Top 5 “Buyer Beware” Scenarios

At Climatrol Air® we feel that we are blessed to work in an industry that is overwhelmingly ran by HVAC honest professionals with home-town values. In fact, of all of the blue collar trades out there like plumbers, electricians etc., HVAC companies rate the highest in honesty and fairness. So please do not see the following as a condemnation of our industry because most of us still do business the old fashioned way, with a handshake and personal satisfaction in a job well done.

That being said, our industry is demonstrably one of the most competitive field in the trade industry. We often joke that you can close your eyes and throw a rock and hit an HVAC company. This competitiveness drives the small guys to work for lead aggregators and big box stores and the larger companies are forced to come up with promotion after promotion to keep instep with the other “big-boys” in the industry.

This competition breeds a kind of one-upmanship in marketing gimmicks that sometimes leaves consumers scratching their head and wondering what really is the best deal on a new HVAC system. So, we have tried to outline what we feel, are the egregious buyer-beware scenarios that consumers need to be aware of before pulling the trigger on a new HVAC system. Feel free to call us if you have questions.

There is No Such Thing as a Lifetime Warranty. This bears repeating: not one HVAC manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty with their equipment. Not one. Full stop.

When a company advertises, or promises a “lifetime warranty,” they are doing one of two things: They are selling you an after market warranty that is similar to a car warranty, or they are selling you a maintenance plan for $75 – $100 or more each month that promises to keep your HVAC equipment running.

What the “lifetime warranty” gimmick does is it conflates your HVAC payments and service agreement payments. They advertise this by saying something akin to: “So as long as you pay our company $75 a month we will replace your system for free for the lifetime.” You will never have to buy another HVAC system again!

So, HVAC systems last 15 years, give or take. If you need to finance one they cost around $75 – $100 per month for three to 5 years. Now, if we do the easy math, by extending those payments out over 15 years, you end up paying for three systems by continuing to pay the HVAC company who installed your system. And, when you HVAC system becomes more costly for them to service than replace, they will give you another one. (As long as you keep paying them $75 – $100 a month.)

When referencing an extended warranty instead of a service agreement warranty just remember that a “lifetime warranty” is not for your lifetime, it’s for the suggested lifetime of the equipment. At the end of their definition of “lifetime” you will still need to buy another HVAC unit.

The real goal of this trickery is for the customer to continue paying the HVAC company monthly for a lifetime, and as long as you do that, sure, we’ll give you a new system every fifteen years. There have been many lawsuits over these types of marketing tactics, so read the fine print carefully.

The most reputable HVAC brands, like Rheem, are very reliable nowadays and 99% of the time you will spend significantly less money buying the HVAC equipment and sticking with the manufacturer’s warranty.

At Climatrol Air® we offer extended warranties if you would like to purchase one. However we are very transparent about the cost of each product and will carefully explain the differences between the two. Companies that intertwine these two are usually doing it as a marketing ploy and to make more money.

Don’t be fooled by these types of promotions. Most of the time (99.9999999%) this promotional advertising is referencing rebates that manufacturers offer on aging or their most expensive HVAC systems. Think of this like you would a car dealership. Car dealerships offer rebates on their slowest moving or most expensive vehicles in stock so they can move them to make room for newer cars.

By in large, HVAC systems, regardless of which brand you choose, can be generalized into three basic flavors:

Economy priced
– Average priced (This being the most often sold)
– Super-Duper priced

The price difference between the first two options is not very much, and the feature differences between the two are easily justifiable leading most consumers to opt for the “average priced” unit over the economy unit for a modest increase in price.

The super-duper priced units carry the largest profit margins for HVAC companies (and not by a little bit). The FEATURE difference between the “average priced model” and the “super-duper priced models” is not easily justifiable.

When you upgrade to the most expensive unit you are paying a premium price for a few extra doohickies and slightly improved performance. Think of it like gasoline, the price difference between premium gas and regular gas is not easily justified, but it’s what you have to pay to get the premium gas.

The simple fact is, this year’s “super-duper” priced models will be next year’s “average priced” models without the exorbitant profit margins. So right before this change occurs, most HVAC manufacturers offer rebates on the higher priced units to make ready for the new super-duper priced models.

These rebates are available every year to HVAC companies like ours by all manufacturers, not just a lucky few. Most HVAC companies (like us) simply factor those rebates into their price when giving a quote so that they can give a competitive quote.

Others use their manufacturers rebates as an advertising hook. So buyer beware, at the end of the day, after the “$2000 dollars off” promotion you are still shelling out the same amount of money that you would anywhere else and you are not coming away $2000 richer.

To be clear, we are not necessarily saying that HVAC companies that use a sales force instead of trained techs to sell their new systems are any less competent or trustworthy than us. What we are saying however, is that when problems arise, particularly in this industry, it is usually directly attributed to a miscommunication between the installers and the sales person.

Our owner, Doug Mazursky, a veteran in the HVAC industry since 1990 and a NATE certified tech, notes that the largest problem he finds is when one of the the sales people estimate that your house needed an “example 1” type of system and when in fact it needed an “example2” type of system. When this happens, the process, as well as your comfort, gets delayed. Or worse, the wrong system gets installed anyway and has to be corrected.

This miscommunication usually happens for one of two reasons. The first and most common reason is because of the inexperience of the sales person. The other reason is because the sales person is “selling to their inventory.” This means the their company has too many “example 1” systems or not enough of example 2 systems in stock and they have been told, or incentivized, to “move” example 1 systems. When this happens you may, or may not, get the best system for your home.

These problems are not uncommon to sales force centric business models. In fact, if you look at the bad reviews for HVAC companies in general, you’ll see that almost every bad review can be directly attributed to “he said, she said” or the salesperson over-promising and the company under-delivering. Climatrol Air® will never have this problem because we don’t have salespeople. We just have NATE certified techs who quote your job and then install your new system. There can be no miscommunication.

Buying hardware or garden equipment is a lot different than replacing your home HVAC equipment. That’s why the big-box stores sub out all of their HVAC jobs. They use local national and regional HVAC companies who are called “Providers.” These companies pay the store a fee or a percentage for your information, which is what they call a lead. These fees and commissions are passed along to the consumer.

Rarely, almost never, will a reputable HVAC company work through a big-box store. Most of the companies that do work through this middleman scenario do so because they cannot find enough work locally, or they are a regional company that has a less than stellar reputation. After these companies finish the job, the box store will guarantee their work for 30 days, but after that you are stuck relying on that company for future problems.

Using a local, reputable HVAC company for your HVAC replacement is the best way to ensure that you get the best deal and a professional installation of your new HVAC system. These local HVAC companies’ ability to generate business locally is directly tied to their reputation and they protect that reputation by offering great prices and service. Without a good reputation their business will quickly dry up and they will have to find other ways to generate business, like big box store leads or lead aggregator websites like Angie’s List.

These are what the industry calls “lead aggregator” websites. A couple examples are: Angie’s List and Home advisor. While this may sound like a good idea and a great way to get competitive quotes, once you peek into what is really happening, you may want to stick with shopping local reputable HVAC companies on your own.

You can find local reputable companies on your own by doing a quick Google search and looking at their public ratings. Google purposely lists the companies with the best reputations first. When you perform that Google search you will almost never find the companies that will call you when you shop for HVAC companies via a lead aggregator website.

Why is this? This is because their “reputation” is not public like Google and Facebook reviews. Their reviews and ratings are held and managed by a private company (the one that sells them leads) and they are controlled by that same company to make them money when they generate their leads (you are the “lead”).

In our industry reputation is everything. Almost everyone will seek out a review or recommendation before buying a new HVAC system. The HVAC companies that use lead generation websites like Angie’s List are either very new companies that need the business, or older companies whose public reputation does not allow them to compete with local companies with better reputations.

When HVAC companies use these lead generation websites to generate business pay extraordinarily high fees and percentages to the lead aggregator websites. These fees are almost always passed along to the consumer. Which is why you are almost always better off dealing with a local company with a public reputation that is verifiable by an uninterested party like Facebook and Google.

Just remember, when you fill out that form on a lead aggregator website you will be submitting your private information (name, address, phone number, email address) that will be sold to dozens of companies, who you probably have never heard of, and you will get dozens of phone calls from companies for up to a couple months. Our best advice is for you to be an informed consumer, not a “lead” that is passed around by a dozen companies.

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