It’s about to be the coldest part of the year, and with that, there will be some furnaces breaking down. It’s inevitable that everyone’s furnace will break down at some point, unless you are EXTREMELY fortunate and replace yours ahead of time, this is usually a situation everyone has been through. A furnace repair or replacement could be a huge comfort and financial decision for your home.
Unfortunately, scammers know that too. During this time of year a lot of HVAC companies will book up, and people will be left looking around the internet for anyone who can help them. This is where scammers can take advantage of your unfortunate situation.
They will come in, and do a poor job, or possibly not even do the job at all. This can end up costing you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. And, many times, scammers are impossible to catch once they’ve left your home.
This is a huge headache for HVAC companies everywhere, and this is why we are addressing the topic now, head-on.
In this post, we’ll look at four easy ways you can avoid getting ripped off this winter. And, if you’re looking for a heating repair company you can trust, give us a call here at Compass Heating and Air.
We’ve worked all around Elgin and the Fox River Valley, repairing furnaces and keeping homes warm in the winter for years.
It’s not always very clear who can be trusted. Just like finding a trustworthy auto-mechanic, it’s also important to find a trustworthy HVAC contractor. Someone who you know will tell you the truth, because odds are, you have VERY little experience in the HVAC world.
First, let’s weed out the most obvious scammers: The people who show up, take your money, and never do the work. There are a few warning signs to watch for.
The easiest thing to look for off the bar is can you find them online? Zero presence online or on social media is an obvious red flag. Even the smallest and newest companies will want to have some sort of presence on the internet, in a directory if nothing else.
Next is if they have a physical address. There should be an office of some sort that you could stop by and actually walk into.
Finally, and this is a little bit of a deeper trick: Do they have permanent decals on their work trucks?
One trick that scammers can use is rolling up to your house in a van that looks “official”. But, when you look a bit closer, the decals are just magnets they can peel on and off in seconds. This is a great way of becoming untraceable once they leave.
For these reasons, you want to make sure this company is real and has been in the area.
Another sign that something’s up is when an HVAC company calls you out of the blue. Unless this is a company you have worked with in the past, there is no reason for a random company to call you. They may say something like, “It’s time for your annual furnace check-up.”
Or, maybe they’re trying to offer you something for free, like a laundry vent cleaning service, or free home energy audit.
Just like the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Yeah a free service may sound like a great deal, but that's probably not what you’re signing up for.
It’s likely a bait and switch operation, where they get inside the house then say there are other things that need to be fixed.
We briefly mentioned this above, but let’s dive in a bit more: Do some research on ANYONE you are allowing perform these services. This equipment is expensive, and is a HUGE aspect of your home.
It’s a little trickier to identify legitimate companies that simply are not that good. Sometimes they’re scammy. Other times, they just stink. Fortunately, you can spot both the same way.
And even better, you can do it all online.
One place you can start with is checking out their Better Business Bureau profile. Is it an A+? Do they have a lot of red-flag issues on there?
Those concerns would be things like not finishing work or getting caught not doing what they said they would.
Then, take around for other reviews on Google or Yelp. If you see a lot of ad reviews, you’ll know something seems a bit fishy.
Next, look for the company’s responses. Sometimes, things go wrong, even with the best contractors. No company is going to have 100% satisfaction with every customer. But, if they are responding to bad reviews with solutions and concern, it’s a good sign.
If you see a bunch of negative reviews and comments with no replies from the company at all, this is an obvious red flag. You may be the next person leaving a bad review.
Next, don’t be shy about asking questions. You should inquire about the company itself and also any work they’re proposing.
If you haven’t found out about their location online, ask about that first. Next, ask if they’re licensed and certified to work on your furnace’s brand. Certain companies are certified and some are not. This is also something that can sometimes be found on their website.
Then, there are questions about the job itself. Some of these depend on exactly what work they’re saying needs to be done. But, there are a few common points to hit no matter what.
First of all, ask about the damaged parts they are replacing. Ask them to show them to you and how banged up they are. This can not only help you gain some knowledge, but also verify they are giving it to you straight.
Essentially, you just want to make sure they aren’t telling you things just to confuse you and drive the price up.
When it comes right down to it, be confident and don’t be nervous. Scammers want to find people who are scared and confused. If you are direct, and know exactly what you are looking for from a contractor, this will put a scammer on their heels.
If you start to ask a bunch of questions that they brush off, they are either a scammer, or just a bad company!
If the tech or contractor is trying to overwhelm you, make you feel like you don’t understand what’s happening, or is rushing you to sign on for something, don’t be afraid to show them the door. There are plenty of companies out there who will make you feel safe, secure, and trusting when it all gets settled.
Once you’ve gotten through all these initial screenings, make sure to get everything in writing. They should be comfortable putting the work into a document that you can read and sign.
You don’t always need EVERY minor detail on there, but you want to have an understanding of what the products cost, the labor costs, any sort of warranties attached and so on.
There are several advantages to this.
First, you’ll avoid any confusion about exactly what they were supposed to do if there’s a problem when they’re done. You can point a direct line to what is on the paper and what is being done.
This is useful if there’s a problem down the line, and eliminates and speculation of the job at hand.
Also, it’s useful if you want a second opinion. You can take this proposal and compare it with one from another company you get an estimate from.
With any big purchase, it’s important to compare. So asking for an estimate from another company is normal. If you have a trusted contractor you use all the time, you may be ok getting your one estimate, and going with it. But if it’s someone you have never used before, a second opinion could be helpful.
This way, you can compare the estimates line-by-line and see if one company is proposing to do something the other is not.
You can make sure your heater is working well all winter without running the risk of a repair scam. Compass Heating and Air Conditioning has been serving Elgin, Chicagoland, and other towns in the Fox River Valley for years.
Call us today at (630) 504-8688, or click here to email us.