Questions Facilities Managers Should Ask Commercial HVAC Providers
Knowing there are plenty of important questions you need to ask potential commercial HVAC contractors isn’t a startling revelation to Facility Managers, but exactly which ones are crucial to the contract process might be a bigger mystery. The Service Company of Virginia created the ultimate list of questions that will help facility managers learn everything they need to know in order to confidently choose their commercial HVAC provider.
“Clients who ask questions are our favorite clients! They’re prepared, and they’ve done their homework. They’re ready.”
Said Garry Nichols, Vice President HVAC Division for The Service Company in Richmond, Virginia.
“It keeps me on my toes when people have a ton of questions,” agreed Mike Phillips, Operations Manager.
Luckily, finding the perfect HVAC contractor doesn’t have to be difficult. By asking the right questions, you will be able to select the HVAC maintenance contract that best fits your needs.
How long have you been working in this industry?
Answer You WANT to Hear: Long enough to accumulate at least ten to twenty references you can contact.
Why You Want to Hear It: While more experience does not always mean better service, a contractor who has been around the block a time or two is more likely to have a proven track record.
What kind of liability insurance do you offer?
What You WANT to Hear: Yes, for all employees that will be on your property.
Why You Want to Hear It: One of the most important (if not THE most important) questions you can ask is whether a vendor has adequate insurance. Essentially, they need the type of coverage that protects you or your client if the property is damaged or if an employee/customer is injured.
If the contractor waffles on this or says that they do not have insurance, walk away. Immediately. You do not want to be held responsible for repairs, medical bills or worse. It’s not worth the risk.
Do you perform inspections and preventive maintenance?
What You WANT to Hear: Yes.
Why You Want to Hear It: As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Typically, if you identify an issue before it becomes a real problem, the situation can be resolved much easier. This will probably save you time and money.
Find out whether the provider has a plan in place for inspecting the equipment and performing regular maintenance to ensure that everything runs smoothly. This will not only help prevent breakdowns but may extend the life of your system.
Is your team certified?
What You WANT to Hear: Yes.
Why You Want to Hear It: HVAC equipment is intricate, complicated and expensive. You want a crew that is experienced, even if your area doesn’t require technicians to be licensed. Typically, there are other qualifications that an employee may possess that will indicate whether they are qualified to work on the machinery.
Ask the vendor about their hiring process and what skills and certifications they require of their staff. Look for industry-standard certifications such as Virginia State HVAC Licensing and CFC / EPA Certification. This is how you will know whether a team is right for the job.
Is your work guaranteed and does your equipment have a warranty?
Answer You WANT to Hear: Yes, with a specific amount of time (six months, one year, lifetime, etc).
Why You Want to Hear It: When you buy a television, vehicle or even a brand new home, you expect your purchase to come with a guarantee. The same is true of HVAC systems and services. If your provider doesn’t offer at least one year of peace of mind, keep shopping.
Similarly, make sure the equipment they are installing is under warranty. Ask about the terms and how they will handle repairs or replacements. Be sure you are satisfied with the answer before entering into any agreements.
Can you provide a list of references I can contact?
Answer You WANT to Hear: Yes.
Why You Want to Hear It: If you ask for a list of references and a potential contractor goes quiet, like they are holding their breath… turn and run in the opposite direction. Checking references is one of the only methods for assuring the contractor you choose can get the job done. Examples of questions you should ask previous clients before hiring a contractor include: how well the contractor communicated and if the job was kept on schedule. Tricia Young, Vice President Business Strategy at The Service Company, says, “Past performance is a great indicator of what future performance will be.”
Can you save me money?
What You WANT to Hear: Yes.
Why You Want to Hear It: One of the most common questions HVAC contractors hear is about whether they can offer tips for saving money. If your vendor struggles to answer this question, you should be immediately wary. Since this is an aspect of the business where they can win over customers, most good companies will be prepared with a list of suggestions.
Among the recommendations would be the installation of updated energy-efficient equipment that has been chosen specifically with the needs of your business in mind. The right contractor will, again, stress the importance of regular preventative maintenance so that everything is running correctly and efficiently to optimize comfort and reduce energy costs.
How important Is customer satisfaction to you?
Answer You WANT to Hear: Very important.
Why You Want to Hear It: If you’ve been in business any length of time, you will know that your reputation matters. Having an HVAC provider that is professional, efficient and respectful is extremely important because there’s nothing like the power of word of mouth.
Incredibly, there are businesses that don’t put a real emphasis on customer satisfaction. They may be highly skilled but if they leave behind a huge mess for your clients (or you!) to clean up and take a long time to respond to messages, they might not be worth it.
One way to assess this is to ask whether they can provide references or if you can contact recent and long-term customers. While on this subject, you should also ask them how they handle disputes and complaints. You will learn a lot from what they have to say.
Who is the on-site project manager?
Answer You Want to Hear: The specific name of a person who will be responsible for work at your facility.
Why You Want to Hear It: You need to know who to contact should you discover things are not going as planned. You also need to know someone on site is tracking the progress of your project. If you are not given the name of a person who will be the project manager, don’t hire the contractor.
HVAC installation and maintenance is an extremely important aspect of managing a facility. You do not want to take this responsibility lightly. Be patient while searching for a provider that shares your vision and takes pride in their work.
Ask the tough questions before making a commitment to avoid unpleasant situations and be prepared to change vendors if necessary. It may take some time to find the right fit but it will be worth the investment.