Many refrigerants are ozone-depleting substances and potent greenhouse gases that pose serious toxicity, flammability, asphyxiation, and physical hazards. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 31 fatal occupational injuries and 6,500 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses were recorded amongst heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers in 2019. It is estimated that there are over 190 million refrigerators and refrigerator-freezers currently in use in the United States, and more than 68 million of them are at least 10 years old. The repair and maintenance of these refrigerant-containing equipment are strictly regulated by the Clean Air Act as well as various industry guidelines and standards. As such, any refrigerator and refrigerator-freezer repair must always be done by a professional and certified refrigeration repair contractor.
Here are some questions that can help you choose a qualified refrigeration repair contractor near you:
Are You a Licensed Refrigeration Repair Contractor?
Refrigeration repair contractors are mandatorily required to obtain a Section 608 Technician Certification from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Depending on your location, your refrigeration repair contractor may also be required to obtain either a state-level or a local-level refrigeration repair license. For example, refrigeration repair contractors in states like Alabama, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Delaware are required to obtain a state-level HVACR (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration) license. States like Massachusetts require licensing only for refrigeration repair contractors that perform work on refrigeration systems that are more than ten tons and states like Illinois, Kansas, and Indiana issue refrigeration repair licenses only at a local government level.
Always hire a refrigeration repair contractor near you that is licensed according to the requirements of your state of residence. You can find out the specific requirements by contacting your local consumer protection office. This office can also help you verify the validity of your refrigeration repair contractor's license. Alternatively, you can utilize the National Association of State Contractor's Licensing Agencies' licensing information webpage to verify these licenses.
Are You a Bonded and Insured Refrigeration Repair Contractor?
Workers in the refrigeration industry are exposed to mechanical, electrical, and chemical hazards. It is estimated that over 25% of the injuries in this industry are caused by slips and falls, with another 10% caused by failure to wear adequate protective gear. In some cases, some of these work-place injuries result in fatalities. In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded more than 5,300 fatal occupational injuries.
You should never hire an uninsured refrigeration repair contractor. Hiring a contractor that is not insured is a risky venture that exposes you to potential litigation and financial liabilities if an injury occurs during your repair job. Before you hire a refrigeration repair contractor, always make sure that the contractor is properly insured. Your contractor's insurance coverage should include general liability and workers' compensation at the very least. Request a copy of the contractor's certificate of insurance and ensure that the insurance policy is still valid.
When hiring a refrigeration repair contractor near you, you should also make sure that the contractor is properly bonded. Bonding is a type of insurance that ensures that you do not incur any additional expenses if your refrigeration repair contractor defaults on the repair job in any way. You should always ask your contractor for proof of bonding. You can contact the organization that provided the bond to verify its validity. It is also a good idea to contact your local consumer protection agency to find out if there are any bonding requirements for refrigeration repair contractors in your area of residence. For example, the State of Minnesota requires all contractors involved in refrigeration work to post a bond of $25,000.
What Kind of Work Are You Specialized In?
This question helps you determine whether a refrigeration repair contractor is skilled enough to handle your refrigeration unit's problem. Even though there are various types of refrigeration units available, all these units generally operate by transferring heat from a designated area to another area, thereby cooling the designated area. The system refrigeration units use to transfer this heat can be grouped into four:
- Mechanical Compression Refrigeration System: this is the most commonly used type of refrigeration system. In this system, heat is transferred by mechanically compressing a refrigerant into a low-pressure, cold liquid and then expanding it into a hot, high-pressure gas. The heat is absorbed when the refrigerant is gaseous and released when it condenses back into a liquid.
- Absorption Refrigeration System: the absorption refrigeration system also transfers heat by compressing and expanding a refrigerant. However, in this system, the refrigerant is moved from the low-pressure side to the high-pressure side through the process of absorption and heat instead of an electrically-powered mechanical compressor. Refrigeration units that utilize the absorption refrigeration system method typically use refrigerants that attract and absorb other substances. An example of this type of refrigerant is ammonia.
- Evaporative Cooling Refrigeration System: these systems work by blowing hot air over water-soaked substances. The water in these substances absorbs the heat and evaporates, thereby cooling the refrigeration unit. This system does not use a refrigerant
- Thermoelectric refrigeration system: thermoelectric systems use an electric current and a thermocouple instead of refrigerants or water. It is mostly used for small cooling loads, and heat is transferred from one end of the thermocouple to the other. In the system, the hot end of the thermocouple is typically placed outside the refrigeration unit while the cool end is placed inside the unit. The hot end usually has a heat sink attached to it to ensure that its temperature matches that of the surrounding air.
Before you hire a refrigeration repair contractor near you, you need to find out the contractor's level of skill at handling the different types of refrigeration systems.
In addition, some professional refrigeration repair contractors specialize in handling specific brands of refrigeration units. Always let your contractor know the type of refrigeration unit that you intend to repair and ask whether they are skilled enough to work on that type of unit.
Who Will Do the Work?
Refrigeration repair jobs typically require the attention of a single contractor. However, your contractor may come along with an apprentice. In some cases, your contractor may subcontract part of the repair to another individual. You should always make sure that your contractor duly informs you before any of these happens. Ensure that anyone involved in any repairs of your refrigeration unit is properly certified, licensed, insured, and bonded. Finally, find out whether subcontracting parts of your repair job would cost you more.
Do You Offer a Warranty?
A warranty is a guarantee issued to a person that purchases a product or service by the provider of that product or service. These guarantees are usually issued orally or in writing. However, a warranty can also be implied. Warranties cover specific periods that begin counting immediately after the product or service has been purchased, and they generally come with terms and conditions.
Professional refrigeration repair contractors near you would typically issue warranties on their workmanship. They will also issue a manufacturer's warranty for any parts of the refrigerator or refrigerator-freezer that are replaced during the repair. Always ask your contractor whether you will be issued a warranty after your repair job is concluded. It is always a good idea to make sure that the warranty is issued in writing and make sure that any conditions that can void the warranty are clearly stated.
Will This Job Require a Permit?
Whether or not you require a permit for your refrigeration repair job depends on the type of repair and your location. Permit requirements vary by county, city, and municipality. In many cases, they are only required for projects that considerably alter the footprint or structure of a house. For example, if your refrigeration unit is hardwired into the building, then it is very likely that you will need to obtain a permit before commencing any repairs. Professional refrigeration repair contractors typically know the types of repairs that will require a permit, and this is one advantage attached to hiring them. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to contact the local building department office near you to find out these requirements for yourself.
Will You Provide References?
Asking for a list of references is a good way to determine if a refrigeration repair contractor is qualified enough to handle your repair job. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you should consider looking for a different contractor if your preferred one cannot provide you with at least three verifiable references. You can also look up refrigeration repair contractors near you and get reviews on them online through third-party websites and organizations like Better Business Bureau, Yelp, and Google Review.
Do You Have a Business License?
Hiring a refrigeration repair contractor that has a valid business license provides you with a certain level of confidence in the contractor's professionalism. A business license is a government-issued document that authorizes a business entity to operate in an area. It is estimated that there are over 30.7 million businesses with less than 500 employees in the United States. These types of businesses are generally referred to as small businesses.
Refrigeration repair contractors that have business licenses usually meet all the necessary licensing, insurance, and bonding requirements of a particular area. However, you should never make this assumption. Contact your local Office of the Secretary of State and verify the authenticity and validity of a refrigeration repair contractor's business license before hiring.
What Are Common Refrigeration Problems?
Over time, refrigeration units develop problems. Some of the most common refrigeration-related problems are:
- Water leakage from the refrigeration unit
- The refrigeration unit is no longer cooling
- The refrigeration unit is making unfamiliar noises
- The refrigeration unit inner light is no longer working
- The refrigeration unit is cycling too often
- Ice build-up inside the refrigeration unit
- The refrigeration unit is consuming excessive power
- The ice maker is malfunctioning
- The refrigerator is freezing food
These problems could be the result of a lack of maintenance, normal wear and tear, or faulty mechanical components, and they require the attention of a professional refrigeration repair contractor.
How Much Does Refrigeration Repair Cost?
The average cost of repairing a refrigeration unit in the United States is $200 - $350. This amount is mostly dependent on the exact problem that needs fixing, and the labor-intensity of the repair. As such, you may end up paying as low as $50 or as high as $1,000. Listed below are some average cost estimates for refrigeration repair:
What Are the Factors That Affect the Cost of Refrigeration Repair?
The total amount of money that you pay to repair your refrigeration unit is affected by the type of unit, the type of repair required, and the amount of labor needed to carry out the repair. Lesser-known name brands generally cost more to repair because their components are typically harder to find. This inevitably means that these components cost more than those of more popular brands that have been mass-produced, and therefore more readily available. The type of repair to be carried out also affects the total cost of the repair job. For example, replacing your fridge's seal or cleaning dirty condenser coils will cost you less than replacing a faulty condenser or control board.
The cost of any permits needed for the job and the amount of labor required for the job also determine the cost of refrigeration repair. In many cases, your contractor will include the cost of the permits in your bill. This amount depends on your area of residence. Refrigeration repair contractors also typically charge a flat service fee for repairs. However, some contractors may charge by the hour. Flat repair fees are usually between $100 and $300 while hourly rates are between $50 and $250. Note that flat fees are also dependent on the type of repair required and do not include the cost of any components that may need to be replaced
What Qualifications Should Refrigeration Repair Contractors Have?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are over 342,000 employed heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers in the United States as of 2019. Refrigeration repair contractors are typically required to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. These contractors also generally receive post-secondary instruction in refrigeration-related courses from community colleges, technical schools, or trade schools. Also, refrigeration repair contractors are mandatorily required to obtain an EPA-issued certification before they can perform work on equipment that contains refrigerants. Note that depending on the location, refrigeration repair contractors will also be required to obtain either a state-level or local-level professional license before they can operate.
Finally, many professional refrigeration repair contractors undergo voluntary certification from trade associations like the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute and the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians.
Do You Need a Handyman or a Refrigeration Repair Contractor?
Per the Clean Air Act, the repair and maintenance of equipment that contain refrigerants must be done by trained and certified professionals. Handymen are not trained in these types of repairs, neither are they certified. Instead, they typically handle various non-specific household repair jobs. As such, you should always hire a professional refrigeration repair contractor near you to fix any refrigeration unit problems that you have. Doing this not only ensures that your refrigeration unit repair will be carried out in compliance with industry standards and guidelines, but it also protects you financially in the event of an on-the-job injury or a default by the contractor. This is because professional refrigeration repair contractors are usually insured and bonded. Note that you should always verify your contractor's insurance and bonding certificates and ensure that they are valid.
What Are the Common Post Refrigeration Repair Expenses?
Refrigeration unit repair does not typically involve any additional costs excluding the cost of the repair itself. However, if it is determined that your refrigeration unit is beyond repair, then your contractor may be required to dispose of it. This may cost you an additional $100 - $150.
Note that the Environmental Protection Agency has specific safety requirements for the disposal of equipment that contain refrigerants. As such, you should never attempt to do this by yourself.
Does Homeowner Insurance Cover Refrigeration Repair Expenses?
Yes, your homeowner's insurance policy will cover your refrigeration repair expenses if it is determined that the damage to your unit was sudden and unexpected. For example, if a lightning strike causes a power surge, or there is a fire outbreak in your home, and your refrigeration unit is affected, then your homeowner's insurance policy will likely cover the cost of repairing it. However, if it is determined that the damage to your refrigeration unit was caused by normal wear and tear, lack of maintenance, or negligence on your part, then your homeowner's insurance policy will not cover the repair expenses.
In 2018, 5.7% of all insured homes in the United States had an insurance claim. It is estimated that fire and lightning accounted for 32.7% of these claims. It is always a good idea to find out the specific types of perils that a homeowner's insurance policy covers before purchasing one from an insurance policy. Also, request a written copy of the company's terms and conditions. This way, you are properly informed on the types of situations under which your property will be covered by your homeowner's insurance policy.
Can I Use Digital Payment to Pay My Refrigeration Repair Contractor?
Like many small businesses in the US today, many refrigeration repair contractors near you would accept payments made to them via digital methods. These types of payments are considered more secure, more convenient, and faster than regular cash, check, and money order payments. They also have the advantage of generating automatic receipts, which helps you with your record-keeping. Note that you should always inform your refrigeration repair contractor before you carry out a digital payment. Also, insist on collecting a receipt of payment if your contractor's preferred method of payment is cash.