The majority of HVAC companies are staffed with honest and knowledgeable employees. However, just like any other industry, some unethical people will try to take advantage of customers. Some so-called AC repair companies use scams to prey on unwary homeowners. Being aware of common HVAC scams will help you protect yourself from scammers.
1. Recommending an Excessive Amount of Tune-Ups
It is true that regular maintenance helps keep your AC system from breaking down. However, some technicians may tell you that the reason you need repairs is because you’re not getting three or four tune-ups a year. This scam is essentially pushing unnecessary services on you. It will not hurt your system, but it will cost extra money and do absolutely nothing to improve your AC system or its ability to cool your home.
To avoid it, you need to be informed on how often maintenance is really needed. You can check the user guide for your system to see how often the manufacturer recommends a maintenance visit. Almost all air conditioners just need an annual tune-up, preferably in the spring before the heat arrives. You can go as far as doing a bi-annual tune-up if you run your system almost constantly, but additional maintenance does not really do anything.
2. Repairing Your AC With Used Parts
If you have an HVAC technician tell you, “this broken part is pricey, but I’ve got a used one in my truck that I can install,” decline the repair immediately. Unlike many other mechanical systems, air conditioners are not designed to run on used parts. Instead, AC components are meant to stay in their original system until they quit working. Putting a used part in a system will diminish overall system efficiency and usually break down in a couple of months or so.
Doing this provides money for the technician in a few different ways. Usually, the used part was a bad part that they replaced on another recent service call and should be thrown out. The technician can then pocket your money from the repair and tell their boss you declined the repair. Or they may even claim they did the repair with a new part and then sell the new part themselves.
In most cases, you should be very wary of a repair person trying to push used parts on you. The best way of avoiding the scam is to simply quit working with the technician. If for some reason this is not an option, at the very least you need to insist on new parts. This will cost more, but it will ensure your system does not break down constantly.
3. Recharging Your Refrigerant or Skimping on Refills
An AC system is designed to have a closed refrigerant line that always cycles the same refrigerant through the system. The only way for refrigerant levels to drop so low that they impact your system is through a refrigerant leak. Unfortunately, the refrigerant system is a very common target for scams because it is so poorly misunderstood.
A common scam is a technician telling you that you need to regularly “recharge” or “top off” your refrigerant. The technician just adds some refrigerant to the system without fixing the leak, and then you end up having to call them for more repairs in a few months. Another typical way of scamming customers is by fixing a leak and refilling with only half the refrigerant needed. You get charged for the cost of a full refill, and then you have to pay for another refill when your system still is not working right.
Avoiding this scam mostly just relies on understanding how refrigerant works. If you have low refrigerant, always go with a technician who will actually repair the leak. You should also be vigilant while the refrigerant is being refilled. Learn how much refrigerant your system needs. Then you can watch the technician weigh the refrigerant container before and after the refill to make sure they are using the full required amount.
4. Trying to Trick You Into Replacing Perfectly Good Parts
This scam happens so often that it may be the most common scam overall. A technician comes to your home for a tune-up or repair, and then points at a random part and says it is “bad.” They talk about how catastrophic it will be to leave the part in the system and insist you need to pay for a replacement right away. This gives them extra money for repairs, and they walk away with a perfectly good part they may try to resell.
Sadly, it can be hard to avoid this scam without becoming an HVAC expert yourself. Some AC parts can break and grind your whole system to a halt if left unrepaired. The best way to avoid this scam is to shop around. If a technician seems shady and your AC is working just fine, go ahead and ask for a second opinion elsewhere. You can also do a little research on the part online, so you can learn what the symptoms of a broken one would be. By taking the time to find a reliable HVAC company, you can be confident that technicians are not trying to sell you unnecessary repairs.
5. Asking for Payment Before Your AC Starts Working Again
Almost all AC repairs are essentially instantaneous. After the technician does the repair, you should hear your system switch on and feel cool air coming out of the vents again. The only time you have to wait to feel the effect of a repair is if a frozen coil needs to thaw, and this only takes a few hours. This means that if a technician says, “I’ve fixed the issue and your problem will clear up in a few days,” they probably have not done anything. Another similar red flag is if a technician asks you to pay upfront but then says they have to leave to get a part. Any reputable company will only charge you after the repair is complete.
This is one of the worst scams out there since it involves taking your money and leaving you with a broken system. The good news is that it is so obviously a scam that you can usually avoid it. Refuse to pay money upfront, and go with another company if the technician insists you pay before repairs. If the technician says it will take a few days to clear up, decline the repair, ask to speak to a manager, or request a refund.
At HB McClure in Harrisburg, PA, we always prioritize our customers’ best interests. Our team cares more about keeping clients satisfied than making the highest possible profit. If you want trustworthy service, we can assist with heating, cooling, plumbing, geothermal, oil, and propane projects. For over 100 years, we have been helping Central Pennsylvania residents with all sorts of commercial and residential services. Call or click now to request an appointment.