The heating and air conditioning industry is structured the way you may think. There are the big fish, and then tiny fly-by-night companies. These smaller companies have maybe three trucks and sometimes it is just one man in a van. Many of these smaller companies, in order to make a profit will offer extremely low prices, or sudden deals that expire today. In reality, they are trying to secure your business, and then scam you, the consumer. Most furnace and air conditioning owners don’t know very much about the equipment and couldn’t recognize an issue if there was one, so there is leeway to rip you off. Now, that is not to condemn small business and to say that anyone but the large established HVAC companies is out to steal from you. Rather, it is a plea to be careful and do independent research about a company before you hire them.
When you get the HVAC rep into your home to discuss a contract there are several questions you should ask to determine their integrity.
Questions to Ask Before You Sign
Are you Licensed? Nearly every state requires the company and the workers to have a state license. Ask to see it and get the license number. Then you can discover whether or not that is legitimate. If the rep says s/he doesn’t have one, then I would promptly show them the door.
Is your Company Registered with the BBB? The Better Business Bureau has a grading system for companies based on customer reviews and complaints. While not being registered doesn’t immediately prove a scam, it should raise some alarms. If they are registered, be sure to learn how long they have been registered. Many of these fly-by-night companies will simply close shop and open under a new name when their BBB rating plummets. Remember the BBB sites are divided by region of the country so make sure you are looking on the right one.
Do you have Flat-Rate Pricing? This is an important question to ask, because hidden fees could turn a great price into way too expensive. Make sure before you sign any contract you understand the way billing will work. Will they charge for parts, by the hour, etc.
A business with integrity would have nothing to hide when asked these questions. If the tech begins to beat around the bush or dodge some of the questions you can assume that something fishy is going on. The last piece of advice I would have would be to educate yourself about these pieces of machinery. That way when a contractor comes in for a cleaning and all of a sudden tells you your heat exchanger is cracked you know the symptoms and can look yourself as a second opinion.