Most homeowners in areas that experience severe weather know they should be on the lookout for fly-by-night roofing repair companies. These often disreputable contractors follow the trail of destruction left by hail and high winds, performing substandard repairs before abruptly leaving town. But this scam extends beyond roofing -- similar companies travel the country offering HVAC repairs to storm-ravaged communities, as well.
Taking a Beating
In most homes, the most critical air conditioning equipment is located outside. These units are built to withstand the elements, but large hail and flying debris can still cause serious damage.
An especially common problem occurs when the metal fins covering the condensing unit become dented in a way that restricts airflow. There may be no immediately noticeable effects, but this damage can reduce energy efficiency, diminish system performance and accelerate wear on essential parts. It’s important to inspect your condenser after any major storm to catch this kind of damage early.
If your HVAC system is suddenly operating differently in any way after severe weather strikes, it’s important to call upon a service professional -- major problems like refrigerant leaks can be both expensive and hazardous. Unfortunately, unscrupulous contractors take advantage of this urgency when HVAC services are in high demand, only to disappear soon after.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot HVAC repair scams a mile away. But since you can never be too careful, it’s important to follow a few simple precautions before doing business with an unfamiliar HVAC business in the wake of a severe storm:
- Contact your insurance and/or home warranty company to see if you’re covered for any of the damage. Coverage levels and exceptions vary, so it never hurts to go straight to the source for a definitive answer about whether you’re protected.
- Research any contractor before making the decision to do business -- read online reviews, ask for customer references and check out their reputation with the Better Business Bureau.
- Request everything in writing, including bids and estimates on any repairs.
- Ask to see licensing information and proof of liability insurance for any contractor you’re considering hiring.
- Avoid contractors engaging in aggressive sales through unsolicited phone calls or door-to-door sales pitches. If your gut tells you that you’re dealing with a shady contractor, trust it!
Shoddy HVAC repairs can be much more than a waste of money -- they can even cost you a bundle by causing additional damage to your system. Before entrusting your climate control equipment to anyone, do your homework to be sure you’re working with an HVAC technician you can count on.