Are you in the market for a new heating and cooling system but don’t know where to start? Calling a few of the many reputable HVAC companies here in the Richmond, VA area is always good starting point.
We recommend selecting a contractor that will work with you developing a solution to your needs not theirs.Get a feel for their comfort consultants and their customer service skills, and generally see who makes you feel the most comfortable in general.
Let Upcoming Estimates Lead to The Right HVAC Contractor for You
Since all HVAC systems and their components require bi-annual maintenance and service - you're embarking on a multi-decade relationship. Thus, you'll appreciate selecting the right "partner" from the start.
Here are 7 recommendations to obtain high-quality estimates, from legitimate contractors, so you install the best HVAC system for your household needs.
1. Check Currency and Validity of Licenses, Insurance and Better Business Bureau rating.
Only seek consults and/or estimates from HVAC contractors with a valid license. Use Virginia.gov's DPOR Website to verify license information before scheduling your appointments. That way you can rule out non-professionals before they waste your time.
For example: if you type in Howell's Heating & Air License #2701012189, you'll see our license was originally issued in 1973 and is current through 2019. You also have the ability to view whether a particular contractor has any open and/or prior complaints. Similarly, you should verify that each Richmond HVAC company you speak with is insured and is a member in good standing with the Better Business Bureau.
These three verifications make it easy to rule out Richmond HVAC contractors that don't have all of their professional ducks in a row.
2. Obtain more than one Estimate
This is an industry mantra that exists for a reason. By meeting with different Richmond HVAC professionals, you'll be able to make more informed comparisons as you review the different estimates. Also, each contractor will have something of their own to add to the mix - which gives you more to think about, research, and learn as you decide which system and features are the best investment for your household.
3. Ask if Their Technicians Are NATE Certified
So much has changed in the past 20+ years in terms of design recommendations and industry "best standards." These changes are largely due to industry innovation, the digitalization of just about everything, and trends towards increased energy efficiency and overall sustainability.
Unfortunately, some of the "old school" contractors still do things the old way, and this compromises their ability to size systems correctly and/or make the best recommendations for a system that will serve your household effectively and efficiently for the next 20-years or more
NATE Certification is a sign post, indicating the prospective contractor cares enough to send their techs to NATE trainings, where technicians must pass a rigorous, nationally-recognized exam, demonstrating their knowledge about increasingly sophisticated heating/cooling equipment as well as various specialty areas.
4. Figure out if a Contractor Uses Updated Software to Size the System?
Prior to the industry overhaul referenced above, HVAC contractors used "rule of thumb" guidelines to determine the best system size for a particular building. In a nutshell, they chose systems based on the square-footage of the home and whether you had special preferences as to extra-warm or extra-cool. There was also the idea that "bigger is always better," which we now know is definitely not the case.
This led to over- and under-sized systems that were completely inefficient, broke down more often, had ductwork running every which way and that experienced much shorter lifespans than advertised.
Today, contractors should be using Manuals J and D to perform black-and-white load calculations. The former is specific to heating and cooling systems and the latter is specific to ductwork design. While referred to as manuals, these software-based tools take a myriad of information to determine the best system, features, and duct materials/design for your home based on:
- Lot exposure/orientation
- Home orientation
- Passive solar design features
- Structural materials
- Insulation type/quantity
- Window and door specs
- And more
The result is a system that is exactly the right type - and size - for your home.
5. Are Their Recommendations in Line with the Richmond Area's Climate?
We live in a unique climate, one where it can be extremely hot and humid in the summer and bitter cold at times during the winter. Climates with temperatures and humidity fluctuations require specific system requirements.
We recommend reviewing the following articles before your appointment to discuss your preferences with the technician more confidently:
6. Talk to Each HVAC Company about System Performance Features
There's a fine line between informing customers about features that will improve system performance - and making them feel like you're up-selling. While a comfort consultant should never be pushy, they're also not doing a thorough job if they don't introduce the idea of home-specific features that lead to a more efficient, affordable, and functional HVAC system in the long run.
While you may be looking for the best price - keep in mind that lifetime costs (what you spend in terms of initial costs, utility spending, repairs/replacement parts, etc. over the lifetime of your unit) may be significantly cheaper if you spend a bit more at the outset.
Some of the items worth discussing are:
- Existing insulation and duct work - particularly if you live in one of Richmond's older homes where insulation and/or duct work could be leaky, compromised, and/or not up to current residential building standards.
- Zoned heating - for multi-story, larger or architecturally unique homes that benefit from keeping different rooms/areas at different thermostat settings.
- Whole-home humidifiers and dehumidifiers - work with the HVAC system to monitor and maintain ideal humidity levels year-round.
- Filtration systems - minimize pollen, dust, dander, mold and mildew spores, and other contaminants or particulate matter that would otherwise circulate through a forced-air system.
7. Ask if the HVAC Contractor Offers an Ongoing Maintenance Plan?
Regular maintenance is required by most HVAC system manufacturers for warranties to stay valid. These regular tune-ups also reduce repair and maintenance costs, minimize or eliminate system malfunctions and breakdowns, keep the system working efficiently, and extend a system's lifetime.
While homeowners are welcome to schedule and pay for these maintenance appointments independently, many HVAC contractors offer some type of maintenance plan or membership like the Howell’s Comfort Club that takes care of these appointments for you and provides year-round savings and scheduling priorities that make the sign-up fee well-worth the investment.
Getting an HVAC Estimate in Richmond, VA
We always encourage customers to get a few estimates before deciding on the company to use, but we encourage you to only work with reputable companies in the area. Contact Howells Heating & Air to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced NATE-certified technicians.