As summer rolls around, so does the need for air conditioning repair. You probably know how special HVAC equipment is to your home and business, but do you know what people are like who fix it? As with any service-related industry, some companies (and people) provide excellent customer service, while others can be pretty shady. Here are 10 things every consumer should know before hiring an air conditioning repair company:
1. Prices vary significantly for the same job. It's not uncommon for one company to advertise a $49 service call. At the same time, another offers a "no trip charge" for any emergency visit. Here's what you need to know about these prices:
- The $49 is for a service call only, meaning that if the technician can't correct the problem on his first visit (which is often the case), you will be charged again for him to return and finish the job. That second service call may not cost $49 either. Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch.
- The "no trip charge" should raise a red flag. The technician still needs to come out and inspect the equipment; he just doesn't need to do any work. You'll pay for that privilege, too.
- If it's a major repair, such as replacing an entire system or a part of one, expect your service call fee to run $50-$100 or more.
2. Many HVAC companies have a "no fix, no fee" policy, which means that they don't receive payment for any service calls when a problem can't be fixed on-site and must be referred to the manufacturer for warranty work.
This is excellent news for consumers. It means that a company can't make money by selling expensive "repairs" for minor problems. However, these companies are not offering this policy out of the goodness of their hearts; they have found that it's actually cheaper to send an entire system back to the manufacturer than it is to do significant repair work on site.
While a "no fix, no fee" policy sounds great at first glance, what will happen if your equipment breaks down after your warranty expires and the manufacturer won't cover repairs?- As with any no- or low-cost offer, you need to read the fine print. Also, be aware that this is often NOT covered by homeowners insurance.
3. Coupons are everywhere nowadays, and some HVAC companies use them as a way to get your business. Be wary of coupons because while they may seem like a great deal, they usually cost you more in the long run.
- Are you guaranteed that the coupon price is lower than what would have been charged during regular business hours? If not, then you're not getting a bargain.
- Will, the company honor the coupon if you have to schedule your repair work outside of regular business hours? If not, then it's only suitable for certain times of day or days of the week.
- Is there any extra charge for service during weekends, nights, etc.?
4. Some technicians will "oversell" their customers to make more money. This is especially true for major HVAC repairs that will cost thousands of dollars. Rather than doing only what's needed, you're left with the choice of paying a lot of money for work that wasn't necessary or taking on an even bigger financial burden by not having the work done and having to replace the entire system.
How much will it cost if I decide not to have the work done?- You don't need to be intimidated by an HVAC technician, but you do need to ask questions. Can you give me a callback so that we can discuss this further without pressure?
5. Some repair companies try to sell unnecessary equipment upgrades. For example, many homeowners are told they need a new furnace or air conditioner when they really need routine maintenance for their current system.
- If you're already having an issue with your system (a broken blower motor, for instance), don't let it go unfixed even if the repair costs less than a new system.
- If your equipment is old (more than 10 years), talk to the repair company and find out about their financing options for newer, more efficient systems that qualify for government tax credits and other incentives. It may make more sense to take on higher monthly payments rather than pay thousands of dollars for repairs that don't address the root cause of the problem.
6. Some HVAC technicians are no longer willing to discuss options with their customers, and they want you to sign on the dotted line so that they can get paid.
- Be aware that an honest technician will provide you with a few different solutions (not only one) and let you decide what to do. You don't have to decide right away, and you can always get a second opinion from another company.
- If you ask for an estimate of the cost, the technician should be able to provide one without pressuring you into signing on the dotted line. They should also tell you about any additional fees that may apply if you decide to go ahead with the work.
7. HVAC companies can charge you for any "required" materials and parts, even if they're performing repairs that don't require them.
- If you get an estimate, make sure it's itemized as much as possible, so you know what items are being covered under warranty and which ones are your responsibility.
- You don't necessarily have to negotiate the price of these parts and materials, but you do need to be aware that they will come out of your pocket if you go ahead with the work.
8. During cooler months, many companies try to upsell their customers on heating equipment or air filters. As with any other sales tactic, the price might seem like a great deal, but in the long run, you could end up spending more on your heating bills than necessary.
- Just as with an air conditioner or furnace inspection, ask how much it will cost to fix any problems and how much it will cost if you choose not to get the work done.
- If you haven't had your furnace or boiler inspected recently, schedule one with a different company and compare estimates before spending any money.
9. Some repair companies use high-pressure sales tactics to get you to sign on the dotted line as soon as possible. This is especially true for emergency repairs that will cost thousands of dollars if they aren't done right away.
- If you're told that there's a technician on the way, ask for the name of the company and the phone number so you can check with your local Better Business Bureau and confirm that this is an authorized repair company.
- Talk to at least two companies about getting different estimates on repairs before making any decisions, and ask what you can do to avoid being overcharged in the future.
10. Some repair technicians won't tell you about all of your options if they're not authorized by a specific manufacturer, even if those options would save you thousands of dollars on repairs.
- If an HVAC company tells you that parts aren't available for your air conditioner, furnace, or boiler, contact a different company and compare estimates.
- If the technician can't answer your questions about specific make and model parts, find out why they aren't authorized. It's possible that they don't want to pay the yearly fees associated with becoming an authorized dealer for those brands.
Call today for more information: (718) 509-5848