Notice to Consumers:

We have included some articles to help with selecting the right contractor, verifying their license status on the California State License Board’s link below, and obtaining additional information on their license status, such as workers’ compensation for their employees. Shop around before hiring a contractor, and ask for personal recommendations or references of previous jobs.

The following guidelines have been provided by the California Energy Commission to assist in the selection of contractors for repairs to your heating and air conditioning systems.

Where Can You Find a Good Technician?

CSLB

Check the Contractor’s License

In addition, California requires all air conditioning contractors to hold a state license, and to include their license number in all their advertising. So check the contractor’s license (you can do that at www.cslb.ca.gov) and ask the technician to show you his EPA card when he arrives at your home.

New Federal and State Energy Standards

One thing you may find out is that your air conditioner has not kept up with the times. As in many other fields, technology is having a dramatic impact on the HVAC business. Federal energy standards have been revised upwards twice in the last 10 years, and are set to take another jump on January 1 of next year.

And Freon, the refrigerant we’ve used for decades, will no longer be available; it’s set to be phased out in 2020, but that cut-off date may be advanced to 2017. Southern California Air Quality Management District rules for furnaces are scheduled to change as early as this October.

The Good News About Today’s Systems

The good news is that today’s systems mean you use less energy to keep comfortable. The bad news is that when the new rules go into effect, manufacturers will have to revise their designs, meaning new equipment will come with higher price tags. It may make sense to replace your old system today before those higher prices hit the marketplace.

Finding a Good Contractor

The rules for finding a good contractor are basically the same as the rules for finding a good technician. Check the state license and the federal certificate. Make sure that permits are pulled for any new or replacement systems that are installed. Don’t be seduced by a low, low price. Your home might be your most valuable financial asset, and you don’t want to compromise that to save a few bucks.

Shop Around Before Hiring a Contractor

When requesting bids on a project make sure you’re comparing bids based on the same plans and specifications. Do not automatically accept the lowest bid and beware any bid that is much lower than the others. It may be an indicator that the contractor has made a mistake or that he is not including all the work that his competitors are quoting.

Ask for Personal Recommendations

Friends, family and business associates may have completed similar projects. If they were satisfied with the results, you might, too. You may also wish to check the contractor out with your local building department, trade association or union, or a consumer protection agency.

Verify the contractor’s Workers’ Compensation and Liability Insurance

Ask to see a copy of the Certificate of Insurance. A California contractor is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for employees. Your homeowner’s insurance may not cover those costs. Learn more from the California Department of Insurance.

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