The following are the top 12 questions that should be answered before selecting a contractor to replace your home’s heating and cooling system.

1. Does the contractor have a state license?

A state license is required in the state of Alabama to install heating and air conditioning equipment. The state of Alabama is one of the toughest license governing bodies because of the extreme amounts of poor craftsmanship cases that have been reported to them. Unlicensed contractors are unaccountable to regulators and are often unavailable if problems arise from a poor installation.

2. How long has the company been in business (under the same name)?

According to the Alabama Business and Project Management Manual, 85% of the mechanical contracting companies that get into business fail in the first five years. As a result of them going out of business it is almost impossible to get a failed company to honor a warranty. Beware of companies that close due to poor reputation and reopen with a new name.

3. Does the company offer a money back guarantee?

Often a consumer only gets to experience one side of the heating and air company they choose to replace their equipment. The consumer may have chosen a company based on the impression they got from a salesman, then later when they have to deal with a faulty installation and then the company’s service department that lacks both professionalism and product knowledge needed to quickly fix your problem. The best way to significantly reduce your liability is to request in writing a 100% Money Back Guarantee (2 YEARS), so that if you do run into some unmanageable problem you can have them give you your money back. This is the most expensive appliance in your home, why not protect your investment?

4. Does the contractor offer a lemon guarantee?

Have you ever known of someone that has had a lemon car, then had to fight with the car dealer to give you a new one? It happens all the time in the heating and air conditioning world too. It is important to have the contractor you choose give you in writing at least a five year lemon guarantee that covers the major components. In case you do have a major problem they will replace the faulty system with a brand new system. Here is a secret, when you put a company against a lemon guarantee; they are going to spend a lot of time training their installation team to make sure they don’t have to replace a lot of equipment. “The most important day of a new system is the day it is installed.”

5. Is the contractor’s staff background checked and drug tested?

Most consumers do not think of this being a problem when they are choosing a contract or to work in their home. The reality is they should be aware of this. One of the most widely taught trades, within the prison system today is heating and air conditioning repair. Also based on the unfortunate incident in Florida, five women legislators from the State of Georgia have sponsored a bill that would require employers to conduct criminal background checks on workers before they would be allowed to enter the home. The sponsors wrote the bill with women in mind, since women are more likely than men to be home alone for service calls. For more information on this law, Click Here. Your family’s safety is very important so you just might want to know who is entering your home.

6. Does the contractor perform a load calculation to determine the proper size of the equipment they will install?

Good contractors understand the importance of properly sizing the heating and cooling equipment to ensure maximum comfort and to ensure proper power usage. “NOT too big and NOT too small.” This process is not done by the rule of thumb method or the square foot method. Improperly sized heating and cooling systems are all too common in Alabama. This creates hot and cold spots in the home, it causes the home to be too moist or too dry and it can significantly increase your utility bill. Just because a manufacturer labels their equipment with an efficiency rating doesn’t mean it works like they want it to once it has been installed.

7. Does the contractor provide an “ARI Performance Certification”?

One of the most unrecognized major problems with a heating and cooling system is the equipment match. In many cases the reason the new system is using more energy, doesn’t heat and cool your home quite like the old system did is because the new equipment that was designed to work the way it is installed. To insure this never happens to you, always request an ARI (Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute) Performance Certification” to insure you are getting what you are paying for.

8. Does the contractor inspect the duct system before he matches it with a new heating and cooling system?

Approximately 70% of the duct systems that are installed in residential homes are not sized correctly to deliver the proper conditioned air into the home. Most of the time the duct system is too small which increases the resistance on the equipment. This most certainly will lower the efficiency of the equipment by making it run longer to satisfy the thermostat. Also the system will have increased service problems and it has been known to reduce the life of the system by as much as 4 years.

9. Does the contractor offer financing?

You may not need financing, but you still should look for companies that offer it because it shows concern for affordability and shows the company can meet the qualifications to offer financing.

10. Does the company give you choices?

There is a wide variety of options that exist for heating and cooling your home. A good company will present you with choices in efficiency, refrigerant type, filtration, controls and financing. They will also present these choices in a way that you are able to make an informed and educated decision.

11. Are the companies service vehicles clean and well maintained?

The condition of a contractor’s service vehicles is an indicator of the way the technician will take care of your home.

12. Does the contractor have a true 24 hour 7 day a week emergency service?

A good contractor will be available to their customers in the event of an emergency, any time of day. It is also important to know that when you do call you aren’t calling into a service technician’s pager or voice mail. By being able to talk to a live person, it helps escalate the problem to an on-duty manager in order to promptly handle a problem.