Selecting The Right Air Conditioning Contractors

Finding the right Air Conditioning Contractors is not always an easy thing to do. Since most of us don't know a whole lot about the different components and how they work, we are, generally, at the mercy of the technician. Add to this, the fact that problems usually occur at the times we need air conditioning the most (when it's hot); and we're usually making the decision under a degree of stress. If you find yourself in this situation, there are some measures you can take to protect yourself and to assist you in selecting the right air conditioning contractors for the job.

  • Troubleshoot it Yourself-You can save some time and money by checking out some of the more common problems before calling a repairman. This will assure you of not being charged a $100 service fee because a breaker was tripped or the filter need to be changed.
  • Get Some Referrals-Ask friends, neighbors, and relatives if they know or have used an air conditioning contractors and could recommend someone. This is still the most reliable way to find any contractor. Though it's not 100% fool proof because the person making the recommendation may know less than you and may have made a bad decision without knowing it, they may, at least be able to vouch for the reliability and helpfulness of the service company. 
  • Pay Attention-It's your home and money. Walk with the technician while he looks at your system and ask him to show you the malfunctioning parts or where the repairs need to be made. Many times, homeowners (myself included) have a tendency to point the repairman in the direction of the unit and then leave him to do his work. The problem is; some shady contractors may find a simple fix and return with the bad news that we need an entire new system. A couple of years ago, an elderly aunt of mine called an air conditioning contractor to her home. After spending about 20 minutes outside at the unit, he told her that the entire system needed to be replaced at a price of $4500. Because the system was several years old she did not find this unreasonable and told them to do the work. In a phone call with my mother later; she mentioned the episode. My mom, thinking this sounded like a lot of money, asked me if I knew anyone who could look and give her a second opinion. I had a friend, who is in the business, go by only to discover that the power to the condenser had been turned off. After a $ 75 charge for adding freon, the unit has been running fine for almost 2 years. If something doesn't seem right, don't be pressured into a hasty decision. 
  • Investigate-Do some research on the companies you're calling. I know this is easier said than done when it's 95 degrees and you're sweating, but the extra effort will be worth it. Check with the Better Business Bureau or local consumer advocacy groups. A popular resource for finding reliable, honest service companies is Angie's List. For a few dollars a month you can get access to thousands of unbiased reviews on a variety of services from electricians to mechanics and even doctors.
  • Research the Price-This is difficult to do when you're dealing with air conditioning. Having multiple contractors look at the project may not be an option when you're without air in the heat of the summer. If the price is within the $ 200 to $ 400 range, it may be best to just pay and have the problem resolved. After all when you consider that there is generally at least a $ 100 service fee, you're probably not getting out for less than that. If, however, the price approaches $ 1,000 or more, get a written quote and at least do some price checking over the phone. If it's necessary to replace major components of the system, get at least 3 quotes because prices will vary greatly between contractors. 
  • Check on Warranties-If you are having new equipment installed, always ask about the warranty on the parts and labor and get it in writing. The factory warranty on equipment is usually 5-10 years and you should get at least 1 year on labor.

I hope these tips will be helpful when making these tough decisions. Just remember, this will usually be a stressful time and that's when we tend to make hasty or bad decisions. It might be better to spend a night with relatives or friends and get a second opinion than make an impulse choice and risk hundreds or thousands of dollars.

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