Installation can make or break the system’s performance. Unfortunately, finding the right contractor—one experienced with today’s sophisticated, high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment—is not easy, even in a big metropolitan area. Some utilities solve this problem by creating a trusted contractor pool to support their HVAC efficiency programs. You may not have the time or budget to do that, but you can introduce your customers to online resources to help them select the right person for their job.
Ask questions, look for credentials
Energy Star’s 10 Tips for Hiring a Heating and Cooling Contractor is a good place to start for basic common-sense advice. It includes a link to the Energy Star Guide to Energy Efficient Cooling and Heating, also available in Spanish. While your customers are on the website, they can research Energy Star-qualified heating and cooling equipment.
Air Conditioner Contractors of America (ACCA) has an outstanding page for homeowners that discusses system maintenance, interviewing contractors, and even talks about Manual J, the industry standard for determining the size of an HVAC system. There are short, informative videos about the value of licensed contractors, questions to ask before hiring one and what to expect from a professional installation.
ACCA strongly recommends hiring a licensed contractor with technicians certified by North American Technician Excellence (NATE). The nationally recognized, industry-supported certification organization has its own website with helpful Tips and Resources covering everything from safety to HVAC terminology. However, visitors should use the ACCA contractor locator to find local credentialed technicians as it is more up to date than the NATE database.
Building Performance Institute is another organization that certifies contractors and provides a searchable database. The results include not only company location, but technician core certifications as well.
Visitors will find BPI’s contractor comparison form useful when getting estimates. The form lists 10 questions and space for the answers from three different contractors for easy comparison. It also lists the steps homeowners should expect during the installation process.
Homeowners generally don’t think about HVAC purchases and repairs—not exactly the stuff of daydreams, after all—until something goes wrong. Utilities can think ahead for their customers by creating a bill stuffer with contractor questions and links to online contractor finders. Make sure your customer service representatives have hard copies and electronic copies they can share with anyone who asks.
If you offer an incentive program for high-efficiency HVAC systems, place links to selected online resources on your program Web page. Make sure equipment vendors have copies of the contractor questions on hand to pass out with sales.
Educating customers about the value of hiring certified HVAC installers can create a ripple effect that motivates contractors in your service territory to seek certification. Utilities can be ready with information about credentialing organizations in case contractors call with questions. In a business where much of the training is passed from generation to generation, technicians in small towns and rural areas may not be aware of certification opportunities. If enough customers are asking about contractors’ credentials over time, you may find that your trusted contractor pool builds itself.