What Is an HVAC Contractor and When You Might Need One?

What Is an HVAC Contractor and When You Might Need One?

Small Projects and Repairs
By Ani Mouradian June 22, 2021

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems play an important role in the upkeep of the modern home. Though we may take HVAC for granted, it’s hard to imagine a world without it. These systems make our homes cool during the dog days of summer, and keeps us toasty warm during the cold winter months.

When it's time to upgrade to a new HVAC system, or if something goes wrong, the HVAC contractor will be the one to call.

In this series of articles, we take a look at the different kinds of professionals you might hire for your home improvement projects. You may have heard of some of these trades, but might not know exactly what they do. Contractors.com will fill you in on everything you need to know about HVAC contractors, including when you might need one. 

What Does an HVAC Contractor Do?

What Does an HVAC Contractor Do?

What Does an HVAC Contractor Do?

Put simply, the job of an HVAC contractor is to install, repair, and maintain heating and cooling systems. These technicians are trained in all three areas of HVAC, namely heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, though some HVAC services will be more specialized to one or several of these areas. Some HVAC contractors focus on residential HVAC systems, whereas others specialize in other areas such as commercial AC systems. In general, HVAC contractors ensure that your HVAC system is routinely maintained and properly set up so that everything works as designed. To do this job properly HVAC contractors need to be able to complete various repairs while taking into account the age and condition of each HVAC system they work on. 

An HVAC contractor, therefore, has a complicated job that requires understanding a range of concepts including the principles of refrigeration and heating, and the ways they apply to a wide range of different heating and cooling systems. 

It is also the HVAC contractor’s responsibility to plan and implement the installation of a new HVAC system. The technician must make sure that the new system has been properly installed, and is working as intended. This is especially important from a health and safety standpoint, as certain procedures - such as furnace repair- need the special attention of a trained technician to be done safely.

When Might You Need an HVAC Contractor?

If your dreams of home improvement include plans for air conditioning installation or replacement, an HVAC contractor will be indispensable in realizing those goals. HVAC installation requires considerable technical skill, so it pays to hire an expert to deal with the more complicated details. This will not only make the whole process easier but will also make things safer since you will have a trained professional making sure all the work is planned and done properly. 

Even if you aren’t planning to replace your HVAC system anytime soon, an HVAC contractor can still be very helpful. They can help keep your old system running smoothly by completing regular maintenance and repairs. If your HVAC system hasn’t been checked in a while, getting a contractor to examine it can help identify and fix potential problems so that you don’t have to face unpleasant surprises, like an AC failure in the middle of summer. 

When Might You Need an HVAC Contractor

When Might You Need an HVAC Contractor

HVAC contractors are instrumental in rehabilitating existing HVAC systems. They act much like a doctor for your HVAC system, diagnosing problems with your central air conditioner, checking ductwork for leaks, and measuring airflow. If something suddenly goes wrong, HVAC contractors can also be called upon to do emergency repairs. 

They can also improve the performance and extend the lifetime of your existing heating and cooling system. HVAC contractors have a range of services to do this, including air conditioner repair, furnace repair, air conditioning installation, and duct cleaning. An HVAC technician can also give you tips to lower energy bills, such as replacing doors, sealing doors and windows, upgrading your home’s insulation, or better insulating the HVAC system itself. 

Improving the Air Quality In Your Home Starts with Calling an HVAC Contractor

Improving the Air Quality In Your Home Starts with Calling an HVAC Contractor

If you want to further improve the air quality in your home, the HVAC contractor can also advise on whether your home would do well with a humidifier or dehumidifier, as well as install them if you decide you do need one.

How Do They Fit in With the Larger Project?

Any full capacity home remodel will require you to visit or revisit your home’s air conditioning system, and an HVAC contractor will usually come in to do just that before the drywall goes up and after the main structure has been built. Even if you’re just looking to install a new system, an HVAC contractor will be there to help work out all the technical details. By considering your homes’ dimensions, the HVAC technician will determine the layout of your system as well as the type of heating and cooling system needed, and how much refrigerant will be required. HVAC contractors might also coordinate with electricians, mechanical contractors, and even plumbers to ensure that work is done correctly. For example, an HVAC contractor can collaborate with a plumber to ensure that a water boiler is correctly integrated into the HVAC. 

A good HVAC contractor should be thorough, spending a lot of time evaluating a home, its insulation, and size before completing major work. 

How Much Do HVAC Contractors Charge?

Some HVAC contractors will offer you free on-site estimates, but this is not always the case. Typically, they charge a minimum service call fee which can range from $75 to $200 per hour. How much an HVAC contractor costs will vary depending on your location, what size of home you live in, and what kind of work you need to be done. For routine maintenance and/or repairs, expect to pay from $75 to $150 per hour. However, more complex repairs can range anywhere from $300 to more than $2,000. For a complete HVAC replacement - meaning both furnace and AC unit - you can pay from $5,500 to nearly $12,000.

On average, cleaning your HVAC system can cost from $300 to $1,000, which figures to around $35 per air duct. 

How to Choose the Best HVAC Contractor for You

How to Choose the Best HVAC Contractor For You

How to Choose the Best HVAC Contractor For You

When choosing an HVAC contractor, there are a few important questions you should ask beforehand: 

  1. Ask for an estimate. Price is always a big consideration given that HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair can be some of the most expensive home improvement projects. Don’t shy away from asking an HVAC contractor to give you an estimation of expenses for their services. A qualified HVAC contractor should be able to give you an itemized list of what everything will cost when all is said and done — one that includes potential surprises as well.  
  2. Ask for a time estimate. With hourly rates, time is literally money. When considering a prospective HVAC contractor, ask them to give you an estimate of how much time they will need to complete the job in question. This will allow you to better plan your affairs around the fact that your home’s heating or cooling might be temporarily out of service while the contractor works on it. 
  3. License and insurance. Several states and cities in the United States require HVAC contractors to hold a license and carry insurance to work legally. Checking they’re a licensed HVAC contractor who holds all the relevant permits is a great way to make sure you are dealing with a certified professional and avoid getting pulled into legal matters yourself. You can check the particular requirements for your state/city here.
  4. Experience. Finding the most experienced HVAC contractor is a great way to ensure that your home improvement plans go off without a hitch. Feel free to ask an HVAC contractor about their experience. Less experienced HVAC contractors tend to focus on routine maintenance work and may not be suitable for more complex jobs. 
  5. Online reviews. Whether you're browsing HVAC contractors on our website or asking friends for referrals, reading reviews is another way for you to verify your contractor’s credentials. Try to get references from your contractor who are willing to vouch for the contractor’s performance.
  6. Sign a contract. This may seem above and beyond, but having an agreement with your contractor in writing gives you protection and peace of mind. Putting important details in writing such as costs, model numbers, job timeframes, and warranties is important, especially if you are planning to undertake more costly HVAC projects.  

HVAC systems play quite an important role in our daily lives and have a significant influence over our health and comfort. A well-maintained HVAC system can make the difference between a healthy indoor environment and a poorly ventilated one, especially during the time of coronavirus. With a little research and preparation, you can go a long way towards making sure that you find the best HVAC contractor for the job you require. In the age of the internet, HVAC projects have become just that little bit easier to accomplish.

Written by
Ani Mouradian

Written by Ani Mouradian