How to Spot Crooked HVAC Contractors

HVAC contractors are generally pretty trustworthy. The vast majority of us went to trade school and are licensed and certified. We treat our customers fairly and play by the rules. Unfortunately, there are some bad actors out there.

Here’s how to tell the phonies from the pros.

Unsolicited Offers

A reputable HVAC contractor simply does not have the time nor the inclination to spam your inbox, knock on your door, or call with offers of free inspections or tune-ups. There’s more than enough work for us to go around, thank you very much. So, if you’re on the receiving end of one of these pitches, especially if it’s coming from a company you’ve never dealt with before, beware: They only want their foot in your door so they can give you a high-pressure sales pitch about upgrading to a new HVAC unit or making some needless repair.

The Old ‘You Need More Refrigerant’ Scam

This is a classic. If the A/C technician offers to refill your Freon (a brand-name refrigerant), use caution. Your air conditioner doesn’t use up refrigerant. It’s a closed-loop system. So if it’s low, there’s a leak. Refrigerant isn’t cheap. If the leak isn’t addressed, you’ll pay for repeated refills. Not cool. Ask the contractor for first locate and fix the leak before he recharges your system.

Finding More Than One Part to Replace

If your HVAC system is malfunctioning, typically it’s because of one faulty part -- the blower motor or start/run capacitor, for example. A contractor who finds multiple parts to replace could be playing an angle. Get a written estimate, including cost and parts, and a second opinion from a reputable company. Most of us will happily provide free estimates.

Asking for Cash Upfront

It’s common for a contractor to ask for a small down payment, but you should only pay the full price after the job is done because a crooked contractor will take the money and run.

Ridiculously Low Prices

Be wary of air-duct cleaning services that cost less than $60. Duct-cleaning is a big job that takes several hours to complete. If the price is too good to be true, they’re only cleaning out your wallet.

Bottom line: Know who your dealing with. The best way to safeguard yourself is to do your homework. Find out if the contractor is licenced, bonded and insured. Check reviews on Google and Yelp and the company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau. Awards from Angie’s List and being a manufacturer-recommended service provider are other good indicators of a top-notch professional.