Getting a new HVAC system is a big investment. As such, it’s important to ensure that your HVAC contractor gets things right on the first try.
Unfortunately, many homeowners aren’t aware of the pitfalls they may fall into. Instead, they opt for the cheapest option, potentially losing time and money in the long run. As the adage says, you get what you pay for.
Ready to do some research? If so, here are six key factors that will help you choose the best HVAC company in your local area.
State License and Permits
A state license proves that a technician meets all the requirements to provide HVAC services. This goes for both their training and experience.
Obtaining a state HVAC license can take a while. First, the candidate needs several years’ worth of experience with a licensed company. Then, they need to take a 10-hour state test that requires them to know:
- All local and state building codes
- Service and installation methods
- Fuel codes (fuel oil, natural gas, etc.)
- Electrical wiring and circuits
- Safety in all HVAC-required areas
Once they pass the test, the technician must do over 10 hours of education training each year. They must also not have felonies or criminal records while renewing their license.
In most states, HVAC technicians need a permit to perform work. Even if that’s not the case, any reputable HVAC company will have a permit. Not having a permit can be an indicator of unsafe procedures.
Beyond the state license, your HVAC technician may have a NATE certification. This certification has four categories for service and installation. It also includes “core” topics like safety procedures and customer etiquette.
Having a NATE certification isn’t required, but it’s still important. By hiring a technician with NATE-level expertise, you can all but ensure a successful installation.
Safety is one of the biggest concerns in the HVAC industry. For best results, you should know a company’s safety processes before you hire them.
Why is safety so important? For starters, every HVAC installation will involve all kinds of potential hazards. These include high-voltage electricity, open flames, refrigerant and other gasses, and so on.
During the installation, an HVAC technician will also use large pieces of equipment. Many equipment types come with detailed safety procedures. Failing to follow them can cause dangers to your home.
Tools and Equipment
Did you know that an HVAC technician must use the tools of both plumbers and electricians? As such, having the right tools for the job is very important.
Keep in mind that many HVAC installations require other types of work as well. For example, some include a sheet metal transition to existing ductwork. There’s also work with copper piping and acetylene torches.
Many tools required for these jobs are specific to one type of HVAC repair or installation. Some of these tools are only produced by certain manufacturers or require specialized training to use properly.
Beyond pure efficiency, having the right tools is also necessary to do the job safely. The thing is, most of the required tools aren’t easy to come by. Many of them are specific to the industry and don’t come cheap.
When choosing an HVAC company, ask them if they have a dedicated tool program. If they outsource their work, see if they provide a tool program for the contractors. If not, it’s best to look elsewhere.
When you install a new HVAC system, don’t take it for granted that it works properly. Instead, have your technician ensure that’s the case.
The best way to do this is through equipment commissioning. This process can take one to two hours after the installation. The technician will use this time to collect voltage readings, line set readings, and other relevant data.
The issue is that many companies don’t have a process for the commissioning of new equipment. As a smart homeowner, you shouldn’t skip this step. If your system isn’t working as intended, you’ll want to know right away.
Equipment commissioning also sets a baseline for the system’s performance. If a technician inspects its health in a year, they’ll know how well things worked at the start. This can be a key maintenance benchmark.
Many things separate good HVAC companies from great ones. One of them is the availability of continuous training programs for employees.
See, the HVAC industry changes every year. Systems installed 15 years ago would have very different installation processes today. Units are more efficient and there are far more options for motors and compressors.
Having a training program to keep up with these changes is crucial for technicians. Certifications help, but they won’t explain the difference between the various equipment types.
So far, most of what we’ve discussed has to do with the installation process. That said, what happens before that is equally important.
We are, of course, talking about the employees at the HVAC company. As mentioned above, many companies outsource labor to keep costs down. The cost of training, certifications, and insurance benefits can add up.
Unfortunately, outsourcing often comes at the expense of the customer. If an employee isn’t W-2’d, the company license won’t cover them. You’ll be legally liable for anything that happens while they’re in your home.
Another thing to watch out for is the pay system. If an employee gets paid by the piece, they’ll get the same money no matter how much time they spend on the job. As a result, the quality of their work may suffer.
Both of these issues are simple enough to solve. First, make sure your job gets done by full-time or W-2’d employees. Also, find an HVAC company that doesn’t pay its employees by piece rate.
Find the Best HVAC Company for the Job
As you can see, there are plenty of things that go into finding the best HVAC company in your local area. To avoid wasting your time and money, use the above guide to make an informed hiring decision.
Need more advice on finding the best HVAC contractor for the job? Keep reading our Services section!