Purchasing an HVAC system for your home or business is a significant expense. Unless you are an expert in heating and cooling, you’ll want to find an HVAC contractor to choose and install a system in your home. It’s important to have a good plan for finding that contractor. Here are five tips that will be helpful in choosing an HVAC contractor.

1. Avoid common mistakes. First and foremost, don’t choose a contractor when you are desperate. If possible, consider contractors when your system is acting up but not already completely broken. It can be difficult to take the time necessary to make a good decision when the system has broken and it’s the middle of a scorching summer. Also, experts say homeowners should not make any assumptions. Every contractor is not equally skilled and honest. With a little probing, you can make the proper decision.

2. Compile a list of at least three contractors. The HVAC system in your home is a costly repair. Just as you would seek estimates for a car repair, the same should be true with the heating and cooling system. Get the names of companies from people you trust and from local advertising.

3. Ask for an estimate. You’ll get a good feel for the honesty and reliability of a contractor by meeting him in person and seeing how they go about diagnosing the problem with your heating and cooling system and putting together a professional estimate. Only accept an estimate in writing and have the contractor specifically include how long the estimate is good. Make sure the estimate includes at least two different options so you know the contractor isn’t simply connected with one specific brand or model.

4. Call previous customers. If any contractor balks at offering names of previous customers as referrals, immediately take them off your list. It should not be difficult for a qualified contractor to come up with a number of satisfied customers. Make sure you have recent customers; and if not, ask why. Then, call and talk to the customers to ask about the quality of the repair or new equipment as well as whether the contractor was professional and courteous in their home.

5. Check with the state. Make sure you know the licensing and insurance requirements for HVAC contractors in your state. There should be a board that oversees contractors in your state, and most likely, it is located in the state capital. A few minutes on Google should net that information. It’s also a good idea to contact the Better Business Bureau to make sure the contractor has no recurring problems with customers.