No recent editorial of mine has elicited as much response as when I wrote about receiving quotes to replace my 25-year-old air conditioner and furnace a few weeks back. You can click here if you want to read the entire editorial, but here is the Cliffs Notes version.
Three contractors gave me quotes, and they were all over the map in terms of price and information. I received different opinions on the size of the equipment I needed, whether I need single- or two-stage equipment, and everything in between. In my column, I suggested contractors differentiate themselves by doing things the right way or the customer was just going to shop on price.
I’ve learned a bit about HVAC in my 10 years covering the industry, so I was not inclined to go solely on price. I recognize the importance of items such as load calculations, North American Technician Excellence (NATE)-certified technicians, and IAQ.
And, while I’m pleased with my decision, it was not without some scorn. My wife, not surprisingly, wanted to go with the middle quote. Like most consumers, she figured the top guy was overpriced, the low guy was not that good, and the company in the middle would be just right. However, since I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on the topic, this was the one time the wife decided to go with my preference.
I couldn’t be happier with the result. I am up here in Michigan, so we went with the minimum 13-SEER air conditioner while picking the 96 percent, two-stage furnace — and, of course, the Wi-Fi thermostat. But, in reality, I could have gotten that same equipment from any company. I was buying into the contractor. They were professional from start to finish.
To start off with, the salesman was good and knew how to hook you. He sat down with me and talked for 30-45 minutes before he ever asked to see the furnace. He talked about my concerns, if we had kids, any allergy issues in the house, etc.
This contractor did a load calculation, employs only NATE-certified techs, makes a point to pull permits, and gave the sense the company strives to do things the right way. The company also promised a 10-year parts and labor warranty when most other companies I brought in were offering only two years. It proved they stood behind the work, and I do not need to worry about this for 10 years. I am big on spending money for peace of mind.
Everything else about their professional operation was just gravy. They were courteous when taking my phone calls, technicians treated my house with respect while answering all my questions, and the salesman promised a tech would follow-up after the installation to make sure I was completely satisfied.
So, that was my great journey in upgrading my HVAC system. I would be interested to hear if you believe I am a good representative of the average customer.
As a side note, the night after the installation, I was at my kid’s school for an ice cream social. While being elbow deep in some Cold Stone Creamery Chocolate dessert, a neighbor inquired as to why they saw three HVAC vans in my driveway that day. When I said nothing was broken, and I just wanted to upgrade the furnace and a/c, they were shocked. I mumbled something about my oldest having asthma and the comfort level of my upstairs, but she still held that confused look on her face.
I do not envy you folks trying to sell HVAC. It must feel like you are constantly swimming against the current.
Publication date: 4/6/2015