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Last year I received a service call from a customer whose air conditioner kept freezing up, everyday, since he built the home 3 years before. He had given up on the constant, weekly return visits from the original installer without any resolution. So he called us in to get some fresh eyes on the system.buyer-beware2Right off the bat I found multiple issues, the entire HVAC system was designed completely backwards. It's a 2 furnace system, all well and fine, unless you have 4,200 square foot house and you decide to put the main and top floors on one system. Then we have problems. The home should have been split up as follows - main and basement on one furnace, top floor on one of it's own. The top floor of any home is the most difficult area to regulate cooling in and as such should be on it's own dedicated system. At a total of 3,800 square feet these two spaces require at the absolute minimum 5 tons of cooling (the size of the AC unit). The AC installed now is a 4ton. There's your freeze up diagnosis. The original unit is only good for a maximum of 3000 square feet if we're being generous. It's also a single stage unit trying to cool a multistage HVAC system. The top and main floors have their own individual zoning dampers and thermostats. This allows each area's temperature to be controlled independently with their own thermostat even though they are supplied by the same unit.. In Short, the unit is like Ant-Man trying to fight The Hulk with one arm tied behind it's back. It's just not going to work. When the customer built his home 3 years previously, he decided not to go with the builders' suggested HVAC Contractor and hire his own third party installer. There is nothing wrong with doing this and it CAN actually save you bundle. Home builders generally overcharge for everything extra you decide to add to your home. This is especially true for HVAC additions and changes. Your home builder will charge you up to double for an AC installation than most any contractor you hire separately would. The issues arise when you hire a contractor based on price alone. The installing contractor was the only one interviewed by the customer, the price sounded great, so he decided to hire them. We all know what happened next, three years of an AC system that rarely worked for more than a week and never worked on days above 25 degrees. Kind of useless right? So what should he have done?

The best thing he could have done was to get at least three quotes. Keep in mind you want to try to pick three companies who are in the same league as far as size and reach. Meaning, don't get 2 quotes from small companies with only a few employees and then another from a national company with 1000 technicians and think you're going to get a good idea of how much this should cost you. The price points are going to be so far off it will be hard to determine which price is too good to be true or which is overly expensive.

When you're comparing your quotes don't just compare pricing. Compare the equipment the company is trying to sell you. Make sure that all three companies have offered comparable equipment in terms of cooling or heating capacity, staging, sizing, etc.. If two companies offer you a 3 ton unit and the other offers a 1.5 ton, it of course it will be drastically less expensive, but chances are it's not going to work properly. Remember not all brands are created equal, there are a select few like Lennox, York, Carrier, & Trane who are the gold standard. If you go with any of these you're generally safe as far as quality. Each of these brands has it's own affordable options. Other brands such as Goodman, Coleman, Payne, Rudd - (there are seriously a ton of them) - may be more affordable, but when it comes to performance, reliability and quality they don't come close to the big four I mentioned earlier. HVAC equipment as a whole is expensive either way and your HVAC system is something you probably don't want to reach to the bottom of the barrel for.

Finally look at the warranties for the equipment and labour. Most equipment comes with a 10 year parts warranty (this is pretty standard across all brands) with at least a 1 year labour warranty. The real labour warranty is offered by your installer. At Lendrix we offer 2 year labour warranties with base model equipment and up to 5 years labour warranty with upgraded equipment. We do this at no additional charge to our customers because we believe in our abilities as installers and in the equipment we sell. Be wary of the words "free warranty" when it comes to labour. Some companies certainly offer a free labour warranty but more often than not you're paying for it somewhere. If you have two quotes from identical companies and one offers a 1 or 2 year labour warranty with an installation price of $3,300 while the other, providing the exact same equipment and services offers a "Free" 10 year labour warranty with a price of $4,000..... It becomes clear what "Free" really means.

In short, always get multiple quotes from comparable contractors. Make sure to do your research on the equipment offered by each company, along with equipment parts warranty and the labour warranty offered by your installer. Don't just choose your installer based solely on price. Look for things like HomeStars reviews, google and Facebook reviews and ask for references. Ask lots of questions and compare the answers from all three contractors and make sure they roughly match the answers of the other two. Ask about the sizing of the equipment and how they determined this is the right size unit for your home. Make sure that the AC unit will match the furnace you have installed (not by brand, but by size and capacity).

Never go with the first quote you receive unless you have first hand knowledge of the company you're hiring. Such as referrals from friends with similar homes to yours, or if you've used them successfully in the past.

Hopefully these small tips will help you to better understand what to look for when hiring an HVAC (or any other) contractor.

If you'd like to book and estimate with the Lendrix HVAC Services team,

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Article by Justin Meagher

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