(WXYZ) - As summer temperatures heat up, your local Better Business Bureau is advising consumers not to get burned by air conditioning inspection and repair scams. While most air conditioning service and installation companies are reputable, as the humidity increases there are always a few companies that emerge each season with the goal of taking consumers money for unnecessary repair work or equipment sales. BBB encourages consumers not to give in to high-pressure sales tactics and to always do their homework before committing to spend any money.
“Air conditioners can be one of the more complicated aspects of maintaining your home,” said Melanie Duquesnel, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan. “As such, scam artists will leverage that unfamiliarity of air conditioning to take advantage of the consumer. The best way to defend your pocketbook is by being an educated consumer. Always check out a company with your local Better Business Bureau before accepting any offers and never leave anyone servicing your air conditioning system unattended while at your home.”
Advertisements for “free” air conditioner cleanings or tune-ups tend to pop up this time of year. BBB recommends that consumers be cautious of these opportunities. Complaints received by the BBB show a trend in these circumstances regarding recommendations for more costly repairs than are actually required, high-pressure sales pitches to replace existing units with brand new models, or significantly marking up the price for replacement parts. In other situations, dishonest repair people will remove parts or allow coolant to escape causing the air conditioner to not work properly so that the consumer believes a costly repair or the purchase of a new unit is needed.
“If someone is advertising an offer to clean or service your air conditioner for free they are most likely planning on trying to sell you something else while they are in your home,” notes Lee Weinstein, General Manager for H A Sun Heating & Cooling Inc., a BBB Accredited Business since 1987. “There is a difference between sending a technician out to provide a free estimate or quote as part of the sales process, which many reputable businesses do, and trying to trick a consumer by allegedly offering a free service with the overall intent of gaining access to their home in order to defraud them or make a high pressure sales pitch. Anytime someone is faced with a pricey repair or new air conditioner purchase, we recommend getting at least three quotes before you make a final decision.”
BBB recommends consumers take the following steps to ensure they are getting the proper service for their air conditioner problems:
· Troubleshoot: Before calling for service, check a few basic things out yourself first. Is your thermostat operating properly? Has the electrical breaker powering the unit tripped? Does your system have a winter power shut off switch that needs to be flipped? Are the air in-take screens or filters on your outside unit dirty or blocked and need to be cleaned? Sometimes there are minor, inexpensive things you can do yourself to alleviate a problem and avoid paying for a service call or repair.
Air conditioners are complex machinery, don’t take them apart or try to repair them on your own or you could end up doing more damage which could result in a more expensive repair. Leave the servicing of your air conditioner to a licensed professional.
· Warranty Issues: Is your air conditioner still under manufacturers’ warranty? Sometimes using unauthorized service companies or replacement parts can void your warranty. Be sure to check your owners’ manual or warranty for any special conditions to avoid unnecessarily paying for any future repairs that might otherwise be paid for under the warranty.
· Start With Trust: Check out service contractors with your local Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org or by calling 248-223-9400. Make sure to use a BBB Accredited Business or at the very least, one that has a good rating with BBB.
· Written Estimates: Don’t be satisfied with verbal promises. Demand a written estimate that notes what is wrong with your air conditioner, what the entire cost to repair or replace the unit will be, and the printed and signed name of the repair person. If they are recommending purchasing a new system, also require the estimate include its make, model, serial number, and system capacity.
· Obtain Multiple Quotes: Obtain more than one written quote before you allow work to be completed on your air conditioner or purchase a new one. Quotes should include a full description of the services and materials to be used so you can adequately compare them; this includes the air conditioner’s size and units of energy (BTU) as well as the calculated cooling capacity of your home. Also compare all available warranties. Not all warranties are the same so they should be included in your evaluation process.
· Be Vigilant: Protect your