Top 14 mistakes to avoid when hiring a commercial HVAC contractor

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When searching for an HVAC company in South Florida, it seems like they are pretty much a dime a dozen. It is definitely a field that is in high demand in a region where Air conditioning is not a luxury but a necessity. That being said, as a business owner or property manager, where budgets need to be met and time spent without air conditioning is simply unacceptable, how does one find an honest, reputable and knowledgeable HVAC contractor in an industry where those traits are hard to come by?

If you are willing to put in the time to do a little research and avoid the following pitfalls, you can hopefully create a long lasting relationship with a reputable HVAC company that will save you thousands in the long run!

1- Not assessing your needs properly

Not properly assessing your commercial HVAC needs can be a costly mistake. Although you will be relying on your HVAC contactor to a certain degree, to provide you with an energy efficiency assessment , as well as what they deem would be needed to fulfill your clients needs as well as your own, you should be prepared with your own game plan as to what exactly you are trying to accomplish with this upcoming project. Whether it is to increase your energy efficiency or have an all encompassing building automation system installed, you should have a general idea as to what you would like seen installed in your building as well as the price range you are looking to spend for the upcoming year.

2- Beware of the upsell!

Having your unit down for even a couple of hours can be unbearable and unacceptable by your clients in South Florida. Many HVAC contractors will come in and will automatically tell you that there is nothing that can be done and the unit needs to be replaced. Although this may be true for some of the units, the reality of it is that it is definitely not the case for all of the units. Unfortunately, we can chalk this up to a technician trying to sell a new unit for the commission or simply the fact that they do not have the expertise to repair your HVAC equipment, so they automatically state that it needs to be replaced.

3- Only getting one opinion

Like any diagnosis you receive, it is always wise to receive a few different opinions. This will help prevent a contractor from overcharging you if they perceive that your situation is urgent or if they feel that you are not familiar with your equipment and what it is that you are looking to install.

4- Assuming all HVAC contractors are the same

Although you may see certain HVAC companies more often than others, that does not mean that they have the correct experience you are looking to obtain for your HVAC equipment. The majority of HVAC companies mainly handle residential equipment. Understandably so, since most training and licenses normally are for residential equipment. Commercial equipment is a completely different animal. Do your research and ensure that whatever company you are looking to bring in has the experience in not only commercial equipment, but your specific HVAC equipment as well.

5- Not asking for references

A good salesperson will say anything to convince you that they are the right person for the job. As the consumer, it is your job to do the research and follow up with the potential clients that have had a personal experience with the company. This process will give you peace of mind in ensuring that the contractor that you are dealing with is trustworthy and true to his word. You can also look up the company through the Better Business Bureau. This will also show you if there are any disputes against the company and how and if they were settled.

6- Not checking reviews or googling the company

Who hasn't googled something when doing research on a project or item. The same goes for companies. Try to find as many reviews as possible. Whether it's through google, yelp or Facebook, this should give you an additional resource, allowing you to make a more educated decision concerning the company you are looking to hire.

7- Obtaining an estimate over the phone

No matter how good a contractor is at bidding, they should never offer a bid over the phone without inspecting the unit first. An accurate bid will take into account the location of your unit as well as include a thorough inspection of your system. This ensures that the correct recommendation is made as well as an accurate proposal. A phone bid will more than likely be lower in order to obtain the job and then have a sub sequential increase in price due to "Unforeseen issues" that would arise during the process that could have been prevented if properly inspected and quoted to begin with.

8- Not checking on license or insurance

Ensuring that a company is licensed and insured should be your first step in this process. An HVAC company needs to be licensed in order to perform certain work on the field. There are different levels of license that allows different types of work to performed. Checking with the state to ensure that a license is valid and associated with the company is a simple process that can be checked by going to www.myfloridalicense.com. Going to sunbiz.org to look up and see that a company is in good standing with the state is the next step. Asking for a copy of their liability insurance, workers compensation insurance and automobile insurance are items that a contractor should easily have at their disposal and should be able to add you as an additional insured if working on your property.

9- Assuming the labor warranty is implied

Once your new unit is installed, you may think that there is nothing to worry about . Unfortunately, that is not always the case. When making a decision on a contractor, check the fine print to see how long the labor warranty is in effect. Something as simple as a leak in the unit will add up in cost if it occurs numerous times at no fault of your own.

10- Doing research on the equipment being installed and the warranty offered.

Like any product, certain products have a better reputation than others. HVAC equipment is no different. However, warranty may be something to consider when making a final decision. There are smaller HVAC equipment companies that have reliable units but may not have the brand name allure like the big name brand units but make up for it with their warranty and price differential. It may be something to take into consideration if it will allow you to save a significant amount in the long run with the peace of mind knowing that the unit is covered if anything were to occur down the road.

11- Thinking you do not need a preventative maintenance contract since the unit is new

Although you just finished spending a large amount of your budget dollars on a new unit, it is not the time to neglect your unit. If anything, it is the best time to show extra special attention to your unit in order to prolong your unit's efficiency and life span. This is often overlooked causing additional issues in the long term and premature replacement of your new unit.

12- Cheapest is not always the best

Once you have done your research and have narrowed it down to the final 2, it is always tempting to go with the cheapest price. First, make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. A contractor may exclude certain items to come in lower than the competition in their hope that you are only looking at the bottom number instead of the overall process. Are each of the companies including comparable equipment and installation? Are they including permit fees, start-up cost and any additional miscellaneous costs that may be associated with the project? Are they making sure that whichever piece of equipment that is installed is compatible with your current controls system and ensuring start-up is done with your building automation system as well? The more detailed the proposal, the more informed and educated you can be when choosing the right contractor. A company may be a few thousand dollars cheaper but what does their track record say about them and their technicians. This is where checking references becomes an essential component in the vetting process. Are you willing to save a few thousand dollars now which may cost you much more than that in the long one if the unit is not installed correctly or the wrong piece of equipment was installed in order to save a few dollars to the bottom line. Although everyone has a budget that needs to be maintained, making a smart educated decision, can potentially save you numerous expensive headaches in the future. Going with the more expensive company won't guarantee that you will be headache free either, however, going with a company with a good track record will help ensure a smoother, hassle free process.

13- Choosing a company with a poor response time

Customer service and communication is essential with any type of construction/HVAC project. As a property manager or owner it is imperative that you are kept in the loop and involved throughout the whole process. Is the company sending out a different technician each time? Are they even familiar with your system? Do they have the qualifications to ensure that work is being done correctly? Are they checking in with you and giving you a full report on what is occurring in the building? As simple as it sounds, communication and good customer service is something that is often overlooked and undervalued in the field. Make sure that when choosing a company, that there is good communication and response time from the moment that you begin interaction.

14- Not negotiating

If there is a company that has excellent customer service and reviews that you would prefer to use, it may not hurt to ask if their price is at all negotiable. Smaller companies may be more willing to negotiate a price if it means helping you stay within budget. Drastic reductions in price may not be as feasible, but a compromise in the middle may be a more likely solution for both parties.

At the end of the day, it is important to take into consideration a contractor's track record, customer service and experience. By avoiding these common pitfalls and doing a little research, finding the right HVAC contractor will be easier for you to find to fulfill your HVAC commercial needs.

If you have a commercial facility in South Florida, and are seeking a reputable contractor to install or service your HVAC equipment, feel free to contact AC Power & Comfort, to assist you with all your commercial and industrial HVAC needs.

To receive a free estimate, in Broward please call (954)204-8399 or (561)405-5946 for Palm Beach county.