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Broken Air Conditioning? 3 Steps to Avoid Being Taken to the Cleaners

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Last Updated on June 25, 2015

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Take Control of Your Broken Air Conditioning Unit.

As a business owner or manager, you wear a lot of hats. But it’s going a bit too far when you’re expected to understand the technical mumbo-jumbo about what’s wrong with your broken air conditioning unit and make a decision to replace it on the spot. Do you trust this service provider and their diagnosis? Is this problem really a death sentence for your equipment? Can you buy a little time to figure out your options?

Just say no, or at least say “not so fast.” Any service provider that insists you need to purchase new equipment without offering an adequate explanation – or one that’s understandable to someone who’s not an HVAC expert – should raise a red flag. You should never rush into making an expensive equipment purchase, because it’s easy to make the wrong choice and spend more money than you need to.

Here’s how to proceed when you find yourself in this situation:

1. Make sure you understand the diagnosis.

While you may need to be an expert to perform repairs, you don’t need to be one to understand what’s gone wrong with your broken air conditioning unit. A qualified expert should adequately explain what’s causing the problem:

  • Has a part gone bad?
  • How expensive is it to replace that part?
  • What’s the underlying cause of the failure?
  • Does it make sense to do that given the age and condition of your system?
  • Can you put on a band-aid for the moment to give you time to research the best deal on a new system?

Someone qualified and trustworthy can answer these questions to your satisfaction. If the explanation is that the tech can’t find the problem, you should be especially wary.

Keep in mind that some issues that may sound dire are actually easy and affordable to fix. Electrical problems often fall into this category. Something as simple as a bad capacitor or wire can be the cause of a broken air conditioner unit. A less than reputable company, or a tech who’s inexperienced, may fail to disclose or find an issue like this and instead tell you that your HVAC system is dead and needs to be replaced.

2. See for yourself.

Ask your provider to show you failed parts, water leaks, corroded coils or low refrigerant readings. You’ll be able to see wear and tear on parts, especially if your HVAC system has not been regularly maintained. This may be the reason that the tech is recommending replacement of your unit. If it’s in poor shape to begin with, it may not make sense to put more money into fixing it. Ask for an assessment of your equipment’s condition and life expectancy and make sure it jives with what you can see for yourself and what you know about your unit’s maintenance history.

3. Get a second opinion.

If you don’t get satisfactory information, or you’re just not sure you trust the provider, bring in an independent HVAC service company to do an evaluation of your system. Similar to a home inspector’s role, an independent HVAC professional will conduct a thorough review of your HVAC system and the condition of its mechanical systems. You’ll get another opinion about the cause and prognosis of your current problem, and you’ll also better understand the overall condition of the various parts of your system. Armed with this information, you’ll be in a much better position to make an informed choice about fixing your unit or biting the bullet and investing in a new model.

As a business owner or property manager, it can sometimes feel like everyone wants your time, money, or both. Taking the three steps above can help you get the reliable information you need to make the right decision for your business, so you can go back to doing what you do best.

For more detailed information about the factors to consider when you’re faced with a repair or replacement decision, grab a copy of our helpful guide: Repair or Replace? A guide to making an informed choice when your HVAC system is down.
Should you repair or replace that broken HVAC equipment? Download the complete guide.