How To Choose The Right Residential HVAC Contractor

The Right Residential HVAC Contractor

You are either ready to replace or add a gas furnace, air conditioner or heat pump; or possibly looking into a ductless heat pump to heat and cool areas in your house separately. There are a bunch of contractors in the Puget Sound area that can do this work and you want to find the best fit that meets your comfort and budget needs, as well as (possibly) begin a relationship with someone you can trust for the life of the system.

Evergreen State Heat & AC and Evergreen Eastside Heat & AC are part of the Evergreen State Sheet Metal (ESSM) family of companies which was founded in 1968, over 50 years ago, with owners Russ & Pam Kimball there for over 25 of those years. We are licensed in electrical and general construction, insured, and bonded for your protection in the state of Washington, and have installed over 10,000 custom designed residential HVAC systems during this time while servicing at least that many.

Many folks look at replacing a furnace or air conditioner like replacing a car, nothing could be further from the truth. Each installation is custom made for the home; many factors can make an installation a lot trickier to get right than most people think. As a general rule, it’s more important to have competent experts plan and execute the work than getting the highest quality ‘box’ at the lowest ‘price’. The price paid on the first day is not the life-cycle cost of the system, and a poorly installed system bought at the lowest price can end up being the most expensive and time-consuming system if the contractor is not honorable in fixing their mistakes. That does not even factor in the costs for energy, comfort of your family and indoor air quality of your home. Nor does it factor in issues selling your home if no permit was pulled or the system does not meet with the inspector’s or buyer’s satisfaction. Not all residential HVAC contractors are equal, know this up front and do your research wisely.

There are two parts to this process:

  • First, use the internet, as it will provide you with a wealth of information, both good and bad, about each and every company (and yes, even we have had unhappy customers despite doing everything in our power to make them happy).
  • Second, once you have narrowed it down to about 3-4 qualified companies (more than that and you will be overwhelmed with random facts and irrelevant information). With these companies invite an energy consultant (salesman) to your home to review the application and talk to you about your wants, needs and budget (and yes, we do need to make sure we can find a system that meets your financial needs). From there we are sure you will make an excellent choice.

Step 1 – Research Residential HVAC Companies Online:

  • Company Reviews

    Many free sites to choose from, we recommend Google as it is the most unbiased. Yelp is good also but more for the food industry. Forbes & Reddit also. Many of the others require HVAC companies to purchase memberships and are therefore biased toward their customers (Angi, Expertise, HomeAdvisor, etc.). Dig deeper not only into the overall numbers but the types of comments used.

  • Company Websites

    These sites are what we say about ourselves and therefore biased. But you can learn about the projects, the people, and the policies of every company you are interested in.

  • Washington Labor & Industries

    ( – This is critical for licensing (both general and electrical construction), as well as safety, customer, or state penalties, etc. In Step 2 we will discuss permits in more detail.  Here you can see if they have the ability to get their own permits.  If they do not have an electrical 02 (or 01) license it means they have to sub-contract an electrician to legally permit, and that might be an issue.  If they do not have at least a 06 (low voltage) license, there should be major reservations about their workmanship as this is required for every job.

  • Better Business Bureau

    (– While many companies have an A+ rating, some do not. A nice quick litmus test similar to the WA DOH signs for restaurants (Excellent, Good, Okay, Poor)


    (– You can get to the HVAC page for education in general. To get to the page for specific companies (like ours) membership as needed.

Step 2 – Meet with the Home Comfort Consultant at Your Home:

  • Professionalism

    How professional does the person answering the phone sound? Do they ask good questions? Know that if there are problems later this will be a good thing (and all systems, even quality units with quality installers sometimes fail). If you go into voice mail during regular business hours, know this could well be an issue, there are a lot of small companies working out of their homes in our industry; many of them are cheap but you get what you pay for. Secondly, how is the Energy Consultant when he or she comes out to your home? Do they look the professional part, can they answer your questions, will they promise to keep in touch with you?

  • Experience

    How long has this company been in business? Have they installed similar systems? Do they know your municipality well (permits, inspections, etc.)?

  • Warranty & Service

    Service is key. Cars need oil changes, all HVAC equipment needs an annual check-up with gauges, belts, etc. as these are systems with moving parts and a lot of electronics. We frequently build annual service into the price, as this allows us to increase our labor warranty up to 10 years. Parts warranty is dependent on the manufacturer. You need to understand all about this for your peace of mind when choosing.

  • Permits

    Having a permit should be a requirement for any homeowner who wants to be ensured that the work will be done by a professional. Not having a permit means you will carry all the liability, and likely will have issues when it comes time to sell your home and the inspector notes non-permitted work.  With a permit there will be an official inspection by the local municipality to make sure any work done by the contractor is up to code.  Many companies in the Puget Sound will only do non-permitted work, some will give the homeowner the option of a permit; please avoid these contractors and save yourself a lot of grief.  The money you ‘save’ up front might end up costing you double or triple on the back end.  Our service techs have worked on many a home that had no permit with their new furnace or air conditioner, and it is costly and not pretty.  It is fair to assume that companies which do not get permits will not honor warranty.

  • Financial Stability

    If the company goes out of business there is no warranty. The manufacturer will not help you, and no other residential HVAC company will come out for free. This is one of the big ‘shockers’ in our industry and what makes us very different from buying a car where every dealer can get paid by the manufacturer for a warranty, not just the one you bought it from.

Finding the Right Residential HVAC Contractor for You:

In summary there are a lot more factors than most people think. And unlike a car you cannot simply take it back for a new one. While contractors have been known to remove installed systems, this is a rarity. It’s also a large investment that you will have to live with for over 10 years, and your home is a sanctuary where you want comfort, healthy air and quiet, while not breaking your budget.

This is a big choice, and we would love to help you with it.