Mistakes Homeowners Make When Buying a Furnace or Air Conditioner

Purchasing a new heating, cooling or indoor air quality system for your home is one of the most important buying decisions you and your family will make. Before committing to such a large investment, it’s important to do your research and ask some serious questions so you can avoid making the following mistakes:

1. Choosing an Unqualified or Unlicensed Contractor

Picking the right contractor could be the most important part of the buying process – yet most people don’t ask enough questions to make sure the contractor is properly qualified and experienced for the installation. Always ask if they are members of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI).

Membership in HRAI, which represents over 1,000 contractors nationwide, shows that the contractor is qualified and reputable, as they must have the following credentials:

  • All required trade licenses and provincial certifications
  • Liability insurance up to $5,000,000
  • Technical Safety and Standards (TSSA) registration
  • Compliance with Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
  • Compliance with Dispute Resolution Process
  • Compliance with Ontario Environmental Regulations


BBB members are part of a nationwide organization dedicated to upholding the highest level of integrity and ethics in customer service, communications, advertising and dispute resolution.

2.  Getting Only One Estimate

When you’re shopping for a gas furnace or central air conditioner, you should always get more than one estimate. Ensure that each estimate is written on a proper form and always take the time to review and compare the quality of the equipment and warranties offered. Does the estimate include the removal of old equipment and materials? Are permits included in the estimate?

Be sure to pay attention to the Sales Consultant to see how knowledgeable and professional they are. How long have they been in the business? Did they explain all of the rebates that are available for your system? Your experience with the Sales Consultant could be a good indicator as to what type of service to expect from that contractor later on.

3.   Always Going for the Lowest Price

You should always select a contractor that promotes the quality of their installation service and equipment at reasonable rates, rather than just picking the one that offers the lowest price. The lowest price does not necessarily mean the best value. For example, the less expensive contractor might not offer valuable services such as 24-hour emergency response or maintenance and service agreements after the installation.

4.   Thinking Price is the Only Factor

The purchase price should not be the only important factor in your decision. The noise level of your new system is something you will have to live with everyday, while the energy efficiency of the system will determine how much your heating or cooling costs will be (energy efficiency is determined by the SEER ratings – be sure the Sales Consultant fully explains what these numbers mean). Choosing the right product for your lifestyle will allow you to live comfortably and save money.

5.   Ignoring the Fine Print in the Warranty

It is important to fully understand the warranty that is being provided by each contractor. You should always inquire if the warranty covers parts only or both parts and labour. Also ask if there any extra charges above and beyond the warranty coverage, such as an after-hours service labour charge. Always ensure that the contractor provides you with a written warranty form for your records.

6.  Forgetting to Ask About Insurance and WSIB Coverage

The contractor you deal with should always have public liability and property damage insurance. If sub-contractors are utilized, the contractor should also have the proper liability insurance. If the contractor isn’t insured, you could be held fully responsible for any damages to the equipment or your home during the installation process as well as any medical costs if an installer is hurt on the job.

Always make sure the contractor is in good standing with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.  For large jobs, you may want to request a copy of their latest WSIB certificate.

7.  Making Too Big of a Deposit

Holmes Heating Inc. does not request a deposit, unless the equipment is unique and subject to re-stocking charges in the event of an order cancellation. If a deposit is required, it should never be more than 20% of the total job and all  payments should be made directly to the company named in the contract.

8.  Not Asking for References

Reputable contractors will be more than willing to provide you with the names and addresses of customers they have done work for. Ask neighbours, family, friends and co-workers their opinion of any contractor they’ve used in the past.

9.   Believing Your System Will Never Break Down

In case something goes wrong with your system, it’s always a good idea to make sure that the company you choose has after-sales service capability. Inquire if they have a full service department and ask how many service vehicles they have on the road. Do they respond to calls after 11 p.m. or on weekends? How quickly can they be there if you have no heat? Holmes Heating Inc. guarantees priority emergency no-heat service to keep you warm in case your furnace quits in the middle of winter.

10.  Lack of Proper Training or Instruction

Most contractors have a habit of installing the furnace or air conditioner and then leaving without explaining how to properly operate or maintain the system. This leaves you, the homeowner, with the task of trying to figure out exactly how to reset electronic thermostats and replace furnace filters (which can become quite costly if not done properly). Holmes Heating Inc. provides all of its customers with a free training DVD, which outlines these procedures, step-by-step, in a friendly and courteous manner.

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