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When is an HVAC Contractor Full of Hot Air

February 20, 2018

No one likes to pay more than they must for a product or service. Even more so, no one likes to get ripped off when purchasing a product or service. Whether your purchase is small or large – these are universal truths. When it comes to your home, owners want to know they’re getting the most for their money and that they’re not getting the runaround. For big-ticket items, like an HVAC system, there are some important things NOT to ignore to ensure you’re not a victim. Here is a list of scams from bad HVAC contractors to be on the lookout for:

SCAM 1: “See this? This is bad and you need a new one.”
Fact: Parts go bad. You will need to replace some eventually, and identifying these bad parts is the job of the contractor. A common scam is to point out a perfectly good part and talk about why it’s bad and that you desperately need a new one. Not every contractor who says it’s a bad part is lying, though.

Is your space properly cooled or heated? Is the unit noisier than usual? Is there a bad smell coming from the unit or vents? If you said “no” to any of these questions, then there may be nothing wrong. Do your own research before agreeing to have any work done. If the contractor says your compressor is shot, do a quick Google search for: “signs of a bad HVAC compressor” and review the search results. There may be a simpler way to diagnose the problem than the physical part itself.

SCAM 2: The Fake-Out
One very common scam is when the contractor claims to have replaced the part and your problem should clear up in a few days. Almost every single replacement is an instantaneous fix. Results should be immediate – not in a few days.

This is a particularly difficult scam to spot because it’s one you can’t really do much to prevent aside from standing there and watching them replace the part. The best way to prevent it from happening to you is to never call the wrong company in the first place. You don’t need a crystal ball to find out if they’re legitimate or not. Look at online reviews and see what others are saying about that company. When in doubt, don’t waste your time or money.

SCAM 3: Oversized AC units
Bigger is not always better. But there are those few contractors who will push the biggest HVAC unit they have with no regards to the size of your home. A unit that’s oversized is more expensive to purchase and install upfront. But it’s also significantly more expensive to run over time. The unit should cycle on and off as little as possible. If you have one that’s too big, it will take no time at all to adjust temperatures, but will also shut off quickly. Then it’ll turn on, and then off, etc. This is not natural. The unit should be consistent if sized properly.

Ask the contractor for the numbers and the formula they use to calculate the load and size of the unit. It's always best to get a second opinion. In the world of HVACs, the size of the unit truly matters!

SCAM 4: “Hi! I’m calling on behalf of [insert honest company here].”
These contractors are more than happy to come out and offer you your free inspection! This scam often uses the names of larger companies to trick a wide range of people to work with them.

Unless you see a marked vehicle with the company’s logo, it’s probably a scam. Nearly every single honest company uses marked/branded vehicles. Operations policies for honest contractors should require that an employee never go to a service call in their personal vehicle.

SCAM 5: Overpricing
Competitive pricing makes this scam a bit complicated; however, there are plenty of HVAC companies that don’t overcharge because of their quality; they overcharge because they can. It’s one of the scams you don’t see as often because most facility managers are 100% aware of pricing.

Always do a little research. Call another company and see what they are quoting. Give them a previous quote after they’ve given theirs and see what they say. If they say something like “well, our labor is cheaper” or “we have bulk discounts from the manufacturer because we’re a larger company, so we can sell the products at lower prices,” then the initial quote was legitimate. If they say, “you’re kidding me” or “that’s ridiculous!” that’s a warning sign. In the end, you get what you pay for. If you pay for ridiculous, you’ll probably get ridiculous.

SCAM 6: “Oh! I have a used one in my truck.”
If you call for an inspection and they find out your compressor is bad, for example, then they may offer to do the replacement on the spot. No honest HVAC contractor will install a used part – it just won’t last. A used part can cause strain on other parts, reduce efficiency, and often just not work for more than a few weeks. Then consider why there is a used part in the truck in the first place.

 Never buy used parts.

SCAM 7: Frequent Tune-Ups
Tune-ups keep your system healthy. System maintenance is recommended once a year. Shady contractors will try to schedule them before every season and sometimes even more! Not necessary.

Only get a tune-up once a year. Make sure the contractor is from a reliable and reputable HVAC company to ensure they don’t say things are bad that aren’t. In the HVAC industry, always get a second opinion. Once you find an honest and reliable contractor, stick with them!

Hopefully this list is helpful. Above all, always do a little research. MaxAir strives to leave every customer with an experience that exceeds their expectations. You can trust our more than 40 years of experience in both residential and commercial HVAC systems. When you need to call for a second opinion – please call us. You won’t need to make a third call!

When your HVAC system is making frightening noises, its time to call the pros.