How to Choose Between Contractors for Your New Heating & Cooling System
When you’re faced with replacing your heating and cooling system, it can be daunting. It seems there’s so much to know. And even when you have your standard three quotes from contractors, how do you know which one to pick? You may be tempted to simply choose the lowest bid, but don’t do it––at least until you’ve checked off our recommendations below. At Vailes, we’ve given countless consultations to homeowners just like you. We’ve offered the same advice to each of them. It’s important you choose the right contractor for you and your home.
Be Sure You’re Comparing Apples to Apples
When you’re interviewing your contractors, you want to be sure they are quoting the same type of system. If you have one quote for a low-end system and another for a high-efficiency top-of-the-line model, the pricing is going to be worlds apart. They are completely different systems. In order to really compare, you need all your quotes to reflect the same type of system and the same brand.
The same advice applies to companies. You can’t equally compare pricing and services from contractors who are a one-man shop, solely working out of a van to a larger HVAC franchise. Naturally pricing is going to be different––overhead, certifications, insurances, and other factors are completely different. If you do choose to interview different-sized contracting companies, be sure all factors and services are the same from all. Don’t be afraid to bring this up during your interview.
Do Your Research Ahead of Time
Nothing beats education. We’re not recommending you take a training course on HVAC systems. What we are saying is to take some time to do some reading on heating and cooling systems, whether you look online or at your local library. If you know something about HVAC lingo and what’s actually out there when you’re looking, whatever your contractors say won’t be Greek to you. You’ll have a basic understanding and can converse intelligently. There’s less chance you’ll be taken advantage of as well.
Compare After-Installation Services
Keep in mind your relationship with your contractor should never end after the installation for your system. First, you want to be sure you’re examining warranties. Sometimes things can go wrong with your system early on, and you want to be sure your warranty covers them. Ask about the manufacturer equipment warranty versus the company’s labor warranty. Second, proper maintenance of your new system is imperative. The better you care for your new heating and cooling system, the longer it should last. Having annual cleanings and tune-ups is all part of regular maintenance. Check with each contractor for what’s offered after the install. Many companies offer service or maintenance contracts that can save you money in the long run. Again, be sure you’re comparing apples to apples.
Use Cheat Sheets
There’s a lot to know and ask when you interview your contractor, but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You can find many lists and checklists online. Use whatever is most comfortable for you. Here’s a pretty comprehensive list from Energy Star® to get you started: https://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/publications/pubdocs/HeatingCoolingGuide%20FINAL_9-4-09.pdf?7786-233c
Investing in a new heating and cooling system is not to be taken lightly. There’s a lot to consider, as it’s quite an investment. Don’t automatically go with the lowest price as typically you get what you pay for. John Ruskin (1809-1900) once quoted “There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey”.
If you have any questions, feel free to speak with us. We can be reached at 540-942-0198 or through our web site, www.vailes.com.