Keep Cool when Hiring an A/C Service

Your BBB has advice on how to find a trustworthy HVAC business.

As we enter July and the warmest months of the year, it’s the perfect time to make sure your air conditioning system is in good condition and can take the heat. Parts of California have already seen record-breaking temperatures in 2016. If you don’t currently have an A/C unit, you may be thinking about getting one. For those who already have one, there’s no time like the present to schedule a check-up. Regular check-ups and maintenance can help ward off future problems and costly repairs.

Over 11,200 complaints about heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) companies and contractors were filed with Better Business Bureau (BBB) in 2015, up about one percent from 2014. Complaints involve being charged up front for a service that was never done, difficulties with getting refunds, and misleading estimates.

Whether you’re installing a new system, scheduling a check-up, or repairing a broken unit, BBB offers the following advice for hiring a trustworthy HVAC contractor:

  • Do your research. Ask family and friends for recommendations, and make sure to research companies for free at You can also use BBB’s Online Directory to search for a BBB Accredited Business by industry and location. BBB Business Reviews will give you access to customer reviews, history of complaints, and any ad concerns.
  • Get multiple estimates. Try to obtain at least three estimates for the work being done. This will give you an idea of the price range of the service you need. Make sure you understand the reasoning for each estimate and the work to be performed – get all of this in writing. Use BBB Request-a-Quote to receive estimates from BBB Accredited Businesses online.
  • Verify credentials and licenses. Make sure the company or contractor is licensed and insured, and ask for proof of the appropriate documents. California law requires an HVAC Contractor License (C-20) through California’s Contractor’s State License Board (CLSB) for projects that exceed $500. When installing a new HVAC system, you may have to obtain a building permit. Make sure you have the appropriate permits to avoid future fines or issues, and have your city or county perform a final inspection if necessary to ensure you’re meeting all regulations and codes.
  • Request a price breakdown. Are there any trip or service charges or additional equipment costs not included in the quote? Make sure you know what you’re paying for and get this in writing.
  • Get everything in writing! Make sure your contract is in writing and you’ve reviewed it carefully before signing. Information about warranties and guarantees should be clearly stated and understood. Check your current warranty to see if any repairs or replacements could be covered.
  • Pay wisely. BBB suggests using a credit card as it can offer more protection than other forms of payments. You shouldn’t have to pay in full until the work is completed and you’re satisfied. Any scheduled payments or payment plans should be clearly outlined in your contract.

Pearl is the Communications Specialist for Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California (BBB Oakland). She works to advance BBB’s vision of an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers trust each other by being proactive in the community and developing relationships with business and consumer groups. Pearl represents BBB at events throughout the Bay Area to educate a wide variety of people. Pearl also manages BBB Oakland’s social media channels.

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Posted in Consumer Tips, Consumer/Business Services

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