Here’s how to recognize if HVAC techs are helping or scamming you

Jun 8, 2023, 3:00 PM

stock photo of a HVAC technician...

(Shuttershock Photo)

(Shuttershock Photo)

With the scorching heat of summer around the corner, ensuring your air conditioning system is in top-notch condition becomes essential. For most homeowners, this requires a pre-summer visit from your local, trustworthy air conditioning contractors to perform maintenance.

This appointment is designed to ensure the system is prepared to deliver reliable, efficient cooling throughout our brutal summer temperatures. Many times, during your maintenance appointment, an air conditioning technician may recommend the replacement of worn parts or the installation of performance add-on components. How does the average homeowner know if the recommendations are appropriate, or if they are just getting pushed by a commissioned technician?

Historically, the home service industry was primarily serviced by locally owned and operated businesses in the community they lived in. Typically, these companies operated with honesty and integrity. They were customer-focused, and recommendations were made based on the home and air conditioning system’s needs.

Unfortunately, over the past 24 months, a large percentage of our local air conditioning and plumbing contractors have been purchased by national private equity companies. Known in the industry as consolidators or platform companies, these large organizations design their operations entirely around the monetizing of the customer. The company name and brand may not change, but behind the scenes, the day-to-day operations have one primary goal in mind . . . sales and profit. Typical changes include but are not limited to:

  1. converting all technicians to 100% commission pay
  2. modifying service offerings to include only highly profitable product
  3. building a sales escalation process
  4. categorizing appointments based on their monetary value
  5. overbooking the capacity and rescheduling all appointments with a low sales potential.

Arizona has experienced the highest percentage of consolidation of air conditioning contractors in the nation.

So how does an Arizona homeowner know if a home service technician is making an appropriate recommendation or simply trying to earn a commission? We asked Todd Russo, the local owner of REEIS Air Conditioning and Home Performance, a Rosie on the House Certified Partner, for advice regarding how to determine if a recommendation from an air conditioning technician is appropriate. Todd gave us the following things to look out for.

  1. Air conditioning part replacement – Air conditioners do have parts that wear out. Although the average homeowner would rarely know if a part is at risk of failing. A good technician will test the part to determine if it is at the end of its life span. Ask the technician to show you the testing result. If he or she is not eager to show you the test results, be cautious.
  2. Ask for pictures. Ask for data. Every technician has a smartphone. If something needs to be repaired, cleaned, or replaced, a technician should be able to show you why. If they can’t show you, there might be a reason. A technician should also be testing and collecting data. You should get a report when the service is complete.
  3. Age of equipment. The age of your equipment does not necessarily dictate if a recommendation is inappropriate. With the continued push to make air conditioning equipment more energy efficient, items like motors, capacitors and other elements become less robust. It is not uncommon for a motor to need replacement in five or six years. Some recommendations such as a start assist kit are performance-improvement products. They may be standard on more expensive equipment but not included on lower efficiency units. Adding one can be a good recommendation in the Phoenix heat.
  4. Reviews on Google are not everything. Large companies have a backend machine and software solutions designed to drive reviews. If a company has thousands of reviews, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are a great company, it simply means they have the tools to drive the reviews. If a contractor has a Google rating below four, Todd says he would definitely stay clear. If the company does not respond to negative reviews, he would be cautious.
  5. Improvement to air flow & insulation. If a technician recommends insulation or duct modification to improve airflow, it is probably a good recommendation. Insulation and duct modifications are typically less profitable products. Usually, the “profit-sales-only” driven company is less likely to want to install these improvements. They do not meet the criteria for their product offers. If you want to know their criteria for product offering of a sales-only driven company, here it is:
    • The product must be quick and easy to install.
    • It must fit on the service van and be easy to inventory.
    • It must be simple to sell.
    • It must be hard to price shop.Note that attic insulation over R-38 is a waste of money.
  6. Pay for your maintenance. A good air conditioning technician is well compensated. It takes time to perform proper maintenance. If a company is offering you low-priced maintenance, you are not getting maintenance. You are probably paying for a commissioned salesperson to come into your home.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask the person answering the phone about the company. When you are speaking with a customer service representative, ask them three simple questions.
    1. Are your technicians paid a commission or “performance base” pay?
    2. Is the owner in the office daily?
    3. Do you have other locations or affiliated companies, or is Arizona home?Remember that several Phoenix “sales-only-driven” companies own three to five air conditioning brands in Phoenix.
  8. Todd would never recommend a homeowner going to the internet to purchase an air conditioning unit. Internet air conditioner sales tend to be bait-and-switch offers. The price on the computer tends to not be the final price you pay.
    1. Note: often the installer is not known to you when you buy online, and they may not be reputable. It is imperative to know who is going to install a unit, that they will do it right, and be around to service the warranty and the unit correctly.
  9. Don’t buy at the lowest price! Good service cost money. Cheap service and installation will likely cost you more in the long run. A study performed by the National Comfort Institute found that the average air conditioning system delivers only 58% of its cooling capacity. The study determined that poor installation practices were the reason for the loss in performance. You may be getting a low-cost service or installation, but you probably are not getting proper performance out of your equipment.
  10. Private label air conditioning systems. If a company is offering you an air conditioning system with the same name as the company you called, they are not the manufacturer of the equipment. They are simply taking a product that could be inferior and putting their name on it. That is called private labeling.

If you are asking questions and know who you are doing business with, you will probably get fair service.  If you trust only a company’s advertising, you may be getting the opposite.  Do your due diligence.

Join Rosie on the House every Saturday from 8 a.m.-11 a.m. on KTAR News 92.3 FM. If you’d like to send us questions or comments, email Follow us on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook. For more do-it-yourself tips, go to An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert since 1988, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio program. Call 888-767-4348 with questions & comments.

REEis Air Conditioning takes a whole-house approach to HVAC, and that means taking every single component into account to help maximize efficiency, comfort, and longevity. They will analyze and improve every part of your home’s climate control system. Serving the Metro Phoenix area, they carry several contractor licenses, certifications, and affiliations. Their NATE-certified service technicians adhere to strict standards and take part in continual training to stay abreast of the latest industry developments. They specialize in HVAC, insulation techniques, airflow, solar heat gain, pressure balancing, and more.

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Here’s how to recognize if HVAC techs are helping or scamming you