According to the United States Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, at least 75% of all homes in the country have an HVAC system. Half of these homes have their HVAC system poorly installed leading to higher energy cost. HVAC installations are complex tasks that must be done in line with government building energy codes, as well as the installation standards and other technical standards published by the HVAC industry trade associations. Hence, these installations are best left to trusted and trained technicians near you. Note that the United States does not have a national energy code. Therefore, when you have to install or repair an HVAC system, it is important that you hire a qualified HVAC contractor nearby that is conversant with your state and municipal heating, ventilating, and air conditioning codes. Also, make sure that your contractor is conversant with all the technical standards that are relevant to HVAC installation. Here are some questions that you should ask when choosing an HVAC contractor to avoid an improper installation:
Are You a Licensed HVAC Contractor?
State-level licensing is an important requirement for HVAC contractors and technicians in 35 states across the nation. Licensed HVAC contractors are properly trained in areas such as manufacturer specifications, HVAC theory, government building codes, and city/county specific local codes.
The requirements for obtaining these licenses vary from state to state. In Delaware, HVAC contractors are issued with either a Master HVACR or a Master HVACR restricted license. The former allows HVAC contractors to work on any aspect of a HVAC system while the latter limits them to only one specific part of the system. Maryland issues four types of licenses which are a journeyman license, a limited license, a master restricted license, and a master license. Each of these types of licenses have varying requirements that must be met, and these requirements include a minimum level of work experience that the contractor must attain.
In North Dakota, HVAC contractors are only required to obtain licenses if they wish to work on jobs that are worth more than $4,000 while California requires contractor licensing for all jobs that are worth more than $500. Some states like New York, Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Kansas only issue HVAC contractor licenses at the county, city, or municipality level.
Licensed HVAC contractors generally display proof of licensure on their websites, trucks, and business cards. Many states offer an online directory that can be used for a license lookup through their respective consumer protection offices. You can also check to see if your contractor is licensed through the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies' licensing information portal.
Often, HVAC contractors are also required to repair or install plumbing, or to channel gas or oil to heating equipment. In such a case, the contractor is usually required to also hold a plumber's license, or at the very least have a licensed plumber on the job. Also, if the installation or repair might disturb the paint of a house, apartment, or child-occupied facility that was built before 1978, then the contractor is required to have been duly trained and certified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in lead-safe work practices.
Are You Bonded and Insured?
While HVAC installation and repair might not be considered the most dangerous building-related job, it still has its fair share of workplace injuries, such as shoulder and neck injuries from slips and falls as well as sprains and strains caused by lifting excessive weights, and other exposure-related injuries. Some of these accidents may sometimes be fatal. In 2019, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 31 fatal occupational injuries among HVAC and refrigeration installers and mechanics.
Working with an uninsured HVAC contractor near you is a huge risk that potentially opens you up to liability. When you hire an insured contractor, you are absolved from paying for any damages in case something goes wrong in your home during the job. Most firms provide insurance for their contractors, however, you should not make this assumption. Always request a certificate of insurance before hiring a contractor for a job. HVAC contractors are generally required to have both workers' compensation and general liability insurance.
In addition to being insured, your HVAC contractor must also be bonded. A surety bond is an added measure of protection for homeowners that absolves you from bearing any financial liability that may arise if your contractor fails to finish the installation or repair that was agreed upon. If this happens, the bonded company is responsible for compensating you financially for the unfinished job. Bonding requirements vary from state to state, and it is important to ensure that your HVAC contractor meets all the necessary criteria. You can find out the specific requirement for your state by contacting the consumer protection agency in your area.
What Kind of Work Are You Specialized In?
This is a simple question that you can ask to weed out any HVAC contractors near you that do not have the proper experience or industry knowledge necessary for your installation or repair job. It is estimated that nearly half of all HVAC installations in the United States are done incorrectly. Having an inexperienced HVAC contractor handle your HVAC installation or repair can result in several problems that include, but are not limited to, insufficient airflow, faulty installations, and a damaged system.
There are various models and HVAC systems available. These systems are made by different manufacturers, and each of them has different features. While most HVAC contractors tend to have a general knowledge of these systems, they are typically more adept at handling specific brands and issues. Hence, it is important to find out a contractor's area of specialization and level of skill and expertise in that area before hiring them.
Who Will Do the Work?
When hiring an HVAC contractor, it is important to find out how many people will be involved in the actual job. An HVAC installation or repair job can usually be handled by one person. Notwithstanding, the contractor may decide to bring other individuals along to speed up the process. Ensure that any contractor you hire duly informs you of the possibility of this happening. Also make sure that extra workers involved in the job are properly licensed, bonded, and insured. Finally, ask the contractor if these extra workers will cost you more.
Do You Offer a Warranty?
Simply put, a warranty is a guarantee that the provider of a service or product issues to the consumer. Warranties can be written, oral, or implied. As a homeowner, you are typically issued warranties on the work done and the materials that are used when you hire a contractor.
HVAC contractors generally provide equipment warranties and labor warranties. An equipment warranty covers the unit that was installed, while a labor warranty covers the installation itself. These warranties should cover any defect that may be associated with the installation or repair for a specific period after the job has been completed. It is always a good idea to make sure that these warranties are put down in writing.
Will This Job Require a Permit?
A building permit is generally required for projects that involve considerable alteration to a house's footprint. This includes HVAC installation. Permits are necessary to ensure that the work done is safe and in compliance with the building and construction codes of the area. The specific requirements for obtaining these permits differ by municipality, county, and state. Carrying out a job without the required permits can result in severe penalties. Therefore, it is important to make sure that your contractor has all the necessary permits before beginning any job. Any professional contractor near you would know the specific permits required for your job and how to help obtain them.
Will You Provide References?
Asking an HVAC contractor that you intend to hire for references is a good way to find out how qualified the person is for the job. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that you ask potential contractors to provide you with the contact details of at least three individuals for whom they have carried out similar jobs. When asked, no professional and competent HVAC contractors near you will hesitate to provide you with this information. Some contractors may also provide you with pictures of jobs they have successfully completed. You can also find reviews for HVAC contractors online through third-party review websites and organizations like Yelp and Google Review
Do You Have a Business License?
HVAC contractors are generally required to have business licenses. Some areas like California, Texas, and Florida require state-level licensing while others like Illinois, Colorado, and Kansas generally require only local licensing. You can search for and verify your HVAC contractors' business license by contacting the Office of the Secretary of State, or the equivalent office responsible for maintaining records of these licenses, in your area of residence.
What Are Common HVAC Problems?
HVAC systems are an integral component of many homes in the United States, and homeowners generally have to carry out repairs on these systems occasionally. Some of the most documented problems that affect HVAC systems are:
- Electrical control and sensor problems
- Thermostat malfunction
- Blown fuses and tripped circuit breakers
- Limited airflow
- Refrigerant leaks
- Clogged drainage lines
- Water leakage
- Dirty filters
These problems typically arise due to lack of regular servicing and maintenance of HVAC systems. If you experience any of these problems, it is advised that you do not attempt any DIY fixes as this can exacerbate the problem. Instead, contact a licensed HVAC contractor or technician to resolve the issue.
How Much Does HVAC Installation/Replacement Cost?
HVAC systems account for approximately 12% of the total energy expenditure in most United States homes. HVAC installation typically involves replacing certain parts of the existing system, or replacing the whole system and installing a new one. The average cost of installing/replacing an HVAC system in the United States is $9,000 - $9,500. Depending on various factors, such as the brand of the unit and the type of installation, this amount may go as low as $4,000 or as high as $18,000. As a general rule, installations that involve add-ons like air purifiers and carbon monoxide alarms tend to be costlier. Other factors, such as time and labor, materials, and the size of the house, also affect the total cost of an HVAC system installation. Below are some of the average costs that may be incurred when installing/replacing an HVAC system:
The average costs for HVAC units are also listed as follows:
What Are the Factors That Affect the Cost of an HVAC Installation/Replacement?
The total amount of money that it would cost you to replace your HVAC system is affected by several factors, primarily the condition of the system that is to be replaced. This determines whether the HVAC contractor will only carry out a routine servicing and replacement of worn-out parts of the system, or whether a total overhaul is needed. Other factors include the size of the house where the HVAC system is to be installed and the size and brand of the system that is to be installed. The cost of any permits needed for the project and the level of difficulty of the project are also factors that affect the cost of installing/replacing an HVAC system. Note, HVAC installers near you may charge less fee due to their proximity.
What Qualifications Should HVAC Contractors Have?
The heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration industry is estimated to have over 342,000 employees nationwide. Individuals that wish to become HVAC contractors are expected to have completed programs related to heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration at either a technical school, a trade school, or a community college. Per EPA regulations, HVAC contractors that wish to work on materials that contain refrigerants must also be duly certified by the agency. Note that the Environment Protection Agency also mandates all contractors involved in the repair, renovation, and painting of houses, apartments, and child-occupied facilities built pre-1978 to receive a separate training and certification on lead-safe work practices.
HVAC contractors are generally also required to obtain either a state-level or local-level license before they can operate. The requirements for obtaining these licenses vary. You can find out the requirements for obtaining an HVAC license by contacting the consumer protection agency in your area.
Do You Need a Handyman or an HVAC Contractor?
A handyman is usually employed to perform general non-specific tasks that do not require specialization. However, when it comes to matters that involve your HVAC system, it is best to employ the services of a professional HVAC contractor near you.
An HVAC contractor is duly trained to properly handle any issues that may come up concerning your HVAC system. A professional HVAC contractor is also more likely to obtain all the necessary permits required for the job. Finally, hiring an HVAC contractor is economically smarter. This is because HVAC contractors are typically insured and bonded, thereby protecting you from any potential financial liabilities that may arise during the project.
What Are the Common Post HVAC Installation/Replacement Expenses?
Most professional HVAC contractors perform a thorough job and leave the premises neat after they are through. As a result, the most common post-HVAC installation/replacement expense is the cost of the regular maintenance and servicing of your HVAC unit. It is advised that you do this at least once a year. Servicing a HVAC system costs around $50 - $200, and it usually includes cleaning and tuning up the unit and also testing and replacing minor parts. Note that some contractors include maintenance services in the warranties they offer. Always ask your HVAC installation contractor if they provide this service, and the exact maintenance services that their warranty covers.
Does Homeowner Insurance Cover HVAC Expenses?
In 2018, more than 5.5% of all insured homes in the United States filed a claim with their insurance companies. Standard homeowner's insurance typically covers HVAC expenses that arise as a result of damages caused by a disaster like a hail storm, fire, or a tree falling on your unit. However, if the damage to the HVAC system is due to old age, neglect, or general wear and tear, then there is a very high probability that your homeowner's insurance will not cover any expenses. It is always a good idea to find out the specific type of damages an insurance policy covers and have this information in writing before purchasing an insurance policy.
Can I Use Digital Payment to Pay My HVAC Contractor?
Like most small businesses in the US, any HVAC contractor near you would accept digital payments. Digital payments as a means of monetary transactions are generally considered faster and more convenient than cash and check payments. Also, digital payments have the added advantage of creating instant records for accountability and book-keeping purposes. However, if you wish to pay your contractor via digital payments, it is advised that you confirm with them first before doing so. If your contractor insists on accepting payment via cash or check, make sure that you collect a receipt.