15 Questions to Ask a Contractor

Become an informed consumer. You have to know what to watch out for, and what questions to ask. Many of these questions are also recommended by a consumer protection groups, such as the Better Business Bureau, electrical and gas utilities, trade associations and consumer or home improvement magazines. A good contractor will have no problem answering these questions to your satisfaction.

1. Do you have a permanent place of business and what is the address?

Many authorities recommend that you automatically reject any contractor or handy man working out of their home. Heating and air conditioning is, without a doubt, the most complex home service trade. You cannot risk having an amateur work on your equipment. For your family's safety, choose a contractor that has some substance.

2. Are you licensed by the state to do heating and air conditioning work?

Licensing is required in the state of Michigan. For your protection, automatically reject any company that can't present its license certificate.

3. Do you carry general liability and workers compensation insurance, and can you produce current certifications?

Immediately reject any contractor who can't. Without proper insurance, all their liability lands on your shoulders.

4. How long have you been in business, under the same name?

It is generally safer for you to choose a contractor that has been in operation at least 5 years.

5. Are your technicians certified by the EPA to handle Freon refrigerant gas?

Federal law prohibits non-certified operators. Automatically reject anyone who is not certified.

6. Is your company a member of a national trade association such as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America or Business Services Institute?

Associations provide valuable support and training. The better companies readily invest in membership. Give preference to a company which has.

7. Do the service technicians have digital carbon monoxide analyzers?

Carbon Monoxide is a deadly gas sometimes produced by malfunctioning heating equipment. Automatically reject any company which doesn't have the appropriate test equipment to diagnose this serious problem.

8. Are the service technicians NATE (North American Technical Excellence) certified?

Ask for a NATE-certified technician! Certification means your getting the best installation and service from a highly skilled, knowledgeable and qualified technicians for maximum comfort and economy in your HVAC/R system!

9. Do you provide a computerized equipment sizing and selection calculation while at your home?

This analysis is an essential step when installing new heating and cooling equipment to ensure it is the right size for your home. Consumer protection groups and the equipment manufacturers state that having the computer software and knowing how to use it are indications of a good company.

10. Can you provide names of satisfied customers?

A good company will be organized enough to readily find this information and will have no problem providing you with names of happy customers.

11. Do all employees wear uniforms and ID badges?

This provides some evidence of stability and a measure of security for you.

12. Can your company arrange financing?

Even if you don't happen to need assistance in spreading out the cost of repairs or new equipment, the ability to arrange it for you is a sign of a more stable, customer-oriented business. Look for a company that accepts all major credit cards, and is able to help you arrange an easy payment plan for larger repairs or replacements.

13. What is your guarantee on service repairs? How long is it, and does it cover both parts and labor?

Most companies limit their service labor warranty to only 30 days. Look for a one year warranty on both parts and labor. Ask about longer extended warranties on replacement equipment.

14. Do you have a refund policy if I am not satisfied? What is it?

Unfortunately, few heating and air conditioning companies will provide a refund if you aren't happy. Look for a company that has a clear policy on this, that wants to do whatever is reasonable to satisfy you, and if they can't, will refund your money.

15. Do you have any unresolved complaints with the Better Business Bureau?

While it's almost impossible to keep everyone happy, a good contractor won't let disputes linger. Just to be on the safe side, call the BBB and double check whatever the contractor told you. Note, however, that a clean BBB report does not all by itself mean that a company is a reputable firm.

Picking a heating and air conditioning contractor should not be a random choice. It's important to do your research. Use this list of questions to help identify the right company for you.