|Currently, there are more than 85,000 different heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) businesses in operation across the U.S. However, not all of them are as reputable or as honest as they ought to be — and a growing number of Americans are finding themselves the victims of HVAC scams as a result.
According to the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News, HVAC scams become more common throughout the spring months, a time when many people are looking to repair their air conditioners before summer begins.
The tactics used by HVAC scammers to cheat homeowners out of their money are wide-ranging and diverse, making it tough to know whether or not you’re being scammed. However, there are a few tell-tale signs that can indicate whether or not an HVAC company is as reputable as it says it is.
Many scams start with telemarketing or door-to-door solicitations, says Dave Hutchins, owner and president of Bay Area Air Conditioning, an HVAC company based in Crystal River, FL. Scammers will frequently inform homeowners they need air conditioning repairs that they might not actually need, claiming “some component is bad, or it needs more refrigerant than the system holds, or you have toxic mold,” Hutchins said.
Another trademark trait of HVAC scammers: offers that sound too good to be true. Scammers will offer air conditioning repairs at appealingly low prices, ask for payment on the spot, and then perform sub-par repair work — or no work at all.
“The current scam seems to be calling people and saying they are with XYZ Heating and Air, and it’s time for your free inspection,” Martin Hoover, president and owner of Empire Heating and Air Conditioning in Decatur, GA, says. “Then they go in and try to con people out of money.”
To avoid being scammed, it is recommended that homeowners take the time to research local heating and cooling companies, using consumer review sites like Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau’s website to seek out contractors with a good reputation.
Additionally, one should never wait until his or her air conditioning system dies to seek out an HVAC company’s help. Ideally, air conditioning systems require an annual tune-up to stay in good working condition.
Lastly, a surefire way to keep HVAC scams at bay is to seek out a second opinion. By bringing in a second HVAC company to inspect your air conditioner, you can verify the first company’s assessment of the damage that needs a repair. Once you find a trustworthy HVAC contractor in your area, there should be no reason to seek out services from another company.
Staying safe from heating and cooling scams doesn’t have to be difficult. All it requires is a little extra vigilance and skepticism of telemarketing and door-to-door solicitors.