HVAC professionals are the only people we can completely rely on to install, maintain, and repair our AC systems. Without their expertise, keeping cool in the summer and warm in the winter would be an uphill climb for most of us who have little to no understanding of the inner workings of HVAC systems.
The HVAC industry, however, has its share of bad eggs. As with every business sector, the world of HVAC is not exempt from the presence of people who don’t think much about ethics when peddling their services. All they care about is how to make more money off a customer who doesn’t know any better, and that makes them scammers in most people’s books.
These HVAC company scams have been victimizing countless homeowners for a long time. If you have had the good fortune of not encountering these unscrupulous people before, then you can steer clear of them for the foreseeable future once you learn about the scams that they run. Here are eight common HVAC scams you need to avoid.
1. Unlicensed “HVAC Professionals”
In this HVAC scam, the people offering their services ARE the scam. These individuals are hardly qualified to be technicians, much less HVAC technicians. They don’t have licenses, are not bonded, and are most definitely uninsured.
Their main selling point is they tend to offer their services on the cheap, which, unfortunately, attracts many homeowners who don’t make an effort to verify their identities and qualifications.
The homeowners who hire these charlatans fail to realize that they’re bound to spend more because their HVAC unit is not going to get the professional touch that it needs. In fact, HVAC units tinkered with by unqualified individuals may break down more often and may even put you and your family at risk if it suffers a dangerous malfunction.
Fortunately, we now live in a world where doing a background check on anything is easy. You can ask to see the contractor’s license, which you can verify with a simple online check at websites that provide this service. You can also ask to see documents proving they have insurance. Most legitimate HVAC contractors have their own websites, so check them out as well.
2. Replacing damaged parts with used ones
Let’s say the AC contractor repairing your unit is as legitimate as they come and knows what he’s doing. However, once he offers to replace a damaged or malfunctioning part of your unit with a used part he has in his van, you should know you’re being scammed.
Always keep in mind that no self-respecting HVAC guy would ever offer a used part as a replacement. A used part means it was removed from another unit, making it no longer that reliable. It’s also more likely to cause your HVAC unit more harm than good. A used part can take a toll on your unit’s overall efficiency as well as put more strain on the other components of your unit. You can’t also expect them to work for more than just a few weeks.
Used parts may offer you a quick, easy, and cheap alternative, but don’t even think about considering it. Always ask for new parts when something needs to be replaced.
3. More frequent tune-ups
One of the more common HVAC scams today is the one where an unscrupulous contractor tells you that your unit must get a tune-up every three months. Some even ask homeowners to make the tune-ups a once-a-month thing.
The thing is, a once-a-year tune-up is all your HVAC unit needs. If you want a second tune-up for the year, that would be quite optimal, but anything beyond that is just the contractor trying to make a little extra money at your expense.
4. Refrigerant recharging
One thing you need to know about your AC unit is that it never uses up whatever refrigerant is in it. The only way your air conditioner would be low on refrigerant is if there’s a leak, and that leak needs to be repaired because it poses a hazard to people and the environment.
However, some HVAC contractors tell unsuspecting clients that all their AC unit needs is a refrigerant charge to function normally again. Once you hear those words, then you are being targeted by one of the most common air conditioning repair scams out there.
A refrigerant leak needs to be repaired, but if all the HVAC contractor is suggesting is a refrigerant charge, then he is setting himself up for repeat business because the air conditioner will always be low on refrigerant because of the unrepaired leak. He will get to charge you over and over again every time you call him for a refill when all that needs to be done is to fix that leak.
5. Unnecessary part replacements
Your HVAC unit will have parts that will need replacing someday. Some HVAC contractors, however, will recommend replacing a part even when it’s still functioning perfectly. After all, most homeowners wouldn’t know how to tell if AC capacitor is bad or if any other component is damaged, and HVAC scammers will always take advantage of that fact.
Even worse is when the contractor tells customers that he has already replaced a supposedly defective part but didn’t, and charging them for it just the same.
6. Mold scam
Mold can form in moisture-rich areas of your house, a fact that HVAC scammers use to their advantage. These con artists run the scam by pretending to check your air ducts and reporting that mold has infested it. Typically, they offer to remove the mold—which is often non-existent—for hundreds of dollars or more. Never mind that they aren’t qualified to perform mold inspections, much less carry out mold removal, both of which require professional licenses.
7. Offering oversized units
If you’re dealing with honest HVAC contractors, then they will always recommend the right size AC unit for your home. Crooked contractors, however, will try to sell you the biggest unit they have regardless of the size of your home.
For scammers, pushing for a bigger unit is good, because the price tag would be higher and the installation would be more expensive, and therefore potentially more profitable for them.
The problem is, bigger isn’t necessarily better in the HVAC industry. Running an AC unit that’s too big for the area to be cooled is not only more expensive over time, but it also potentially shortens the life of the unit, since it would frequently cycle on and off.
So if a contractor recommends a large HVAC unit for your home, seek the opinion of other contractors first. For all you know, a smaller and more affordable unit would be perfectly fine for your home.
8. Asking for upfront payment before rendering services
When an HVAC contractor is offering his services but is asking for money upfront before providing any, your alarm bells should be ringing because the person you’re talking to is running one of the oldest air conditioning repair scams on you. In fact, asking for advance payment without rendering any service is a scam that is done in many industries other than HVAC.
Honest and legitimate HVAC contractors would never ask their customers money upfront. What they do is perform their job to the best of their abilities, and bill customers only after the work is done.
If an HVAC contractor seeking to do any repair or maintenance job for you asks for an advance before they do any work, then you should ask him to leave the premises.
These are just some of the common HVAC repair scams that have been making prey of unknowing homeowners across the United States. You can avoid falling for these scams by doing more research to find honest and reliable HVAC companies, which far outnumber the scammers.