Residential heating and cooling units can last up to 20 years. Yearly tune-ups can prevent future problems and unwanted costs so that your unit can provide comfort for years to come.

Last year, the BBB received over 3,500 complaints against heating and cooling contractors and repair services. Some of the most common mistakes consumers and business owners make when looking for repairs stem from hiring the first contractor they find, not doing the proper research, and not getting all the details of their service or repair in writing.

The BBB recommends the following tips to make sure your AC services go off without a hitch:

— Research the company’s background and licensing. While friends, neighbors and colleagues are often a source for referrals, make sure you also review a prospective company’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org to see if they have pattern of consumer complaints or a poor record of addressing them. Confirm that the company is licensed and insured. Consumers can check the status of a license at the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation’s website at www.license.state.tx.us or through TDLR’s customer service lines at 800-803-9202 or 512-436-6599. In addition, state-issued license numbers, which begin with TACL, must be on all print advertisements, company vehicles, business cards, work proposals and invoices. If no license number is evident, the contractor is most likely not licensed to work in the state.

— Compare prices and service packages. Get at least three estimates for any air conditioning repair work or maintenance work. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used. Compare more than just cost. Check the size and rated efficiency of the equipment each contractor recommends. Ask each contractor how they arrived at recommending a particular sized system.

— Review warranty coverage. Find out if the company offers any type of warranty or guarantee. Make certain you understand the terms and conditions of the coverage. Also, be sure to check the warranty on your current air conditioning unit to determine whether any repairs or replacements may be covered.

Ask about energy efficiency. Many new air conditioning units are manufactured to be more energy efficient than others. Look for the Energy Star label to find out more about products that may cost a little more up front, but save you in energy costs over time. Some models may even be eligible for a tax credit. Ask your contractor to verify tax credit eligibility and provide the manufacturer certification statement for the equipment you plan to purchase.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB at 903-581-5704 or report it via BBB ScamTracker.

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