As longtime HVAC contractors serving the Orlando area, there are few things that grind our gears more than hearing about unlicensed contractors and shady AC companies ripping off our community.
That’s the problem with metropolitan areas: there are hundreds of HVAC companies to choose from. How do you know you’re getting a good technician?
Well, we have an article for that, and you can find it in our blog archive.
In this article, rather than focusing on how to go about choosing your HVAC contractor, we’re going to talk about how to see a scammer coming. So we’ll cover transparency, what questions you should be asking, and most importantly …
Orlando AC Repair Warning Signs
Florida requires AC contractors to be licensed. That means going through a 4-step process, including pre-approval from the state, exam prep, taking the exam, and providing the state with a completed application and proof of insurance.
Not every contractor out there bothers with this. Contractors without licenses, of course, are shady at best, and dangerous at worst.
What kind of licenses are there? Florida offers a Class A and a Class B air conditioning contractor license. Class B licenses are limited to 25 tons of cooling and 500,000 BTU of heating in any one system. They’re required to know how to install, maintain, repair, fabricate, change, expand, extend, or design such systems – including duct work.
Class A has similar requirements, but those contractors are not limited in size or scope.
Most residential guys are going to be Class B, and that’s fine! Applicants to acquire this license have to document four years of experience in order to even take the examinations.
If that seems a little unreasonable, try and remember that an HVAC contractor is part electrician, part plumber, part heating and air conditioning specialist, and part troubleshooter. You don’t want someone who bought a pickup truck and a toolbox and watched a lot of YouTube instructional videos on air conditioning repair and installation.
You want a professional.
Common AC Repair Fraudulent Practices in Orlando
We see a lot of the same scams being perpetrated against unsuspecting homeowners. It’s very common to see contractors upselling or selling unnecessary parts, or pushing homeowners to upgrade a system that is still working fine. It’s also common to hear fake “black mold” scares used to browbeat homeowners into paying through the nose.
These guys give the rest of us a bad name.
At AC Repair Orlando, we don’t believe that’s how business should be conducted. We’re big believers in keeping things above board. After all, a happy customer is a repeat customer, and there’s nothing we like better than building lasting relationships.
Tips to Avoid Being Scammed on your next AC Repair
Our business has a call center, and we have representatives for customer service (including technicians) and for sales. Of course, not everyone knows the difference between a customer service team and a telemarketing operation, which can make things difficult for reputable businesses.
How does this tie into the ripoffs? Well, frankly, there are a lot of shady call centers purporting to represent legitimate HVAC businesses. A pretty common tactic involves cold calling prospects (or victims, if you like) claiming to be a representative from a reputable company. They’ll offer things like free inspections or discounted services or tout special deals in order to gain access to your home.
At that point, most of them will claim to have found toxic mold or major HVAC issues and will try to sell you costly parts and services, usually to be performed on the spot.
Caller ID is your friend here. So is getting the rep’s name, hanging up and calling the company’s main number. After all, if they’re really who they say you are, you’ll be able to reach them again.
Before you make any hiring decisions, you should be asking to see their papers.
Don’t worry – this is an expected part of our job. That’s why our technicians keep copies of all licensing, insurance, and certification paperwork handy in their work trucks! Transparency is key.
It’s also good to verify the info on their business card. Is there a business phone number and an emergency cell phone number? Is there a corporate email address?
If you’re seeing an email address that seems suspicious, that’s a red flag. Fully licensed HVAC contractors with reputable companies rarely have “JoeCoolHVAC@genericemailservice” or a Gmail or Yahoo account on their business card.
Another thing to check immediately is the vehicle. Is it neatly branded or wrapped? Trustworthy companies work hard to build their brand. Typically, that means that the company’s name and contact information will be very prominently displayed on the vehicle your technician arrives in.
Are there exceptions? Yes. Sometimes, emergencies happen. If we have to send a technician on an emergency call while they’re on their day off, they might have to use their own vehicle to get there. It’s also possible that a truck in our fleet might be in for repairs. It does happen.
But our technicians are also uniformed, as a second line of defense for you. If a technician shows up for a call in a personal vehicle, without a uniform, you should immediately contact the HVAC company you hired via their emergency line and confirm that the technician works there.
So, in short, do your due diligence. Check the papers, check the vehicle, check the nametag, and don’t let anyone in your house who you aren’t sure is supposed to be there.
You should also be checking the companies online reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp!, Home Advisor, Angie’s List, and so on. You’ll want to make sure that reviews are positive, and more importantly, that they’re consistently positive. Some companies hire internet marketing firms to drum up fake reviews, but it would be incredibly unlikely that they would do so across all of those review sites.
It’s also helpful if the company is active on social media, as it tells you that they’re smart, active, and driven.
You hear this in every industry, but in one as competitive as HVAC, it really matters. HVAC companies and AC repair technicians are always battling for the best prices and the best customer service.
If you’re quoted a price that seems a lot higher than you were expecting, there is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion. Most companies (ourselves included) will provide an estimate free of charge.
You should be wary of big-ticket parts replacements when the technician is pressuring you, especially if they conveniently have the part you need in their truck. Now, sometimes, that might just be good luck, but more often, it’s a scammer who has already planned to sell you the (probably used) compressor they have in the truck.
An honest, trustworthy, reliable AC repair company will never try to pressure you into huge repairs or unnecessary purchases. Instead, we’ll show you what’s going wrong, and give you the best advice we can.
And then we’ll let you decide what to do next.
AC Repair Orlando - A Note on Pricing
Don’t always go for the cheapest. We won’t always be the cheapest, because cheap isn’t our goal. We’ll also never be the most expensive because we want to help as many people as we can. We aim to be as cost-effective and budget-conscious as we can. We want to give you maximum bang for your buck, and so we put a premium value on our service.
Cheap repairs don’t last as long, and expensive repairs aren’t always being done right, either.
So what do you do?
Ask. Us. Questions.
No matter who you’ve hired, find out what things cost and why. A good AC contractor will answer all of your questions with a smile, and maybe mention a few things you forgot.
Get the Air Conditioning Repair Details In Writing
This applies to absolutely everything. HVAC pricing and policy can be mysterious if you’re not in the industry. Don’t let any of that worry you. Just get everything in writing, and ask your AC repair contractor to explain everything to you.
Why take our word for it, when we work for you?
Things you should get in writing:
And a quick note on warranties: never, ever hire a contractor who doesn’t guarantee their work. When we say never, we mean never. Like we told you, if you google “AC repair near me” here in Orlando, you’re going to get dozens of hits. One of them will guarantee their work, so why settle for less?
Before you ask:
Yes, we back up all of our work. Give us a call and ask about our worry-free guarantee anytime.
My AC Repair Orlando has been serving Orlando and the state of Florida for many years. Our unbeatable technicians can handle any job, quickly, quietly, and on your budget.
Drop us a line today to find out more!
Michael Haines is a veteran A/C contractor and founder of the largest and oldest e-commerce site in the heating and air conditioning industry. His HVAC websites have served 10's of thousands of customers.