Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) contractors repair and replace air conditioners throughout Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas. But their importance goes far beyond the mechanical.
In this post we begin looking at HVAC contractors, what they do, and their importance to homeowners.
What Impacts Consumer Satisfaction
What impacts consumer satisfaction the most is not brand names. There are about six HVAC equipment manufacturers in the U.S., and they operate under more than 150 brand names. Train, Carrier, and Lennox are perceived as the best, but can you tell the difference between the features and functions of all their models?
Typically there are small differences between mid-range to top-end products such as who offers the biggest touchscreen thermostat or who has a model that’s 90 or 95 percent energy efficient.
In the end, feature and function comparisons are insufficient. What impacts performance and consumer satisfaction more than anything else is the contractor, who not only installs the equipment but designs the correct system for your home environment and needs.
Cars and Air Conditioners
Consider for a moment buying a car.
When it comes time to buy a new car, there are a billion sources to research and review the makes and models you fancy. You can go to multiple dealerships and test drive any number of vehicles.
Your car comes assembled and is calibrated to perform immediately.
Consider the air conditioner.
When it comes time to buy a new air conditioner — something many homeowners have never had to do before — you may have heard of Carrier, Trane, and Lennox. They are three of the most recognizable HVAC manufacturers thanks to their national TV advertising. Chances are you have no idea who Payne is, or Bryant, or American Standard.
When it comes to your car, you know automatic vs. standard transmissions, miles per gallon, and zero to 60 in four seconds. But do you know SEER ratings, tonnage, and the importance of ductwork?
HVAC equipment comes in pieces. It is uncalibrated. There’s no easy way to test drive the AC before you buy.
The unit you are considering purchasing must fit into an existing environment — your Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas-area home — and that environment itself may or may not be efficient, which will impact the overall performance of air conditioner you just bought.
Back to the car for a moment.
A mechanic looks over the Honda before you drive it off the lot. If there is an issue, it’s dealt with immediately. It may take a few hours to haggle and go through the buying procedure, but you usually get to drive a new car home.
Now, the air conditioner.
You don’t drive it off the lot same day. You selected the HVAC system you want based on the recommendation from an HVAC contractor or salesman, arranged payment, and scheduled an installation date.
HVAC repair and installation contractors arrive at your Arlington home in a truck or two with all sorts of equipment, support pieces like ducts, and loads of tools.
Air conditioners and furnaces don’t snap together and plug in in a matter of minutes. It takes about $5,000 in tools and a few years of specialized training to “finish what the manufacturer started” when it built the air conditioning unit.
This is why the HVAC installation and repair contractor is more important than brand names, features, and functions.
Finding an HVAC contractor
It takes time to find an HVAC contractor in Arlington or Fort Worth you can trust.
In most cases homeowners . . .
- Go back to the 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, read on.
- Pull out the Arlington Yellow Pages(remember these?) and look under heating, air conditioning, HVAC, repair, and contractors, but that’s so 1980s.
- A more modern-day approach is to search the Web for heating, air conditioning, HVAC, repair, contractors, service, repair, Arlington, using search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! or sites like, yes, the YellowPages. More on this in a moment.
- Call, email, or text neighbors, either individually or in a group; many neighborhoods have formal or loosely-knit homeowner’s associations, which usually have phone or email lists available for members. Never under estimate the power of word of mouth, but even then you will want to do your own due diligence.
- Go to a home improvement center in Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas and talk with an HVAC sales guy. Chances are he’s worked in the field in the area and may have a recommendation or some tips on what to look for.
Looking at Those 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, cost, and reputation (especially when considering repair). 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 can be 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 contractor may say it’s local to, say, Arlington but is actually based in Fort Worth or Plano. 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 age of the Internet, most homeowners will “google” heating, air conditioning, HVAC, service, repair, contractors, Arlington, or some variation. 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 returned. 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, HVAC professional associations, government sites, better business bureaus and, of course, all the neighboring service and repair companies that are actually competitors. How does a homeowner weed through all of this?
- 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. Others 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 presented through a blog can have a slant to influence visitors. If it looks official, these guys must be good. The whole process is social and 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 HVAC service or repair contractor in Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas comes down to the individual homeowner and how he or she checks up on any information received, whether it 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 that will lead you to a contractor you can trust.
We will examine contractors, what to consider when choosing one, and what they represent.