Things You Should Know Before Choosing a Contractor

Do Not Judge a Contractor by His Price.

The lowest price is not always the greatest bargain when it’s all said and done, and the highest price is not a guarantee of a job well done. The best way to judge is by how thorough the contractor is when he discusses your work, how knowledgeable and willing he is to educate you, and how the work he proposes to do stacks up to the others who are bidding. Equipment prices all usually run in the same ballpark, and all contractors can offer a variety of pricing options where equipment is concerned. Warranties are important to consider. Look beyond the equipment cost to see what you’re getting in terms of the installation and design of the duct system itself — that’s where the real value is and where the apples and oranges begin to differentiate themselves.

Take All Things Into Consideration.

Designing a duct system PROPERLY sometimes involves extra labor and material costs. Ask each HVAC contractor to provide a simple sketch of the duct system he intends to design. Find out where the corners are being cut by the lower priced contractors — are they skimping on materials to get the lowest bid? Are they charging too much for a duct system that will be poorly designed? Did they even talk to you about duct design? This is where each contractor’s drawing of the duct system and your own education of duct designs will come in handy — you will be able to compare the price with what you would actually be getting in return.

Run When a Contractor Charges by the Ton.

Most homes require 1 ton of conditioned air per 500-700 sq. ft., and there are contractors who price their jobs by the ton. With this practice, it is a sure bet that the contractor is not really taking your job into full consideration but is already planning how he will save money by taking shortcuts and using less material. His goal is to get in and out as quickly as possible — to save on labor — and move on to the next job. This is a sure sign of a contractor who is not interested in properly designing your duct system  —  unless the design he has in mind just happens to be the one you need, which is a rare coincidence. It is also a sure sign that this contractor is not interested in servicing your unit when a repair is needed later down the road. Note: The state of Georgia now requires a computerized heat load calculation to be submitted by the heating/air contractor in order to receive a permit, and most counties have adopted this procedure. These calculations will be able to provide an accurate determination of the size unit you will need.

Each home is unique and will have its own unique design issues. One size does not fit all — therefore, price per ton does not fit all.

Look for a Contractor Who Wants Your Business Years Down the Road.

Your contractor should have one primary goal in mind: to keep you as a satisfied customer for the rest of your home-owning life. He should not only install your system but be willing to service, repair and warranty anything that comes afterward. He should be proud enough of the job he’s done for you to be able to look you in the eye the next time you call him for maintenance. Many reputable contractors willingly offer service agreements which may include reduced labor rates or will set up regular maintenance schedules and keep in contact with you down the road because they value you as a customer and weren’t just out to make a buck when they installed your system.

Things Your HVAC Contractor Should Do

  • Your HVAC contractor should teach you about SEER ratings. These are ratings that explain what kind of energy savings you can expect out of your equipment. The current minimum government standard is 14 SEER, but higher efficiency units are available.
  • Your HVAC contractor should walk with you through your house to clearly understand your particular needs, concerns and considerations. He should give you a thorough understanding of the work required and how it will progress. (Or review your blueprints if your house is not yet under construction.)
  • Your HVAC contractor should be able to provide you with a basic plan of how he intends to design your duct system and discuss it with you so that you have a thorough understanding. This plan is proprietary information and should not be shared or discussed with competing contractors but is useful for comparing duct system designs and pricing between competing contractors to be able to determine if you are getting the full value of your purchase.
  • Your HVAC contractor should be willing to obtain the required permits to perform your work and should be able to provide his contractor’s license and insurance information upon request. He should also be able to provide a computerized heat load calculation analysis necessary to obtain a permit in most counties.
  • Your HVAC contractor should be able to provide a list of customer references, and it would be worth the effort to contact those references to inquire whether the contractor was willing to service and warranty his work after it was completed.
  • Your HVAC contractor should be actively and personally involved with your project from beginning to end, even if he is not physically present for each hour of the work that is performed. This means that he is personally involved with planning, designing, coordinating, scheduling, inspecting, directing employees and is in communication with you about the progress of your work.
  • Your HVAC contractor should communicate well with your builder and work in cooperation with him so that your equipment and duct work is installed in the correct area allotted for it and that any problems during construction can be foreseen and avoided.
  • Your HVAC contractor should have available access to equipment that will take accurate measurements of your air flow to document and confirm that your duct system has been installed properly and is working as it should.
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May not be reprinted without permission.