What are the signs of trustworthy HVAC companies?
When your furnace stops working, who are you going to call? Do you search “heating repair near me” and just pick the first result that pops up? Do you pick whoever is physically closest to your home? Or, do you go by name, alphabetically? As you’ve probably guessed, this isn’t really an effective way of finding a trustworthy HVAC company. In fact, by picking randomly, you’re more likely to have the opposite experience!
In this article, we’ll review six of the signs that a local HVAC company can be trusted, as well as what you can do to find and vet out a heating and cooling services provider in advance.
Read online reviews
If you need an HVAC service professional, this is the place to start. Read through reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp. These are the three major reviews sites: you’re likely to find the greatest sample size of reviews here, giving you a comprehensive picture of what the company does and, more importantly, how they do it.
It’s important to note that no company bats 1.000. Mistakes happen, or an individual customer may be unhappy with the service provided for one reason or another. Don’t get too hung up on a single bad review.
Instead, look for patterns. If you see multiple poor reviews noting that the company’s technicians are always late to every job, then you’re probably right to assume that punctuality is an issue this company needs to work through.
Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors
Online reviews from anonymous strangers can be helpful, but they’re not the end-all, be-all of your search for a trustworthy, local HVAC company. You should also talk to your friends, family, and neighbors. There’s a good chance that quite a few of them have used a local HVAC company that they’re willing to vouch for or—perhaps more importantly for your process of elimination—recommend you avoid.
Ask them what made their experience with that company good, bad, or somewhere in-between. If they used that company more than two years ago, take their recommendation with a proverbial grain of salt: companies can improve and change over time, and—absent any other signs of untrustworthiness—it might be worth giving a company the benefit of the doubt. After all, in the service industry, some bad customer experiences are driven by poor employees. In your particular case, that low-performing employee may have been let go years ago.
Check their affiliations
While you’re looking at their online reviews, also take a look at their score with the Better Business Bureau and see if they’ve had any complaints lodged against them in recent years. Most reputable companies will work to clean up any complaints. Again, don’t expect a spotless record: no company is perfect. Instead, take note of companies that work to address problems and resolve customer complaints amicably. It’s the next best thing to perfection.
You may also notice that different companies are associated with manufacturers. This is typically a sign of trust: a manufacturer isn’t going to want an untrustworthy company driving around with their logo on their trucks. Many of them have standards in place that result in them dropping poor-performing companies from their partnership, as well as rewarding and recognizing high-performing companies that succeed in helping customers with their cooling and heating projects. Look for the latter—you’ll be glad you did.
Don’t hire a “Melvin”
Some unscrupulous HVAC companies charge a ton of fees upfront, or try to hide how much the repair will actually cost when everything’s said-and-done.
Don’t fall for it: only work with HVAC companies that are honest about upfront costs and provide written estimates.
Ask about their technicians
Let’s face it: a service company is only as good as its people. Inexperienced or unqualified HVAC technicians are a major problem, and you don’t want them working anywhere near your home. If you’re comparing several HVAC companies and trying to decide which one to go with, ask about the qualifications of their technicians.
In particular, ask if their technicians are NATE-certified professionals. NATE, or the North American Technician Excellence program, is the premier training and certification program in our industry. To become NATE-certified, HVAC technicians have to go through a rigorous training course and prove their knowledge and expertise. It’s what separates the true experts from those who just walked in the door.
At a trustworthy HVAC company, technicians may have additional training and certifications from that company’s affiliated dealer. Carrier, for instance, offers specialized training courses to teach HVAC service professionals how to properly install their systems. If you’re comparing quotes on a new air conditioner or furnace, you should ask about this, too.
Don’t just take the lowest bid
Everyone wants to save some money. However, be careful not to just select an HVAC company based on whoever gave you the lowest bid for your project. Think about it: how were they able to undercut every other local company to give you that bid? Chances are that they’re cutting corners somewhere: they may, for instance, not be hiring NATE-certified technicians to complete routine jobs. Hiring these companies can come with consequences.
However, if you’ve checked everything else out and the company appears to be trustworthy, then you’ve probably found yourself a great deal. Something worth noting: many HVAC companies offer seasonal specials on services like repair, maintenance, and new installs. This may allow you to have it both ways: you can get great service from a trustworthy HVAC company and save money.
Look for other markers of honest service
Here are several other signs that an HVAC company can be trusted:
In-Person or Virtual Estimates
In order to find the right air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace for your home, an installation expert has to take measurements and learn more about your property first. Never trust an HVAC company that is willing to just “sell” you a system without collecting this information—it won’t end well. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many HVAC companies are now providing virtual estimates online. This is fine, too, so long as they still take the time to get your home’s stats and learn more about your cooling and heating needs.
For some disreputable HVAC companies, seasonal tune-ups have become an easy moneymaker. They send a technician over to the home to look at the system for about five minutes total, and then provide the homeowner with a list of things they can pay to improve. Avoid this “tune-up” by only working with companies that pledge to complete a thorough and comprehensive tune-up of your air conditioner or heater.
If a company is being dodgy about answering your calls, or their technician is unwilling to answer your questions, avoid working with them in the future.
Find your HVAC services provider now
The thorough vetting process we’ve described above only works if you have time. If it’s 2 a.m. and you just need a tech out to fix your furnace, you’re not going to be able to be too picky about who you call and who answers. To avoid this, set aside some time this coming weekend to sit down and research local HVAC pros in your area. Once you have your top three, put this list on your fridge.
In fact, you may want to take this a step further and do the same thing for local plumbers, electricians, and other professionals. It’s nice to know you have trusted professionals to call when something goes wrong in your home.