We HVAC contractors are confusing our customers. We must become better educators.
It seems there is a trend in our industry – at least in Houston – to provide very vague information to customers looking for bids on their air conditioning systems. Lack of information on some level is meant to protect the contractor but is also symptomatic that many AC techs don’t know enough about the equipment that they sell.
More so, if the technician does not know enough then the consumer is surely confused and undereducated. Thus business owners become inundated with the typical complaint. Why is your price so much different(higher) than your competitor? Often times this is not a problem with your competitor or your product but with you!
There is a reason that HVAC system prices can be so diverse because not everyone is on the same page. HVAC installation is not a commoditized product(at least not yet). I’m not even talking about the “bottom-feeders” of our industry who are hear today gone tomorrow. What I am speaking to is the mind of the consumer. Consider for those not in the industry It can be very daunting to compare and consider warranty, brand, efficiency, contractor quality, experience etc etc. Especially when many customers only desire to have their HVAC system fixed quickly at a fair price. Being told you need to replace your AC system is like being told you have cancer. The initial shock is hard enough. Still the rest of this post serves to help educate consumers and encourage contractors that we can do better.
Basic Bid/Estimate Differences to look for
When comparing there is usually a reason that two bids have such a different price when both say 16 SEER + [insert major brand] + 4 ton(or whatever size). If a competitor quotes “16 SEER + Major brand” there can be a considerable difference in price. Be sure the compare the following.
1. Brand – There are cheap (and yes often times less reliable) brands out there
2. Warranty – Always have your contractor provide their warranty information. Often times the cheapest bids come with no warranty whatsoever. The price will reflect this.
3. Reputation – Does the company pull permits with the local city? Do they stand by their work? What have their past customers said? BBB, Google reviews, Yelp etc?
4. Licensing – Often times the low ball quotes out there come from those that are not licensed OR their licensing is not up to date. In Texas you are required to list your HVAC contractors license number on all bids and proposals. Look for it.
5. Model of equipment – Here is the big one. There ARE units available that reach 16 SEER AHRI that are extremely cheap. Often times this involves purchasing the lowest price 14.5 SEER Condensing unit and slapping a two speed furnace in the attic. YES this can get you to 16 SEER but bare in mind that this is a “no-frills” 16 SEER. By this I mean it is typically a builder’s grade unit with no additional warranty or features. Probably 5 year instead of 10 years of coverage.
The cost to the contractor can be vastly different from one 16 SEER to another 16 SEER system. Even within the same brand. There are 16 SEER AHRI complete systems where just in equipment alone the price to the contractor is $1,000 difference. This can often reflect a $1500 – $2,000 difference in retail price to the unknowing consumer. We as contractors should adequately educate our customers about these differences AND consumers should be aware that your local contractor man not be “screwing you” with an expensive unit but instead is providing you a higher quality piece of equipment. Still it is his job to make that clear. If ever you are confused always ask. It doesn’t cost you anything and can go along way toward purchasing the right HVAC system for your home.