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How to select the right contractor to install your new system

Your heating and air conditioning systems are what make your home a habitable place to live, until something goes wrong that is. If you’re wondering if you can save hundreds or even thousands by purchasing direct and taking a more hands-on approach in the selection process – the answer is definitely YES, and you’ve come to the right place.

Our customer’s number in the tens of thousands who have saved big, and now you can too. When buying direct you’ll need a qualified air conditioning contractor to pick up the labor where you leave off.

Your equipment manufacturer requires that the system be started-up and checked by a licensed contractor even if you complete some or most of the work yourself. Federal EPA regulations also require a certification to handle refrigerant and to start-up any split air conditioning system containing refrigerant. Some simple tips in searching out that qualified contractor will make the process easier and more efficient.

The heating and air conditioning industry is rapidly adjusting to the fact that you can now log on to the web and shop a huge selection of equipment quickly and efficiently. A few contractors you speak with may not offer installation-only services. If not, keep looking as there are plenty that will. Keep this in mind when talking to your contractor.

We live in a much more efficient shopping environment than ever before. Just be persistent - show them how this can work in their favor and you can both walk away happy.

One of the advantages of buying direct is complete transparency with respect to equipment and labor pricing. The industry is loath to separately reveal the material and labor portions of their pricing and this is a great way for you to get a handle on both – and receive fair, open pricing on both the equipment and the labor. Once the labor time is indentified it is easier for you to gauge the pricing fairness for a set number of hours.

Be fair with them as well. Their pricing includes not just the direct labor costs, but also the cost of overhead, insurance, tools, vehicles, training, taxes, etc. A fair daily labor rate for 2 persons to properly install your system is between $800 and $1500, depending on the time of year, your market, and other factors. Many replacement systems can be installed in one day. Ductwork and tight installations will increase the time and cost.

Finding a Qualified Heating and Air Conditioning Contractor

  1. Begin with people you know . Perhaps you know an electrician, plumber or other tradesperson that you can contact and ask for a referral. Heating and air conditioning contractors are more likely to say yes to your installation-only request if they know who they're talking to. Focus on what's in it for them using this thought:

    “ Mr. or Ms. Contractor: I contacted a source of mine who was able to get me a significant discount on exactly the heating and air conditioning equipment I need. The equipment will be shipped directly to the jobsite. The good news is that I want you to install, service and maintain my equipment for me. I'd like to discuss an annual service agreement on the equipment to keep it in top notch shape and I'd like to contract with you for not only the installation but the required annual maintenance as well.

    This can be a win-win for us both and I'll continue to refer out your services every chance I get. Please quote me a fair price for the necessary labor to install my equipment including everything you think is required, including the drain lines, condenser pads, electrical wiring, etc. I was also told that you can become the preferred installer for any other jobs of this nature in our area if that appeals to you."

If you are blissfully happy with your contractor, please let us know and we will add them to our preferred contractor list for whatever area they service. This list is being compiled and is expected to be available to our customers in the coming months.

Ask about a one year labor warranty as part of the agreement. They will add in a residual amount to cover their risk, but in the end it is worth it to you.

  1. Contact the local air conditioning and heating wholesale supply house. Ask them if they can refer someone to you who they know is reliable and honest. The counter person deals with service techs and installers all day and will definitely know a few people he or she can refer you to, all you have to do is ask. Tell them you are looking for someone who is competent and honest to install, service and maintain your new system.
  2. Leverage your status with your employer's heating and air conditioning service company . Call this company and tell them your employer's name and ask them for a quote. If they don't offer the type of service you need, ask them to refer you to someone they know who does. Ask them to phone ahead for you so the referral is expecting your call. Of course, check with the boss and make sure it's okay ahead of time. Your employers' service company is more likely to help than strangers would be.
  3. Network through friends and neighbors . Ask your neighbors, coworkers, or friends to refer you to someone with whom they have a pre-existing relationship. Ask them to phone ahead so the referral is expecting your call. Always let them know what's in it for them, such as air conditioning service agreements and referrals.
  4. Your local trade schools often have students supervised by a licensed contractor/professor. They may be anxious for the hands-on experience and you'll get a very fair price. Just make sure they are comfortable installing your selection.
  5. Browse the free local publications found in grocery stores , such as The Pennysaver, Treasure Chest, etc. Many times there are service-only companies who are interested in installation and labor, not equipment sales. These smaller companies are usually hungrier and more responsive. Always be sure to check for valid licenses and BBB records to filter out the less reliable contractors.
  6. Finally, always check the following before hiring any contractor:
  • Make sure the contractor, electrician or plumber you are considering is registered and licensed as required by your local state law. Most states require that contractors obtain licensing and registration to perform work. Registration doesn't necessarily guarantee performance, but it does mean the contractor must obtain liability insurance and a surety bond that can protect you if they don't live up to their promises

    For information, log-on to your states' contractor registration web site to ensure their license is valid, and to determine how long the contractor has been in business and whether there have been any complaints against them.
  • Ask for and obtain a copy of their liability insurance policy limits. Contractors are required to carry certain minimum limits of liability in case one of their employees is injured on your property. If their insurance has lapsed, you could become responsible for the costs of the employee's injuries.
  • Insist on a permit if your local municipality requires it. Normally, an inspection is scheduled by a local official to ensure that the completed job meets certain minimum standards. This provides some degree of protection against a defective installation and ensures that it complies with municipal code requirements.
  • We prefer to deal with companies who can certify that all employees who visit your home are thoroughly background checked for criminal and drug violations. If they don't know who's working for them, how can you expect to? Play it safe and insist on background check verifications!

Some final thoughts to remember:

· Ask for references

· Always get 2 bids for the job if possible

· Always obtain a written contract that contains all important aspects of the job

· Be cautious in dealing with a contractor who asks for a large down payment. They don't need a down payment because you already paid for the equipment

· Pay the contractor upon completion of the job, and pay only for the portion of the job that has been completed ·

· Avoid making final payment until you have received a lien release

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