3 tips to avoid poor HVAC service

3 tips to avoid poor HVAC service

When cold weather hits, many homeowners turn on their heating system for the first time only to discover that it does not work. This usually leads to a call to a local HVAC company to try and determine what the problem is. 

There are two types of technicians in the HVAC business: service techs and parts changers. Service techs use their diagnostic equipment and knowledge of HVAC to diagnose the problem and repair it the first time. 

Parts changers, on the other hand, just continue to change parts until they change the right one. Of course, the consumer always pays for each and every part that they change until they happen to change the one that was actually broken. 

So how can the consumer prevent himself or herself from being taken advantage of by the parts changer if they know little about HVAC? Below are three tips to help protect you from poor HVAC service.

1. Pay attention and ask questions.

First, pay attention to what is going on. Any good reputable technician will not be offended if you look over their shoulder. I always use this opportunity to educate my customers about what is going on. They appreciate it, as it puts them at ease and helps them trust me. If you start asking questions and the tech starts fumbling around for answers, it’s not a good sign. 

2. Beware excessive part changing.

Second, if a part is changed and the furnace still does not work, that part is probably (but not definitely) not defective. Beware of the parts changer who changes two or three parts and then proclaims the problem fixed. Chances are that two out of the three parts were not defective at all. 

3. Ask to keep any defective parts.

Finally, always make sure that the technician leaves the defective parts that he changed with you when he leaves. Last year, I was called in after another local contractor had changed out a furnace circuit board for a customer, charged them 500 dollars and then left with the furnace still not working. I was able to diagnose the problem as a bad flame sensor, and in 15 minutes, I had repaired the furnace.

Fortunately, the customer had told the parts changer to leave the "defective" board, and when I reinstalled it, the furnace operated perfectly. The customer then called up the other company and was able get a full refund and an apology. 

I would like to encourage people to trust their gut instinct. I can't tell you the number of times that I have gone in for a second opinion and the customer told me, "There was just something about that last technician that kind of bothered me." 

At the end of the day, the consumer is still reliant upon the competence and integrity of the technician in their home. Even good companies can at times employ a poor technician, and not everybody bats a thousand all of the time. However, remembering to follow these simple steps will give you a much better chance for a positive experience.  

About this Angie’s List Expert: Steven Conner is the owner of Comfort Connection, providing heating and air conditioning services in Portland, Ore. Starting in 1998, Comfort Connection has specialized in HVAC service and repairs, gas and electric furnaces, central AC systems and heat pumps. They are also a recipient of the 2012 Angie’s List Super Service Award.

As of September 6, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.