Hiring a new commercial HVAC company can be tough. Finding companies in your area may be simple enough, thanks to the internet and local directories, but once that is done, it can be challenging to cut through the marketing and sales, and work out which company will offer the best service and quality.
We know a thing or two about quality HVAC services, so we can offer some insight into what you should be looking for.
1. Healthy Financials
While not all service contractors will be willing to let you look at their financials, there are options to check the overall financial health of a contractor. Be wary of any contractor who is unable to supply sound credit references from major vendors and suppliers. Of course, any company in serious financial trouble is a risky choice as your HVAC provider, so proceed with caution if something negative turns up.
2. Product Line
When it comes to commercial HVAC companies and their product lines, more is more. The ideal HVAC contractor will carry or install a wide variety of products and equipment, and have established relationships with big name manufacturers such as Trane, Carrier, Lennox, Daiken, Mitsubishi, and Honeywell. Be cautious of companies who try to sell you lesser-known equipment or only offer a few product lines. Ideally, your contractor will be brand agnostic and have the buying power to select the right HVAC equipment for your application.
3. Knowledgeable Sales Teams
The best commercial HVAC companies have skilled, highly knowledgeable sales teams made up of technical specialists with strong engineering backgrounds. Their teams can assist with problem solving and system design and they have many years’ experience, whether in the field or in HVAC design and sales.
If you would prefer to use other sources of capital to fund your projects, look for firms that can also bring additional expertise in developing “paid from savings projects.” Quite often, the replacement of obsolescent HVAC equipment can be coupled with financing, rebates and tax credits to partially or completely fund projects. Firms with this sales expertise can help you model expected returns from projects that pay for themselves through productivity and utility savings.
4. Highly Trained Technicians
Great HVAC companies hire great people, who are already well trained, and then they give them more training. You want to find a company that is committed to keeping their technical team up to date with industry trends, equipment, certifications, licenses, and installation methods. Ask to see resumes and to meet with their field service management team to ensure the firm you’re looking to hire has the depth of expertise needed to properly service your equipment.
5. Information Technology Savvy
HVAC is a technical field, and companies that are active in technical fields should be technologically savvy in their back office systems, too:
- Does the HVAC contractor you’re using track service costs per individual piece of equipment?
- Can they tell you when it’s more cost effective to repair vs. replace, using historical service data?
- Do they have an information portal you can log into to track your data? You will significantly reduce operational costs with informed recommendations from your provider derived from data collected while servicing your equipment.
Be wary of commercial HVAC contractors who do not make maximum use of information technology in their day-to-day operations as well as in their installations. It is an incongruous disconnect, and often a red flag.
6. Fully Compliant
In order to operate as an HVAC contractor, particularly in the commercial and industrial sector, HVAC companies need to have a variety of licenses For example, each journeyman service technician in Kentucky requires a Kentucky journeyman’s license, and each contractor a Master contractor’s license. Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia also require special contractor licenses. When procuring an HVAC project, make sure your contractor provides for a turnkey proposal including all required local and state permits. Ask to see the credentials of companies you are considering, and eliminate any that do not make the cut. Do not forget about insurance either. Contractors are required to carry a variety of insurances if they do onsite installations, and you want to be sure that you are legally covered.
7. Affiliations and Awards
Most good HVAC companies will be affiliated with industry bodies, and they may have won industry related awards. It is worth finding out where your shortlisted contractors are affiliated, and whether their work is recognized by independent 3rd party or trade industry affiliated organizations. This can help to create a detailed picture of each company, and provide references from peers and colleagues, which can be helpful.
8. Reputation and Price
Probably the most often over-used and incorrect yardstick is comparing the labor rates of service contractors. This metric typically runs inverse to the expertise of the technician you may have on your site, risking increased operating expenses for service repairs.
When purchasing replacement HVAC equipment remember that it’s up to you to specify whether you wish to procure the lowest first cost or lowest life cycle cost option. The lowest life cycle cost option takes into consideration savings from productivity and utility savings over time and may give you better value over the hold period for your building.
Only once you have checked and approved all of the aforementioned criteria should you consider contacting references and comparing price. This helps to eliminate the time taken to vet contractors that are not the right fit, and to ensure that when you compare pricing, you are comparing apples with apples.