View Full Version : How to find an HVAC Contractor
05-06-2011, 09:48 PM
I am looking to improve the cooling and heating performance in my 1920s or so 1200sf SFH. I belong to Angie's List and search there, reading several pages of highly rated HVAC contractors. I select 3 based on reports of work that sounds similar to what I might need.
I have also done some research online to prepare for the consultations. I am expecting Manual J calculations, questions about hot and cold rooms, what improvements are in the house, that sort of thing.
The contractors come - all nice, friendly guys, willing to talk to me about HVAC from their perspectives. No Manual J calculations even after I ask. We do these houses all the time type responses. Three different recommendations on what to do - one says not enough return airflow with returns not properly sited, one that I need to zone, one that ... well, just wanted me to buy stuff. All did say that my current set-up was undersized and too old (11 years, 2 ton condensor, 80,000 BTU 2 stage furnace, 2.5 ton coil).
More research online, especially in forums such as this one. ACCA checklist recommended. Go to ACCA org, see the checklist - looks good - use the find contractor link and there are the three contractors, amongst many others.
How do I find contractors like those I read on this forum - people who care enough that they write about what they do or offer advice freely? People, I presume, who will do the calculations, talk to me about all those little details that are discussed here, and who will give professional advice.
Or do I have to phone and meet every contractor until one clicks and be thankful I found them?
Any advice then on how to find an HVAC contractor please? By which I mean, how do I find the really good contractors that will not require a hint from me to do a load calculation?
Thanks in advance. My email is in my profile if you would prefer to contact me privately.
05-06-2011, 10:09 PM
Unfortunately great contractors are hard to find. I would shy away from someone who says "We do these houses all the time" They are just guessing. You can do a load calc with a link you can find somewhere on this site. I would talk to your freindds and neighbors about contractors they have used. You might have to call everyone in the book, but when you find the right one it will have been worth the search. Good luck. (I don't know if any membrs here are from DC, but I'm sure they will chime in soon enough)
05-06-2011, 10:40 PM
I have a question...what was the inhome sales consulatation like?
Did they take measurements, draw your house on paper or software?
I ask because I am ignorant on DC contractor Rules and Laws...but will say, if you sign a contract with written expectation of Manual J and Manual D on deposit...they should provide it then and there. Look...we don't always provide our homework for others to see and base their work off of..that would be unfair to both you and us. And yes, the Load Calc is huge, but they all should be providing an equipment specification on their proposal. The fine print on those who do not tell you the specifications...it may change once they make appropriate calcs...but your price should not change based on that at all (and that should be in writing)...they are taking a calculated risk. But yes, once you sign a contract and proposal and provide a deposit, you are entitled to that information. Here in my state, I have to provide it on your request within 3 business days...it just happens to coincide with the 3 day right to cancel...so I would contractural request 2 days.
05-06-2011, 10:58 PM
I probably should have mentioned 3 day right to cancel is normal rite of business....it is federal, but some states are more restrictive..but towards the information the business has to pass a litmus test...so we all have our version of 3 day right to cancel. Unless you waive this right...it exists.
05-07-2011, 02:00 PM
Thanks for the encouragement NCHeat.
I was not expecting an in home sales consultation. I chose the company because it has a good website with points about HVAC that (I thought) addressed my concerns. They have good warranties in addition to those of the manufacturers including a 100% satisfaction guarantee. The guy that visited was friendly and not too pushy. Looked at the condensor and line condition outside, then asked to look around the whole house before going to the attic. He checked the systems there and made a cursory inspection of the ducting that was immediately in the vicinity. No measurements. I volunteered information about how the current system performs and explained the improvements to the house I had made to try and keep heat/cooling in. I asked about a Manual J calculation and explained my concerns about, seemingly, too much suction occuring in the return vents.
He had manufacturer information cards for Amana, control pads, and UV light and Aprilaire systems. I had some technical questions about his recommendation (such as, why was he recommending a certain set-up -- perhaps not that technical really) and he called a colleague that manages the installation process. That person made a different recommendation (2 ton, 2 stage condensor to an oversized 3 ton coil) which the in home guy wrote up as a quote. It is, possibly, a good price. I asked for model numbers to be emailed but he didn't want to do this - the handwritten quote on a pre-printed form was to be all that I got and looking at it now, would be the basis for signing a contract. There is a sentence above where I would sign that says: "We have agreed that the above system was specifically designed for our home." With more about health, comfort, efficiency, investment and so on.
The consultation lasted just short of 3 hours and was pleasant enough. There was some pressure to take the UV lamp system (very high 3 figures plus annual bills for lamps) and an Aprilaire system.
I'll come back to your other points in a separate post.
05-07-2011, 02:15 PM
DGIO asks some general questions in one of his responses that I would like to comment on and perhaps ask others for feedback.
None of the contractors measured room sizes, window sizes, counted the windows or asked me about the glass or gas in the double glazing. One counted the supply registers and he looked carefully at the flex duct sizing for return and supply. He recommended increasing the size of the returns and re-position the first floor return from ceiling to floor. There were no drawings and no software was used.
Which brings me to some further questions of my own. It seems to me that the required calculations for a proper HVAC assessment are time consuming for contractors. The ACCA checklist makes the point that room by room is better than whole house, so presumably this will take more effort. Is it industry practice to charge for these calculations and offer to set the money against any subsequent order? How do you balance the cost of this process against the chance of not getting any return? After all, the ACCA list has space for scoring 3 contractors, so 2 will miss out.
From my perspective, I would not expect a contractor to give me their calculations until after contract. I would expect a contractor visiting me for the business to tell me about the process and show me (by measuring, asking questions) that they are collecting information for a load calculation. And given my ducting concerns, I might even expect that to be calculated (or be told that it will).
So how should I approach the contractors that I am about to phone? Tell them that I wish to use the ACCA checklist? Say that I am looking for load calculations to be backed up with detailed discussion after contract award?
Or is there a better or more preferable approach? And I am prepared to pay for what I get - I fully understand this is a business etc. Indeed, since I am looking to do an extension in the very near term, it seems to me that for the right contractor and a job that goes well, we will be forming more than a one off job relationship.
Your thoughts and advice?
Powered by vBulletin® Version 4.2.0 Copyright © 2013 vBulletin Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.