Choosing the right HVAC or plumbing contractor is an important decision. There are many things you should consider before deciding whom to trust to install this important equipment in your home.

Ideally, this is a relationship what you have for the long term as any system will need maintenance and occasional repairs. You want to someone you can rely on and trust. This should not just be a one-time business transaction, but an ongoing relationship with a company you rely on to help you when your equipment needs repairs or maintenance in the future.

Here are some things to consider before hiring a heating and cooling contractor:

Ask for referrals – Start by asking friends, neighbors, and co-workers for contractor referrals. If they have used a company that provided good service they may be able to give you some suggestions.

Look at online reviews – Well established contractors should have online reviews on websites customers frequently visit in a search of product or service recommendations. Read what our trusted customers say about us on Google, Facebook, Yelp and Angie’s List.

Know their credentials – You contractor should meet the local professional licensing requirements and have that license available upon request for you. Depending on the project, they may need a plumbing, gas, EPA or sheet metal license. In Massachusetts you can verify license information online here: https://elicensing.state.ma.us/CitizenAccess/_SearchaLicense.htm

Make sure your contractor is insured – If you hire a contractor who is uninsured, you may be liable for any injuries or damages to your property that may occur during the job. Ask to see a certificate of insurance before you sign any contract.

Request references – Don’t be afraid to ask for the names of previous customers you can contact for a reference. Installing and maintaining an HVAC system or replacing your plumbing is a big job, and you’ll want to make sure that the company has a reputation for being professional and getting the job done in a timely manner. It is always good to get in direct contact with former customers who can share their personal experience of working with the contractor, and if the if the job was completed on time and within budget.

In home evaluation and written, itemized estimates – Installation of modern, energy efficient plumbing and HVAC systems can be a substantial investment. These systems are complex and should be customized to your home to maximize performance. No contractor should give you a quote without meeting you in person. They should carefully review your home, discuss your budget and system requirements. Based on your visit and conversation the contractor should make a recommendation in writing, give you ample time to review the proposal and answer any questions you might have. The in home visit and estimate are the foundation of your project and contractors who refused to complete both of these steps should be avoided.

Financing, Rebates and Loans – As with all major home projects plumbing and HVAC installations can be costly. Contractors should offer options for payments beyond cash including credit cards and financing. Make sure that the financing is through a reputable third party provider. Contractors should also be aware of ways to save you money. For example, Massachusetts offers several incentive programs for installing high efficiency systems. Consumers can take advantage of no interest loan and substantial rebates through Mass Save and MassCEC, but only if their installer is approved and listed on the MassSave site.

Going beyond technical expertise – There are a lot of highly qualified technicians available for your home project. However, when looking for a company you want to remember that while technical expertise is important you will have a relationship with the company goes beyond the technician installing a system. Excellent technicians should come with excellent customer care staff to support you throughout the installation and beyond. An excellent technician is no good if there isn’t friendly, accessible, organized office staff to coordinate scheduling, billing, financing, loan and rebate submissions, warranty registration and most importantly troubleshooting. A plumbing and HVAC project is more than just the time spend in your home on installation. You want to make sure the entire company is there for you.