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Air Conditioner Repairs: 5 Ways to Know You’re Being Scammed

Imagine this scenario: your air conditioner breaks, and an HVAC technician comes to repair it.

Ask yourself this: How would you know if he or she is scamming you? If you’re like most people in Northern California, you don’t.

Why? Because it can be like dealing with a car mechanic – you’re not sure how things work.

The mechanic uses words and phrases that sound an alien language to you. You feel helpless having to take the mechanic’s word that something actually needs repairing or replacing, leaving you vulnerable to being scammed out of your money.

So how do you avoid being scammed by an HVAC contractor? There are a few commonly used scams in the HVAC industry that are easy to catch if you look for the right phrases. Here are 5 of them.

1) “All you need is more refrigerant”
If you’re low on refrigerant then you don’t need JUST more of it. You also have to fix the leak that let the refrigerant get that low. Remember, an air conditioner doesn’t use up refrigerant like a car uses gas. The refrigerant just circulates in the system.

So if a contractor says, “All you need is more refrigerant,” that translates to, “I will keep letting your air conditioner leak refrigerant so I can keep charging you for more.”

If you need more refrigerant, ask a potential contractor if they will look for leaks.

2) “Yes, this maintenance tune-up is free”

Free estimates for jobs are fine. But according to the BBB, some HVAC companies will trick you by offering a “free” tune-up in order to make a high pressure sales pitch. They’ll magically find something wrong during the “free” tune-up and try to scare you into high-cost repairs (or even replacing your entire heating and air conditioning system).

Just remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true (like a free tune-up), it probably is.

3) “I need full payment up front for the job”

Asking for a minor down-payment is fine. But a contractor that asks you for everything up front, either in cash or as a personal check should be considered a red flag

4) “Let’s just shake hands on this”

Never do business with someone who wants to skip making a contract.

The contract is solely for your benefit because it will list:

  • Start and completion dates (so you’ll know exactly when you can plan around the work being done)
  • A list of materials needed for the job (so you won’t be overcharged)
  • Payment penalties for not completing the job on time (gives the contractor an incentive to complete the job on time)

5) “I found other parts that I need to replace”

Speaking of parts needed for the job, a contractor may try to scam you by saying he’s going to replace one thing, but then mysteriously needs to replace other parts as the job progresses.

Ask to see what parts they’re referring to and why he or she needs to replace them. If they say they already replaced the parts (like while you were gone and at work) ask them for the broken part they replaced.

Keep asking questions. It’ll only benefit you.

Find a good contractor

The best way to avoid being scammed is to look for contractors with good reputations.

So find 3-4 good contractors with great testimonials and a good BBB rating before hiring someone–you’ll thank us when you do!

Service Champions, your local heating and air conditioning company, serves San Jose, Sacramento, East Bay and the surrounding areas. For more information on any of our products or services, contact us online.

Imagine this scenario: your air conditioner breaks, and an HVAC technician comes to repair it.

Ask yourself this: How would you know if he or she is scamming you? If you’re like most people in Northern California, you don’t.

Why? Because it can be like dealing with a car mechanic – you’re not sure how things work.

The mechanic uses words and phrases that sound an alien language to you. You feel helpless having to take the mechanic’s word that something actually needs repairing or replacing, leaving you vulnerable to being scammed out of your money.

So how do you avoid being scammed by an HVAC contractor? There are a few commonly used scams in the HVAC industry that are easy to catch if you look for the right phrases. Here are 5 of them.

1) “All you need is more refrigerant”
If you’re low on refrigerant then you don’t need JUST more of it. You also have to fix the leak that let the refrigerant get that low. Remember, an air conditioner doesn’t use up refrigerant like a car uses gas. The refrigerant just circulates in the system.

So if a contractor says, “All you need is more refrigerant,” that translates to, “I will keep letting your air conditioner leak refrigerant so I can keep charging you for more.”

If you need more refrigerant, ask a potential contractor if they will look for leaks.

2) “Yes, this maintenance tune-up is free”

Free estimates for jobs are fine. But according to the BBB, some HVAC companies will trick you by offering a “free” tune-up in order to make a high pressure sales pitch. They’ll magically find something wrong during the “free” tune-up and try to scare you into high-cost repairs (or even replacing your entire heating and air conditioning system).

Just remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true (like a free tune-up), it probably is.

3) “I need full payment up front for the job”

Asking for a minor down-payment is fine. But a contractor that asks you for everything up front, either in cash or as a personal check should be considered a red flag

4) “Let’s just shake hands on this”

Never do business with someone who wants to skip making a contract.

The contract is solely for your benefit because it will list:

  • Start and completion dates (so you’ll know exactly when you can plan around the work being done)
  • A list of materials needed for the job (so you won’t be overcharged)
  • Payment penalties for not completing the job on time (gives the contractor an incentive to complete the job on time)

5) “I found other parts that I need to replace”

Speaking of parts needed for the job, a contractor may try to scam you by saying he’s going to replace one thing, but then mysteriously needs to replace other parts as the job progresses.

Ask to see what parts they’re referring to and why he or she needs to replace them. If they say they already replaced the parts (like while you were gone and at work) ask them for the broken part they replaced.

Keep asking questions. It’ll only benefit you.

Find a good contractor

The best way to avoid being scammed is to look for contractors with good reputations.

So find 3-4 good contractors with great testimonials and a good BBB rating before hiring someone–you’ll thank us when you do!

Service Champions, your local heating and air conditioning company, serves San Jose, Sacramento, East Bay and the surrounding areas. For more information on any of our products or services, contact us online.