Working with a Heating and Cooling Contractor

green contractorWhether you want to schedule an annual equipment maintenance check-up or you’ve decided that you need to purchase and install new heating or cooling equipment, you will need to hire a contractor.

The following will help you find the right contractor, get quality and value from the contractor and your new equipment, and get a signed agreement on the work to be done. Many of the following recommendations also apply if you choose to work with a contractor to make other home improvements such as home sealing or duct work.

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Choose the Right Contractor to Do Work on Your Home

A reputable contractor should:

  • Perform an on-site inspection of the work you want completed and provide a detailed bid in a timely manner.
  • Demonstrate to you that the company is licensed and insured to repair and install heating and cooling equipment (many states require this).
  • Be able to provide his/her certification for refrigerant handling, required since 1992.
  • Have several years of experience as a business in your community.
  • Provide examples of quality installation of energy-efficient heating and/or cooling equipment work, with names of customers that you can contact.
  • Complete and submit the warranty information card on your behalf.
  • Leave all equipment manuals and provide documentation of installation procedures, including sizing calculations, AHRI certificate, and records of any measurements or testing.
  • Clearly explain the benefits of regular maintenance and help you set up a schedule to keep your system operating at its best.

Sign an Agreement Before Work Begins

Both you and your contractor should sign a written proposal before work gets started.

The agreement or proposal should:

  • List in detail all the work that is being contracted and show you a layout of where the equipment is going to be installed.
  • Specify all products by quantity, name, model number, and energy ratings.
  • Provide manufacturer’s warranty, equipment documentation, and contractor installation warranty information (if applicable).
  • Give the payment schedule.
  • State the scheduled start and completion date.
  • Describe how disputes will be resolved.
  • State the contractor’s liability insurance and licenses if required.
  • Outline paperwork and permits needed for the project.

Heating and Cooling Equipment Quality Installation Checklist

When installing  your new heating and cooling equipment, your contractor should do the following to ensure a quality installation:

  • Provide adequate room around the equipment for service and maintenance.
  • Install and set up a programmable thermostat (if not already in use).
  • Show you how to change the filter(s).
  • Test and verify proper airflow (if a furnace or heat pump).
  • Verify that your furnace or boiler has been tested for proper burner operation and proper venting of flue gases. The vent piping should be inspected for leaks or deterioration and repaired or replaced as necessary.
  • Install a properly matched indoor coil when replacing an outdoor unit. An old coil will not work efficiently with a new outdoor unit.
  • Confirm that the level of refrigerant charge and the airflow across the indoor coil meets the manufacturer’s recommendation. It’s estimated that more than 60 percent of central air conditioners are incorrectly charged during installation.
  • Place the condenser in an area that can be protected from rain, snow, or vegetation, as specified by the manufacturer. If you have a central air conditioning unit, cover your outside equipment during the winter to protect it from snow and ice. Heat pumps need to be left uncovered to properly operate during the winter.
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