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!
It’s the age of YouTube, a golden age for DIY spirits.
Don’t know how to do something?
That’s all right! After all, someone has probably filmed it step-by-step and put it online, right? Why should an AC installation or any other kind of HVAC work be any different?
Honestly, it isn’t. We’ve been on the internet and checked out a few classics using basic searches (AC installation, HVAC repair, and HVAC how-to guide. They all turned up hundreds or even thousands of results. There are videos on installing ductless mini-splits, on installing central air units, on installing heat pumps, and on every imaginable HVAC installation or repair scenario.
Even searching specifically for AC installation in Orlando turned up results, as the Florida climate has specific needs.
All of which begs the question:
Do you really need to pay a pro to complete an AC installation or replacement in Orlando?
With how-to guides online making the job appear as simple as a paint-by-numbers, more and more adventurous DIY-ers are trying their hand at AC installs to keep costs down.
Guess how we know.
If you guessed because they called us to brag about it, you’re very much mistaken. We’ve got lots of calls, but they were from frantic or frustrated homeowners who’d made mistakes. Large or small, they couldn’t figure out where they’d gone wrong.
In a few instances, the mistakes were large enough to be dangerous. We’ve seen house fires started by poorly installed equipment, and we’ve met people who’ve been rushed to the Emergency Room at their local hospital with crush injuries or electrical burns from mishandling HVAC equipment.
The only thing we haven’t seen is a homeowner who made it happen without a hitch, without HVAC training. So while you might think you’re saving money, it’s far more likely that you’re going to cause yourself major headaches.
AC Repair Orlando: The Dangers of DIY HVAC repairs and installations
Dangers To You
You’re dealing with pressurized metal pipes temperature extremes, and combustible fuels or hazardous chemicals. Any of those things could prove exceptionally risky. In fact, most states require a contractor with an EPA certification in order to remove, collect, or dispose of the refrigerant that powers your old HVAC system, and to charge systems.
Additionally, there is a significant electrical risk. Your central air unit is not a small machine. It’s a very large one and it draws pretty substantial power. Furthermore, there are components within your system capable of storing power and holding a charge. It’s very possible to injure yourself, or worse, to start an electrical fire.
How realistic is that danger? There is a fire approximately every 24 seconds in America. Of those, electrical fires are the second leading cause (behind unattended equipment), or 13% of house fires. According to the National Fire Prevention Agency, fires involving electrical failure or malfunction cause 18% of civilian fire deaths and 20% of direct property damage.
Three of five fires occurred outside of the winter months. And while heating equipment is certainly responsible for more house fires than air conditioners, both can cause electrical fires.
As a last alarming statistic, 24% of electrical fires occur between midnight and 8 a – but those fires account for 60% of deaths.
What does that mean for you? It’s possible – even probable – that you could think you’ve done everything right. Your equipment can power on and seem to work as usual. But there might be a loose wire or stripped cable somewhere, and you won’t know to inspect and look for it. You could be lying in bed when the malfunction occurs and sets your home on fire.
Dangers To Your Wallet for a poor AC installation job
We get it: AC repair and installation services aren’t the cheapest thing around. But, and I hope we’re making this crystal clear, a bad installation is far more expensive in the long run than a good one up front. Even if you install everything yourself and it seems to be working fine, we positively guarantee that, without training, you’ve missed something.
Think you’ve got it all? Do you:
Speaking of tools, in order to do an installation properly and be ready to troubleshoot, you’ll need a sizable list of tools. We’re talking:
You’ll also need durable (but nimble) gloves, thick enough to keep your hands safe, but pliable enough to allow you to pick up screws and manipulate small tools. Then, safety glasses (because there will be debris), ear plugs (because it will get loud), and perhaps more.
By the time you’ve purchased all of that, you could have easily paid the labor costs of the installation itself.
Why so many tools? Before you can install a new HVAC unit, you have to remove the old one. That always requires at least a little cutting and grinding of some metal pieces. Then, while installing the new one, some adjustment is required to make things fit together perfectly.
An installation is also the best time to repair and replace damaged or leaking ductwork. In order to accomplish that, you’ll need to be very comfortable with sheet metal work.
Hiring a professional will save you a lot of headaches. You won’t have to purchase a trunkload of specialized tools, you won’t have to bend sheet metal for hours, and (perhaps most importantly) you won’t have to worry about whether the job is done right.
That’s because My AC Repair Orlando’s technicians adhere to all state and local codes, as well as national guidelines like those required to be NATE certified. With a qualified HVAC technician, you get a handyman, electrician, plumber, and AC specialist, all rolled into one, for far less than the cost of the tools you’d need.
Another note on costs! The other thing about a neat, pro installation is that it’s always done just right. That guarantees better performance and lower operating costs. Many jury-rigged and DIY installations cut corners or miss steps, which can lead to the air conditioner performing poorly.
Consider the Warranty on your new AC System
Lastly, it’s important that you consider your warranty. A service provider like My AC Repair Orlando will walk you through the manufacturer’s warranty and back it up with our own repair guarantee. We’ll also provide proof of insurance, which protects you and your home and property during the installation period.
We once fixed a man’s HVAC after he’d quit. His reason? He’d somehow destroyed a 60-inch television and a glass-topped coffee table attempting to repair his ductwork. A proper AC repair or AC installation protects you and protects your warranty.
Air Conditioning Installation - There Are Environmental Concerns
Did you know that older HVAC units can be recycled?
Did you know that they cannot be recycled unless they are prepared properly?
Putting an HVAC unit out on the curb after pulling it out of your house puts it on the fast lane to one of two places: a scrapper’s truck or a landfill.
With regards to scrappers, you can’t guarantee that they’re taking proper legal precautions. The dangerous element in HVAC removal is the refrigerant; our technicians are certified and trained in removal and disposal.
Scrappers? Not likely.
More likely, they break the evaporator coils, let the refrigerant leak run wild, and collect their money from the junkyard. That has a seriously negative impact on the environment.
The same is true of landfills. Some states work to keep that stuff from happening, but it’s just not practical. The only ways to guarantee safe disposal of refrigerant is to have an AC professional drain it properly with a vacuum pump and handle it for you.
AC Installation Orlando: Trust the Experts and Save
We hope we’ve covered this for you. If we haven’t, feel free to give us a call. We’d love to talk to you.
My AC Repair Orlando hires only the most qualified technicians – and they never stop training. Our commitment to customer service requires them to renew their certifications and engage in ongoing education.
That’s why we’re confident. That’s why we offer a risk-free guarantee on all work we perform for a year. That’s why we offer free consults and free home audits and in-person quotes. That’s why we keep our phones on 24/7/365.
If our friends and neighbors here in Florida ever have need of unbeatable service from the most highly trained HVAC technicians in the Sunshine State, My AC Repair Orlando is ready and waiting.
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.