Technicians who work on air conditioning equipment are not unlike mechanics who work on your car or truck. Until you find one you can trust, you’re always a little bit suspect.
Are they any good?
Can you trust them?
Beginning with this post, we begin a series looking at heating, ventilation, and air conditioning contractors and service and repair technicians.
Cars and Air Conditioners
To give you some perspective on why air conditioning contractors and service and repair technicians are important to your home, consider:
There are about six HVAC equipment manufacturers in the United States, but they operate under more than 150 brand names. So why are Trane, Carrier, and Lennox perceived as the best? What about all those other names? How can you tell the difference between features and functions, manufacturing quality, warranties, and so on?
It’s not like you’re buying a car.
Buying a car is easier.
The car: When shopping for a car or truck, you can go to a dealer and take several vehicles on test drives.
You know the language: automatic vs. standard transmission, 4-cylinder vs. 6-cylinder. And you know what you like: the style, design, color, and the bells and whistles.
The AC: When shopping for an AC, there are not dealer showrooms and you can’t take one for a test drive, although you can probably walk into someone’s home who has a Trane air conditioner and see what you think.
You don’t know the language. SEER ratings. Tonnage. Existing ductwork. Thermostats.
The car: When you buy a car, it comes assembled! You drive it off the lot. Or, if you are buying a used automobile, a mechanic can look over the vehicle and give you an opinion: lemon or no lemon, good deal or bad deal.
The AC: When you buy an air conditioner, some parts are assembled and other parts are not. The hoses on a car are connected, the ductwork for an AC system to work correctly is not.
When you buy an HVAC system, your Arlington air conditioning contractor sends repair, service, and installation technicians to your home to assemble the pieces into a working system that’s also impacted by the existing environment of your home.
The car: It may take a few days to find the right car at the right dealer, and then it may take a few hours to negotiate price and go through the buying procedure, but when done you drive the car or truck home.
The AC: Without a dealer showroom, what air conditioner do you buy? Trane? Carrier? Lennox? American Standard? Another brand? Do you go to Home Depot or Lowe’s to look at ACs? Do you get out the Yellow Pages and look under Arlington, air conditioning contractors, service and repair, sales, installation?
The point is, in the end, the brand names and features and functions of the HVAC equipment you are considering purchasing are insufficient and meaningless. What impact performance and success in your home and your customer satisfaction more than anything else is:
Your Arlington air conditioning contractor, its service and repair technicians, and its installation/sales professionals.
So, if they are so important to the AC buying process, how do you find a good, reliable, trustworthy air conditioning contractor in Arlington, with competent service, repair, and installation technicians?
Finding an HVAC contractor
In most cases homeowners . . .
- Go back to the Arlington air conditioning contractor they’ve been using, if they have one, and start there. If they do this, they probably already trust the company and its service and repair technicians. Even so, it’s OK to read on.
- If homeowners don’t use an existing contractor or want to make a switch, they often pull out the Yellow Pages(remember these?) and look under Arlington, air conditioning, sales, service, repair, installation . . . but that’s so 1980s.
- A more modern-day approach is to search the Web for Arlington, air conditioning, sales, service, repair, installation using search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! or sites like, yes, the YellowPages. More on this in a minute.
- Another tried and true method through the ages (OK, in the Digital Age) is to call, email, or text neighbors, either individually or in a group; many neighborhoods have formal or loosely-knit homeowner’s associations, which often have phone or email lists available for members to use. There’s nothing like a recommendation from a family member, neighbor, or “the guy at church.”
- And, yes, you can go to a home improvement center in the Arlington area and ask the HVAC guy for a recommendation.
Let’s Look at These Options
- Using Your Existing Contractor. A great place to start but, depending on circumstances and needs, you will probably want a second or even third opinion, especially regarding product replacement, brand, installation, and cost. Having additional quotes and information on hand is critical.
- The Yellow Pages (aka the Phone Book). Here homeowners look for companies near their homes and are influenced by those who purchase the largest display ad. However, Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas is such a large metropolitan area that contractors and locations blend together. A contract may say it’s local to, say, Grapevine but is actually based in Arlington, Fort Worth, Dallas, Mansfield, or Rockwall. Do you want to deal with contractors nearby? With large or small companies? There are advantages and disadvantages to all the scenarios. Purchasing the largest display ad doesn’t mean it’s the right company for you.
- Web Searches. Being the Internet age, most homeowners will “google” heating, air conditioning, HVAC, service, repair, contractors, or some equivalent, for an area they live in like Grapevine or Arlington. One may live in Plano and get results for Dallas, Fort Worth or Duncanville contractors. The results are overwhelming because the Web reduces distance and everybody is “local.”
- Web Searches and Noise. When homeowners search the phone book, the only additional commentary is the size of the ad. When searching the Web, so much more information is attached. The company probably has its own website and/or blog. There’s the Yellow Pages for the Web, Yelp“user” reviews, sites that aggregate (collect) local business info, “subject matter” blogs and other Web resources, social media, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, HVAC professional associations, government sites, better business bureaus and, of course, neighboring service and repair companies that are actually competitors.
- Web Searches and Online Recommendations. Accompanying all the options above, which isn’t even an exhaustive list, are online recommendations, reviews, comments, complaints, ratings, and social media posts. Some people use real names when writing a review. Other people are anonymous. Who do you trust? Less than ethical service and repair companies may write glowing reviews for themselves or post something snarky about a competitor. Information is probably presented through a blog with a slant to influence visitors. If it looks official, these guys must be good. It’s social info quicksand.
- Neighbors and Word of Mouth. One way to deal with noise and the quagmire of online recommendations, reviews, comments, complaints, ratings and all that jazz is to ask trusted neighbors who they use, if the companies have been prompt, easy to deal with, do quality work, are fair, and are trustworthy. This doesn’t always work, but you’d be surprised — it never hurts to ask around. Who knows the locals better: a neighbor or Google? If this is a dead end, you can try an online service like Angie’s list, whose entire business model is helping homeowners — who pay an annual membership fee — find reliable, vetted local services. You can also search the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for companies using city, state, or postal code.
- Due Diligence. In the end, finding an Arlington air conditioning contractor and service and repair techs comes down to the individual homeowner and how he or she checks up on any information received, whether that info comes from an existing company, a display ad in the phone book, a Web search, an online recommendation, or word of mouth. Chances are, it will be a combination of all these sources.
We will examine contractors, what to consider when choosing one, and what they represent.