A new heating and cooling system for your home is no small investment. And, it plays a significant role in your personal comfort and in the health of your indoor air quality. With a wide range of contractors and available equipment, a smart homeowner will want to research the options to ensure they get the best return on their investment.

Whether it is in the quality of the equipment they sell, the level of service they offer, their degree of expertise, or the amount of training and proficiency their installers have, HVAC contractors all offer something different from one another. Knowing what to look for, along with having the right questions to ask, will help you find the right contractor for you. Make a confident decision using the following practical tips.

  1. Ask family and friends whom they recommend. This might be one of the more reliable ways to find out if a contractor is even worth calling, or avoiding altogether.
  2. Get a proposal from more than one contractor. It’s always good to have a second—or even third—opinion. Some contractors might try to sell you more than you need, while others might sell you less than what is required. Having more than one proposal will give you a more informed idea of what is available and help you determine what will be best for your home.
  3. Know what experience, licenses, certifications, background checks, or other training the contractor has or requires of their installer(s). Ask the contractor how long they have been in business. Not all contractors have the same standards or requirements of their installers. Considering that the installer(s) will be in your home—installing highly valuable equipment that should last and perform for many years—it is not too much to inquire about their qualifications and experience.
  4. Does the contractor respect you and your property? Does the contractor behave professionally, and do you feel confident letting them and their installers in your home for an extended amount of time? Some installers will wear shoe coverings during the initial meeting to prevent dirt or other debris from being tracked around your home. This is a good indicator of how you will be treated. You want to have professionals who respect you and your property, and will leave the work area as clean, or cleaner, than they found it.
  5. Get clarity on the equipment efficiency ratings. The advertised efficiency rating on most equipment can only be achieved if it is paired with complementary equipment (e.g. a new outdoor unit paired with an older indoor unit will not likely be able to achieve its advertised efficiency rating). Ask the contractor for the AHRI matchup number that will show the actual efficiency of the equipment you plan to purchase. Review this Web page for additional information.
  6. The contractor should inspect the ductwork when assessing the air comfort needs of your home. In some cases a damaged, or leaky, ductwork system will need to be replaced before the comfort and efficiency of a new heating and cooling system can be experienced. It is also important that the new equipment be matched to the size of the ductwork. It is not uncommon for a contractor to initially neglect checking the ductwork. This means the price for the new system can be significantly higher than expected, if it is discovered later that the ductwork needs repairing or replacing. Avoid this disappointment by insisting the contractor inspect the ductwork before providing a proposal.
  7. Insulation should be factored into the system requirements. A thorough proposal for a new HVAC system will take into account the wall, attic, and basement insulation, along with the type of windows that are installed. While some contractors may only focus on the square footage, the home’s insulation will also play a role in what size equipment is needed to properly keep the indoor air comfortable. It is also a good idea for you to point out to the contractor any problems areas in the home that you are aware of (i.e. locations in the house that are too hot or cold).
  8. Ask for an air quality inspection. Checking for indoor air pollutants is especially important if you suffer from asthma, allergies, or any other respiratory conditions. There are many air quality solutions available, from high-quality air filters to air purifiers, which can make for a healthier home environment. Some contractors may include a new high-efficiency filter and cabinet with each new system installed. This is an important factor to consider when comparing different contractor proposals.
  9. Ask for options. This is a great time to be buying a new HVAC system with a myriad of new high-efficiency equipment, Wi-Fi thermostats, air filtration systems, mini-splits, variable speed fans, and the list could go on. There may be options, fitting your application, which could add comfort, convenience, efficiency, and cost savings to your life. It’s a good idea to discuss options with a contractor and see how they can be a benefit to you.
  10. Will the contractor obtain the correct permits for the job? It might be tempting to try and save a few bucks by avoiding the proper permits and inspections, but this is not a good idea for a number of reasons. Whether the contractor is trying to save you money or boost his or her own profit, avoiding the permit process simply means they intend to take shortcuts on your system installation. At best, this could have significant repercussions on system performance. At worst, it could be hazardous to the well being of anyone in the home. It is imperative that your contractor obtains the proper permits for your new HVAC system, and has the installation inspected.
  11. Ask about warranties, service, and maintenance agreements. What type of support will you have for your new system? What type of warranty does the contractor and manufacturer provide for new equipment and installation? Does the contractor have service technicians to trouble shoot any issues that may come up with your system? And, what type of training, licensing, and certifications do they have? Does the contractor offer any maintenance plans which are essential in keeping your system running optimally, and are often required for a warranty to be effective?

Without peace of mind, real comfort is hard to come by. Using the above tips you can rest easy knowing your money has been well spent for a new HVAC system that keeps you comfy year round.