1. Check credentials. Before making your selection, call the Better Business Bureau to make sure the dealer is reputable. Also, find out if the dealer is a member of a local or national association such as the Air Conditioning Contractors Association of America.
2. Make sure the dealer is affiliated with a nationally known manufacturer. Dealers should be taking advantage of factory training offered by their manufacturer. As a result, when they make recommendations, you can be more assured that they’ve selected the right size system for your home, and that they’ve been trained in installation and service.
3. Ask for references. Former customers are an excellent source of information. Also, ask to see installation photos. A dealer that is proud of his work will be more than happy to show it to you.
4. Expect an on-site evaluation of your home. A good dealer will take a thorough look at your home, ask questions and evaluate your overall comfort needs before making a recommendation. Beware of a dealer that simply takes information over the phone. A good dealer will also look the part. While he’s evaluating your home, you should be evaluating him. Not only should he dress professionally, but his truck and printed materials should look professional as well.
5. Check local licenses. Depending on where you live, dealers may have to comply with certain local or state regulations, so ask to see proof of these licenses, as well as insurance forms for liability and workmen’s compensation.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask for details about the firm’s experience and the expertise of its staff. This is particularly important if you’re also adding or changing duct work – in this case, experience is definitely a factor in getting the job done correctly.
7. Get a written proposal. To make a fair comparison, make sure that proposals you receive are all based in the same efficiency and equipment. You’ll also want to evaluate each dealer’s personal business standards and policies. For example, will he remove old equipment? Will he relocate equipment if you want your new system installed in a different location? What are his clean up and care policies during installation? How will he handle emergency repairs? These are just a few of the additional elements a good proposal will include.
8. Inquire about equipment and labor warranties. Limited warranties vary according to the manufacturer, so make sure you fully understand what you are getting. Also, don’t forget to inquire about manufacturer’s extended warranties at the time of purchase and other warranties provided by the dealer.
9. Ask about preventive maintenance service contracts. Many dealers offer service contracts that call for periodic maintenance and if needed repairs. The fee for such contracts is usually well worth it in terms of obtaining efficiency and performance for your system.
10. Finally, insist on a written contract. Commit your agreement to a writing and have the dealer sign it.