An HVAC company is the equivalent of a surgeon for your home, and like in hiring a surgeon, you should filter out the bad from good. You need an HVAC company you can trust, but with all the HVAC companies out there, running ads and placing their company information online, how do you filter the bad from the good? Here are five red flags when hiring an HVAC company:
– One Man Company
A one-man (or woman) HVAC company is often set up by a single person who wants more control over when and for whom to work. Obviously, from a service standpoint, this is not great for the company’s clients. HVAC problems, such as heating problems in the winter, can be both sudden and serious. A one-man company does not have any 24-hour guarantees in place, might be on-duty when you need their help, and could simply not be willing to rush out to help you in the middle of a storm.
This hurts most of all when you need servicing for a furnace or water heater installed by a one-man company. What if the owner is sick or busy or just doesn’t feel like going out when you find your newly installed furnace acting up? You might be stuck with cold floors and cold water during the dead of winter just because the HVAC company decided hiring employees was not cost effective.
Put simply, a one-man HVAC company does not take into consideration the round-the-clock needs of homeowners and cannot handle multiple projects simultaneously. In addition, a one-man company might just decide to pick-up-and-go, moving to another part of the country for personal reasons, leaving long-term clients looking for a new HVAC company. Overall, the convenience and long-term client-business relationship are not considered as important as they would be to an organizational HVAC company.
But perhaps a more crucial danger of hiring a one-man company is the lack of multiple areas of expertise that you gain when hiring a company with a set of technicians rather than a single technician. Even if the owner of a one-man operation is an HVAC genius, he could still benefit from the variety of talent brought by hiring other professionals. Because HVAC is reliant on emergent technology, the areas of HVAC are simply too much to cover for one person – a group of experts is better prepared to help you install and manage the various heating and cooling systems of your home as well as give you advice on the newest technologies, such as combi boilers and tankless heaters.
– Not Insured
Even licenced HVAC contractors might not be properly insured to work on your property. If this is so, you – the homeowner – are at risk for paying for the HVAC company’s costly mistakes. The most obvious costly mistake is injury: If your HVAC technician is uninsured and injured while working on your property, you will be responsible for paying for both the medical bills and any legal fees resulting from the injury.
Another drawback of hiring an uninsured HVAC company is that any damage done to your home during an installation, upgrade, or checkup will be your responsibility. The same goes for any damage done to your neighbors’ homes during the HVAC work. In either case, this means that you will need to hire another company for repairs; you cannot simply call an uninsured HVAC company after an installation and demand they fix the damages, even though they really should be responsible. And because “uninsured” and “shoddy workmanship” tend to go hand-in-hand, hiring an uninsured HVAC company should put you at higher risk for having to compensate for others’ mistakes.
Now, if an uninsured HVAC companies causes major damages to your home, such as flooding, you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars in repairs that you might end up paying out of pocket. Why? Because the uninsured HVAC company, although responsible for your damages, will not actively pay for those damages in most cases. Instead, you’ll be forced to take them to court. And even if you win the case, after expensive lawyer fees, you cannot be sure that the HVAC company will have the money to pay for the repairs. In other words, you have absolutely no guarantee that you’ll be compensated for repairs for damages done at the hand of an uninsured HVAC company.
– Bad Reviews Online
While no HVAC company is perfect, a large number of bad reviews online can be a red flag. Generally, a few bad reviews is expected, as some homeowners are simply hard to please. Read a company’s bad reviews more carefully than its good reviews, and you’ll see whether you have cause for concern. Here’s why:
A company that really cares about its work and its customers will respond to those bad reviews and do one of two things. In the case of a legitimate complaint, the company will apologize and compensate the homeowner by redoing the work. In the case of a hard-to-please homeowner, the company will apologize and explain what the homeowner can do (e.g., If the homeowner isn’t noticing much of a difference after a component upgrade, the company can direct the homeowner as to how to see that difference, whether it be in the monthly energy bills or water heat).
A bad HVAC company will neglect the bad reviews all-together, simply not responding to them. To these companies, HVAC is not a service but a numbers game. They are not seeking long-term customers but immediate income from one-and-done customers.
Often the worst offenders are big-name HVAC companies. These companies use their name recognition in the area to attract droves of new clients but do not intend on keeping those clients. They often spend their money on advertising instead of customer service and education.
That is not to say that all large HVAC companies are substandard and lack customer service skills. However, you should perform due diligence on all HVAC companies, no matter whether they have name recognition. Overall, our advice here is to remember that small and medium sized HVAC companies will work harder for your business because these size companies are typically looking for long-term customers.
– No uniform
A uniform represents an investment by an HVAC company to create a professional image. But more importantly, an HVAC company that has spent resources on uniform design and production is a company that has the funds and professionalism to care greatly about all aspects of their business. A company that does not have their employees wear uniforms has likely not been in the industry long enough to properly develop all aspects of their business, including HVAC education, spare part maintenance, and technician training.
In addition, HVAC company scams have happened in the past with non-uniformed “technicians” entering homes under the guise of an HVAC company. The presence of a uniform ensures you that you’re working with a real company.
While being scammed by a fake HVAC company is unlikely, the uniform should at least give you confidence that you are working with a real company. But more importantly, the uniform shows a level of professionalism. Much like surgeons, HVAC professionals are entering an important part of your existence and making serious changes; just as a surgeon or doctor must wear a uniform, a “house doctor” should wear one too.
A good HVAC company should understand both this and the fact that a first impression matters to the customer. An unkempt man knocking on your door with an unmarked, black, windowless van behind him should instinctively spur feelings of mistrust. Good HVAC companies want you to trust them the first time so that you will hire them a second time – do not deal with ununiformed HVAC companies.
– Not licenced
In the United States and Canada, anyone can register a company by paying roughly $100 and filing a single form. But this does not mean that all companies are run legally. Hence the need to ensure your HVAC company holds the proper licensing, binding it to the regulations legislated by the local authorities.
In addition, technicians who are unlicensed have not gone through the training to work on gas-powered equipment. The obtaining of a license proves to the government and the homeowner that a technician has the skill and knowledge to safely work with gas equipment. An unlicensed technician working on any gas-related equipment in your home is doing so illegally!
A licensed HVAC company agrees to follow the governmental regulations meant to protect homeowners from misleading HVAC business practices, such as misleading homeowners about cost savings or lying about the need to install certain equipment. In addition, licensed HVAC employees can perform warranty work, which means that maintenance on a piece of equipment under warranty does not break the warranty.
With an unlicensed HVAC contractor, you lose all these benefits. For example, an unlicensed HVAC employee breaks the warranty on a furnace or hot water heater when he begins work. Unlicensed HVAC contractors might charge less than other companies, but they can hurt you to a large extent if they make a mistake – demand a licensed HVAC company!