Finding reliable, knowledgeable, accountable Heating & Cooling contractors is not difficult if you know how to look and what questions to ask. If you’re just looking for the cheapest piece of equipment, then a reputable contractor is not really what you’re looking for — there will always be a guy in his truck that will under-quote an established company, but you will also assume all the risk if something goes wrong, or does not function properly, and you are limited to the quality of equipment you can purchase.
Visit the contractor’s office. Considering the size of the investment you are making when investing in new mechanical equipment you might think people would stop by the office to see who they are dealing with. Surprisingly, very few people make the effort to do this. Within minutes of walking in to a contractor’s office you can tell if they are a professional organization, or just a showroom, or just a phone number. We encourage you to stop by our office for coffee and a chat while you are making your decision.
Reputable companies have real business costs: they do not operate out of a basement, they pay WSIB, government taxes, have various certifications, have substantial insurance coverage and, most importantly, are committed to helping you find solutions for your home comfort needs, and then will provide you with service, support and maintenance during the life span of your equipment.
The average life span of most quality heating equipment is 16 – 22 years, for air conditioning it is 12 – 15 years – HVAC contractors in North America have the second highest rate of failure after restaurants with an average life span of 2-5 years.
The information that follows comes from Enbridge Gas Service’s website, and are some of their suggestions for consumers:
How do I ensure I’m dealing with a reputable contractor, and what are some other considerations?
Ask the contractor the following:
- What trade associations are they affiliated with?
(In our industry, the contractor should be able to show they are a member of HRAI / HRAC and there is a certificate showing a current sticker. Look at www.hrac.ca
- How long have they been in business?
(Remember the 2-5 year stat from above and that many operations will claim 25 or 35 years “experience”, but has the business you’re signing a contract with really been in existence for that long? We’ve been in continuous operation since February 1908 and, because there were no formal articles of incorporation in our industry at the time, our Letters Patent are from the twenties. Read the phraseology carefully. And remember, even in today’s tech heavy marketplace, our industry is still “bricks and mortar” – a reputable contractor should be able to provide you with their office location and address.)
- What is the maintenance coverage on equipment and labour?
(All our installations come with 12 months parts and labour. After that, it depends on the manufacturer’s standard or extended warranty and/or which one of our own plans you choose. Remember some contractors will tell you they’re giving you 5 or 10 years parts and labour, but remember the stat from above. Do they actually employ full time service technicians and have they been in existence long enough to prove to you they will be around when you need them.)
- How do I know if a contractor is qualified to install or work on natural gas equipment?
(In Ontario, qualified HVAC contractors must be licensed and registered with the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), the province’s fuel safety watchdog. You can call the TSSA at 416.734.3300)
- How much liability insurance coverage does the contractor carry?
(This ensures that should there be a major issue you will not be stuck with the cost. Most reputable companies carry an umbrella of at least four million dollars worth of insurance.)
- Does the contractor have a current Municipal operating license and WSIB number?
(Any reputable business will be able to show you copies of these licenses and provide you with the appropriate registration numbers.)
- Does the contractor offer financing programs?
(Most companies have to be vetted in order to provide these types of services.)
- Is the contractor local to your area or out of town?
(If a contractor is local to your area they will often have greater knowledge of the types of homes and mechanical systems in your area.)
- Is emergency service available?
(If your furnace stops in the middle of the night you can call our main phone number at 647.931.6155 and the answering service will have one of technicians call you right away.)
- Ask questions and compare not only their prices but the contractor’s experience, services offered, and neighborhood knowledge. Privacy regulations prevent us from giving you other customer’s information, but we can tell you where else on your street or in your neighborhood we have worked.
- Consider three written quotes from reputable contractors and make sure you are comparing apples to apples – a cheap product is not the same as a premium product…and in our business you get what you pay for. Remember a written quote is not a scribbled note, but a contract on letterhead or a formal company document. Remember the lowest price does not always provide the best value.
- Do you know the people you’re dealing with? Everyone knows that large companies can be very difficult to deal with and you may not get the personalized service you may like. Smaller companies may not be able handle your problems as quickly during the peak times of year, but we rely heavily on referrals and recommendations so we have a vested interest in trying to help you find solutions. We are a family owned and operated independent contractor, and virtually every piece of equipment we sell has been installed in a family member’s or employee’s home which makes it easy for us to suggest to you.