Houston residents pay 12.24 Â¢/kWh for electricity, a rate that rose by 6.8% in 2021 alone. With heating and cooling systems accounting for nearly half of energy use and inefficient systems further stretching your energy bill, it is important to properly install and maintain your HVAC systems. While you can rely on referrals from neighbors and colleagues when searching for a good HVAC contractor near you, ensure you pick the best contractor by asking the following questions:
- Are You Licensed to Practice as an HVAC Contractor in the City of Houston?
- How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other HVAC Contractors in the City of Houston?
- Do You Comply with the City of Houston Building Code for HVAC Work?
- Will You Get the HVAC Permits as Required by the City of Houston Code?
- What Kind of HVAC Services Do You Offer?
- Do You Offer Emergency HVAC Services in the City of Houston?
- Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for HVAC Contractors in the City of Houston?
Before bidding to perform any HVAC-related services within Houston, interested persons are mandated to obtain an Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractor License from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). Per section 110.2 of the Houston Mechanical Code, failure to comply with this licensing requirement is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable with jail time, as well as fines ranging from $500 to $2,000. Note that each day of violation constitutes a separate offense.
HVAC licenses issued by the TDLR are classified into Class A, Class B, and Dual Class licenses. However, to be eligible for any of these licenses, interested persons are required to satisfy specific requirements. These requirements include being 18 years old, obtaining a minimum of 48 months of practical HVAC experience in the past 72 months under the supervision of a licensed air conditioning and refrigeration contractor, and passing a licensing exam. However, certain individuals are exempt from the practical experience requirement, and they include anyone who is a licensed engineer or has a degree in mechanical engineering. Those who have satisfied the relevant licensing requirement can apply for a license by submitting a completed Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractor License Application form, paying the relevant fees, and providing the relevant documents to the TDLR. Relevant documents include proof of passing the relevant license examination and an insurance certificate. Prospective license applicants with further inquiries can check the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractor License Application webpage for more guidance or contact the TDLR at (800) 803-9202 or (512) 463-6599 for callers within and outside Texas, respectively.
After obtaining a license from the TDLR, HVAC contractors should note that they must also register their license with the Houston Permitting Center. You can verify the licensing status of your intended contractor by utilizing the TDLR license data search portal or by contacting the Department at (800) 803-9202. Also, if you want to confirm that your contractor has complied with citywide registration requirements, you can contact the Houston Public Works Department at (832) 394-8860 or by email.
Before hiring a contractor for your HVAC project, it is essential to find out the average charge rate for the project in order to appropriately budget for it. Contractors in Houston typically charge varying fees, which depend on different factors, such as the nature of your project, the required labor, the estimated completion time, and the cost of materials. Nonetheless, you can find out the average charge rate for your project by comparing estimates from multiple contractors. This way, you can also find the contractor that best suits your budget.
An HVAC Contractor in the City of Houston earns an annual average wage of $54,920. The table below provides a cost comparison of the mean hourly wages for HVAC contractors in Houston against those of HVAC Contractors in the rest of Texas as well as other major cities in the United States:Houston HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$26.40Texas HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$23.73Los Angeles HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$31.31Austin HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$22.22Detroit HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$24.55Boston HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$31.35Washington D.C. HVAC Contractors Mean Hourly Wage$31.06
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
As you search for a good contractor to handle your HVAC needs, it is essential to ensure that any contractor you find is well-versed with the provisions and requirements of the Houston Mechanical Code. This Code regulates the installation, repair, alteration, replacement, demolition, and maintenance of all mechanical systems across Houston, as well as the performance of any HVAC-related work. Mechanical systems regulated by this Code include exhaust systems, duct systems, air-conditioning systems, and appliances and equipment operating with refrigerants. This Code primarily mandates minimum standards that appliances and equipment used in HVAC-related works, as well as all HVAC-related works, must adhere to in order to ensure city residents are protected from HVAC-related hazards. Hence, it is crucial that your HVAC contractor complies with this Code when handling your HVAC project. Not only does complying with the Code help to ensure the safe performance of your project, but it also helps to avoid penalties associated with Code violations. Per section 110.2 of the Houston Mechanical Code, such penalties include fines as high as $2,000 per violation. This is in addition to other administrative and court-ordered penalties. If you have any questions or inquiries regarding the provisions of the Houston Mechanical Code and how it may affect your HVAC project, you can contact the Houston Permitting Center at (832) 394-9000.
Asides from ensuring you find a licensed HVAC contractor, you should also ensure this contractor procures the permits applicable to your HVAC work. It is a general requirement in Houston that a mechanical permit must be obtained before any HVAC-related or mechanical work can commence within the city. While all licensed HVAC contractors are eligible to apply for a mechanical permit, homeowners may be eligible under certain circumstances. These include situations where the HVAC work is to be done in a single-family residence that the homeowner also occupies.
The Houston Permitting Center is responsible for receiving permit applications and issuing mechanical permits. These permits are classified into different types, including Alteration of HVAC permits, Boiler Installation permits, and Boiler Repair permits, and they can be obtained either online or by fax. All types of mechanical permits obtainable in the City of Houston can be found on the webpage of the Houston Mechanical Inspection Section, and the directions to apply for each permit can be found after selecting the permit. However, permit applicants should note that permits for HVAC works in dangerous buildings or habitability projects must be submitted by email. To do so, the permit applicant must obtain a printable mechanical permit application form and email the completed form to the Houston Permitting Center. Permit applicants should also note that they may be required to submit building plans and specifications before their mechanical permit application can be approved.
Before the conclusion of any HVAC project, permit holders must schedule inspections with the Houston Permitting Center. Generally, inspections are performed by an assigned building official who evaluates the HVAC project and determines if it adheres to the relevant provisions of the Houston Mechanical Code. If the work does not fully comply with the Code, the building official will ask the relevant permit holder to ensure the necessary corrections are effected. Inspections can be scheduled online through the Houston inspection scheduling portal or via phone by dialing (713) 222-9922. Interested persons with inquiries on inspections for mechanical permits can direct these inquiries to the Houston Permitting Center at (832) 394-9000 or visit the Center in person at:
- Houston Permitting Center
- 1002 Washington Avenue
- Houston, TX 77002
- Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Mondays - Fridays
There are various types of HVAC services offered by HVAC contractors across Houston City, and these include installation, repair, and maintenance services. Additionally, some contractors are restricted from performing certain services by their license type. For example, HVAC contractors with a Class B Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractor License can only work on cooling systems that weigh 25 tons or below. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that any contractor you intend to hire has the right skill set and holds the license relevant to the services you need. Looking up the scope of the contractor's license and asking the contractor to provide references from previous clients are some of the many ways you can determine this. Besides determining the license scope of your intended contractor, it is also essential to find out the contractor's charge rate so you can make sure that it fits your outlined budget.
Nevertheless, provided below are average cost estimates for common HVAC services in Houston:Air conditioner installation$6,000 - $7,500 (2 - 3 ton unit, with new ductwork installed)Air conditioner installation$3,000 - $5,000 (2 - 3 ton unit, with existing ductwork)Air conditioner installation$4,500 - $6,500 (5 ton unit, with existing ductwork)Air conditioner installation$6,500 - $7,500 (5 ton unit, with new ductwork installed)Air conditioner tuneup$75 - $90Central air purifier installation$800 - $1,500 (standard grade unit)Thermostat installation$115 - $300 (mid-grade thermostat)Whole house humidifier installation$320 - $400 (mid-grade central humidifier)Window air-conditioning unit installation$200 - $235 (5,000 btu window unit)
In certain situations, you may need the emergency services of an HVAC contractor near you. These situations typically include instances when you notice equipment defects like refrigerant leaks, broken thermostats, or duct leaks, or when your home's heating or cooling system is malfunctioning or producing a low output. In such situations, it is essential to quickly find a good HVAC contractor near you to immediately address the situation. Not only can such situations cause severe discomfort, but they may also inflate your utility bills. With city residents paying a relatively high utility bill of $0.156 per kilowatt-hour, it is crucial that you take steps to maximize your electricity usage and minimize energy wastage from your home's heating and cooling system.
When searching for a good HVAC contractor near you, it is essential to note that any contractor you hire must be licensed and possess the skillset relevant to your needs. With third-party websites like Yelp, Better Business Bureau, and Google Review, you can find good contractors near you with the necessary skills to deliver your service. You can also find previous reviews on your desired contractor on these websites, which can help with better decision-making. Besides utilizing these websites, you can also ask for contractor referrals from neighbors and colleagues. Nonetheless, before hiring any contractor, ensure this contractor is duly licensed and registered to operate within Houston. You can utilize the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation's license data search portal to verify a contractor's licensing status or contact the Department at (800) 803-9202. Also, you can verify whether a contractor is registered to practice within Houston by contacting the Houston Public Works Department at (832) 394-8860 or by email.
In 2020 alone, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded nearly 8,000 nonfatal workplace injuries amongst HVAC contractors across the country. With the number of injuries resulting from HVAC works across the country, it is best that you hire contractors who maintain active general liability insurance. When you hire insured contractors, you are protected from out-of-pocket costs that may be necessary for handling workplace accidents or injuries that occur during your HVAC project. Such costs will be covered by the contractor's insurance. Accordingly, in order to ensure the protection of city residents and homeowners during HVAC projects across the city, HVAC contractors that operate in the City of Houston are required to maintain general liability insurance covering property damage and bodily injury. The coverage amount for this general liability insurance varies and depends on a contractor's license class. For example, Class A license holders must maintain general liability insurance of $300,000 per occurrence, while Class B license holders must maintain general liability insurance of $100,000 per occurrence. This insurance requirement is mandatory, and no one can obtain or renew an HVAC contractor license without due compliance.
To confirm that your desired contractor is duly insured, you can ask them to present proof of insurance. You can also proceed to confirm the validity of the insurance by contacting the relevant insurance provider.
A vital factor to consider before engaging any HVAC contractor is whether this contractor has been charged for or involved in an HVAC scam or any home improvement scam. Generally, home improvement scams are on the rise across Texas, and these scammers continuously defraud homeowners of large sums of money. For example, in July 2019, a contractor in the Houston City area was arrested after allegedly defrauding more than six homeowners of over $300,000. This contractor continuously requested deposits and money for materials from homeowners without ever starting the relevant home improvement work. Likewise, in August 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested fraudulent home improvement contractors operating across Texas after they defrauded several homeowners of nearly $900,000 since 2017.
Scammers in Houston typically request high deposits or full upfront payments without commencing the projects for which they were paid. As such, it is increasingly essential that you take steps to protect yourself from such unscrupulous individuals as you go about planning your HVAC project in the city. In protecting yourself, you can take the following steps:
- Avoid unsolicited bids or door-to-door contractors
- Consider bids from multiple contractors. Doing this will help you find out the going rate for materials needed for your HVAC work, as well as the average labor fees
- Have a written agreement with your HVAC contractor. Ensure this agreement details your relationship with the contractor, including the contractor's duties and the agreed payment for the project
- Verify the license of any contractor you hire. If you need assistance with this, you can contact the TDLR at (800) 803-9202
- Do not make full payment for the project until the contractor satisfactorily completes it. If you must pay a deposit, it should be a fraction of the full payment
- Ask that the contractor provides references from previous clients. This way, you can better assess the contractor's professionalism and service delivery. You can also check review-dedicated websites like Yelp, Better Business Bureau, and Google Review for information on the contractor
If you suspect you are the victim of an HVAC scam, you can submit a consumer complaint to the TDLR through the Department's online complaint portal. You can also contact the Department at (800) 803-9202 or (512) 463-6599 for assistance with filing this consumer complaint, complaint handling mechanisms, and inquiries on other complaint filing processes.