HVAC Licensing Requirements
It’s easily apparent to see just how many options homeowners have when it comes to choosing an HVAC company or contractor. A brief scan of the Yellow Pages, a quick search on Google, or even a short browse of social media will provide a myriad of options available to choose from to provide for your home’s heating and air conditioning needs. That’s all well and good, but what’s really behind all of those snazzy ads and catchy buzzwords?
This first statement is very disconcerting to most people and I underline it for emphasis…Our market is an unregulated market. This means that there is little or no licensing required in order for someone to provide many of the specialty trade services within our homes. Among these trades are plumbers, electricians, HVAC installers and technicians. With rare exception, there are very few requirements or protections in place to ensure quality of work and safe workmanship practices on nearly every type of repair or replacement project within our service area. Sadly, any “One Truck Chuck” with a set of magnetic signs on his truck and a tool bag can call himself a plumber, electrician, HVAC contractor…or all of the above.
Benefits of an Unregulated Market
As scary as this may sound, there are actually some benefits of an unregulated market to the consumer.
- First and foremost is price. You see, these unskilled workers and unqualified tradesmen actually drive down the price of goods and services being sold. Lower wages, lower overhead, lower quality of work, and the absence of permitting and associated inspections all contribute to a lower cost of goods and services to the end user. Time and again, we find ourselves forced to try to compete in this space in order to maintain market share despite having invested so much more into providing qualified workers for your home. The cost of hiring skilled professionals, ongoing training, and support systems are often overlooked in favor of a lower price when selecting a service provider.
- Another benefit of an unregulated market to the consumer is time. We’ve been spoiled in this area and take for granted just how quickly we can get things done. Because a single technician or installer can perform all of the trades, jobs get done quicker. Imagine having a furnace and a/c system installed into your home and having to employ three different trades (and potentially three different permits and inspectors) to get the job done:
- A Plumber to run the gas line
- An Electrician to provide the wiring
- An HVAC Tech to handle the ductwork, venting, and start-up of the system.
This situation is actually a reality among much of the rest of the country. Personally, I’d much prefer it to be this way here as well. A smaller core of qualified and licensed contractors is a win-win in my mind.
On the flip side of things, there is much to dislike about our unregulated market. One of the things that sticks in my craw the most is how freely those in our trades use the term “licensed”. Let me be the first to clarify this:
With the exception of the City of Glens Falls plumber’s license and some permitting requirements in the town of Clifton Park, there is no licensing program or requirement for plumbers, electricians, or HVAC technicians in our service area.
Anyone claiming to be licensed is licensed to do business in the State of New York only or is licensed by a trade entity outside of our service area. The next time you hear someone bragging about being licensed, ask to see it. In most case, it’s nothing more than a play on words and is an unfortunate deception we oftentimes feel obligated to explain.
Drawbacks to an Unregulated Market
The biggest drawback to the unregulated market is, of course, safety and workmanship. Improper gas piping can lead to disaster or even be fatal in the event of an explosion due to a leak. Likewise, improper electrical practices can lead to personal injury, property damage, or even death in the event of fire or electrocution. A faulty exhaust connection can just as easily lead to carbon monoxide poisoning or worse. Are these the types of things we’re willing to risk to save a few dollars on the most important systems in our homes?
How To Find A Qualified HVAC Contractor
So the question becomes, “What can I do to protect myself from unskilled practices and shoddy workmanship”? The answer is actually quite simple. Do your homework to protect your home and family. Those same resources you use to find a contractor can also be a great source when vetting out potential candidates. Start by looking for reviews posted by other consumers. I like to say that there’s 3% of the population that you’re never going to please no matter what you do. Ironically, these 3% also seem to be the most vocal and will most assuredly show up on Google, Yelp, Facebook and other sites as negative feedback. When someone’s not happy with a product or service, they tell a 25 people or more of their dissatisfaction. Don’t discount these negative reviews. Give them a good read and look for the underlying problem. ..Is it a price concern? A failure to deliver on promised goods or services? Poor workmanship? We’ve got a few bad reviews ourselves over the years and certainly won’t hide from them. You’ll see that most of them are a result of us never being told about a problem or not being given an opportunity to correct a problem. Rest assured, we have nothing to gain by an unhappy customer and I promise to do whatever is reasonable to resolve a customer’s concern if given the opportunity.
What do their Online Reviews Say?
More importantly, I encourage you to look for a history of positive reviews as these are much harder to come by. Most of us only speak out if we feel we’ve been wronged. Those same people who tell 25 friends when they aren’t happy will only tell 5 or fewer people of a positive experience. This puts so much more value on a positive review and any company capable of producing a number of these experiences for their customers deserves serious consideration as a service provider. It takes year of hard work and good customer relations to establish a database of positive reviews. (Check out our online testimonials here!)
What is Their Company History?
Another factor for consideration is longevity. How long has the company been in business? And more importantly, will they still be in business when you have a warranty concern to be addressed? Look for an established customer base and a history of local service. You remember seeing their trucks on the road last week, but do you remember seeing their trucks on the road 10 years ago? Are you confident their trucks will still be rolling 10 years from now? These are great questions to ask, particularly when considering new equipment for your home. Many HVAC companies complement the manufacturer’s warranties with additional warranty coverage of their own to earn your business and trust. You want a company that will still be around to honor that additional warranty.
Is your HVAC Company Insured?
Every business should also have adequate insurance to protect your home and property against damage or loss. There are no laws governing disclosure on this, so it is up to the homeowner to request and verify proof of insurance adequate enough to cover the scope of the project and beyond. For example, we carry $2 million in liability insurance as well as full workman’s compensation insurance at all times. In absence of such protections, you as the homeowner, could be liable for property damage or even injury to the tradesman while he is working at your home. It is not a risk worth taking. Demand adequate insurance.
Do They Have Resources?
Don’t be afraid of the major companies, either. Many of the larger service providers are equipped to work independently of their principle ownership. As a franchisee, we have the systems in place to provide you with service apart from any individual.
Our layered system encompasses an ownership team, General Manager, office staff, and field personnel with a nationally recognized franchisor available to support any additional needs.
Many sole proprietor owner / operators are fully aware that their business cannot survive without them, leaving them unable to provide for their customer’s needs in the event of retirement, disabling injury, or other loss of business. Because of this, we also encourage you to look for any history of unrest within the organization such as judgements or bankruptcy. Oftentimes, a look back at the past will offer significant insight into the future of the company.
Should You Interview an HVAC Company?
Lastly, interview your potential candidates. Employees go through a rigorous hiring process, and so too should HVAC companies seeking to work in your home. Establish a rapport with the technician or phone agent and ask the questions you feel necessary to help you select the proper service provider for your needs.
We embrace the opportunity to earn your business with each and every interaction. Please don’t hesitate to call us at (518) 745-0401 and put us through the interview process. We are your neighbors, and we are working in your neighborhood every day (see our service areas here!). We’d love the opportunity to work in your home, too.