Working with Heating and Cooling Contractors

by Jon Nunan

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Residential heating and cooling is something that nearly every homeowner in the country will have to deal with at some point. Whether it is installing central air conditioning, replacing an existing furnace or condenser, or switching both your heating and cooling systems to an energy-efficient geothermal heat pump, the jobs involved in residential heating and cooling are simply too complicated for most of us to tackle ourselves. Since HVAC contractors are typically the only choice for homeowners who need service to their heating or cooling systems, it is worth the effort to help these jobs go as smoothly as possible. Here are a few tips and rules of etiquette that will make your next heating and cooling service a comfortable and mutually beneficial experience:

Requesting Residential Heating and Cooling Services
The relationship you form with your HVAC contractor begins the moment you put in a request for service. Residential heating and cooling is a huge industry, and there are likely several companies in your area that provide HVAC services; this means you have a choice when your system needs work. Whenever possible, contact multiple companies before you actually hire one. Not only will this give you a getter idea of which company you're likely to get on well with, it can also lead to a better price for the job.

When Your Service Provider Arrives
Remember, even though you are paying your service provider for his or her time, you also extended the invitation to come to your home. Every house is different, and your home is brand new to this person. Take the time to show your service provider not only where the furnace or condenser is located, but the location of nearby electrical outlets and any other areas that may be needed to complete the job.

Residential heating and cooling service is not always a lengthy, drawn-out process; in fact, many repair jobs are completed within a few hours. It is in your best interests (as well as the interests of your service provider) to make those hours pleasant as well as productive. A successful, enjoyable experience for all parties often begins with a polite reception, and a few basic courtesies. Clear a path from the front door to the place where the majority of work will be done. Point out where the bathroom is. If there's coffee brewing, offer a cup. Treat your HVAC contractor well from the beginning and he or she will most likely return the favor ten-fold.

Residential Heating and Cooling Service Bills
Though most tasks in residential heating and cooling are far less expensive than many other home improvement tasks, there's a tendency for homeowners to balk when they first glimpse the bill. No one wants to feel cheated, but if you've done your homework and found a company you feel is trustworthy, there's no reason to contest or complain about how much the work adds up to. It is rare for a company that gives you a bill for services rendered to change their mind on the cost after the fact; if the contractor you've hired is honest, they are probably giving you the most reasonable price possible, and complaining or haggling won't do anything but leave you with bad blood.

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Extensive Residential Heating and Cooling Projects
Keeping the jobsite amiable is even more important when dealing with a lengthy job. When your HVAC project is going to take days or weeks rather than hours, there's every reason to keep up your courtesies throughout the duration. The best way to do this is to keep communications open, frequent, and respectful. Take the time to talk to your crew chief as close to every day as possible, so you can go over the day's progress and nip any issues you or your crew have in the bud. It is also a very good idea to set up ground rules on the first day of any long project. If you don't allow "blue" language in your house or smoking on your property, make this known upfront; if the crew you hire doesn't get along with your dog, allow them a chance to voice this concern and come up with a solution that everyone is happy with.

Advice and Maintenance for Residential Heating and Cooling Systems
One of the most beneficial byproducts of creating a good relationship with your HVAC contractor is the advice you can get to keep your system running as smoothly as possible in the future. Residential heating and cooling systems are complex installations with many components; if you keep the relationship amiable and your ears open, the experts working on your particular system can give you very valuable advice on when to check what, and even some quick troubleshooting techniques that could save you money down the road!

Jon Nunan is a freelance writer who draws on his experience in construction, ranging from landscaping to log home building, for his articles on home improvement.