How to Hire a Good HVAC Contractor in Los Angeles
Electricity rates for residents in the Los Angeles area currently cost an average of 23.9 cents per kilowatt-hour, this is 68 percent above the national average. Considering that nearly half of the energy used in an average American home goes to heating and cooling, it is important to retain the services of a qualified HVAC contractor to handle the installation and maintenance of your home's HVAC system. Doing this can increase the efficiency of this system by as much as 30%, thereby significantly cutting down your energy wastage and reducing your energy bills.
While it is common to get referrals from trusted associates and even reputable online directories when searching for good HVAC contractors in Los Angeles, it is equally necessary to do your due diligence on these referred contractors. To this end, you can ensure that HVAC contractors near you are duly qualified to provide your required service by asking them the following questions:
- Are You Licensed to Practice as an HVAC Contractor in the City of Los Angeles?
- How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other HVAC Contractors in the City of Los Angeles?
- Do You Comply with the City of Los Angeles Building Code for HVAC Work?
- Will You Get the HVAC Permits as Required by the City of Los Angeles Code?
- What Kind of HVAC Services Do You Offer?
- Do You Offer Emergency HVAC Services in the City of Los Angeles?
- Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for HVAC Contractors in the City of Los Angeles?
Are You Licensed to Practice as an HVAC Contractor in the City of Los Angeles?
Individuals that wish to provide HVAC-related services in the City of Los Angeles are typically required to possess a C-20 - Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Contractor license issued by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB). This licensing requirement is mandatory for individuals that wish to bid for or work on HVAC-related projects worth a total value of $500 or more, including labor and material costs. Individuals that perform HVAC work or any other type of contracting activities without meeting this requirement can face statutory and administrative penalties of up to $15,000 in fines and six months in jail.
The CSLB typically issues HVAC licenses to individuals that are at least 18 years of age and can provide verifiable proof that they have attained a minimum of four years' journeyman experience in HVAC work. Parties that meet these eligibility criteria will be required to submit an Application for Original Contractor License Form, pay all stipulated licensing fees, and pass a CSLB-administered licensing examination. However, the trade portion of this licensing examination may be waived for individuals with valid HVAC-related licenses issued by the state licensing authorities of Arizona and Nevada. It is also important to note that, per Section 608 of the Clean Air Act, individuals involved in the maintenance, servicing, or repair of any equipment that contains refrigerants must obtain mandatory certification from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
You can direct HVAC contractor licensing and certification-related inquiries to the CSLB by calling (800) 321-2752. You can also confirm that your intended HVAC contractor has been duly licensed and certified by calling this number or by utilizing the CSLB's online license check portal.
How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other HVAC Contractors in the City of Los Angeles?
The specific amount of money that individual HVAC contractors charge for their services is primarily dependent on factors like:
- The nature and scope of the required service
- The HVAC contractor's skill set and reputation
- The cost of materials and permits that the project will require
As such, it is always a good idea to get quotes and estimates from several contractors near you before undertaking an HVAC-related project. Doing this gives you a fair estimate of the average cost of your intended HVAC project while also ensuring that you do not fall victim to unscrupulous individuals that offer inflated price estimates.
An HVAC Contractor in the City of Los Angeles earns an annual average wage of $65,130. The table below provides a cost comparison of the mean hourly wages for HVAC contractors in Los Angeles against those of HVAC Contractors in the rest of California as well as other major cities in the United States:Los Angeles HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$31.31California HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$30.56New York City HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$32.58Chicago HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$29.31Houston HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$26.40Detroit HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$24.55Philadelphia HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$28.80
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Do You Comply with the City of Los Angeles Building Code for HVAC Work?
The installation, alteration, replacement, relocation, addition to, erection, use, and maintenance of heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems, incinerators, and other miscellaneous heat-producing appliances within the City of Los Angeles is controlled by the Los Angeles Mechanical Code. This code was designed to safeguard the life, health, property, and public welfare of the residents of Los Angeles in relation to HVAC systems by regulating their design, operation, and maintenance, as well as the quality of materials used for these activities. As such, it is important to ensure that any HVAC contractor you hire in the City of Los Angeles implements the provisions of this code when working on your project. Doing this not only ensures your safety but also ensures that you do not run afoul of the law and end up with city-imposed sanctions that are typically associated with code violations. You can make code-related inquiries or get information on the specific code requirements for your HVAC project by contacting the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety at (213) 482-0061.
Will You Get the HVAC Permits as Required by the City of Los Angeles Code?
Under Section 95.111 of the Los Angeles Mechanical Code, permits are required for HVAC work done in the City of Los Angeles. This includes the installation, alteration, repair, relocation, or modification of HVAC equipment and appliances in the city. Nonetheless, this code provides exceptions where HVAC-related work may be done without a permit. These exceptions include, but are not limited to, HVAC work that involves portable ventilating equipment, portable comfort-cooling units, portable evaporative coolers, unit refrigeration systems, and cooking range, broiler unit, or domestic-type clothes dryer.
The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety is responsible for issuing HVAC permits in the city, and parties that wish to obtain these permits can do so by taking the following steps:
- Confirming that the site of the project is located within the City of Los Angeles via the ZIMAS online tool provided by the Los Angeles Department of City Planning.
- Preparing the necessary project designs and plans.
- Submitting the plans, along with a properly completed Application for HVAC Permit or HVAV Plan Check form, at any of the following LADBS office locations:
- Metro (Downtown) Office
- 201 and 221 N. Figueroa Street
- Los Angeles, CA 90012
- Van Nuys Office
- 6262 Van Nuys Boulevard
- 2nd Floor
- Room 251
- Van Nuys, CA 91401
- West LA Office
- 1828 Sawtelle Boulevard
- West Los Angeles, CA 90025
- South LA Office
- 8475 S. Vermont Avenue
- Los Angeles, CA 90044
- San Pedro Office
- 638 S. Beacon Street
- San Pedro, CA 90731
These offices can generally be accessed between the hours of 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. However, note that the South LA and San Pedro offices are closed to members of the public between 12 noon and 1:00 p.m. every day. Once the submitted documents have been reviewed and approved, the requested permits will be issued following the payment of all stipulated permit fees.
Alternatively, HVAC permits for projects that do not require plan checks can be generated online via the LADBS's express permit platform, while permit applications for projects that require a plan check can be submitted online via this department's ePlanLA platform. It should be noted that these platforms can only be accessed by individuals that create, or have an existing user account. Note that all permitted HVAC work in Los Angeles is subject to inspections by the LADBS at various work stages to ensure that they comply with all applicable provisions of the city's Mechanical Code. Inspections can be scheduled online, and they must be carried out before any part of the HVAC work is covered or concealed. You can get more information on the Los Angeles HVAC permitting and inspection process or make inquiries related to these subjects, by calling 311 if you are within the city or (213) 473-3231 if you are calling from outside the Los Angeles area.
What Kind of HVAC Services Do You Offer?
Making sure that your intended HVAC contractor has the necessary skill set to perform the specific type of service that you require is an important step in ensuring the success of your HVAC project. HVAC contractors in Los Angeles typically offer a variety of services, ranging from HVAC equipment and appliance installations and repairs to HVAC system maintenance services and emergency HVAC services. As such, it is always a good idea to get confirmation from any contractor that you are considering hiring on whether or not they specialize in providing the type of HVAC work that you need and how much this would cost you. Listed below are average cost estimates for common HVAC services in Los Angeles:Air conditioner installation$4,780 - $9,000 (for two - three ton unit)Air conditioner installation$8,500 - $12,000 (for five ton unit)Boiler installation$3,289 - $4,453 (for 80 - 120 mbtu/hour gas boiler)Central air conditioner tune-up$110 - $127Central air purifier installation$1,253 - $1,726 (for standard grade unit in a typical two-story home)Central air purifier repair$95 - $115 per hour (labor only)Electric baseboard/wall heater installation$251 - $333 per heaterForced air furnace installation$3,589 - $4,518 (for 80,000 - 100,000 btu gas furnace)Forced air furnace tune-up$126 - $166Thermostat installation$166 - $190 per hour (labor only)Whole-house humidifier installation$490 - $578 (for flow-through mid-grade central humidifier)Window air conditioner unit installation$299 - $338 (for 5,000 btu unit)
Do You Offer Emergency HVAC Services in the City of Los Angeles?
Certain HVAC-related problems can make your home uncomfortable and inhabitable if they are not addressed quickly. Examples of HVAC-related problems that require emergency attention include malfunctioning fans and heat exchangers, refrigerant leaks, broken thermostats, and water leaks from your cooling unit. In many cases, ignoring these types of problems can also result in a spike in your utility bills due to energy wastage. With electricity prices in the Los Angeles area currently costing 68.3% more than the national average, it is necessary to retain the services of a professional to rectify these matters immediately they are noticed. You can find professional HVAC contractors near you that offer emergency services by utilizing any of the following online directories:
- The Find My Licensed Contractor platform provided by the California Contractors State Licensing Board
- The Better Business Bureau website
- The Find a Contractor portal provided by the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
- The Contractor Locator webpage provided by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America
Note that it is your responsibility to confirm the licensing status of any HVAC contractor that you intend to employ.
Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for HVAC Contractors in the City of Los Angeles?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, a total of 7900 nonfatal work-related injuries occurred amongst HVAC contractors in 2020. As such, even though these contractors are not mandatorily required to carry commercial general liability insurance in Los Angeles, it is always in your best interest to hire one that does. Doing this insulates you from financial liabilities if an injury or any other unforeseen event, such as damage to your property, occurs during your HVAC project. You can confirm the insurance status of your HVAC contractor by requesting proof of this insurance and authenticating it with the relevant insurance provider.
Note that HVAC contractors in Los Angeles are required to meet certain bond requirements and also carry workers' compensation insurance if they have employees. You can contact the CSLB at (800) 321-2752 to get information on these state-mandated contractor requirements and find out if your HVAC contractor meets them.
How to File a Complaint Against a Bad HVAC Contractor in the City of Los Angeles
An undercover sting conducted by the CSLB in February 2020 led to the arrest of 11 unlicensed and allegedly fraudulent contractors in the Los Angeles County area. A similar operation conducted the previous year had netted 16 individuals involved in illegal contracting in the area. Considering that residents of the City of Los Angeles are estimated to spend approximately $3,800 annually on home improvements, it is no surprise that fraudulent contractors try to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners. These scammers typically utilize techniques like unsolicited HVAC inspection and repair offers and high-pressure sales tactics to deceptively obtain money from these homeowners, after which they abscond without doing or completing the agreed-upon work. As such, you should always take the following steps when searching for HVAC contractors near you to ensure that you do not fall victim to a contractor scam:
- Always confirm the licensing status of any HVAC contractor that you intend to employ. You can do this by calling the CSLB at (800) 321-2752 or utilizing this agency's online license check portal. You should also consider checking the CSLB's Most Wanted List to make sure that the contractor is not featured there
- Be wary of door-to-door contractors
- Never get pressured into undertaking an HVAC project
- Request written estimates for any project that you plan to undertake and get at least two more estimates from other contractors
- Make sure that you are given a detailed contract for the project, and properly review this contract before signing it. Note that you should never sign any documents that you do not fully understand
- Make sure that your intended contractor is properly insured and bonded
- Request references from the contractor and contact them to get first-hand reviews of this contractor. Be wary of contractors that cannot provide at least three verifiable local references
- Never pay more than $1,000 or 10% of the total cost of the project upfront. Note that you should always pay the lesser amount of these two parameters
- Avoid cash payments
You can report suspected or confirmed contractor-related scams that occur in the City of Los Angeles by filing a construction complaint with the CSLB. You can also report these matters to the Los Angeles City Attorney's office online or by calling either (213) 978-8070 or (877) 522-2737. Note that there is no guarantee that you will get satisfactory personal restitution when you file complaints with either of these agencies. Nonetheless, you can take further steps by seeking damages against the contractor to the tune of up to $10,000 at a Los Angeles County Small Claims Court. It is advisable to get proper legal advice before taking any type of legal action, and you can get this advice by utilizing the online resources provided by the State Bar of California.