Interview the contractor – How long have they been in business? Ask for proof that they have a State Contractors License, in their name. Check with The California State License Board and check to see if they have current Liability and Workers’ Compensation Insurance policies. Who owns the company? Do they have an actual business address? Will they provide you with a list of recent customers? Ask if you can visit any ongoing projects, to see how their current jobs are being managed. Contractors State License Board – 1(800) 321-CSLB(2752), or at

Has the contractor told you that permits are required? – If not, that’s the first red flag. To insure that the work has been done properly, and local codes have been followed, a permit must be obtained. The inspector will visit the jobsite, and perform an inspection. If the work has not been done correctly, the inspector won’t approve the work. The contractor would then be required to make the necessary corrections, then the inspector will return to check the work again. The permit is to protect you!

The Contract – Don’t sign anything until you are comfortable that you know what is included in the contract. Everything must be in writing. This is for your protection. It insures that you, and the contractor, are clear about what is being done. If something does go wrong, verbal agreements will not stand up in a courtroom. Any changes to the original contract should also be in writing. The contractor is also required to provide you with a 3-day right of rescission notice.

Payments – Never, never, never, pay with cash! Always get a receipt. If a down payment is required, the amount is $1,000.00, or 10% of the total cost, whichever is less. Ask to make payments as the job progresses, and don’t make your final payment until all of the work has been completed!

Brands – Obviously, the quality of some brands will be better than others. A good quality, name brand system will perform and outlast cheap brands, however, the key to a great installation are the procedures and installation practices used. If a quality product is installed without regard for the manufacturers guidelines, then it may not perform better than, or last any longer than a bargain brand.

The work – There are installation guidelines that the manufacturer will provide to insure a proper installation. Every contractor should follow these guidelines. Ask to see the installation instructions. A good contractor will not hide anything from you.

Choose wisely – If you hire a reputable, licensed contractor, who uses quality equipment and materials, your chances of being satisfied when the work is finished will greatly increase. The initial cost may be more, but the results will be worth it.

Jim Berry is a Sales Consultant for Kahn Air Conditioning, a member of the Home Improvement Networking Cluster, and was previously a heating and air conditioning service technician. Kahn hosts free monthly workshops to teach homeowners about their heating and cooling systems.
For related questions call (818) 886-2600, or e-mail;

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