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Licensed HVAC Contractor in San Diego, CA

How to Hire a Good HVAC Contractor in San Diego

Residents of San Diego County use an average of 6,000 kWh electricity annually. This consumption may increase further by 30 percent if your heating and cooling systems are not properly installed, well-maintained, or leak. Hiring a qualified HVAC contractor can help forestall these problems and save you a significant amount on your utility bill. While you may get a referral from neighbors or search an online directory to find a good HVAC contractor near you, ensure to verify they are competent for the job before concluding on hiring. This can be accomplished by asking the following questions:

  • Are You Licensed to Practice as an HVAC Contractor in the City of San Diego?
  • How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other HVAC Contractors in the City of San Diego?
  • Do You Comply with the City of San Diego Building Code for HVAC Work?
  • Will You Get the HVAC Permits as Required by the City of San Diego Code?
  • What Kind of HVAC Services Do You Offer?
  • Do You Offer Emergency HVAC Services in the City of San Diego?
  • Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for HVAC Contractors in the City of San Diego?

Questions to Ask Before Hiring an HVAC Contractor in the City of San Diego

  1. Are You Licensed to Practice as an HVAC Contractor in the City of San Diego?

    Ensuring that your prospective HVAC contractor is licensed is the first step in getting the right individual for the job. The California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is responsible for issuing licenses to HVAC contractors in the City of San Diego, and the possession of this license proves that the contractor in question has the necessary skills and training required to perform the task at hand.

    The license an HVAC contractor needs to operate in the City of San Diego is a Class C Specialty Contractor License, specifically known as the C-20 - Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Contractor. In addition to this, the HVAC contractor needs to have an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 Technician Certification which covers the handling of refrigerants. In order to obtain the C-20 contractor license, the HVAC contractor must get pre-approval from the CSLB and possess at least four years of experience attained in the preceding ten years as well as a $15,000 bond and proof of worker's compensation insurance. The contractor must also pass both a trade exam and a business and law exam with at least 72%. Note that the EPA certification requires HVAC contractors to sit for a separate test that covers environmental protection topics like compliance and leak repair requirements.

    In the City of San Diego, it is illegal to operate as an unlicensed contractor. Regulatory penalties for practicing without an HVAC license are contained in the State of California's Business and Professions Code (BPC). Operating without a license is considered a misdemeanor, which can see offenders serving a minimum sentence of 90 days and a maximum of six months in state prison. Offenders could also see themselves paying a fine of up to $15,000 if convicted, and repeat offenders could get even steeper fines. However, not that a license is not required for any HVAC work that does not exceed $500.

    You can use the license check feature of the Contractors State Licensing Board's online platform to validate an HVAC contractor's license number. It should be noted that this database is unavailable from Sundays at 8 p.m. through Monday at 6 a.m. due to scheduled maintenance. You can also contact the Contractors State License Board's Licensing Information Center at (800) 321-2752 for information related to HVAC licensing requirements in San Diego.

  2. How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other HVAC Contractors in the City of San Diego?

    It is critical to compare costs between many HVAC contractors in order to prevent paying an excessive fee for your project. This will also assist you in determining when a quote appears to be far too good to be true. A San Diego HVAC contractor's fee is mostly determined by the sort of work being performed. Other considerations may include the cost of supplies required for the project, the cost of obtaining the necessary permissions, and the HVAC contractor's degree of experience and reputation. Whatever the situation may be, pricing comparisons might help you avoid paying an expensive fee that isn't justified by the work performed.

    An HVAC Contractor in the City of San Diego earns an annual average wage of $63,250. The table below provides a cost comparison of the mean hourly wages for HVAC contractors in the City of San Diego against those of HVAC Contractors in the rest of California as well as other major cities in the United States:

    San Diego HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage
    $30.41
    California HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage
    $30.56
    Los Angeles HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage
    $31.31
    Chicago HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage
    $29.31
    Houston HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage
    $26.40
    Detroit HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage
    $24.55
    Philadelphia HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage
    $28.80

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

  3. Do You Comply with the City of San Diego Building Code for HVAC Work?

    An important requirement when searching for HVAC contractors around you is to ensure that they are familiar with San Diego's Mechanical Code, which is adapted from the 2019 California Mechanical Code. The code regulates and controls the design, installation, alteration, maintenance, inspection, operation, and use of mechanical systems located within San Diego.

    The San Diego Mechanical Code covers mechanical systems like air conditioning systems, ventilation, duct and exhaust systems, hydronics, boilers, heaters, chimneys and vents, soilers and pressure vessels, fuel gas piping, process piping, stationary power plants, solar energy, and refrigeration systems. The code is implemented to ensure the health and safety of residents of the City of San Diego and their property in relation to the use of mechanical systems, and as such, it is imperative your HVAC contractor understands its regulations to the letter. Individuals found guilty of violating the city's mechanical code can receive fines of up to $2,500, as well as other court-imposed civil penalties. If you wish to make inquiries or report violations of the Mechanical Code, contact San Diego's Code Enforcement Division at (619) 236-5500 or visit their office at:

    • Code Enforcement Division
    • 1222 First Avenue,
    • Fifth Floor,
    • MS 511
    • San Diego, CA 92101
  4. Will You Get the HVAC Permits as Required by the City of San Diego Code?

    Most of the work done by HVAC contractors in the City of San Diego requires a permit as stipulated in the San Diego Mechanical Codes. Mechanical permits cover heating, ventilating, air conditioning, or refrigeration systems and ensure that HVAC contractors adhere to the bare minimum required to protect life and property. In the City of San Diego, no part of a heating, ventilating, air conditioning, or refrigeration system can be installed, altered, replaced, or repaired unless a mechanical permit has been obtained for the work.

    The issuance of mechanical work permits is done by the San Diego Development Services Center (DSC). Depending on the work, either a Simple Mechanical Permit or a Plan Mechanical Permit may be obtained. If the HVAC work involves minor installations like the installation of forced air units (FAU), air conditioner units (AC), exhaust fans, or the replacement of furnaces, a Simple Mechanical Plan is required. Other kinds of installations, alterations, replacements, or repairs require a Plan Mechanical Permit. Mechanical work permit applications can be made online via the San Diego Development Services Center online platform.

    Note that inspections are required for permitted work in San Diego, and these inspections must be done before any work can be covered or concealed. The HVAC contractor or the owner is responsible for scheduling all required inspections which can be done online using the DSC scheduling platform. Inquiries about inspections can be made to the DSC office or by calling the Inspection Service at (858) 492-5070. General inquiries related to the DSC's mechanical work permitting and inspection process can also be directed to (619) 446-5000 or in person at the San Diego Development Services Center offices at:

    • DSC Main Office
    • 1222 1st Avenue
    • San Diego, CA 92101
    • DSC Ridgehaven Office
    • 9601 Ridgehaven Court
    • Suite 220
    • San Diego, CA 92123
  5. What Kind of HVAC Services Do You Offer?

    Another thing to check for when looking for an HVAC contractor in San Diego is that they have the essential skill set for the type of HVAC work that needs to be done. Installation services, maintenance services, repair services, and emergency services are the four basic categories of HVAC work. Although many HVAC contractors are qualified to handle a variety of HVAC-related services under more than one of these categories, some contractors choose to specialize in a particular area of HVAC work and refine their expertise there. As a result, before making any hiring decisions, make sure that the contractors you're considering specialize in the type of HVAC work you need done. After you've confirmed this, you'll want to find out how much these contractors charge for their services. The average cost estimates for HVAC services in the City of San Diego are:

    Air conditioner installation
    $2,060 - $2,285 (1.5 Tons/18,000 BTU)
    Air conditioner installation
    $2,900 - $3.090 (2 Tons/24,000 BTU)
    Air conditioner installation
    $2,965 - $3,172 (2.5 Tons/30,000 BTU)
    Air conditioner installation
    $2,750 - $2,940 (3 Tons/36,000 BTU)
    Air conditioner installation
    $3,462 - $3,755(3.5 Tons/42,000 BTU)
    Air conditioner installation
    $3,797 - $3,908 (4 Tons/48,000 BTU)
    Air conditioner installation
    $3,890 - $3,970 (5 Tons/60,000 BTU)
    Whole house humidifier installation
    $476 - $561
    Central air purifier installation
    $1,216 - $1,675
    Thermostat installation
    $161 - $184.
    Boiler Installation
    $3,192 - $4,321
    Forced air furnace installation
    $3,483 - $4,384
    Electric baseboard/water heater installation
    $243 - $323
  6. Do You Offer Emergency HVAC Services in the City of San Diego?

    Oftentimes, an HVAC-related issue will arise that necessitates the services of an HVAC contractor. Such issues could emerge as a result of poor preventative maintenance, inexperienced servicing, or aging systems. Refrigerant leaks, frozen evaporator coils, broken thermostats, clogged drains, fan malfunction, and polluted condenser coils are all emergency HVAC issues. These issues can lead to a lot of inconvenience in the home as well as an increase in your electricity bill. Leaky air ducts, for example, can cause the most significant increase in energy use. With residents of San Diego paying around $20.45 per kilowatts for electricity, and given that any unnecessary increase in energy use can adversely affect your utility bills, it is only reasonable to want to fix HVAC-related problems as soon as possible. Nevertheless, it is important that you ensure that the HVAC contractor you are hiring is properly licensed and well-versed in emergency services. With that in mind, you can search for and find a duly licensed and properly skilled HVAC contractor online by using several internet directories including Yelp and Better Business Bureau.

  7. Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for HVAC Contractors in the City of San Diego?

    According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7900 non-fatal HVAC-related occupational injuries occurred in 2020. With the high number of HVAC-related injuries that happen in a year, it is only reasonable to ensure that your prospective HVAC contractor is duly insured. This insurance will protect you from liability in the event of the injury of a hired contractor. The California Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB) is responsible for checking the insurance status of contractors in San Diego. Contractors in the city are mandatorily required to have workers' compensation insurance, unless they have no employees, or meet other exemption criteria determined by the CSLB. In addition to or in lieu of a worker's compensation insurance, HVAC contractors may carry a valid Certification of Self-Insurance from the Department of Industrial Relations. It is important you always request proof of insurance from your intended HVAC contractor and authenticate it with the relevant insurance provider. You can also authenticate using the CSLB insurance search feature. Finally, while it is not mandatory, it is also a good idea to ensure that your HVAC contractor has proper general liability insurance to cover the cost of any damages or on-the-job injuries that may take place during your project. You can confirm that your intended contractor's liability insurance coverage is adequate for your project by requesting a copy of their insurance certificate and contacting the issuing organization to authenticate it.

How to File a Complaint Against a Bad HVAC Contractor in the City of San Diego

When looking for an HVAC contractor in San Diego, it is imperative to be on the lookout for potential scammers. It is easy to be conned out of your hard-earned money by dishonest individuals who prey on consumers looking for legitimate HVAC contractors.

According to the City of San Diego, many common HVAC-related scams start with a low-cost air duct inspection or cleaning. A shady contractor may claim that your ducts are filthy and infested with black mold, which can be killed with UV light, or they may recommend a thorough furnace or air duct cleaning, or a replacement air filter. However, all of these are unnecessary, and these contractors are only interested in overcharging you for their services. Contractors who do this frequently arrive in an unmarked vehicle, don't wear a corporate uniform, scare you with high-pressure sales techniques, then leave without providing a receipt for services done. Some common features of HVAC scams in San Diego include:

  • Door-to-door and unsolicited offers to do work at a reduced price.
  • Insistent pressure for quick decision-making, leaving no time to get competitive bids, inquire about licenses, or check out references.
  • Offer to perform a free inspection in which non-existent problems are found.
  • Demand for immediate payment in cash.
  • Request for large down payments, especially one higher than 10 percent of the project cost or $1,000.
  • Insistence of verbal agreements instead of a written contract.

You can avoid hiring an unscrupulous contractor by observing the following precautions:

  • Be wary of unsolicited offers from unknown ┬ścontractors' in your neighborhood.
  • Contractors that cannot offer an office address and appear to work from their vehicle, or contractors who drive vehicles with a foreign license plate, should be avoided in your neighborhood.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to make a decision.
  • Get a written contract and read it thoroughly before signing anything. A thorough description of the job to be done, the supplies to be used, the total cost and payment plan, and the start and finish dates must all be included in the contract.
  • Check that a contract signed at home includes a three-day right of withdrawal and a withdrawal form that explains this right.
  • Be wary of contractors that refuse to accept checks or choose to write checks on behalf of the company, and do not pay more than the statutory maximum of cash or deposit.
  • Get at least three quotations and look into the contractor's background.
  • Use only licensed contractors. The Contractor State License Board (CSLB) requires those who perform any type of home improvement service worth more than $500 to obtain a license.
  • Get and verify your contractor's license number online using the CSLB license check section or by calling (800) 321-2752.

To report HVAC scams, you can make complaints to the CSLB online or by visiting its San Diego Investigative Centre at:

  • 9246 Lightwave Avenue
  • Suite 130
  • San Diego, CA 92123
  • Phone: (800) 321-2752

You can also direct your complaints to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office by completing a Consumer Complaint Form and mailing it to:

  • Office of the District Attorney
  • Consumer Protection Unit
  • P.O. Box 121011
  • San Diego, CA 92112-1011


Finally, HVAC-related scams can also be reported to the San Diego City Attorney's Office by calling (619) 533-5800 or to the San Diego Police Department by calling (619) 531-2000 or (858) 484-3154. Note that you may be required to provide a personal description as well as the license plate number of the subject of your complaint.