How to Safeguard Yourself Against Common HVAC Scams
Most HVAC contractors are trustworthy and dedicated professionals, contributing significantly to their local community by offering essential heating and cooling services. But like any industry, there are a few bad apples out there.
There’s a growing concern about HVAC scams that can catch homeowners off guard. At HVAC.com, your trusted source for all things HVAC-related, we’re here to shed light on the most common HVAC scams to help you stay protected. Don’t fall victim to dishonest technicians looking to make a quick buck – stay informed and protect your home and your wallet.
Common HVAC Scams and How to Avoid Them
Overcharging for Parts and Labor
If you experienced sticker shock when viewing your most recent HVAC bill, you’re not alone. One of the most common HVAC scams is overcharging homeowners for parts and labor. This typically occurs when the final invoice doesn’t align with the originally quoted price. Unscrupulous technicians may tack on additional charges, claim unexpected issues, or overstate the cost of replacement parts.
Tips to avoid this HVAC scam: Always ask for a detailed written estimate and clear documentation of any changes during the service.
“Too Good to Be True” Deals
As with anything in life, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! If an HVAC contractor offers an unbelievably low service fee or promises significant discounts on HVAC equipment installation or repairs, it should raise a red flag. Scammers use these too-good-to-be-true deals to lure homeowners into accepting their offer.
Tips to avoid this HVAC scam: Always insist on a formal agreement that outlines all services and costs.
Inappropriately Replacing Components
Some untrustworthy HVAC technicians may suggest replacing functioning parts unnecessarily, significantly driving up the cost of repairs. Expensive HVAC components such as a furnace heat exchanger or an air conditioner compressor are only accessible by an HVAC technician, leaving homeowners at the mercy of their recommendation.
Tips to avoid this HVAC scam: Before approving any part replacement, request a clear explanation and, if necessary, seek a second opinion from a reputable HVAC professional.
Urgent System Replacement
Always be wary of an HVAC contractor who insists on immediate HVAC system replacement, especially when an HVAC repair could suffice. Instead of a simple repair for a few hundred dollars, you could unnecessarily face a complete system replacement for over $10,000.
Tips to avoid this HVAC scam: Always seek a second opinion before committing to significant HVAC replacements. If two technicians provide significantly different assessments, it’s a sign that something may be amiss.
Falsely Representing a Reputable Business
An HVAC scammer may visit your home posing as a representative of a respected HVAC company and offer a free inspection. These types of impostors often use this tactic as an entry point for other fraudulent activities.
Tips to avoid this HVAC scam: Never accept unsolicited offers from unknown individuals. Always verify their credentials and the company they work for. Also, ensure they are in a company-branded vehicle or attire.
While regular HVAC maintenance and inspections are crucial for identifying potential issues, some companies may try to upsell unnecessary inspections.
Tips to avoid this HVAC scam: If a cold-calling HVAC business offers you a free examination, proceed with caution, as they could be setting you up for a scam. Again, if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
Constantly Pushing for a Larger System Size
Bigger is not always better when it comes to HVAC systems. HVAC system size refers to its cooling and heating capacity, not its actual physical size. Some contractors might insist on installing a larger unit, claiming it will be more efficient.
This is an issue for several reasons. First, installing an HVAC unit that’s too big for your space can lead to high energy bills, increased wear and tear, and short cycling. Additionally, an oversized HVAC system can lead to humidity issues. This happens because a system that is too large for your home cools it down too quickly, without effectively removing excess humidity from the air. Unfortunately, the only fix for an improperly sized system is buying a brand-new HVAC unit.
Tips to avoid this HVAC scam: Insist on a Manual J load calculation from a reliable HVAC contractor to determine the appropriate system size for your home.
Providing AC Refrigerant Recharging
If an HVAC contractor suggests recharging the AC refrigerant without addressing the underlying leak, you’re likely being deceived. If your air conditioning unit requires recharging, it likely indicates a refrigerant leak that must be repaired.
Tips to avoid this HVAC scam: Avoid HVAC contractors who recommend recharging without diagnosing the root issue or without providing proof that the refrigerant is leaking.
Dirty Filter Deception
Some scammers attempt the “dirty filter” scam by showing homeowners a filter they brought themselves and falsely claiming it came from the homeowner’s unit. They may use this deception to sell expensive air quality treatments or air purification systems.
Tips to avoid this HVAC scam: Educate yourself on how to inspect and replace your HVAC air filter to avoid falling for this common HVAC scam.
Air Duct Cleaning Scams
The frequency of air duct cleaning is a common debate within the HVAC industry. Since your ducts are hidden from view, this lack of clarity creates opportunities for frequent duct cleaning scams. Some unethical HVAC companies may suggest frequent air duct cleaning, claiming urgent health hazards and offering the service for an unrealistically low price. In some cases, these scammers leave the ducts in worse condition or perform no work at all.
The Environmental Protection Agency does not recommend cleaning air ducts regularly, only as needed. Cases that may warrant air duct cleaning include mold growth or pest infestations.
Tips to avoid this HVAC scam: Have the HVAC company show proof that your air ducts need to be cleaned, which could include video images from their initial inspection of the ductwork.
Tips for Hiring an HVAC Company
The easiest way to avoid becoming the victim of an HVAC scam is to perform proper research and hire a reputable HVAC contractor. When hiring an HVAC company, consider those with positive online ratings on sites such as Angi, Yelp, and Google Reviews. The Better Business Bureau is also a helpful resource to determine which company to hire, and which ones to avoid.
Ask them to provide proof of any necessary licenses and certifications in your area, and ensure they have proper insurance in the case of any unforeseen accidents or damage to your home. Also, check that the company provides both worker’s compensation and liability insurance.
Although newer companies may offer exceptional service, you often can’t go wrong with an HVAC company that has a long history of providing service in your area. These companies often have seasoned technicians with years of experience in the industry who are well-equipped to diagnose complex issues and make repairs on a wide variety of systems.