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How to Evaluate and Compare Commercial Contractors for an HVAC Project
For businesses that have decided to work with a commercial contractor on a heating, air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) energy efficiency project, the next step is selecting that contractor. Evaluating and comparing commercial HVAC contractors to find the best fit for an energy efficiency project require some groundwork. A few things to consider include:
Referrals: Getting referrals is a good starting point. Talk to friends and colleagues about the contractors that they have worked with in the past on commercial HVAC projects. Discuss the specifics of your HVAC project to best identify if a contractor seems like they'll align to your project needs. Ask for strengths, weaknesses and any other advice on working with that contractor.
References: Any reputable commercial HVAC contractor should be able to provide references. Be sure to check more than one of a contractor's references before making a decision. Questions asked should include ability to meet project requirements, timeframe, budget and communication.
Experience: Ensure the contractor has experience working on similar commercial projects during the reference calls. It is also important to ensure the HVAC contractor has worked with businesses in the same industry and with similar systems and equipment.
Estimates: Many HVAC contractors provide free or inexpensive estimates. Ask for these estimates and use them to compare costs among contractor options. Ensure the specifications are consistent across contractors. Ask the contractors for clarifications and rationale on aspects of the estimate that drive the greatest cost differential. For example, if the estimates include different equipment with varying capacity, ask why the contractor made that choice. Also ask the contractors to document their warranty and the HVAC system equipment's warranty.
Licensing and insurance: Confirm that the HVAC contractor is licensed, bonded and insured. Being "bonded" means the contractor has purchased a surety bond from a third party. A surety bond is the promise to pay one party (the obligee) a certain amount if a second party (the principal) fails to meet some obligation, such as fulfilling the terms of a contract.1
If referrals from friends and colleagues don't produce a viable candidate, never fear. The process of finding a commercial HVAC contractor is much simpler than it once was. PG&E's Trade Professional Alliance has an online directory that California businesses can search to find contractors. Through the alliance, PG&E relies on trade professionals, including HVAC contractors, to help increase awareness of energy efficiency initiatives available for its customers, including rebates and incentives to save energy and reduce costs.
California businesses that select a contractor through PG&E should ask the contractor about PG&E's Quality Maintenance Program, a statewide effort designed to increase energy efficiency by bringing businesses' HVAC performance into compliance with national standards. Proactive maintenance of HVAC systems helps businesses lower upkeep costs by as much as 40%. PG&E offers business owners incentives of up to $3,836 per unit over a three-year period to implement a quality maintenance plan for HVAC units.
Business owners and managers who would like to take a more personal approach to finding a contractor can contact PG&E's Business Customer Service Center at 1-800-468-4743 to find an Energy Solutions and Service representative in their area.
To learn more about how contractors can help businesses achieve the best results with their HVAC projects, download "The Complete Guide to Working with a Lighting or HVAC Contractor" eBook from PG&E. This information resource will further detail considerations before hiring a contractor and include next steps, such as finding contractors and working with them effectively, best-fit product information and more.
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