5 Tips To Avoid Poor HVAC Service

5 Tips To Avoid Poor HVAC Service

It’s important to pay attention to any and all HVAC service being done on your AC unit and to ask questions of your service tech.

When hot, humid weather hits Central Florida, many homeowners turn on their cooling system for the first time only to discover that it does not work. That usually leads to a call to a local Orlando HVAC company to try and determine what the problem is.

There are two types of technicians in the HVAC business: service techs and parts changers. Service techs use their diagnostic equipment and knowledge of HVAC to diagnose the problem and repair it the first time.  Parts changers, on the other hand, continue to change parts until they luck into changing the right one. Of course, the consumer typically pays for each and every part that they change until they happen to change the one that was actually broken.  It’s cheaper than training a tech to do the right thing, and the company ends up making more money – in the short run.

As a consumer, how can you prevent yourself from being taken advantage of by the parts changer? Below are five tips to help protect you from poor HVAC service.

1. Pay attention and ask questions.

First, pay attention to what is going on. Any good reputable technician will not be offended if you watch them while they diagnose and repair the system. At 4 Seasons, we use this opportunity to educate our customers about what is going on. They appreciate it, as it puts them at ease and helps them trust us. If you start asking questions and the tech starts fumbling around for answers, it’s usually not a good sign.

2. Beware of excessive part changing.

Second, if a part is changed and the AC still does not work, that part may (but not definitely) not defective. Beware of the parts changer who changes two or three parts and then proclaims the problem fixed. Chances are that one or two out of the three parts were not defective at all.  The technician should be able to tell you if there are any other parts “downstream” that may prevent the system from running after the first part is changed.  A good example where it would be acceptable is a fan motor that is bad, but after it is replaced, it becomes apparent that the fan blade is out of balance too.  That can’t be expected to be diagnosed without the motor running.

3. Know your contractor.

Nothing beats establishing a relationship with a trusted HVAC contractor.

You want to make sure you know who’s repairing or it for you.  A lot of times people will go for the lowest price, but that often ends up not being the best value.  When the weather gets bad and you have more issues, you try to call and they won’t answer. You can’t reach them, and now you have no warranty.  Or that low price they quoted over the phone was just to get in the door.  Now your AC is in pieces and you feel like you are being held hostage with an expensive repair that wasn’t quoted before the part was replaced.

Trustworthy contractors arm their clients with as much information as possible.  A good contractor will educate the customer and prove to them why they need to do the work. Always ask them what it would cost to repair versus replace, and make sure that you have enough information to make a good decision.

A trusted contractor will provide you with a detailed written quote.  Don’t ever allow a company to dismantle equipment without telling you why, and make sure they tell you in detail what you’re paying for and why. There should be no surprises.

4. If they tell you it is a safety hazard and must be replaced, get a 2nd opinion.

If your system is running and the tech says to shut it down because it is a safety hazard, use some common sense.  Ask them to show you what the problem is.  If your system is old, it seems reasonable and you trust your contractor, they probably are telling you the truth.  But most of the time they should be able to offer you repair vs. replace pricing.  It may not make sense to repair it, but that is your decision to make after you have all of the details.   Some unscrupulous technicians oversell the nature of their repairs. I’ve heard cases where a contractor walked up from the basement and told the client, ‘You had a crack in your heat exchanger, and I just saved your life’.  That’s a scare tactic, and that’s not the way to go about doing business.

Trust your gut when contractors play to serious fears.  If they use scare tactics, like urgent appeals to the safety of your family or property, I recommend getting advice or a second opinion. Don’t dismiss them, because they may actually be true, but if you think something’s wrong with your system, discontinue use until you verify with a second or even third opinion.

5. Get a HVAC Service and maintenance plan.

HVAC maintenance plans can offer great value, provided you sign one with a trustworthy contractor.  It’s a great way to find little things to keep the repairs down. You might have a $20 component that’s getting weak, but your system is still running.  And if that $20 part fails, you can also lose a compressor.

Your contractor should contact you when maintenance is due.   You paid for the service and you deserve it.  The best maintenance programs provide much more than just annual checkups.  You should expect priority service, discounts, better warranties on repairs and a contractor that will maintain your service records.  Many AC manufacturers are requiring proof of maintenance as a condition of the warranty.   Without proof of maintenance, you may have voided the terms of the warranty agreement and may find yourself paying the entire repair bill.

Tom Roberts