Advice from the Field: Contractor Q&A

We asked two licensed contractors to share some advice and best practices on things homeowners can do to prepare for a contractor visit, maintain their system, and have an overall positive experience with their air conditioning and heating system.

The contractors contributing to this article are Ray Isaac, of Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning in Rochester, NY, and Dave Hutchins of Bay Area Air Conditioning in Crystal River, FL.

Q: How can a homeowner find a good contractor?

A: (Dave) There are obviously referrals from neighbors, and people trust who they know, but just make sure who they are recommending is capable of providing the service you need. Installing ducts is a lot different than replacing a compressor. Also, be sure to go with a licensed and certified contractor.

(Ray) I tell people that referrals are good, but also look to see which contractor is active in their local community.  A company sponsoring a little league team or a cancer walk is going to be more committed to good service than a general name in the yellow pages. Above all else though, you want someone who has the latest certifications from NATE (North American Technician Excellence) or similar organizations.

Q: What should a homeowner not attempt to fix themselves?

A: (Dave) Other than basic maintenance, please don’t fix anything.  Today’s equipment is very sophisticated with electronics and damaging it can cause an even more expensive problem.

(Ray) Basic maintenance items like changing the air filter, or trimming brush away from the condenser unit is fine, but anything else you should let a professional handle.

Q: What other general advice can you give?

A: (Ray) If you’re looking online for a contractor it’s a pretty good sign you aren’t maintaining your system enough.  The best time to find a contractor is before you need one.  Call and ask for a system checkup and find a contractor you can trust. You know where you get your car’s oil changed and you should also know who to call for your AC maintenance.

(Dave) If you’re shopping for a contractor and don’t have an immediate need, call them on a Sunday afternoon and see what kind of response you get.  Many advertise weekend and 24-hour service, and it’s best to test that out before you’re in a crisis.

Have a contractor you think we should talk to?  Let us know!

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