When your air conditioner breaks, it becomes an emergency that disrupts your entire household. The goal is to repair or replace the unit as quickly as possible, but care should still be taken to find the most reliable and trustworthy air conditioning contractor for your project. This helps ensure that your home is restored to its original condition as quickly as possible.

At Modernize, we frequently speak to homeowners about their home improvement projects. In our recent interviews, 80 percent of homeowners found a contractor for the job through referrals. But it’s important to properly vet and research contractors before choosing your perfect fit, even if a friend or a family member personally vouched for them.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while you make the pick.

Understand Your Air Conditioner Needs

A trusted contractor will be able to assess, identify, and explain potential improvements or upgrades to your home’s air conditioning. The average cost for a central AC unit will depend on the size of your home, the square footage of rooms needing to be cooled, the central AC system brand,  and the energy efficient level (SEER), amongst other factors.

Aim for the Most Reliable Air Conditioning Contractor

To ensure a swift repair or replacement, a reliable contractor is key. There’s a lot to consider under the umbrella of reliability. In recent interviews, 90 percent of homeowners requested a checklist to help them find and vet contractors. Modernize now offers homeowners a free, digital Contractor Checklist as a simple, step-by-step guide to assist with your HVAC project.

Here are some things you can do to ensure you find the best possible air conditioning contractor.

Ask for Referrals

A strong majority of homeowners approach all home improvement projects by first gathering referrals. Some of the most common approaches are:

Vet Your Options

One of the most important parts of your search is vetting different contractors and comparing their work.

  • Request quotes from three to four contractors in your area.
  • Visit the website of each contractor.
    • Is it updated and professional looking?
  • Explore the customer reviews for each contractor.
    • Are they mostly positive? Consider negative reviews and responses.

Talk to Your Favorites

Once you have a short list of your top choices, get them on the phone. A trustworthy contractor will appreciate an opportunity to discuss your project further, and a conversation allows you to get to know them. While you know best what you want to learn in the conversation, here are some questions we recommend you ask:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • How much experience do you have with air conditioning repair or installation?
  • What is your project estimate?
  • Can you provide a list of references?
  • Can you provide proof of insurance for personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage?

Meet the Finalists

Meet in-person with your top contractors to review project-specific details and expectations. You can use Modernize’s free worksheet for homeowners to compare contractors. Be sure to bring up the following with each contractor:

  • Ask to see proof of insurance, which should provide their insurance company name, policy number, and policy limits.
  • Discuss who will manage warranty details and responsibility.
  • Make sure to get a fixed price before signing a contract.

Don’t Wait Until Your AC Needs To Be Replaced

You certainly don’t need to wait for an emergency before creating a meaningful relationship with your local air conditioning contractor.

If you have a trusted contractor who has perhaps offered you an assessment of your AC unit, energy efficient upgrades or helped you learn the needs of your home, you will have less work to do when an emergency does arrive. It is always preferable to meet professionals and discuss the advantages of a new air conditioning unit on your own time instead of under the stress of an emergency.

The right time to find a reliable contractor is now.

Be Aware of Warning Signs and Avoid Hidden Costs

As with contractors for any home improvement, some are not honest professionals. Before choosing your contractor for a fast air conditioning repair or replacement, be sure you can trust them and that their estimate is transparent and complete.

The best way to avoid scams is to choose a local, trusted contractor—someone whose reputation and reliability are central to their success. You can confirm this by checking their physical business address and validating their licensing.

Here are additional warning signs that can protect your HVAC replacement budget:

  • Avoid contractors who request the entire project cost, or large cash deposit, up front.
  • Avoid anyone who pressures you to sign a contract immediately.
  • Be wary of any outliers in your quotes. All estimates should be relatively similar unless the material type is significantly different.

When it comes to an air conditioning replacement project, there are some hidden costs homeowners could be surprised with down the line. The best way to avoid these is to ask the contractor about them. Here is Modernize’s full review of the possible hidden costs in AC replacements.

Evaluate Air Conditioning Contractor Quotes the Right Way

The best contractor is not always the cheapest contractor. And the best air conditioning replacement quote isn’t always the lowest.

A recent Modernize survey revealed 63 percent of homeowners compare three to four contractor estimates ahead of a home improvement project. Evaluating multiple quotes helps homeowners scope their budget and encourages contractors to be competitive with their pricing. It’s important to understand your HVAC estimates and why quotes may vary from each other. Before comparing your own set of estimates, see our guide Evaluating Contractors’ Air Conditioning Replacement Quotes.

Comparing contractors is easy and effective with our free worksheet to help homeowners find the best air conditioning replacement contractor.

No matter what you use to determine who will replace your air conditioner, it’s important you keep in mind that saving money today could cost you much more money later if the repair isn’t completed correctly. Quality, especially when it comes to your home, is a lifelong investment.