By Susan Nichol
When it comes to exchanging money in this economy be very aware of the tricks that unlicensed, inexperienced, uninsured contractors use to get business, at any cost to the customer. This is especially true when it comes to heating and air conditioning, the result of picking the wrong or cheap contractor can be a threat to your home or your health and safety.
So how do you spot these inexperienced contractors?
Sometimes it is easy and sometimes it takes a little investigating. Sales people may not arrive in a company vehicle but the installers and service technicians that arrive in an unmarked vehicles is a warning sign that you need to do more investigating.
You should wonder why are these vehicles unmarked? There are a variety of answers perhaps the contractor is a jack of all trades, but master of none, or they don’t have the money for detailing (makes you wonder how long they will be in business to honor that warranty). Heating and ventilation is not the area where you want people cutting their teeth in your home. These employees typically do not have a uniform or identification either.
To start with you should definitely be suspicious of any bid that is considerably below all the others. Ask the contractor how long it will take to complete the installation or project. If you get conflicting costs and time lines it is time to find out why.
There may be a good reason for it. Perhaps they are after the quick money and the company with the higher bid completed a thorough inspection and found that your ductwork has rodents living in it and it needs to be replaced. Removing and replacing ductwork is hard work (and it is less desirable when rodents are involved) costs more and takes more time. Take a look at the damaged ductwork below that needs replacement.
A warranty is important. The work should be covered for a specific period of time, however I say this with a caveat – we are receiving calls from other contractor’s customers where the customer purchased because of the warranty but the contractor went out of business (these are 10 year warranties). Often times the longer warranty period is a warning sign of desperation.
It isn’t easy to find a good contractor. Referrals from friends and neighbors are good, but a referral from a person in another trade is probably better. If you can try to see pictures of the work they completed or see it in person.
Contractor photos however, sometimes don’t give an accurate representation of the contractor. Check out the contractor thoroughly. Get quotes from about 3 contractors, it has been our experience that more than 3 confuses the customer and it is harder to keep track of what the differences are. Narrow your search to three before scheduling the appointments.
A good contractor may take a small deposit for the work before the start, this should not exceed $1,000 for a residential job. Paying all of the money up front takes all of your power away. Don’t trust any contractor that demands or even suggests this.
Prices can vary a lot from one contractor to another, sometimes for a reason like higher quality equipment, technician or supplies are used on one job over another. Also, it is important that the contractor has:
- Contractor’s license (this allows protection to the consumer)
- Insured for Workers Compensation (protect yourself if someone gets hurt while at your home)
- Insured by Liability Insurance (protects you from damage to your home)
- Vehicle Insurance (in the event a vehicle related issue occurs)
- Certified by a Third Party organization
- NATE Certification (assures an educated workforce)
There is no reason to pick someone blindly or someone without experience. There are ways of reducing the chances of a problem by checking out the contractor before you hire them. When possible, ask your friends and family to see if they have any experience with a specific contractor.
If you or someone you know lives in the South Bay and you are looking for some furnace or air conditioning (HVAC) work or replacement feel free to check our website and our credentials. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss what is needed.
Cold Craft Website or call at 408.374.7292
If you need help with temperature, contact Cold Craft, Inc.
408.374.7292 or [email protected]