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Common Problems HVAC Contractors Make and How to Avoid Them

Like the rest of us, HVAC/R contractors make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes can affect the lifespan or efficiency of systems being installed and maintained. Other times these mistakes hurt their customers and they may even hurt the contractor’s business. These are some of the most common mistakes to look out for and avoid:

The Problem: Neglecting Combustion Safety

Oftentimes, contractors will usually go straight to the furnace and look for cracks in the heat exchanger on a carbon monoxide call. If they don’t find anything, many assume it was just a false alarm so they will simply change the CO alarm batteries and be on their way… but the problem is that many contractors don’t know enough about back drafting in combustion appliances. And even less test for it.

The Solution: Always test for flue gases and worst-case depressurization on calls like this or you’re leaving your customer in a potentially very dangerous situation as CO poisoning can be deadly.

The Problem: Ducts and Airflow

The main problem here is that most contractors know how to properly duct a system, but many don’t take the time to perform professional quality work. HVAC contractors need to fully understood air flow and then they’ll realize that most duct systems should be larger.

The Solution: When doing a system change out, you should also do a duct change out. Existing ductwork that’s in good shape likely wasn’t sized right to begin with.  It’s also probably too leaky and repairing it would lead to more trouble down the road than just starting from scratch.

The Problem: Forgetting to Ethically Upsell

Contractors go into dozens or even hundreds of homes every year…  they go in attics, crawl spaces, basements… getting an up close look at the quality (or lack thereof) of the insulation and air sealing in the home. Yet, many fail to let the homeowner know that improving these elements will improve the efficiency of their HVAC system. If you leave a quote visit without addressing all of the home’s performance issues, you’re leaving money on the table. It could be the difference between a $7,000 job and a $10,000-$15,000 job.

The Solution: Even if you don’t personally perform that kind of work, it’s a good idea to advise the customer on ways their home could improve its overall comfort. Why? Because you’ll either get that additional work or potentially earn their trust for repeat business.

The Problem: Not Sizing Properly

HVAC systems definitely aren’t the same as they were 50 years ago, and neither are the homes that they’re being installed in. Yet, many contractors are still using old “rule of thumbs” to calculate the heating and cooling load.

The Solution: Calculate accurate rate of heat loss and gain in the home. Manual J is one of the better ways to do this for new homes. And for older, existing homes? Timing the existing system’s runtime during design conditions is a great way if this option is available.

The Problem: Being an Extreme Low Bidder

Wanting to offer affordable work is fine, but severely undercutting your fellow contractors is not. This problem makes everyone a loser – the contractors who don’t get the work lose, the one who does get the work can’t do the job properly because they have to skimp on labor and materials to be within budget, and the homeowner loses because they get a half-ass job that will lead to more issues down the road.

The Solution: Know what you’re worth, know what it’s going to cost to take on the job properly, and calculate your bid based on that. You probably don’t want to work for a customer who is looking for the cheapest work anyways.


It’s clear that one path only leads to problems… constantly having to find new customers because it’s hard to get repeat business from existing ones because your work isn’t remarkable… dealing with customers who are always looking for the low bid and finding that when  you follow up, someone underbid you…. or worse, finding your work plastered online or on social media as an example of what NOT to do.

And it should be even more obvious that the other path leads to profitability, happier and more loyal customers, referrals, and an easier work life. The choice is yours.