“Qualified” is a word that can be used loosely to describe one’s level of skill. In the contracting business, the difference between claiming to be qualified contractors and actually being qualified is a lot of hard work, meeting government-regulated standards, and requires a lot more accreditation and training than most people realize.
It takes a lot to become a fully qualified HVAC contractor, and for good reason. We have a standard of practice, ethics, and professionalism to maintain.
Our area of business is governed by multiple provincial agencies, including:
- The College of Trades
- Ministry of the Environment
- Ministry of Labour
- Technical Standards & Safety Authority (TSSA – which regulates fuel safety and boiler & pressure vessels)
Because so many bodies regulate our industry, we’re continuously required to update our qualifications for both the company and our technicians.
But as important as licensing and meeting the requirements of governing bodies are, there’s much more to the equation when shopping for a reputable HVAC company.
Shopping for Contractors: What to Ask For
There will be lots of contractors vying to install, service, and maintain the HVAC system in your office tower, shopping mall, or retail store. When selecting one, be sure to ask for documentation to protect your investment both now and in the long run:
At a minimum, your contractor needs to have $10 million in liability insurance. Anything less could leave you unprotected if there’s an accident.
Contractors are required to be licensed to perform work in most cities, so make sure to ask your contractor for copies of their licensing.
Health and Safety:
Because Health & Safety requirements are changing all the time, be sure to ask your contractor for a copy of their Health & Safety program.
For example, our company has an independent 3rd-party administer our Health & Safety program to ensure an objective viewpoint of this very important area of our industry. Our Health & Safety record is excellent, our team is always up-to-date in their training, and we have accreditation by both ContractorCheck and ComplyWorks Toronto. We can present the documentation to view at any time, and so should any professional contractor.
To ensure that you get the best HVAC equipment for your needs, your HVAC contractor should have well-established relationships with popular manufacturers such as Lennox, Carrier, York, and Trane. If they only sell a few product lines from lesser-known companies, they might not have the buying power you need to ensure you get the right equipment for your particular requirements.
Ask them to demonstrate their back-office systems, client portals, and workflow processes to see if they meet your needs. You’ll also get a sense of how the contractor grasps technology, both in their office and in their HVAC installations. These days, you want an HVAC contractor who has a sound understanding of modern digital innovation, since so many of today’s HVAC systems rely on it to run their backend.
When replacing their HVAC equipment, more companies are looking towards ENERGY STAR ® products to increase energy efficiency and lower costs. Your HVAC contractor should be able to consult on energy-efficient technology to be able to meet today’s standards.
A simple letter from major vendors and suppliers can tell you if a contractor’s account is in good standing. If the contractor can’t produce credit references, they may be in poor financial health and a risk to deal with.
Shopping for Contractors: What to Research
Thanks to the Internet, we have access to more information than ever. This makes researching prospective contractors easier, as well as reinforcing or refuting any claims they make about their company.
Here are some things to check when researching a contractor online:
The website doesn’t have to be fancy, but the contractor should have a web presence that clearly highlights their products and services, outlines their business philosophy, and provides details about the training and experience of their key personnel.
Does the contractor have good ratings and reviews online? Corporate reviews often contain the name and company of the poster, so it’s easy to contact them to get a first-hand sense of the experience they had with the contractor.
Is the contractor affiliated with any trade industry bodies and associations? If so, you can see if their work has been recognized, whether they have won any awards, or have any peer reviews.
Just like when you shop around for any service, word of mouth is always the best advertising. By asking some of your colleagues which HVAC service provider they used, what their experience was like, and if they would use them again, you’ll make vetting prospective contractors that much easier, and get a clearer overall picture of the contractor in question.
At Springbank Mechanical Systems, we have all the qualifications and documentation you need to make an informed buying decision. If you’d like to know more about working with us, contact me anytime.
Gregg Little is Co-owner of Springbank Mechanical Systems. He can be reached at 905-569-8990 or firstname.lastname@example.org.