Special Report #2:
What to watch for and what to watch out for when choosing a contractor.
Having major work performed in your home, such as heating and air conditioning equipment replacement, duct system renovations, and addressing building performance issues requires important decisions. This report is designed to help you arrive at a decision that is right for you. Not your contractor. Not your neighbor. It’s your money, your comfort, your safety.
Finding a trustworthy contractor to install and service this type of work is paramount. Why? Because in the end, it is the contractor who will make the biggest difference in how the job goes, how well it performs after the installation, how comfortable it will keep you, how safe it will keep you, and how much it will cost you to operate the system.
Consider this: If this investment was a new car, you could determine the make, model and options and comparison shop among similar dealerships. All the cars of that make and model at all the dealerships are made by the same people, in the same factory, under the same conditions. But what if each dealer had to assemble the car himself? Suppose your new Ford was shipped out in thousands of pieces in a giant box, and each dealer had to build each car from scratch in his garage? Do you think there might be a difference in the quality of the finished product between dealers? Do you think one dealer might start skipping a few things here or there to lower his costs so he could be cheaper than the next guy? Same make, the same model, but would the end product be the same? Would you get what you paid for? How would you know?
In the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) industry, that is how your system comes. In boxes. Lot’s of ‘em. And you can’t just plug it in and hope it works. The contractor is the ultimate manufacturer of your system. There is a great deal of technical expertise that is required to properly and safely install these systems. We can show you any number of jobs where improper installation has caused comfort problems, service headaches, and shortened equipment life. Like the gas furnace in Woodbury Heights that was installed upside down. Or the oil-fired warm air furnace in Thorofare that was too big for the house to begin with. The airflow through the unit was choked almost in half, which led to premature heat exchanger failure. TWICE!! In 12 years! Or the air conditioning system in Washington Township that allowed 45% of the air to bypass the cooling coil, which led to compressor burn-out in 4 years! The installing contractor replaced the compressor. Guess what? It burned out again in 4 more years. They wanted to replace it again!! These jobs were all installed by reputable contractors that are supposed to know what they are doing!
So how do you find a trustworthy contractor? Following is a checklist of items crucial to helping you determine if the contractor you are considering can provide you with a pleasant experience and an indoor comfort system that does everything it should.
The company you choose should educate you so that you can make the best decisions for your home and for your family.
The first thing they should do is answer the telephone with real people. You shouldn’t have to leave a message on an answering machine or put up with a call routing system.
They should schedule a time at your convenience to visit with you.
They should have a conversation with you about your needs. Nobody knows more about how well or poorly a system is working than the people living with it every day.
They should perform a “Heating and Cooling Load Analysis” of your home to determine the correct capacity of the system they are going to propose. It is the only sure way to be certain the system will do everything you expect of it.
They should determine the exact amount of air flow each room needs.
They should rate your existing system’s performance and delivered efficiency. This provides a baseline so that any improvements or changes can be measured, giving you proven results.
They should measure your system’s Static Pressure (sort of like your Blood Pressure).
They should be recording temperatures.
They should measure the exact amount of air coming from each register.
They should involve you in this process so you can understand the causes of comfort issues and energy waste.
They should provide you with a written report of their findings.
They should provide you with a detailed proposal, outlining several options based on your specific need and budget requirements.
They should show you how you can pay for this work. They should offer several methods of financing and be able to discuss them with you.
They should NEVER use high-pressure sales. You should never feel pressured to make a decision. Be wary of “limited supply” offers, extra savings if you buy today, anything “free”, and so forth.
You should have all the information you need to make an informed, educated decision.
Once you decide to have the work done, then what?
The company you choose should:
Be able to tell you when the work can be scheduled and how long it will take.
Provide technicians who are certified by a nationally recognized agency such as the National Comfort Institute (NCIMaxx.com), North American Technician Excellence (NATEX.org) or the Building Performance Institute (BPI.org).
Provide technicians who are friendly, clean, uniformed and drug tested.
Be environmentally responsible. All technicians must be EPA certified. Refrigerant must be reclaimed and never vented into the atmosphere.
Be licensed by the State of New Jersey and should handle all local permits that may be required for your job. Ask to see a current copy of their license.
Carry complete insurance, including Workmen’s Comp, Automobile, and Commercial Liability in an amount not less than $2 million. Ask to see their Certificate of Insurance.
NEVER ask for more than a 50% deposit before the work is completed.
Provide you with WRITTEN GUARANTEES of their work (NOT manufacturers’ warranties). Be sure to ask what their guarantees are and demand them in writing.
Provide client references, including name and contact information.
Provide a written proposal detailing the equipment and material to be used, the work to be performed, the warranties and guarantees included, and the EXACT price to be paid.