How to Hire a Good HVAC Contractor in San Francisco
Leakages, poor maintenance, and improper installation of your heating and cooling system can spike utility bills by up to 30 percent. Considering that households in San Francisco spend an average of 25.8 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) on electricity, hiring a good HVAC contractor to check the system regularly can lower your energy consumption by 5% to 15%. When contemplating the best HVAC contractor to hire for your heating and cooling-related issues, improve your chances of ending up with the best professional in the city by asking the following questions:
- Are You Licensed to Practice as an HVAC Contractor in the City of San Francisco?
- How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other HVAC Contractors in the City of San Francisco?
- Do You Comply with the City of San Francisco Building Code for HVAC Work?
- Will You Get the HVAC Permits as Required by the City of San Francisco Code?
- What Kind of HVAC Services Do You Offer?
- Do You Offer Emergency HVAC Services in the City of San Francisco?
- Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for HVAC Contractors in the City of San Francisco?
All HVAC contractors are required to be licensed by the California Contractors State License Board before performing any jobs exceeding $500, including labor and materials, within San Francisco. Performing HVAC services in San Francisco without a license can attract different penalties, including a six-month jail term and/or a fine of $500.
The California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is responsible for regulating and issuing HVAC contractor licenses in San Francisco. Interested applicants must be at least 18 years, have at least four years of work experience at the journeyman level, pass the necessary licensing exams, and have a $15,000 contractor bond. Additionally, the experience required must have been attained within the last ten years. Eligible applicants can submit a completed Application for Original Contractors License Form to the CSLB and pay the necessary fees. Applicants should note that they may be required to submit additional or supporting documents with their contractor license application form, such as a Certification of Work Experience Form. Inquiries regarding general licensing requirements and processes can be directed to the CSLB at (800) 321-2752.
To verify if your HVAC contractor is duly licensed, you can utilize the CSLB's check a license portal or contact the Board at (800) 321-2752.
How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other HVAC Contractors in the City of San Francisco?
On average, HVAC contractors in San Francisco charge an hourly rate of about $36.62. However, the amount HVAC contractors charge for their services varies depending on a few factors, including the size and complexity of the HVAC system, the age of the equipment, and the extent of the necessary repairs. Hence, it is advisable to get estimates from more than one HVAC contractor so you will be able to compare costs and pay a fair price for your project.
An HVAC Contractor in the City of San Francisco earns an annual average wage of $76,180. The table below provides a cost comparison of the mean hourly wages for HVAC contractors in San Francisco against those of HVAC Contractors in the rest of California as well as other major cities in the United States:San Francisco HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$36.62California HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$30.56Los Angeles HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$31.31New York City HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$32.58Houston HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$26.40Chicago HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$29.31Phoenix HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$24.07
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Do You Comply with the City of San Francisco Building Code for HVAC Work?
Hiring an HVAC contractor who is conversant with the 2019 Mechanical Code of San Francisco is highly recommended. This is to ensure your safety and reduce potential hazards the Code seeks to prevent. The 2019 Mechanical Code of San Francisco provides minimum standards to safeguard the life, health, property, and welfare of San Franciscans by regulating and controlling the design, installation, construction, quality of materials, and maintenance or use of heating, ventilating, cooling, and refrigeration systems within the city. This Code also aims to protect city residents from HVAC-related hazards, and it covers several mechanical systems, combustion air systems, appliance venting, hydronic systems, and many more. Violating this Code can lead to a civil penalty of up to $500 for each day of such violation.
For more information on the San Francisco Mechanical Code and its requirements, you can contact the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) at (628) 652-3200 or via email.
According to the San Francisco Municipal Code, a permit is required for any HVAC work done in the City of San Francisco. However, certain works are exempted from permits, including minor HVAC repairs done in the home and mechanical works done in one-story detached accessory buildings or structures. Engaging in any HVAC works without permits is a misdemeanor, and it attracts severe penalties, including a fine not exceeding $500 or up to six months imprisonment, or both.
The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) is responsible for issuing mechanical permits to HVAC contractors and homeowners in the City, and applications for this permit can be made online. Applicants might be required to submit mechanical plans, diagrams, computations and specifications, and other data alongside the application. A permit can then be issued when the application and the mechanical plans have been reviewed and approved by the Code Official. Afterward, the permittee is expected to notify the DBI that the HVAC work is ready for inspection at stipulated stages of the project. Inspections can be scheduled online or by contacting the DBI Inspection Services at (628) 652-3401. Several inspections may be required at different stages of the HVAC project. However, a final inspection must be conducted after the work has been completed. These inspections are necessary to determine if the HVAC work complies with the San Francisco Mechanical Code and other applicable City Codes.
For more information or inquiries regarding mechanical permits and inspections, you can contact the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) at (628) 652-3200 or via email.
What Kind of HVAC Services Do You Offer?
HVAC contractors in San Francisco offer a wide range of HVAC-related services such as maintenance, troubleshooting, and repair of HVAC systems, and some professionals might choose to narrow their focus to one or several of these categories. Additionally, not every HVAC contractor has the same skillset or experience. Hence, ensure any professional you hire is skilled in the type of service you need. Also, it is important to find out the average cost for this service.
Provided below are average cost estimates for common HVAC services in San Francisco:Air conditioner installation$4,879.80 - $6,421.60(for two - three ton unit; using existing ductwork)Air Conditioner Repair$113.70 - $130.10 (central a/c tuneup)Air Duct Cleaning$437.10 - $477.80 (to clean the air ducts of a typical two-story home)Boiler installation$3,383.10 - $4,579.10 (for 80-120 mbtu/hr gas boiler)Central Air Purifier Installation$1,546.50 - $2,130.40 ( for a typical two story home)Central Air Purifier Repair$88.90 - $155.30 (plus parts)Dryer Vent Cleaning$142.30 - $201.60Dryer Vent Installation$236.50 - $307.60Duct Installation$7.20 - $8.40 (7 inch flexible ducts)Electric Baseboard/Wall Heater Installation$258.50 - $343.10 (bout 6 ft. long)Forced air furnace installation$3,690.60 - $4,646.10 (for 80,000-100,000 btu gas furnace)Forced Air Furnace Repair$129.90 - $170.90 ( for a furnace tune-up)Geothermal Heat Pump Installation$25,178.10 - $25,573.10Heat Pump Installation$4,784.10 - $6,561.10 (per unit - 2.5 ton)Swamp Cooler Installation$2,993.50 - $3,205.80 (for 7,500 cfm unit)Thermostat Installation$170.90 - $195.50 (for mid-grade programmable thermostat)Whole House Humidifier Installation$504.40 - $594.60 (for mid-grade central humidifier)Window A/C Unit Installation$307.60 - $348.60
Do You Offer Emergency HVAC Services in the City of San Francisco?
There are a lot of HVAC-related problems that occur in the home, including broken thermostats, uneven room temperatures, dirty filters, leaking refrigerant, tripped circuit breakers. These problems, and generally all HVAC-related problems, should be considered an emergency because they can lead to health issues, poor indoor air quality, fires, and high utility bills. With San Francisco area households paying an average of 25.8 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for electricity, it is important to immediately fix HVAC-related problems to avoid a spike in utility bills. You can utilize websites like Yelp and Better Business Bureau to find skilled HVAC contractors around the San Francisco vicinity. Additionally, you can find licensed electricians near you by using the Find My Licensed Contractor portal maintained by the CSLB. However, ensure that any HVAC contractor you intend to hire is duly licensed and can perform the required job. Hence, you can verify if your intended HVAC contractor is licensed by utilizing the CSLB's check a license portal or by contacting the Board at (800) 321-2752.
Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for HVAC Contractors in the City of San Francisco?
Although it is not mandatory for HVAC contractors to carry general liability insurance, they are required to have workers' compensation insurance. This is because several unforeseen and unfortunate events can happen while an HVAC contractor is working in your home. Some HVAC work-related hazards that can take place on your property include injuries, falls, burns, exposure to dangerous chemicals, and electrocution. Between 2013 and 2019, the State of California Department of Industrial Relations recorded 464 fatalities in the state's construction industry. This fatality cuts across different cities in California, including San Francisco. Hence, it is always in your best interest to go for insured professionals. Hiring an insured HVAC contractor will protect you from financial hassles if an injury or property damage occurs when your project is being executed.
Inquiries regarding an HVAC contractor's insurance can be directed to the CSLB at (800) 321-2752.
The State of California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. This reveals the alarming rate of contractor scams and deceptive business practices across different cities in the state, including the City of San Francisco. These scams are typically perpetuated through various techniques, some of which include unsolicited bidding, contracting without a license, abandoning projects after receiving a large upfront payment or full payment, and performing substandard work. For example, a contractor was arrested for contracting without a license and collecting about $110,000 from a homeowner in San Francisco's Inner Richmond. Nevertheless, you can protect yourself from falling victim to these home repair scams by following the tips below:
- Always verify your HVAC contractor's license. You can do this by using the CSLB's check a license portal or by contacting the Board at (800) 321-2752.
- Check third-party review websites, like Better Business Bureau and Yelp, to see your preferred HVAC contractors' ratings and whether any complaints have been filed against them. You may also contact the CSLB at (800) 321-2752 for additional information in this regard.
- Ask for references from your intended HVAC contractor and possibly check them out. You should ask past customers detailed questions, including whether the project was completed on time and if there were unexpected costs.
- Get estimates from multiple HVAC contractors before agreeing to any work. This will help you choose a skilled contractor that can get the job done at an affordable price.
- Ask your intended contractor for a written contract that includes a detailed description of the work, material costs, start and completion dates, warranty information, and other information you deem important.
- Do not make large upfront payments and only make full payments after the work has been satisfactorily completed. California law prohibits contractors from requiring down payments of more than $1,000 or 10% of the total contract price, whichever is less.
- Avoid paying HVAC contractors in cash. Advisably, pay with credit cards or check so you can keep records of the payment.
- Make sure that your preferred HVAC contractor carries the appropriate insurance. California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) requires that all HVAC contractors have workers' compensation insurance. Advisably, hire contractors who also have general liability insurance.
Victims of HVAC-related scams can file a construction complaint with the CSLB. For assistance regarding filing these complaints or inquiries regarding your complaints, you can contact the CSLB at (800) 321-2752.