Reader F.’s air conditioner was broken, so he called the company that installed it when the house was built. They came out, charged him $100, and told him that he could repair the unit for $3,000 or replace it for $5,000. It’s a good thing he got a second opinion, because the second repair guy fixed the problem for $250.
I called the company that installed it 9 years ago, Westminster Mechanical, because it was making a loud noise and the fan was no longer working. They came out yesterday and in minutes declared that all the components need to be replaced. They estimated around $3000 [for the repair] or a new system for around $5000.
So, I called a neighbor in the business and she sent someone out. In about an hour he found a blockage and once again I have air. Do these companies install in new houses so they can slap a sticker with their number on it and years later when you call say it needs to be replaced? Instead it cost me $250, oh plus the $100 I wasted to have the original company tell me to replace it.
It’s nearly impossible to say whether or not the first company was trying to mislead you, so we’ll concentrate on what you did right. It’s certainly not uncommon for companies to try to get unsuspecting homeowners to try to replace an air conditioner or a furnace when, in fact, it just needs a small repair. So, how do you figure out when your repair guy is telling the truth?
First, before you call someone to come in and look at your AC or furnace, do a little research with the BBB and ask your friends to recommend someone that you can trust. Second, if you’re told that you may have to replace your equipment or make an expensive repair, thank the representative for his time and start collecting 2 more estimates. If your unit really does have to be replaced, some contractors will waive the fee and offer a free estimate for the new equipment.
If, like F., there was nothing seriously wrong with your AC, an honest contractor will catch it.
We asked the BBB about F.’s case and were told that complaints about AC repair are relatively uncommon, but that they do happen.
“With something like this, it’s hard for the consumer to know if they’re being lied to or not. If an AC repairman were to say to me, “Your flux capacitor is shot,” who am I to argue? That’s why it’s important to research the company first,” said Alison Preszler, Media Relations Manager of the BBB.