You can avoid most of these system replacement scams by making sure you work with a reputable AC installation company. We’ll cover more on that in other articles.
Mechanics, contractors, and craftsmen: a time-honored tradition of blue-collar work, and unfortunately, also the source of a lot of ripoff reports and scams. Just like auto mechanics, we hear a lot from homeowners who were gently (or not-so-gently) separated from their money by shady contractors.
Lately, we’ve even been hearing these scams perpetrated on a commercial scale.
It’s unavoidable in any large industry. There will always be someone who is trying to take advantage of you. The rest of us – the honest guys who want to do good work at a fair price and keep our customers for life – view them as the enemy.
They’re the bad apples, and they spoil our reputation. So, in this article, we’re going to expose them and their plans so you won’t fall for them again.
So, in an industry full of mostly decent guys, how do you avoid meeting the crooks?
Here are the scams we see most, and how to spot them a mile away.
This one is running rampant, and that’s pretty surprising, given how easy it is to spot. It can get pretty convoluted, though. Here’s the thing: the best contractor is probably neither the most nor least expensive you’ll talk to. His prices are likely to be somewhere in the middle, because he’s not trying to lowball you and hit you with surprise charges, and he’s also not trying this scam on you.
We see this one from Orlando AC Installation companies who claim to be more prestigious than they are, or companies whose entire business model is built on trying to convince you that other company’s pricing is too good to be true.
How to spot the scam: Do they say things like “[Company X]’s prices are only that low because they do bad work” or “You get what you pay for,” get a second and third opinion. Call another company (or two, or three) and see if they’ll quote you for the same job. You can even share the first estimate with them. If they say “Well, we can undercut that with cheaper labor” or “We have a discount through the manufacturer” or something like that, the first company’s pricing is probably within reason, but on the higher side.
If, on the other hand, they say “that quote is a total ripoff,” well, you should probably believe them.
Because, you see, even though we just said to watch out for guys who say this, you DO get what you pay for. If you pay for absurdity, absurdity is what you’re going to get.
Look, sometimes you just do need a new part. Parts go bad. Identifying and replacing faulty parts is part of our job. After all, you’re not trained for that.
However, some AC repair contractors take advantage of their customers by pointing out parts that aren’t broken and replacing them. It works on two levels: they get to charge you for a new part, and they get to resell the perfectly good used part you just allowed them to take.
Of course, not every contractor who says this is scamming you … so …
How to spot the scam: Ask them what the part is, and do a little research before you sign off. It’s pretty common for them to say your compressor is the bad part, since compressors are quite expensive, and therefore quite valuable. You can quickly Google “signs of a bad compressor” and if none of the symptoms sound familiar, you might be getting ripped off.
Try and remember that, as the homeowner or facility manager, you always have the authority to stop work and dismiss a company. If you suspect a scam artist, it might be the perfect time to do exactly that.
Often, a very simple scam contractors (a term we use loosely) will use is the Fake Repair Scam. Put simply, they don’t repair anything, or they do a stopgap repair. Perhaps they stop at charging a system they know to be leaking refrigerant without repairing the leak. Perhaps they don’t replace a part, even though they know they should.
Then they fake you out by telling you the repair is done and things should go back to normal in “a day or two.”
And that’s when we have a problem.
How to spot the scam: No repair will take “a day or two” to get back to normal. Repairs are almost always instantaneous. The only exception is frozen evaporator coils, which can take a few hours to thaw. Beyond that, you should see immediate results.
Unfortunately, your only recourse is to attempt to sue to recover your money, in most cases. You can avoid this, like we said in the introduction, by doing a little research and hiring a reputable company straight off. Online reviews are a great help, as are referral sites like Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau.
If you’re ever in doubt, hire someone else.
When things seem too convenient, sometimes they are. Now, we endeavor to make everything easy, but one thing we don’t do is sell used parts. Remanufactured and refurbished parts direct from a manufacturer? MAYBE. But used, in our truck? Never.
No honest contractor will do this to you. Used parts are unquantifiable, and more often than not will reduce efficiency or strain your system. Oftentimes, they’ll only work for a short while.
And if you’re wondering why the contractor had a used part sitting in their truck? It’s very likely a part that they pulled out of some other client’s system … because it wasn’t working properly.
How to spot the scam: Insist on new parts. Insist on itemized lists and transparency. Insist on knowing what work is being done at all times. Never buy used parts from a shady AC repairman.
Also? Watch for guys who try to sell you “new” parts that turn out to be refurbished or used. Just pay attention, and you’ll be fine!
Free inspections are a common and necessary part of doing business. There is absolutely no red flag associated with that. What is a bit off is the part where a lot of shady contractors try to piggyback off of reputable companies.
Let’s say someone calls you and says they’re with Orlando Air Conditioners (a company we find QUITE reputable). Of course, you want a free home inspection or audit from us, right?
Unfortunately, sometimes, you’re actually talking to a fly-by-night trickster using a name to fool you into hiring them.
How to spot the scam: Every reputable AC company we know (ourselves included) use marked vehicles and uniforms. If the truck your contractor shows up it doesn’t contain the name of the company they claim to work for, they’re not who they say they are. Also, “marked vehicle” means properly marked, with permanent decals or paint, not a window cling or a door magnet.
Standard policy for the best AC companies in Orlando requires that employees use work vehicles, not personal vehicles.
And this scam? This scam is why.
With central air and heat pump units, bigger is not necessarily better. In fact, units that are too large come with higher installation and operating expenses. They’re also more likely to malfunction or short cycle.
That means it will turn on and off too quickly. When that’s happening, your AC isn’t able to dehumidify your house, and you’ll see a noticeable decrease in air quality. What’s more, it’s bad for your system, especially your compressor. You’ll get wear and tear on your system at a higher than average rate.
Oh, and your bills will be higher, too.
How to spot the scam: Ask them if they’ve done a “load calculation” and what formula they used. A load calculation is a little bit of math any real HVAC contractor knows how to do. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to get a second opinion.
You’d be surprised how quickly second opinions unmask scam artists.
Everyone knows what an HVAC tune-up is, right? We’ve discussed them in other articles. They are the best bang for the buck available in AC maintenance. A technician goes over your AC with a fine tooth comb (literally and figuratively) to spot and fix small problems before they grow.
So where’s the scam? Well, that lies in frequency.
How to spot the scam: Reputable HVAC companies (like Orlando Air Conditioners) will remind you to have an annual tune-up, often right before the warmer season starts. Scammers will try to sucker you into seasonal tune-ups (4 times a year), at quadruple the expense.
Don’t fall for it.
If you’ve run into any other shady HVAC companies and want to clue us in on the ways they tried to rip you off, please drop a comment! You can also give us a call if you want a reliable, honest company to give you a second opinion.
AC repair costs go up, and they never seem to come back down.
That’s certainly true for the average American electric bill. That can make your Orlando area central air conditioner a source of worry. After all, it’s half (or more) of the money you spend on electricity every month.
But this is Orlando, and it’s nearly impossible to get by without an air conditioner. The Sunshine state has the nation’s most dangerous combination of heat and humidity. We see over 100 days a year where the temperature or heat index breaks 100 degrees.
Come on, you’ve got to admit, that’s intense.
Furthermore, heat is the number-one weather related cause of death in the U.S., beating floods, hurricanes, blizzards, and tornadoes.
That means, down here, air conditioners are a way of life.
That’s one of the many reasons we never turn off our phones at Orlando AC. Our Orlando AC repair technicians know that even one day without air conditioning could leave some Floridians in serious danger.
In this article, we’re going to help you help yourselves, though. You already know you can always call us. You already know we’re in town, looking out for you, and making sure you’ll stay frosty when those crazy summer months come roaring back in.
We’ve got TEN – count ‘em – TEN ways you can improve your AC efficiency, and they’re all free or really, really cheap. You can do just about any of these yourself, if you’re even the slightest bit handy.
And if you can’t? Well, we can.
Let’s dive in!
10 Tips & Tricks from Orlando Air Conditioners for AC Repair
1. Keep it clean and give it some room to avoid unneeded AC repair
Specifically, we’re talking about the outdoor unit, or condenser, here. A lot of stuff can build up around the housing and gum up the works. Mostly, it’s leaves, feathers, debris, trash, and whatever else the wind blows by. Those things make it harder for the condenser to work, particularly if they get lodged.
You should also make a point of clearing any brush, bushes, plants, or grass. Your condenser should have at least 2-3 feet of clearance around it for proper performance.
2. Clean your AC system air filters
Sometimes it feels like we say this too much. Then we realize that you can’t say this too much. Dirty air filters slow circulation, lead to short cycling, and damage your unit. Dirty air filters lower performance and air quality.
Dirty air filters are very bad for your system. If your Orlando air conditioners aren’t working the way they should, there’s a fair chance dirty air filters are involved.
Clean or replace your filters on a monthly basis, and only use filters that are approved for use with your system.
3. Clean vent fins
Ventilation fins on your outdoor ac unit need to be open and straight to do their job properly. Often, these can be bumped or damaged, closing them. That restricts air flow and inevitably leads to problems with cooling. You can purchase a fin comb from any HVAC supply store and most home improvement chains.
The trick is to be slow and gentle with this. Simply comb through the fins, steadily, until they’re straight. At that point, you’ll probably notice improvement very quickly.
4. Throw some shade at it
It’s hard to resist that joke, but it’s also very good advice. We’re talking about your condenser unit again, the part that lives outside. If you can manage to throw a little shade on it, it will work more easily. Ideally, clever positioning beneath trees will have already accomplished this.
If not, don’t fret. There are covers you can purchase at quite reasonable prices, or you can drum up something of your own. Just make sure it’s not close to the unit, or you aren’t following Tip 1.
The U.S. Department of Energy has pointed out that you can see up to a 10% increase in efficiency if the condenser isn’t working under direct sunlight.
5. Program your thermostat, or “teach” it
Thermostats are extremely advanced these days. Odds are, that includes yours. If you have a dumb thermostat, you can upgrade for a relatively low price and see dramatic improvements in efficiency immediately.
Thermostats will typically learn behaviors around your schedule – or you can program your schedule in – and it will allow temperatures to rise slightly overnight or while you aren’t home. This avoids wasteful cooling. Each degree your thermostat raises can save you 5-8 percent on energy bills.
6. Insulate, insulate, insulate to reduce run time and lower AC repair incidents
If you don’t know who installed your duct system, you also don’t know if it was done right. Insulating your air ducts can be done a few different ways. The most common (for good reason) is foil-faced fiberglass insulation. The R-value of insulation tape represents the resistance to heat flow. In warmer climates like Orlando, you can get away with lower values, but you should still err on the high end of what you can afford.
If you think your ducts have leaks and you’re having trouble locating them, the Orlando Air Conditioners team can fix that for you. We’ll blow an aerosolized substance into your ducts that will let us find and seal every single leak and minimize energy loss.
7. Use fans to supplement.
As we mentioned above, each degree your thermostat raises can save you a significant amount. One great way to capitalize on that is through the use of ceiling fans.
Ceiling fans work by circulating, rather than cooling, air. They make it feel colder in the room, even if it isn’t. A good ceiling fan will make a room feel four or five degrees cooler, which allows you to set your thermostat four or five degrees higher.
That means savings, all year round.
As an additional pro-tip, you can also flip your ceiling fans into reverse to help during heating seasons. They’ll pull the hot air toward the ceiling and help circulate it better.
8. Lower the temperature in attics and seal crawl spaces.
Attics and crawl spaces are the bane of HVAC technicians. They represent the majority of heat or cooling loss in homes. An attic with proper ventilation is marginally cooler than one without. A cooler attic makes for a cooler home overall. A great way to manage this is with an exhaust fan.
By the same token, you’re also probably losing energy into a crawl space if you have one. Getting that (and your attic) properly insulated will also help ensure that your system isn’t working overtime.
9. Be aware of windows and blinds
Blinds and curtains can be a big help. In the summer, a little coverage over westerly and southerly windows can do a lot to block heat. If you don’t want to lose the light, investing in solar shades can give you the best of both worlds.
By the same token, you should make sure that your thermostat isn’t located in a place where it will get direct sunlight through a window. When that happens, a thermostat may get an inaccurate temperature reading. Then your home will be too cold because the thermostat thinks it’s 76 when it’s actually 70.
10. Get a home energy audit.
This isn’t always free, but it’s not usually very expensive. We offer this service, which is pretty simple.
In a home energy audit, we’ll check your home for leaks and loss locations. We’ll determine whether your windows and doors are energy savers or bill killers. We’ll make sure your system is properly sized and that you’re doing everything you reasonably can to be energy efficient.
If you aren’t, we will make recommendations on how we (or you, if you’re enterprising) can improve efficiency.
It’s a great way to find all sorts of hidden issues you hadn’t considered.
Closing Thoughts on preventing AC repair in Orlando
There are a lot of things that aren’t free that you can do, as well. You can replace all the windows with Energy Star rated ones, or you can upgrade specific components. You’ve got nothing but options.
But if you’ve tried all or most of the list above and you still feel like something is up, call us. If your AC feels inefficient and your bills are creeping higher and higher, you probably need a tune-up or AC repair service.
So here’s the pitch:
Our professional Orlando AC repair technicians are the best in the industry. We insist on it. They’re certified on every make and model, their licenses and insurance are up-to-date. We’re demanding, and they’re determined. We send fully stocked trucks and uniformed contractors, we provide itemized written estimates, and we guarantee all of our work for a year!
We’ll diagnose your problem for free and give you a quote in-person. If we don’t get your AC repair right the first time, the next appointment is on us, and so are any other appointments required to get it done.
We insist on a worry-free experience for our customers. Check our reviews, read our testimonials, look us up on Better Business Bureau or Angie’s List.
We are here for you. All day, every day, any day.
Just say the word.
The HVAC Industry isn’t a static field. It’s always evolving. A good AC Repair or Installation contractor has to be ready to change and adapt. That’s why technicians at our company are always enrolled in continuing education, and why we focus on keeping certifications current.
The name of the game for many years now has been energy efficiency. That’s come about for a few reasons, but the most compelling reason has always been you.
That’s right. You.
Every innovation and evolution in this industry is due to customer demand. The influence of consumers on heating and cooling companies in Orlando and elsewhere cannot be overstated.
In recent years, we’ve noted that two major concerns seem to be battling for your attention, and they are interrelated. The two driving desires seem to be:
Now, you might find yourself saying, “Aren’t those functionally the same?” Given that energy efficient HVAC systems do lead to lower monthly bills, that’s a reasonable question. Of course, they’re not the same. They’re just connected in many ways.
The reason we separate them, however, is simple: our customers don’t always equate the two. Sometimes, we have a customer who is very focused on keeping their electric bill under control, and we might advise them to purchase energy efficient equipment and improve their home’s thermal envelope (the rate at which heat exchange occurs with the outside world).
Other times, we might have a customer who is highly focused on their home being “green” and environmentally sound. They might get similar recommendations from our AC installation technicians. However, as their concern is not budgetary, they might deliberately choose to opt for more expensive options to minimize their carbon footprint.
Those motivations lead to similar, but not identical, outcomes. As ACcontractors, our job is to make recommendations based on your specific needs. That allows us to strike a fine balance between overall cost and benefit. More importantly, it allows you to make a cost/benefit analysis and judgment with all of the right information at your fingertips.
In many ways, that’s why this series of articles exists. We want our customers to have specific and detailed facts.
So, when our customers start asking about energy efficiency, we often respond with a series of questions, like:
When deciding whether energy-efficient systems are worth the cost of installation and maintenance, we have to be prepared to discuss the benefits. For that reason, we’re always learning.
In this article, we’re going to discuss three major ways energy efficiency could impact you: your monthly expenses, your carbon emissions, and your overall installation cost. We’ll cover how efficiency affects each of those, and (we hope) you’ll leave here ready to make a decision for your home.
Orlando HVAC Companies: Your Money Is Green, Too
Trees are green, and money is green, but that’s about as far as the connection goes. As many of our parents have reminded us over the years, money does not grow on trees. HVAC units aren’t cheap, and neither are the associated energy costs. In fact, they’re the single largest investment in the average home. We all have them because going without is, frankly, uncomfortable and often dangerous. That’s particularly down here in Florida. Orlando air conditioning repair companies often work overtime to keep residents cool in the vicious summers.
If budgetary concerns have driven you to consider energy efficient air conditioning solutions, you’ll be pleased to know that you’re on the right track.
About half of your annual utility costs (at least) come from heating and cooling. In the average Sunshine State home, air conditioning can be 70% of the electric bill.
When that’s the case, the impact of an energy efficiency upgrade is even greater than usual. Energy Star qualified air conditioners can cut energy bills by a quarter. If you’re using an HVAC system that’s over ten years old, you could see even greater savings.
It goes completely without question that an energy efficient air conditioner will more than pay for itself over the course of its life. Additionally, you’ll have the piece of mind and internal satisfaction of knowing that each month, a little less of your money is flying out the windows and escaping into the attic.
Energy loss in older HVAC systems is a major concern.
Less efficient units burn more electricity for the same amount of cooling. They’re also usually accompanied by a greater degree of “energy loss,” which is what we call it when cold air is going somewhere it isn’t needed.
Older, less efficient systems often aren’t capable of “zoned” cooling, or only cooling rooms that are occupied. They’re also rarely equipped with modern thermostats, capable of learning your schedule and adjusting their cooling programs to adapt to your needs, or of working with your cell phone via a Wi-Fi connection. That, and general improvements in design and component function mean that newer AC installations are just flat-out better.
We’ve seen upgraded air conditioning and heating systems save homeowners and commercial businesses anywhere from 10% all the way up to a staggering 30%. Most of that is attributable to smarter control systems, better units, and a smarter approach to home insulation. At the end of the day, our job is to provide you with options, and your job is to decide how much money you want to spend or save.
If you want a home energy audit to find out how much money we can save you, call us today.
AC Repair Orlando: Going ENVIRONMENTALLY Green
Americans make up about 5% of the world’s population and consume at or over 20% of its energy. Regular commitments to reducing our carbon footprint are made, but we remain the biggest carbon creators in the world. China uses more energy than we do, but their population is also more than four times larger. Conversely, India has far more people than the United States, but consumes far less energy each year.
We use more energy each year than the entire continent of Africa, which is larger than the United States, India, China, and any six or seven European countries combined. Africa also boasts the hottest climate in the world. Really, our consumption levels are kind of staggering.
That’s why it’s nice to see more and more homeowners focusing on reducing their carbon footprint, and your HVAC system is a great way to do exactly that.
What do we mean by “Energy Efficiency” anyway?
It’s not just a buzzword. In HVAC terms, it literally means delivering the same amount (or greater) of cooling using the same (or less) energy. The EPA’s Energy Star label on your system means it meets certain criteria. That blue sticker means that a given air conditioner has been independently certified to cause fewer emissions and use less energy.
It’s an immediate identifying label that tells you something has been designed to minimize its impact on climate change. Energy Star appliances, to date, have saved families and businesses save about $300 billion dollars – and about 2 billion metric tons of pollution.
In addition to upgrading your air conditioner, we recommend sealing and insulating your home to reduce energy loss and increase comfort. That means adding new insulation, looking for and sealing drafts and leaks, and – depending on your budget – looking into new windows.
You could be looking at substantial savings. We know, to many homeowners, that is a secondary concern, but as incentives go, it’s not bad. More attractive to our eco-minded customers is the notion that their energy-efficient upgrades means they are contributing less pollution to the environment without sacrificing comfort in their home.
AC Installation in Orlando could be eligible for tax credits.
If you have, or are considering an energy-efficient central air system, talk to us. We’ll help you determine if you are eligible for federal tax credits and incentives. These can absorb as much as 30% of the costs of upgrading.
In order to qualify, you have to install equipment with a minimum SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). That information is readily available, usually in the form of a yellow sticker on the condenser or blower unit, or both.
That kind of federal assistance can mean a difference of thousands of dollars in overall expenses. That’s on top of the money you’ll already be saving month by month on energy expenditures.
If you aren’t sure about making the switch, and you’re just looking for more information, we’re at your disposal. Orlando Air Conditioners is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and we offer free in-home estimates!
(You didn’t misread that. We’ll come out and give you information without charging you a cent!)
Whether you’re looking to make the switch to a new air conditioning system or just looking to maximize your existing system, our technicians have got the tools and the know-how you need. Call us today!
Ask any air conditioning contractor in Orlando about commonly asked questions they receive from customers and "what is the best air conditioning system brand?" will certainly be at, or near, the top of the list.
And, if by "best brand" you mean the most reliable and longest lasting, then here are my thoughts. Back in the 1980's Trane and Carrier were the dominant brands with the greatest name recognition. And, for the most part, this dominant positioning was well deserved.
Trane acquired the GE brand of air conditioning equipment in 1981. By most accounts, and in my own experience, GE was the most dependable and reliable brand on the market. To this day, I occasionally come across old GE A/C units out there that are still churning out cold air. The last of the GE air conditioning brand came off the line in 1981, so that makes them at least 35 years old.
Willis Carrier invented what we know as the modern air conditioning system in 1902 and the brand dominated for many decades right up until very recently when Goodman Manufacturing overtook them in worldwide sales of compressor-bearing units.
Of course, sales volume and brand longevity don't necessarily add up to reliability, but it's safe to say the leading brands have established themselves in terms of name recognition and brand awareness.
My advice? Focus your energy and attention on the air conditioning contractor who installs your system instead of trying to subjectively pick the "best" brand. If you check with the state regulatory agencies, 99% of complaints involve the air conditioning contractors, not manufacturer's.
Unlike a commodity such as a dishwasher or dryer, which are both delivered and simply plugged in, air conditioning systems require professional installation and assembly in the field.
Imagine if your next car was delivered to you in 50 pieces and required professional assembly by a skilled dealer. It is a certainty that the quality and longevity of the vehicle would be dependant in large part on the skill and training of the assembling dealer.
The vehicle brand may become a lower consideration factor than the local assembly team you choose. Now, imagine how differently you would treat the decision to purchase a vehicle.
Here are the critical aspects of any residential central air conditioning installation:
1) Proper system sizing - an undersized system will perform poorly, rarely turning off. An over-sized system will "short-cycle", or cycle on and off too frequently, reducing humidity control and the life of the system.
2) Properly sized ductwork - This is one of the biggest plagues in the industry. Your air conditioning system has to deliver and return a given volume of air based on its capacity. The individual designing the duct system needs to understand some basic math, including the dynamics of air flow delivery and velocity rates.
3) Ensuring that no installation flaws are inhibiting system performance - I once saw an air conditioning system with a rigid duct connected to the top of the indoor air delivery unit. The duct only rose about 18 inches before it made an abrupt 90 degree horizontal turn.
This means that the air being delivered by the indoor unit was immediately chocked off before it even entered the duct system. This back-pressure, of course, led to very poor performance, high utility costs, and unneccessary comfort losses for the homeowner.
4) Connecting to a defective, leaky duct system - the average duct system in homes over 10 years old is responsible for up to a 38% reduction in airflow due to poor quality ductwork and leaky connections. This leads to increased running time, higher utility costs, and very poor indoor air quality due to the transfer of attic air directly into the living space.
5) Ensuring that the system properly heats and cools every room in the house - Actually this is something that has to be isolated up front because even a perfectly installed air conditioning system will not fix an area of your home that is not receiving proper airflow.
It may help to some degree, but if you have a room that is 5 degrees behind the rest of your house, there is another issue that should be addressed by the installing contractor prior to, or during, the installation.
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