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What Do HVAC Contractors Do? (2023 Guide)

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Do you have a higher-than-normal energy bill or notice a strange smell coming from your vents? You may need to call an HVAC contractor.  

An HVAC—or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning—is an important system that regulates your home’s temperature by moving heated and cooled air throughout it. At some point, you may need to hire an HVAC contractor for repairs or a system checkup. An HVAC contractor is a skilled and licensed technician who installs, maintains, and repairs these systems.

We at the This Old House Reviews Team have laid out exactly what a contractor is and when you should call one.

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HVAC units next to a home
HVAC Installation

Installation costs for common air conditioning units range from $500–$2,500.

Man working on a HVAC system
HVAC Repair

Depending on the repair, the typical cost ranges from $100–$2,000.

Energy efficient heat pump next to a house
Furnace Installation

Installing an electric furnace will typically cost $1,600–$9,700.


When Should You Call an HVAC Contractor?

There are several reasons you may need an HVAC contractor, whether it’s routine maintenance or a problem with your heating or cooling. This includes issues with your furnace, heat pump, or air conditioning unit

  • Temperature issues: A furnace blowing cold air instead of hot, or big variations in temperature from one room to the next, are telling signs that it’s time to call a technician.  Temperature inconsistencies could point to an issue with your ductwork or your thermostat’s sensor.
  • Your system is frequently running: It’s normal to have air conditioning running for long periods of time on hot summer days. What’s not normal is for it to kick on constantly every day and night. This is most often caused by restricted airflow from dirty filters, coils, or air ducts.
  • Bad smell: Does your home smell musty or do you notice a burning odor when your HVAC unit starts? Your HVAC could need cleaning, or it may be an electrical issue or fan motor problem.
  • Poor airflow: Your unit shouldn’t be struggling to keep up. This could be a minor issue, such as needing to clean the ducts or replace the air filter. It could also involve the compressor, which is a little more complicated.
  • Strange noises: Not every sound is a cause for alarm, but there are several that one shouldn’t ignore. Rattling could mean something is loose in the motor or blower, while hissing could be a leaking refrigerant line or a valve leak.
  • High energy bill: Fluctuations in your energy bills are expected, but if you notice anything out of the ordinary, it could be more than seasonal spikes. Higher-than-average energy bills indicate anything from a faulty thermostat to clogged filters or a refrigerant leak.
  • Routine maintenance: Heating and cooling systems are complex. One loose bolt can cause an array of problems. Instead of waiting for something to break down, it’s recommended to have your HVAC contractor perform annual preseason maintenance services for the cooling system in spring and the heating system in fall.
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What Does an HVAC Contractor Do?

HVAC companies service different heating and cooling systems in residential and commercial buildings. Below are the three most commonly performed services.

HVAC System Installation

Before installing a new heating and cooling system, an HVAC contractor will inspect and measure the current system to determine the correct size and capacity for your home. Next, the old system is carefully removed and replaced with the new system. If necessary, the technician will update or install ductwork, wiring, pipes, and electrical supply lines, plus a final inspection to ensure proper installation.

HVAC System Maintenance

HVAC maintenance is the process of regularly inspecting (and cleaning) your heating and cooling units and ventilation system. Not only does preventative maintenance keep your system up and running, but it also ensures it’s running at peak energy efficiency. Additionally, it can improve your home’s air quality. 

During routine maintenance, HVAC contractors inspect for leakage, check refrigerant, test thermostats, and change filters. Your contractor may also clean your systems and ductwork or repair and replace some components.

HVAC System Repairs

Did you hear a clunking sound from your air conditioner, or did your HVAC contractor find something during a preseason checkup? You may need an HVAC repair.

A repair can involve fixing or replacing parts to get your system up and running again or troubleshooting the issue until the system is functioning properly. Most repairs are an emergency and require immediate attention, particularly during the cold winter or scorching summer months. Homeowners typically don’t realize there’s a problem before it’s too late.

How To Hire a Professional

It’s best to hire an HVAC professional for installation, repair, or maintenance on your furnace, heat pump, or air conditioning system. Though some HVAC-related projects are do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, most require a professional’s skill and experience. 

There are multiple resources to find an HVAC pro. The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) has an online database of HVAC professionals or you can search contractors in your area. Seek out recommendations from family and friends who have used local HVAC contractors. Read local contractors’ online reviews and research whether the business is accredited through the Better Business Bureau.

Another consideration is how long the contractor has been working in the field and if they offer the services you seek. Some HVAC contractors specialize in specific equipment, such as hydronic systems, which may require different skills when compared to forced air systems.

Once you have a list of potential candidates, set up time to meet and ask questions related to their experience, credentials, and qualifications. These should include questions such as the following:

  • Are you insured and bonded in this state?
  • Are your rates fixed or hourly?
  • Are your technicians fully trained and experienced with my system?
  • Can you provide references?
  • Do you haul away old equipment?
  • Do you offer financing?
  • What are the payment terms?
  • What are your HVAC certifications?

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Our Conclusion

HVAC contractors are skilled and licensed technicians who work with heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. Whether you need HVAC maintenance or require installation or repair, finding the best HVAC contractor requires due diligence.

Be sure to research local HVAC contractors that perform the services you require before hiring one. Read online reviews or ask for recommendations to help guide your decision. Also, ensure the contractor meets licensing requirements. Above all else, don’t hesitate to ask your potential contractor any important questions regarding your HVAC project.

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FAQ About HVAC Contractors

What does HVAC stand for?

HVAC, or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, refers to systems that regulate the temperature in residential and commercial structures by moving heated and cooled air. Not only do these systems keep you comfortable, but they also filter the air you breathe to keep your indoor air clean.

Is HVAC part of construction?

HVAC falls under the umbrella of construction. However, there are key differences between HVAC services and construction or other home repair businesses.

What do HVAC contractors do?

An HVAC contractor is a service-based business with skilled and certified HVAC technicians. These professionals maintain, repair, and install heating and cooling systems in residential and commercial buildings.

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