How to Choose the right HVAC company (And not get ripped off)

What’s the best way to not get ripped off when you’re getting your furnace or heating or cooling system repaired? Similar to getting their cars fixed, people are worried about buying good value when they’re getting their HVAC system repaired. So in this short article we will be showcasing how you can avoid being taken advantage of, and thus making a profit in no time. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

The very first thing that you should be looking at is finding a reputable company. A reputable company is likely not going to be the least expensive company out there though, so do keep that in mind. Believe it or not, one of the best ways to determine the quality of a company is by their online ratings. If somebody does poor work – or a company does poor work in general – keeping the ratings positive is practically impossible.

It should also be considered if a company has been around for a very short period of time – that’s not a good sign either. That may mean the company previously went out of business and restarted or they lack the experience to be considered a top tier choice. So, what you’ll want to do is you’ll want to go with the company that’s been around for a decent period of time.

One part during which people make mistakes most of the time is the part where they have to look for companies that are absolutely perfect. Let’s say for example that a company has five perfect reviews. That’s not enough reviews. You should be looking for a company with a lot more than that.

What matters much more than the complaint itself is how that company responded to the complaint. If they didn’t respond at all then that instantly means that they’re not trustworthy — Bad companies are not monitoring their reviews and they just ignore them at all times. Good companies — no matter what somebody says – write good responses to the reviews and make sure to refute every argument that the reviewer complained about.

Every industry has crazy customers. They’re probably at least one percent of the entire base of customers for any company out there. Sometimes problems come up that the company could not have prevented. What really matters more is how that company responded and how much they actually cared about their customers after the complaints were made. Good companies jump on these scenarios instantly. Good companies do everything in their power to make things right, regardless of being paid or not.

Good companies refund money if required. Good companies take their reputation very seriously. Good places to look: Angieslist, HomeStars, Better Business Bureau, and a variety of other ratings sites. You’ve done some review searching. You discover the company is decent. Surprisingly, the quality of the website is not indicative of the quality of the company.

There are a ton of old-fashioned companies that don’t do that well. What you’re going to want to do from there on out is you’ll want to contact the company and find out how much their rate is. If it’s a little bit higher than average, that may mean that you’re not going to get ripped on parts. At that point and time, get that company to come out to your home and have a look around.

You’re going to want to deal with the company and probably request from the service technician, that they don’t do anything until they’ve discovered what the problem is and explained it to you. Unfortunately, because there are many unscrupulous companies out there, I would suggest going with them the entire time just to make sure that you don’t stumble upon any problems.

If you have any base level of knowledge, like the names of some of the parts that you need, I would suggest talking as an informed customer. The more informed you are, the less likely you are to be taken advantage of by a company if it happens to be unscrupulous. As you’re watching them do their thing and they diagnose a part, get them to show you and explain exactly what’s going on.

There are two more ways that you can avoid being taken advantage of. They are the following:

  • If you’re unsure, maybe you can get somebody else on the phone and they can explain to the other person exactly what’s going on.
  • You can get them to leave the old parts that get replaced behind. All of these are deterrents towards you getting taken advantage of.

A point to note, if they immediately suggest that the unit should be replaced, be weary. It’s likely not true. The equipment should be replaced for a variety of reasons, but usually it doesn’t have to be replaced in most circumstances.

My Water Heater Is Leaking! What Should I Do?

So, now that you know for a fact that your tank is actually leaking, what’s your next step, you may ask. If you’re not a hundred percent positive that your tank is leaking, I suggest that you go ahead and check another blog post on this site that explains how to confirm a hundred percent that your tank is leaking. Often times tank leaks can be coming from other areas. They can be coming from underneath the tank, they can be coming from other sources, they can be pressure-relief valve problems or a variety of other things. So, the first step is confirming that your tank is leaking.

If you know for sure that the tank is leaking, then first and foremost you’re going to want to get the water shut off. There are a couple of different options for this. The first spot that you want to check is on the cold water line above the tank. On the top of the tank, it actually might indicate and it might say hot and cold. If you put your hand on the pipe that says “cold” and you follow that pipe up, you will most likely find a small shut off – either a lever or a knob to screw in, or some sort of device that will stop the water from going into the tank.

Word of warning at this point – often times, those knobs that shut off the water into the tank are not working and you can’t always tell if they are actually fully stopping the water.

The problem is the fact that if the water is still flowing into the tank but you think it isn’t because it’s off, and the water from the bottom of the tank is flowing onto somewhere in your house that does not have a proper drain, you can have damage to your home.

So, the next spot that you’ll want to check is where the main water comes from into your home. This can often times be found near the tank (for example a pipe coming out of the floor), and it has a similar shut off mechanism to shut the tank off. Sometimes this mechanism needs to be screwed down to the bottom, or a lever must be turned perpendicular to the pipe to shut it off. It all depends on your model.

A lot of the times, the main water shut off for your home is in very inconvenient locations, like the back of a crawl space, the back of a closet, behind the furnace, behind the hot water tank, and sometimes it’s extremely difficult to access. If the tank can’t be shut off from above the tank and let’s say you can’t find the main water shut off for your house, then in that case the only other option that you have is to shut your house’s main water off, which can be quite inconvenient. It usually requires a plumber because it usually requires special tools.

The plumber would need to go with a key somewhere on your front lawn or driveway and find a small access. If the original access for your water has been buried or damaged, then it usually involves someone from the city having to come out and either dig up your front lawn to find it or shut it off at an even further point. So, the preferred option is to shut it off at the tank and go from there.

Once the water is shut off you’re going to want to shut the gas off. There are three spots that you can possibly shut the gas off from, and they are the following:

    • The first is at the tank itself. There is a small button or knob on the top – that says ON, PILOT and OFF. It would be pointing to the ON position. Turn that around until it goes to the OFF position.
    • Following the gas pipe back, that connects to that gas valve, you should see another shut off, with likely a lever that turns perpendicular to the pipe to shut the gas off.
    • The other option is shutting the gas off at the meter, which usually requires a present wrench. But it’s something that you should be familiar with by now. Contact your gas utility provider for instructions at how to shut that off.

Last but not least, you want to drain the hot water tank.

One small addendum to this post – sometimes, people don’t have gas water heaters and instead they have electric water heaters. So, there won’t be any gas to shut off and instead you’re going to want to go to your breaker panel in your house. Find the breaker marked “water heater” and shut that off. A lot of the times the breakers can be marked wrong, so you’re going to want to call a professional on this point, to make sure that everything is shut down correctly, and get the tank swapped out.

How Can I Tell If My Hot Water Is Leaking

So you think your water heater has sprung a leak. What should you do about it? The first thing that you’re going to want to do is to make sure that it’s actually the water heater that’s leaking. Coming from a contractor’s perspective, we’ve more than once, swapped out a tank, only to discover that there’s actually a pipe or some other water problem near the hot water tank that’s actually causing the water to leak all over the floor.

The second thing that you’ll want to do is to try to find out where the water is coming from. There’s a little cover on the bottom of the tank. I would suggest that you pull that cover off, and look at the bottom of the tank to see if it’s filling with water.

If that’s the case, you’d know for sure, 100%, that the water is coming out of the tank, and not just some other water source making the floor wet. The other thing that you’ll want to check is the dip tube on the side of the tank – it’s the long pipe coming down on the side of the hot water tank. See if it’s wet, coming out of the end of that tube. If it is, again, the actual tank itself is not the part that’s leaking.

There’s another part, called a temperature and pressure relief valve that can cause the water to shoot out and go all over the floor. A temperature and pressure relief valve spilling water can have a lot of other causes, like the pressure being too high in your house or a broken pressure reducing valve or a variety of factors.

The next thing that I would suggest to do is you should start looking around the outside of the tank, rubbing your hands along the side of it to see if you feel any bubbles, rusting or bulges. They are all indicators that the tank has blown. Tanks come in a pre-packaged format. The actual tank that contains the water is on the inside and the part that you see is just an outer shell. So, if you see any damage or rusting or bulging on the outer shell, that means that the inner shell is definitely broken.

Moving from the side of the tank to the top of the tank, you will see some various circles or ports. Again, if you see any leaking or rusting or bulging around there, that means that the tank is blown.

Alternatively, once in a while, on a rare occasion, there could be water coming down the chimney from the roof, or from another source, and that can be causing water to end up on the top of the tank. But as long as it doesn’t look like that, and there is rust on the top of the tank then you know for sure that the tank has blown, and that that’s your problem right there.

Moving outside of the hot water tank room, there are some indicators that will tell you if a hot water tank is blown or not. Sometimes, rusty water will start coming out of the tap, but it may not be rusty but just a little bit brownish. Don’t take this as an indicator that it’s blown for sure. Sometimes, it can just be an indicator of sediment, nothing more, nothing less. If you suspect that it might not be blown but sediment, you can go down and screw a hose on to the bottom of the tank, and try to flush it to get the sediment out of there. So, here are the steps to do this:

  • You put the hose on the tank.
  • You run it to a drain.
  • You open up the drain port at the bottom of it to try to flush it out.

Word of warning – at this point, that may cause the tank to blow, if it was already partially blown or just very unstable.

If you definitely think it is the tank that is leaking I would suggest that you shut the water off from the top of the tank. There should be a little handle that you can use to turn it off at the top of the tank on the cold water line. I would also suggest, if it looks simple enough, to follow the gas line back and turn the gas OFF, or if you can’t see where that is coming from, there should be a knob on the control, at the bottom of the tank, with three positions – ON, PILOT and OFF. Turn that to OFF.

With gas and water off the next step would be to figure out how to connect the hose to the bottom of it, run a hose from the hose bib to a drain and let the tank drain.

One small addendum to this blog – if you have an electric hot water tank, you won’t have gas to shut off, and instead, you should be shutting the breaker off at the panel. So, go to your panel, and there should be a breaker marked “hot water tank” that you’ll need to shut off. At that point, just call a professional to get the tank swapped out.