Spring is the ideal time of the year to schedule an inspection of your air conditioner before the summer heat sets in. There is nothing worse than having to endure the discomfort of a searing hot day when your cooling system has broken down and you need to call an HVAC company.
We’d like to think that all businesses can’t afford to be dishonest and unethical, otherwise, they’d go out of business very quickly. However, when it comes to air conditioner repairs, homeowners are particularly vulnerable to scams.
Knowing What To Look Out For
The best way to avoid being tricked is to know what to look out for when a repair technician arrives at your home. There are a number of scams that dishonest HVAC companies will use to get a homeowner to spend more money than is necessary.
The Offer of a Free or Discounted AC Service
All companies are in business to make money. Reputable HVAC companies will charge a nominal fee to cover the costs of a call out. If you use them to do repair work, this fee is usually waived or applied towards the repair cost.
A dishonest operator might offer a free call out or a discount on a service just to get their foot in the door. When they have completed their inspection or so-called “service”, they will inform you of the need for repairs that are not necessary.
Replacing Parts That Don’t Need Replacing
A dishonest repair technician may tell you that he needs to replace a part that is in good working order. Once again, he may pressure you into agreeing to the repair by using scare tactics of imminent breakdown or further damage to the system if the part is not replaced immediately.
You should be especially cautious if a technician suggests that several parts need to be replaced. This may be the case if an AC unit hasn’t had a service for a few years. Usually, one faulty part will compromise the operation of the entire system, and that’s all that needs to be replaced.
Recharging Your Refrigerant Without Good Cause
The refrigeration circuit in an air conditioner is a closed system. The only way it would need to be recharged is if it wasn’t charged correctly during installation, or if the refrigerant is leaking from the system.
Some less than reputable HVAC companies will lead you to believe that you need to recharge your refrigerant every year. This is a dishonest way of billing you for something you don’t need.
How to Protect Yourself Against Scams
Caitlin Driscoll, writing for the Better Business Bureau, reports that there are a number of things that you can do to protect yourself and save money:
- Troubleshoot first. Always do some troubleshooting yourself before calling a service company. The fault may be something minor, like a thermostat setting or an electrical circuit that has tripped.
- Check your warranty. Some HVAC systems have long-term coverage for repairs or part replacement.
- Conduct background research. Check the history of potential HVAC contractors. Check their accreditation with the Better Business Bureau, and establish whether they are licensed, insured and bonded.
- Check contractor rates. Before scheduling an appointment, ask what the contractor charges for call-out service and air conditioner repairs.
The best way to protect yourself is through education. Read up on air conditioning and learn how it works. Schedule regular maintenance with a reputable HVAC company to keep your HVAC system in top working condition throughout the year.
My AC broke down 5 days ago; its and came with the home; built during the 80’s. I had searched a few companies and the ones I called charged and evaluation fee which I could not afford at that time. I called a company that waived an evaluation fee. The technician came out, checked the thermostat in the home, at that time I told him the motor was not running at all. He went up on the roof checked the unit; took two photos, came back down and gave me the verdict: ….the motor blew, oil all over the roof and unit; freeon/coolant leak….this is what was told to me,,,it would cost $8200 for a new unit, which incl. the crane, etc…a quick fix/band aid the problem, would cost me $1200…with neither I had. So my next solution was to look for portable AC for my home, at this time I’m still looking and added two Wind Tunnels to the 5 I have running.