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HVAC Contractors

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

There are lots of reasons you may be ready to replace your current heating and/or air conditioning system. Here are the "top 10":

10. Your furnace remembers the Cold War.

9. You have to keep the house warm in winter by leaving the oven door open.

8. It isn't unusual for strange old men in towels to mistake your house for the local sauna.

7. "I smell gas" is a popular conversation starter at your dinner parties.

6. The indoor air quality is so bad, you've started carrying around a canary, just in case.

5. For what you pay in utilities, you could be sending your furnace to Yale.

4. You have to run your ambient sound machine on top volume to fall asleep when the heat or A/C kicks on.

3. Your neighbors are gossiping about why the HVAC technician comes to call so frequently.

2. They stopped making parts for your model about 20 years ago.

And the number one reason to find the best HVAC contractors to properly install the right system for your home:

1. Every technician who has looked at it has said the same thing…"It's toast."

Regardless of the reason, sooner or later you will decide it's time to invest in a newer heating and cooling system. So, when you are searching for local HVAC contractors, what should you look for?

How to qualify HVAC contractors

References from friends, neighbors or family in your locality are a good place to start, but remember that your house may not be the same size as your uncle's retirement bungalow or your cousin's McMansion. If you get a quote from their favorite HVAC contractors, keep in mind that a good contractor will suggest the product that is best-suited to the size of your home, its orientation and existing ductwork when they run their calculations.

Contact three different HVAC contractors and get estimates. Then research the brands and product tiers each recommends. Do not be afraid to ask them to explain why they are suggesting a certain brand or product line for your home. Sometimes a contractor prefers a particular brand because they offer better installation and parts support to the contractor, meaning better service for you, both now and in the years ahead. Don't necessarily choose the contractor with the lowest quote. Be sure the product offered is not already outdated and that parts will be available for the expected life of your system.

Finally, you can ask if your contractor employs technicians who are certified by the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) program. NATE-certified technicians have to pass rigorous testing to qualify.

You can pay as much or as little as you like for your new HVAC system. Most contractors will agree that most brands are equally good; it's whether the system is the right size for your home and whether it is properly installed and maintained that will determine whether you are comfortable in your home year-round.