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Selecting A Heating Contractor

A good heating contractor is a valuable friend to have. Just ask anyone whose furnace has ever stopped working in sub-zero degree weather. Here are tips on how to select a reliable heating contractor. One who responds promptly--and gives you a fair deal.

Finding Heating Contractors

There are many ways to find a heating contractor, from a friend's referral to information from industry associations and Internet searches. It helps to interview contractors when you don't need service, to ensure you are focused on the interviews and not on solving an immediate and stressful heating problem.

Make a list of three or four contractors to interview, and prepare a list of questions:

  • Experience: Has the heating contractor worked with the type of system you have--whether it is a gas forced-air furnace or a water-fueled boiler? Has the contractor been in your area for several years and does he or she have a list of references that you can call?
  • Rates: Does the contractor charge a flat fee for a service call, which is standard in many areas? Do they offer any special service plans that cover regular maintenance? (Sometimes this can save you money over time.)
  • Trustworthiness: Does the company work with long-term employees or subcontractors? How do they screen employees and how much experience does the typical worker have? Is the company bonded and insured against any damage or loss while in your home?

Compare the Heating Contractors' Proposals

While it is time consuming to interview several contractors, the process helps you learn about furnaces and decide who is giving you the best home improvement advice. Your house may need a high efficiency furnace or a different size furnace than the one previously installed, for example.

Look for a contractor who offers advice freely and openly answers questions. The contractor also should be knowledgeable about different products and their features. For example, many manufacturers offer rebates and other financing incentives when you purchase a furnace. The contractors you interview should give accurate and timely advice about the quality and longevity of various systems.

Heating Contractors and Emergency Service

Why is it that furnaces never seem to malfunction in the middle of a weekday? As you interview heating contractors, ask how their rates differ during the evening and on weekends and holidays. Do they offer 24-hour service, which can be a critical service in the winter? How long does it generally take them to respond to a service call? You may be surprised to find that one contractor is more reasonably priced for emergency service.

A reliable and knowledgeable heating contractor can be a valuable resource. Take some time to talk with several companies before making your decision.