Erin Doman on June 22, 2015 29 Comments Your air conditioning system represents a significant investment, and when it isn’t working right it’s important to find a trusted technician to repair it. If you do not do your research on your technician, you could be paying someone for poor work or overpaying a tech for a basic task. Here are 12 things that you should know when hiring an air conditioning technician: 1. Learn More First of all, do some research. Familiarize yourself with your particular air conditioning system so that you know the type, brand, model, and maintenance history. Determine if there are any rooms that are particularly uncomfortable so that you have a rough idea of the extent of the problem. This will help guide your search. Becoming familiar with your air conditioning unit has other perks as well. The more time you spend learning about your specific unit, the more confident you will become when diagnosing any potential problems that you may come across. This knowledge could end up saving you money down the road when you understand how to fix your unit and don’t require a technician anymore. For trickier tasks, however, it is always a good idea to let a professional take over. It may cost you more money upfront, but you will end up saving money by ensuring that the repair is done correctly the first time and in the future won’t require frequent fixes. 2. Look Carefully How do you find a repair company? Start by asking around. See if there are any contractors that your friends or family have experience with and can recommend. If that doesn’t produce any results, try an online search or a review site. These sites are handy because they provide information about the personal experiences of people who have hired the particular technician before, so you know that the information is accurate. If there are poor reviews or no reviews, then that’s reason for concern. Also, check your local Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if the technician you’re considering has any past complaints. Try to find at least three possible technicians for your consideration so that you’ll have multiple options. From there, you can decide based on credentials, availability, or costs. 3. Seek Out Experience Find out how much experience your potential contractor has either by contacting them directly or checking their website. Some relevant questions to consider about their expertise include: How long have they been in business? Are they full-time or part-time contractors? What experience do they have with your system in particular? Do they have any areas of special expertise? What continuing education or training have they had recently to keep up with changing technology? You’ll definitely want a professional, full-time contractor working on your home, and it’s best if they have experience with your specific air conditioning model. If your system has any special features (such as cutting-edge designs or very old parts) then try to find a contractor who has worked on similar systems before. 4. Learn About Legal Compliance Your contractor needs a license. Ask them for their license number—in most areas you can look up business licenses to see if they are current. In some places you may also be able to find records of past jobs. Also check to see if the company has proof of insurance, particularly liability and worker’s compensation coverage. If they don’t, then you could be held responsible for any accidents on your property. There should be a one-page certificate of insurance that you can verify. Finally, be sure to ask the contractor if they obey all health and safety regulations. 5. Look Up References The best way to find out about service quality is by contacting past customers. Ask the contractor for a list of customer references. One great tip is to ask the company only for customers whose names begin with a certain letter of your choice—that way you ensure that you’re getting a random sample of customers, not just their most satisfied clients. If the information is provided to you, try to contact three to five of these former customers, and be sure to ask about things such as how quickly the job was finished, whether it was completed within the budget, and how well their work has held up over time. 6. Be Specific Ask the contractor any job-specific questions you might have. This is where it pays off to do your research—you’ll be able to learn about what options you might have and whether the contractor is equipped to deal with them. Does the job need to be completed quickly? Are there multiple ways to repair your system? What type of equipment do they plan to use? 7. Ask About Brands If you’re looking for new or replacement air conditioners, be sure to ask the technician what brands or manufacturers they carry. If you have your heart set on a specific make or model, then be sure that the company you choose carries that model. If all you’re looking for is a few repairs, make sure they have parts that are compatible with your current brand. 8. Go Green If conservation is important to you, be sure to ask the company about their environmental friendliness. Find out what they do to promote energy and water conservation, and whether they carry Energy Star qualified products. A good air conditioning technician should be able to provide you information about the efficiency of the system and its environmental impacts. 9. Calculate the Cost Get a written, itemized estimate from each potential contractor, and make sure that it includes factors such as the labor and materials cost, potential energy saving, warranties, and tax rebates (available for many energy-efficient options). Keep in mind the difference between the upfront costs and long-term costs. If your energy costs are going to increase after installation, then picking the cheapest technician might not make financial sense in the long run. If the company you’re considering offers any special deals, take those into account too. 10. Find Out About Financing On a related note, find out about the payment schedule. Particularly big jobs might require a deposit and incremental payments, which can complicate matters financially. Be sure that you read all the fine print and find out exactly what costs you will be responsible for; also double-check that you can afford to add the regular payments to your budget. 11. Work Together You should expect an evaluation of your home from any contractor. The technician should spend significant time inspecting your system and house, so that they can determine what your air conditioning needs are. Insulation, square footage, and home layout are all important considerations, as well as whether you have any potential leaks in your duct system. If a technician is not willing to work closely with you and evaluate the situation before the project begins, then that’s a red flag. 12. Get It In Writing Finally, after you choose a technician, make sure that you get a written proposal before you make a final commitment. This contract will help protect you by specifying the job costs, project schedule, specific models, and, in some cases, warranty information. Make sure that all terms, conditions, and oral promises are included. Do not pay in advance, sign an agreement that is incomplete, or sign a contract you haven’t read or don’t fully understand. Be sure to keep a copy of all written documents. Finding the right person to repair your air conditioning unit can seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Use these handy tips to find a good technician and protect your investment in your home.