Repair Costs at a Fair Price
It matters that you choose the best possible company for your repairs, because knowing what is or is not a fair price is difficult. Here are some examples of why. (Click here to learn about SCAMS.)
- A Freon leak in your air conditioning system is a serious problem. Most often the leak is at the valve. This cannot be fixed by just tightening the cap. The cap needs to be replaced. One large national company charges $400 for finding the leak and replacing the cap. Mike says his company charges $45. A Sniffer will find a Freon leak if it is leaking as little as ¼ ounce per year. Finding a valve cap leak and fixing it takes 5 minutes, with a Sniffer.
- One problem is that most technicians cannot afford to buy a Sniffer, so they do a bubble test. Finding that Freon leak takes a much longer time with the bubble method, if it can be found at all. If the leak happens to be in the wall, the bubble method won’t work at all.
- Mike remembers a job where the inside and outside units were fine. His Sniffer detected the leak in a wall in the kitchen behind the cabinets. The kitchen cabinets had to be taken down, and the wall opened up. Apparently, the builder had inserted a screw through one of the lines. That job cost $500.
- If the leak is in the A-frame in the furnace, the leak can’t be fixed, and the A-frame needs to be replaced.This would cost around $700.
- Replacing a burned valve would cost $850.
That is why a large company can get away with charging the outrageous price of $400, when they should be charging $45 for a valve leak. It is because we, the general public, know fixes are expensive, but we don’t know how to determine the costs. That’s why it’s crucial to do some research before your air conditioner or furnace breaks in order to find the best and most honest company to service your air conditioning or heating system.
Mike's final NOTE: If you have a Freon leak, DO NOT let someone put Stop Leak into your system.
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