The Dangers of Hiring Cheap Contractors – Part 2

The last thing any homeowner wants is to face the reality of major repairs to their heating, air conditioning and ventilation system. It can be tempting to call the first HVAC repair company you find in the phone book, or go with the one who gives you the lowest quote. But choose the wrong contractor and your penny-pinching can quickly turn into a financial nightmare.
Competition in the HVAC industry is intense, and contractors are willing to make promises that sound unbelievably enticing – free service calls, free service on nights and weekends and incredibly low rates for seemingly complex repairs.
Most people have heard the old adage that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. That holds true for cheap HVAC contractors. Few homeowners really know much about their home’s HVAC components. So it’s easy to find yourself facing a huge bill for what seemed like a minor problem.
HVAC systems in the typical house aren’t overly complicated, but they do require an experienced and licensed technician. Parts for your heating and air-conditioning system don’t come cheap. Experienced and licensed technicians command more than minimum wage. So if a contractor quotes you an incredibly low price – a free service call and a few dollars in parts – they have to be making their money somewhere.
Often, cheap contractors will pull the bait-and-switch – promise a low rate to service your HVAC system and then “discover” an incredibly expensive problem.
Think about it: A service company that charges you a flat rate for attending to a call might find a minor problem with your furnace, one that requires merely resetting a switch. Sure, it might seem steep to pay $100 for a five-minute call, but at least you know your furnace is working properly.
Now, what if you call a company that promises free service? Chances are if they arrive and find your minor five-minute problem, they’ll be tempted to turn it into a major $1,000 problem just to make up for the fact that they can’t charge you a service fee for the call. That leads to unnecessary repairs to an otherwise perfect furnace.
Others may just flip the same switch, but they’ll claim they performed a complex repair and will charge you double what you would have paid to a reputable service company.
Now say your furnace does actually require an expensive fix. Many unscrupulous contracts will spend a few minutes looking over your HVAC system and then choose the cheapest repair possible. This could be exactly the fix you need, or it could be a botched repair job that causes thousands of dollars in damage to your home’s heating and air conditioning system.
Instead of relying on the first name in the Yellow Pages, or the lowest bid, take some time to research contractors in your area. Talk to friends and colleagues and try to get a referral for a professional central air and heating company.
A reputable HVAC contractor will conduct a thorough review of your needs and may even suggest ways to improve your systems efficiency, lower your energy bills, and possibly even get you a tax refund through any local or national energy-saving programs.
Most professional companies don’t charge significantly more than the shady fly-by-night contractors — and in most cases they can end up costing you less and even saving you money.

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