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HVAC Scams and How to Avoid Them

HVAC scams

The unfortunate truth is that you can’t trust everybody. There are dishonest people out there who are ready and willing to steal from you. So today I want to help you spot some of the most common HVAC scams out there.

I do want to qualify this statement. Arista is active in our industry, both here in New York City and also nationally. I know many HVAC business owners and managers personally, and they are good, honest people who are not out to scam anyone. I believe most service providers are trustworthy.

But there are exceptions. So here is some advice that can help you avoid them.

8 common HVAC scams and what to do about them

1. Lying about an expensive part failure

The causes of HVAC problems and the costs to repair them can range widely. One scam that can be hard for you to spot (not being an HVAC expert) is lying about the cause. 

It’s fairly easy for someone to claim that your AC doesn’t work because the compressor is burned out, when in reality you have a simple electrical problem. The compressor is the most expensive part of the system and can cost you thousands of dollars to replace. They might even claim you need to replace the entire system (which sometimes makes sense if the problem really is the compressor). On the other hand, replacing an electrical capacitor is a quick fix that costs very little.

On the heating side, they may claim you have a cracked heat exchanger, which is also a very expensive problem to fix.  

How to avoid this scam: For very expensive repair estimates from a company you’re not familiar with, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion. Do your homework and find a company with a good reputation. 

2. Promising results in a few days

Sometimes scammers may say they replaced a part, but claim it will take a few days for you to notice the results. 

Don’t believe that! HVAC repairs should take effect immediately. It may take a few hours to get your space to set temperature if your heating or cooling system wasn’t working for a while. But you should feel the heat or the air conditioning coming out from vents normally.

How to avoid this scam: Ask to see the old part that they removed, and the new one in place. Chances are, they didn’t replace anything.

3. Impersonating a reputable company

Someone may show up in your home or office, claiming to be from a reputable local company, and offering a free inspection of your system. Then you may be hit with one or more of the other scams listed here. I don’t know of any legitimate HVAC companies that get their business that way.

How to avoid this scam: Never accept unsolicited offers from someone who comes to your door or calls you. At the very least, check out the company they claim to be from and verify their legitimacy. Be wary if they didn’t arrive in a branded vehicle or have the company logo on their clothing.

4. Offering used parts

After diagnosing an expensive repair, a company may claim to have a used part in the truck, so they can make the repair on the spot. Never accept used parts! And an offer like that is a clear tip-off that you are being scammed. 

How to avoid this scam: If someone offers you used parts, send them packing and call someone else. 

5. Offering to recharge AC refrigerant

Air conditioning units are closed-loop systems. That means they don’t need to be “recharged” regularly. If you are low on refrigerant, it means you have a leak somewhere. If someone offers to recharge your system, and claims that it’s needed regularly, that could be either a scam or plain incompetence.

How to avoid this scam. Ask them why your system needs a recharge. If they tell you it’s part of regular maintenance, that’s a scam. If you really do need a recharge, they should be telling you that they have to find and repair leaks in your system.

6. Selling you an oversized unit

When we talk about “size” in HVAC, it’s about capacity to cool, not physical size. Naturally a system with a larger capacity costs more. So a dishonest salesperson can easily claim that more capacity will give you more cooling power, just to get you to spend more.

When it comes to air conditioners, bigger is not necessarily better. In fact, oversized units can cause big problems. You want one that is appropriately sized for your space, occupancy, and usage conditions. 

How to avoid this scam: Ask them how they calculated the capacity you need. There’s a formula they should be using and they can show you this. If they can’t, be suspicious and get more estimates.

7. Asking for cash payment upfront

I don’t know any legitimate companies that ask for full payment in cash before the work is done. Never agree to this practice!

How to avoid this scam. Get a detailed estimate in advance and never accept payment terms like that.

8. An offer that’s too good to be true

If a price seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is. A company that has low-balled their price to get work has to skimp on the repair. There’s no other way for them to make money. They may be using low-quality or used parts. They may be skipping essential steps in preventative maintenance service. 

How to avoid this scam. Avoid choosing a vendor that offers a price significantly lower than everyone else. Get multiple estimates and you’ll see the legitimate price range for quality service.

Learn more> HVAC Service Contract Pricing Guide

The best way to avoid HVAC scams

When you establish a trusted relationship with a quality, reputable HVAC company, you don’t have to worry about being scammed. We’re in your corner, providing honest, reliable expertise and work at the best prices we can offer. It’s that simple.

If you’re in NYC, learn more about Arista.