There is nothing more frustrating than waking up to find your central furnace or air conditioner has malfunctioned. Most homeowners do not have an ongoing relationship with an HVAC contractor, so how do you know which one to choose? The heating and cooling industry is quite technical relative to other trades. The training and certification process is intense, and it takes a tradesman many years before they are considered a qualified journeyman.

Since HVAC equipment is loaded with hi-tech electronics, processors and advanced circuitry, it is important to hire a skilled and knowledgeable contractor for repair, installation and maintenance services. Product quality is essential, but the dealer servicing your equipment will have an even greater impact on cost, performance, efficiency and system longevity.

The Benefits of Hiring a NATE Certified Technician

The North American Technician Excellence (NATE) organization is considered the industry authority for heating, ventilating and air conditioning certification. Service techs who are awarded a NATE certificate have complied with all of organization’s rigid testing criteria and demonstrated a superior knowledge of HVAC concepts and principles.

NATE sponsors classes and administers tests that cover a wide array of industry disciplines. The coursework was developed to give the student a practical working knowledge of the HVAC industry. Specific emphasis is given to the following areas:

* Air Conditioning
* Heat Pumps
* Package Units
* Geothermal
* Air Distribution
* Gas Furnaces
* Commercial Refrigeration
* Hydronic Heating
* Troubleshooting
* Electronics
* HVAC Efficiency Analysis

Recent surveys indicate that over 90 percent of homeowners prefer to have a NATE certified technician work on their HVAC equipment. Certified technicians have the capacity to diagnose and repair faulty units faster and more accurately when compared to mechanics without formal training. When the work is completed by a NATE certified technician, homeowners experience better comfort, lower utility costs and fewer callbacks. Always ask your contractor if a NATE certified technician will be servicing your unit.

Contractor Qualifications

There is simply no substitute for experience when repairing an HVAC system. There are many different equipment brands and models with a variety of options and features. The experienced contractor has a full staff of service technicians who are proficient in repairing virtually any brand of equipment. In most instances, they do not have to consult the service adviser or reference a technical manual, which saves time and money.

Dealer Certifications and Awards

Dealer certifications and awards serve as a basis for comparing the experience and qualifications of different contractors. Recognized industry awards are given to HVAC companies who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to the industry and customer service. When you are hiring a contractor, always ask if they have any of the following designations:

* Factory Authorized Dealer: Most major equipment manufacturers offer a factory authorized designation to their most valued contractors. The program includes requirements for ongoing factory training, customer service evaluations and honest business practices.

*Building Performance Institute: The Building Performance Institute (BPI) is the nation’s leading organization for credentialing home performance professionals. BPI certified technicians understand how to address performance, energy efficiency and indoor air quality issues in older homes and buildings.

* National Comfort Institute: National Comfort Institute (NCI) is an organization that develops tools and services designed to help contractors improve their business and differentiate themselves from the competition. NCI certified contractors are trained to address and correct numerous comfort and safety issues including poor system performance and high operating costs.

Emergency Service and Maintenance Agreements

Cooling and heating maintenance agreements serve as an excellent way to ensure your comfort system continues to perform efficiently over an extended lifecycle. A service agreement typically features two semiannual visits from qualified technicians who run a series of tests, inspections and calibrations designed to improve performance and expose hidden problems.

In most cases, maintenance plans also include a provision for emergency priority service if your system breaks down unexpectedly. Since the majority of mechanical failures happen during severe weather, customers with a maintenance agreement usually receive priority service ahead of everyone else. Ask your contractor to provide maintenance plan options that include 24/7 prioritized emergency service.

The Professional HVAC Contractor Advantage

A quality contractor should never be reluctant to share references, awards, certifications and work history. Your local state building department can provide information related to license issues and outstanding complaints. Homeowners are encouraged to scrutinize the dealer’s resume before signing a contract or purchase agreement.