I know there are quality HVAC shops and technicians out there in my area, but I can't afford to keep having incompetent, sloppy and expensive service visits. On most things around the home, I do it myself because I can control the cost and quality and if I make a mistake, I know it's my fault and nobody elses' HVAC does take specialized knowledge and generally doesn't act up often (if properly installed and maintained) but when it fails I expect competent service and not expensive parts changers. In five years I've needed two service calls. Once on my boiler and once on my AC and both times the servicing company (different companies) was more interested in taking their sweet time to repair while their sales department tried to convince me of the benefits of installing a new system. Sure, there probably are some benefits to a new system but my current systems were reparable and while not the world's most efficient, they remain suitable for my needs. Now both times I used large shops. The techs seem to care little about meeting appointments or even calling to let you know that they are delayed and when they needed a part the return visit took 3 or 4 days. While I was waiting for them to return with the needed part, the sales department was pushing a new system. Small shops seem to be forever booked and because they have heavy workloads relative to their size, a couple that I spoke to limit themselves to small geographic areas (not a bad idea, especially with high fuel costs).
So, here's the question. Other than just biting the bullet and dealing with the techs that don't care and businesses trying to maximize their revenue, what works for obtaining reasonable service? I'm starting to consider installing a new system and I don't want to establish a relationship with the kind of shops I've encountered so far. Any suggestions? Is there a FAQ on selecting HVAC shops?