As Spring is about to turn to Summer you may be thinking of switching on the A/C as the breeze turns from cool and comfortable as it was all Spring, to hot and humid. Now is the time to find a reputable registered HVAC contractor to call, just in case you need emergency service on your air conditioning unit or to call proactively for some preventative regular maintenance prior to turning the system on for the summer cooling season. Consumer’s experiencing a breakdown of their Air Conditioning Systems can easily rush into hiring a disreputable contractor and end up being burned not just by the temperatures but also by potential scam companies or excessive charges burning.
The members of the Bucks County Crimes Against Older Adults Task Force encourage consumers to search for a reputable registered service company and follow the tips below to avoid high-pressure sales tactics and unneeded or costly repairs.
When the air conditioning unit goes out, consumers are desperate to get it repaired as quickly as possible and may not properly vet the contractor checking reviews and making sure they hold a registration to operate as a contractor in the state. Even when you’re in a hurry consumer’s need to do their research and know their rights to avoid running into issues with an air conditioning repair company. Consumers can call or e-mail Consumer Protection for assistance vetting a contractor, 215-348-6060 or via e-mail at: ConsumerProtection@BucksCounty.org
The following tips may help you locate a reputable HVAC repair contractor:
• Take some time before calling for service to check a few basic things. Is the electrical breaker tripped or a main shutoff switch turned off? Is your thermostat operating or may just need new batteries? Are the filters on your unit dirty or blocked and need to be cleaned or replaced? If it’s minor, you might be able to fix it yourself. When calling a contractor always ask if there’s a dispatch/diagnostic/service fee and how much it is.
• Check Warranty Coverage: Your air conditioner might still be under the manufacturer's warranty. Be sure to check your owner's manual or warranty to avoid unnecessarily paying for repairs that might be covered if you contact the manufacturer first.
• Do not be an easy target. Ask to see a contractor’s state registration certificate containing their contractor number (ex. PA123456). This can be verified to be active by calling the Office of Attorney General at (717)772-2425 or if you have internet access by checking it on the PA AG’s contractor search website: https://hicsearch.attorneygeneral.gov/ or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Research contractors with the Bucks County Consumer Protection Department to see if the office has any complaints on record against a particular company.
• Online Reviews: Start by “googling” a business to check reviews. For example search a business name and location “ABC HVAC Doylestown, PA”. The results will include any review websites with a profile for the company searched. Read through other consumer’s reviews posted on various reputable review websites. Give more weight to a company with many good reviews over a multi-year period. Sort by lowest rating to see if there’s a pattern of any issues or complaints other consumers may have experienced.
• Obtain Multiple Bids for Expensive Repairs: Try to solicit at least two or three bids on large projects. If you need a new unit, find out the proper size unit to cool your home and the energy efficiency rating of a new unit. The more efficient units typically cost more so make sure you’re comparing similar units when quoting through different companies. Some may quote a cheaper less efficient unit which may cost you more in the long run than a more efficient unit.
• Get all estimates in writing: Prior to any sale, obtain a written contract of the equipment and services the company is selling and review it thoroughly before signing or providing a deposit. Do not sign anything that you don’t agree to or that feels “wrong” to you. Trust your instincts and don’t hesitate to call Consumer Protection if you need help.
• Know Your Rights: Be wary if a contractor uses a sense of urgency in their selling methods. Some dishonest contractors may use high-pressure sales tactics to recommend repairs or full system replacements that are not actually needed. The cost of a second opinion is much cheaper than potentially unnecessarily replacing the unit.
For additional consumer protection tips and brochures, including the “Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor” booklet, visit the Bucks County Consumer Protection website at www.BucksCounty.gov/CP and click on the “Consumer Tips” page. If you believe you have been the victim of an HVAC contractor scam or any other type of contractor fraud, please contact the Bucks County Consumer Protection office at 215-348-6060.
Monthly Fraud Alerts brought to you by:
Bucks County Crimes Against Older Adults Task Force
Bucks County District Attorney’s Office: 215-348-6344 A Woman’s Place (AWP): 1-800-220-8116
Bucks County Area Agency on Aging: 267-880-5700 Bucks County Office of Consumer Protection: 215-348-6060
Bucks County Coroner’s Office: 215-348-3852 Bucks County Register of Wills: 215-348-6265
Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA): 1-800-675-6900 US Dept. of Health and Human Services/OIG: 1-800-447-8477
24 - HOUR HOTLINE: 1-800-490-8505