Your furnace, air conditioner, and water heater is one of the most important home investments that you make. 888 Heating has served the Denver metro area with HVAC services for over a decade and we have seen all of the tricks. We all want to get the most for our money and getting scammed is not only frustrating but could end up costing more money. Here are some HVAC scams to watch out for when purchasing or repairing your heating and cooling units. Protect your home, your money, and your peace of mind with these tips.
Tips for protecting yourself from HVAC Scams
1. Oversized AC and Heating Units
With HVAC bigger is not always better. There are contractors who will push the biggest unit they have with no regard for the type or size of house or building they're putting it in. Units that are oversized are typically more expensive to install. That way, the contractor can charge more for the job. They are also a lot more expensive to run in the long term and will have more breakdowns, more regularly, which will cost more in service and maintenance.
Oversized furnaces and air conditioners short cycle and do not have recommended run times. Oversized air conditioners can freeze up consistently and oversized furnaces usually leave a home uncomfortable in certain areas.
Ask for the load calculation!
For the homeowner to avoid using a contractor that “oversizes” systems, they should be asking for the numbers that calculate the load or the size of the unit to be installed. Every furnace or air conditioner should have a load calculation done before installation especially if you're replacing both at the same time.
2. Bait and Switch Schemes
You may recognize them by deliberate and extreme sense of urgency or danger repair. These schemes come in many forms. The thriving Denver economy brings “contractors” in from all over the place. There are a lot of unreliable fly-by-night companies coming to our area offering excessively low pricing.
Make sure you can identify the company from the curb!
You always want to look for local license plates and marked vehicles. Especially, if it's a service van. These companies know that they are not trained or equipped to do the job properly for our climate. They also know they won’t be around to service the warranties or any other issues that arise.
Personally, I don’t think there's a problem with running tune-up specials to get new customers. However, if you get involved with a bait-and-switch company they will say things like, “Wow do you see this, I'm amazed this is still running”, and continue into a hard pressure sale. “You need to get it fixed ASAP because you've been so lucky all these years.” Then gently follow-up with, “You may want to get a second opinion.”
As far as duct cleaning scams go, there are quite a few out there. Every duct cleaning company should be able to give you an upfront estimate of what the whole home will cost. They should be offering cleaning air sealing services and at minimum have a NATE Certified Technician to service and maintain your furnace and air conditioner.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Please beware of the $99 whole-home duct cleaning! That’s a dead giveaway that you are going to be involved in a bait and switch or not actually get a good duct cleaning.
3. Cold Call Tune-Up or Telemarketing Solicitations
You may hear something like, “Hello, this is so and so from insert company name here. We have a great special going just for people in your area.”
If you get one of these calls, you really need to research the company before you agree to anything! In our experience, these are frauds target the elderly and non-internet savvy consumers. A lot of these cold call tune-ups are hijacked phone numbers from a different heating company. You can be taken advantage of quickly.
The people that show up are usually in an unmarked van, dress nicely but not in a uniform, they don’t have any logos of any type, and usually get you for hundreds of dollars by the time they leave. When you call the company to question or complain, they will have no record of your service, repairs, or equipment. At this point, it’s likely, you’ve been involved in a quickly growing scam. The scammers rely on good company names to get in and rip you off. They leave you with very little recourse because the number on your caller ID isn’t the number they called from and the business cards fake. So, buyer please beware!
4. Is it a Furnace Scam or Sales Tactic?
It usually starts off with the cheap furnace tune-up special in the dead of winter followed by a high-pressure sale. This is the cracked heat exchanger on your furnace scam.
First, furnace heat exchangers do and will crack eventually, if not properly maintained or installed. It may be related to the oversizing problem from one of the earlier scams. If a technician ever says, “It’s a cracked heat exchanger. You need to immediately change your furnace. I can get started right now!” You may want to take a few steps back and get a second opinion.
First, you need to ask for visible proof that it is cracked. If they cannot provide that, chances are they are lying to you. Second, ask if your furnace is leaking any carbon monoxide. Real HVAC technicians should have combustion analyzers and ambient carbon monoxide meters on their vehicles.
Don’t be afraid to ask for proof!
Reputable companies, there are a lot of us out there, find all sorts of problems with furnaces, including cracked heat exchangers. The difference is, reputable companies and their technicians will give you several options for repairs and replacements instead of looking for a quick high-pressure sale.
5. Air Conditioning Repair Scam
“Do you see this? You need a new one.”
During the heat of summer, every HVAC company is running around like crazy trying to fix people's home cooling problems. Of course, some companies are out there trying to take advantage of you. Separating you from your money as quickly as possible.
“Your compressor is shot. You need a new air conditioning system.” If you ever hear this, you should definitely question the motives of your technician. Your technician should be able to show you the problem. Whether by camera inspection or electrical tests. All too often, people are told they have a bad capacitor or a bad breaker in your circuit panel. More often than not, it is not your compressor.
Know your options.
Regardless of the issue, your technician should give you an estimate with options to repair your existing system and, if your unit is over 15 years old, they should also be giving you an estimate for a new air conditioner. You should never just have one choice.
6. “You should be good to go.”
Your technician should always remain onsite after repairs have been completed to ensure the system is, in fact, functioning properly. You should also ask to see the parts that were replaced to make sure that they were replaced, and you didn't just get billed for nothing.
Hold your HVAC company responsible!
I think you should always ask the technician to explain what they’re doing, what they’re replacing, and show you what he will be doing to get your heating or cooling system up and running. That way you know all the parts are new and have a warranty. You can rest assured that they are not putting in something that is used, abused, or not needed.
7. “You just need a quick recharge.”
With the cost of refrigerant going through the roof, the quick recharge tactic is a clever way for a technician to quickly separate you from your money. Depending on the type of system, there is a formula that will determine if your system needs to be recharged or not.
I understand, you don’t look at air conditioners every day it’s hard to know and you want to trust your technician. Homeowners should always ask for a report of refrigerant levels before and after the recharge. There should always be before and after readings of superheat or subcooling temperatures along with high and low-pressure readings. They also need to track of how much was added, what type of coolant, and what they did to try to stop the leak. Also, they should give you an option to find and fix the leak, so this does not happen again.
Please do not fall for the quick recharge and have no proof to back it up.
Get a FREE second opinion! 888 Heating provides a second opinion on any HVAC quote you have been provided. It is good to double check!
888 Heating will diagnose any HVAC problem for $18.88, no trip fees. We will provide an honest estimate with no hidden fees at invoicing time. You will never be sold a product that you don't need. If you are in need of a new system we have 0% financing for those who qualify.