The Lowdown on How to Find the Best HVAC Contractor

Are you responsible for the upkeep of a home, rental property, or commercial building? And do you live in a place where heating and air-conditioning are standard systems in structures? If you answered “yes” to both those questions, you need to have an HVAC contractor in your phone favorites list.

Heating, ventilation and cooling systems have several important components (the air handler, the compressor unit outside, and the ductwork that goes throughout the building). Old systems with aging equipment and ducts develop problems or simply wear out, but even new systems can malfunction or get damaged.

Do the work to find a reputable, affordable HVAC contractor ahead of time. Then, if your a/c goes out in the middle of a sweltering summer day, you can call a company that you’ve already vetted and get a technician scheduled for an emergency visit.

What Services Do HVAC Contractors Provide?

HVAC contractors provide these services:

  • New and replacement AC installation
  • Air conditioning repair and maintenance
  • New and replacement heat pump installation
  • Heat pump repair and maintenance
  • New and replacement heating installation
  • Emergency AC or heating repairs and service
  • Attic insulation installation
  • Ductwork cleaning, maintenance, and repairs
  • Air filtration cleaning

Search Tips for Finding a Great HVAC Company

Reliable Local Referrals

Getting recommendations from local people you trust is at the top of our list of suggestions for finding a great HVAC provider. Reliable people—family, friends, neighbors, co-workers—will usually be happy to give you the name of an HVAC company that did good work for them. If they’ve had a bad experience with a vendor, they’ll usually tell you that, too, which can also be helpful.

Look Online

The internet has almost all the information you need for finding a good HVAC business. We say “almost,” because not every HVAC company has a website, and websites are the vehicles that deliver the most helpful information. Type “HVAC contractor near me” into your search engine’s search box. This query will generate a full list of companies in your area.

The search will also produce listings of directories such as Angie’s List, Home Advisor, and Thumbtack. Utilize those services to find recommended HVAC companies.

The search engine results page (SERP) map displays the locations of the companies in your area. If you open the SERP map, you’ll also see every company’s name, address, phone number, and website, if they have one.

Pay Attention to Reviews

The SERP map displaying HVAC companies near you contains reviews along with the individual business listings. Check these reviews and ratings.

You may also visit each company’s Google business page to see reviews there. Reviews on Google business pages are usually authentic and reliable.

Information You Should Look for Upfront

Be systematic in your information search as you check out individual HVAC companies’ websites. Make notes as you find answers to these questions about potential HVAC providers for your house or building.

  • How many years has the company been doing business?
  • How big is the company (how many technicians are there)?
  • Is the company licensed and insured?
  • Are work and equipment warrantied?
  • Is financing available?
  • Are estimates free? If there is a charge, does that amount get credited to repair work?
  • Are technicians background-checked and criminal-checked?

More information can be obtained through phone calls to the companies that look like the best candidates. Narrow your candidate list to three, and then speak to a representative from each company. Confirm the information you found on the website to make sure that nothing has changed and ask other questions that weren’t answered on the site.

Some of these questions might include:

  • If permits are required for the work I need to have done, will you get them?
  • Is it standard practice to do a manual J load calculation and share it with me?
  • Is it standard practice to confirm that the load calculation is right for my system?
  • How long are your labor, material, and manufacturer warranties?
  • Can I see those warranties now?
  • Do the warranties contain any restrictions? Do the money-back guarantees include restrictions?

Although it seems like an inconvenience now, schedule estimate visits with three (yes, three) separate HVAC providers. Your goal is to find a long-term HVAC contractor. Cutting corners on the vetting process could come back to bite you. Be thorough in the search, and you’ll be more likely to end up with the company that’s the best fit for you.

Make the First Job a Small One

Request an estimate from three HVAC contractors on a job that’s not too big. You might want faucets changed out or toilets replaced.

When you’ve selected the final contractor for the job, get it scheduled quickly and be present when the technician arrives. Take mental notes on how the visit goes. From the beginning, observe the tech’s arrival timing (prompt?), communication, professionalism, job execution, and clean up. How does he or she handle the bill? After the tech leaves, do you receive a follow-up call from someone at the company?

Note all aspects of the visit and follow-up. If you’re happy, plan to use that HVAC contractor again. Hopefully, they will develop into the provider that services your HVAC system for years.

Understand Your HVAC System

An HVAC system can be confusing to homeowners who just want all the components to work correctly but don’t care a lot about the mechanics. It’s good, however, to have a basic understanding of the system parts and how they work together. This understanding facilitates productive conversations when you need to talk to a technician.

First, “HVAC” stands for “heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.”

The Heating System

A heat pump, boiler, and furnace or geothermal unit make up the heating components of an HVAC system. Fuel sources include gas, electricity, propane, and fuel oil.

Identify the heating components in your HVAC system and note the manufacturer, model number, installation date, and date of the last service.

The Cooling System

The HVAC components that work to cool air include air conditioning systems, geothermal ac units, or heat pumps. Air conditioning systems may be split systems, mini-split, ductless, or central. Split or two-part systems have an evaporator coil on top of a furnace plus an outdoor unit with a compressor, fan, electrical components, and condenser coil.

Identify what kind of cooling components comprise your HVAC system and note the manufacturer, model numbers, installation dates, and most recent service/maintenance dates.

The Ventilation System

This system manages the movement of air—heated and cooled—through a house or building via ducts that are usually above the ceiling but can also be located under the floor. The two main parts of a ventilation system are the air filtration equipment and the ductwork.

Ductwork should be serviced at least once a year and checked for leaks, damage, and other problems.

Air filtration systems should also be serviced annually. HVAC technicians are experts in cleaning these systems, whether mechanical or electronic. Mechanical air filtration systems trap pollutants in the air. Electronic systems trap pollutants by charging them and employing an opposite-charged surface that attracts the pollutants.

When an HVAC tech conducts an annual maintenance visit, be prepared to tell him or her when the filtration system was last checked and when the ductwork was last cleaned.

Maintaining an HVAC System

Because an HVAC system has multiple strategic parts that each provide essential functions, we recommend having your HVAC serviced every six to 12 months. Your chosen HVAC contractor should have a maintenance plan that makes regular care easy to schedule.

Avoid These HVAC Contractors

It can be helpful to know what HVAC contractors to avoid.

  1. Avoid contractors who require payment before they render service. Don’t hire a company that requires a down-payment. This is not standard practice and will likely result in your money disappearing along with all trace of the company.
  2. Don’t work with an HVAC contractor who presents a contract with several pages of tiny print. HVAC work agreements, warranties, and guarantees do not need hundreds of words of explanation. The contract presented you should be compact with the scope of work, timeline, warranties, and guarantees stated clearly.
  3. Avoid giving your work to an HVAC company that does not have its own inventory. Your heat or air may not go out during business hours. This means the technician doing your emergency repair call must have access to parts on-site at the company facility.
  4. Don’t hire an HVAC company that does not own outright the equipment to be installed in your home or building. If another supplier owns the equipment and your HVAC contractor fails to make payments, the equipment in your home could be repossessed even though you’ve made all payments to the HVAC company.

Wrapping It Up

In many parts of the United States, HVAC systems are critical for maintaining comfortable living and working temperatures in homes and buildings. If the care of a home or building falls to you, make it a priority to find a quality HVAC contractor before an emergency occurs. Be thorough in your vetting process so that the contractor who proves to be the best fit can be your go-to service provider for years to come.

Wolfer’s Home Services Provides Full Service Air Conditioning and HVAC System Repair, Maintenance, and Installation for the entire Portland & Vancouver Area