As much as we try to provide do-it-yourself tips, it's just a fact of life that sooner or later you'll be at the mercy of an HVAC professional. After all, HVAC systems are complex equipment requiring in-depth knowledge of electricity, plumbing and mechanical systems, specialized diagnostic equipment, state licensure and EPA certification. When it comes to HVAC trades people, there are basically two types: the "parts replacer" and the "service technician."
The Parts Replacer
This individual knows how to replace parts, but may not have the necessary advanced trouble-shooting and engineering skills or may not want to put forth that extra time and effort that may be required for your situation. Has this ever happened to you? You spend money to replace a part, only to have similar trouble just a week or two later, so they come out and replace a different part. This could be a sign that no in-depth trouble-shooting was done initially to determine the exact cause of the problem, and the technician merely replaced the "most likely" part hoping that might fix it. The parts replacer mentality can be very costly for the consumer! You wind up buying things you might not need, and the real preventive maintenance is not done on the systemâ€¦because it is just easier to let it fail and replace it later.
Tip: Any time a part is replaced, make sure you see the old part that is removed, and the new part being installed. You may not have a clue about the parts themselves, but at least you'll be assured that if you paid for a new part to be swapped out with old part, that it actually was! Then, hang on to the old part, and if it turned out not to be the problem after all, ask for it to be reinstalled and demand a refund for the cost of its wrongful replacement.
The Service Technician
This individual takes the word "service" seriously. They spend the time and effort necessary to investigate the problem and find the best solutionâ€¦ and they know the best solution is not always to replace parts. This individual takes the word "technician" seriously, too. They are not afraid to tackle a difficult repair or to fabricate a part or to engineer a more optimal solution. They realize that there is more to being an HVAC service technician than simply being able to replace parts. Listening to the customer and being sensitive to their needs is just as important as the technical skills they possess. These types of people actually protect your investment in your HVAC system and save you money in the long-run by keeping your system tuned and by preventing the need for parts replacement. Sure you can replace a failed part, but not fixing the underlying cause of what made that part fail in the first place means you'll be spending more later. This is why the lowest bid on a job may not always be the one you should choose.
Tip: Always seek out a second opinion if a major expense is proposed, and don't be quick to opt for the lowest price. Ask questions about what will be done: what parts will be repaired or replaced and the amount of time it will take. Ask also if they will guarantee their work. If they hem and haw at your questions, that's not a good sign!
In short, a parts replacer is reactive, while a service technician is proactive. Service technicians will use their advanced technical knowledge and equipment to correctly diagnose the problem and repair it the first time. While parts replacers keep swapping out parts hoping to stumble across the correct solution. Which type of HVAC professional do you want working on your systems?