In order to understand what is currently happening in the HVAC (heating and cooling) business in Northern Colorado, a little history of what has occurred in the business over the past 15 years is necessary.
Prior to the mid- 1990â€™s, successful HVAC companies in N. Colorado, as well as nationally, were primarily family owned businesses that reliably featured expertise, experience, and competence due to a depth of employees.Â However, after the mid- 1990â€™s the CONSOLIDATORS (venture capitalists, large utility companies, and equipment manufacturers) attempted to dominate the HVAC business in N. Colorado, and across the country, by purchasing all the successful family owned businesses.Â This attempt eventually failed, but in the process it forced many longtime HVAC businesses to downsize to the point of being mere skeletons of their former selves.Â What is more, the CONSOLIDATORS not only wasted a lot of money, but in their failed attempt to monopolize the HVAC business in N. Colorado, they succeeded in fragmenting the businesses they purchased and their competitors, in many instances, reducing them down to one-man shops.
In addition to fragmenting the HVAC business, the CONSOLIDATORS also destroyed the very successful, very workable long-standing partnership between the manufacturers and their local authorized dealers.Â This was accomplished by the CONSOLIDATORS using their purchasing power to force the manufacturers to grant them price reductions, which in turn eliminated the relationship the manufacturers had with their authorized dealers that supported advertising, warranties, andÂ service.Â As a result, the manufacturers now found themselves in a situation that demanded they find another way of doing business because the CONSOLIDATORS had succeeded in wrecking the successful manufacturer/authorized dealer relationship that originally had guaranteed a quality product, competent installation, reliable warranty service/ post-warranty service, maintenance and a reliable supply of parts.
Thus, the manufactures turned to outlets like Sears and Home Depot to handle their product and marketing programs. They also relied upon insurance companies to subcontract their warranty service, which were often performed by an unqualified â€śhandymanâ€ť.Â Â They even went to the InternetÂ to sell their equipment directly to the consumer or the incompetent handyman. At this juncture practically anyone can become a HVAC contractor in N. Colorado, and due to questionable subcontractors, shoddy installations, warranty problems, poor service or no service, the manufacturers are loosing the consumers confidence. Indeed, we believe at Greeley Furnace Co. that discerning HVAC dealers and their customers may in the near future consider foreign manufacturersÂ ÂľÂ who sell exclusively to competent dealersÂ ÂľÂ for their HVAC needs.
Today, people with little or no knowledge of HVAC can be found selling HVAC equipment in places like Sears and Home Depot. Furthermore, utility companies, insurance companies, and other large retail stores have joined in the hunt for the unsuspecting consumerâ€™s HVAC dollar.
This current state of affairs leaves the consumer in a very precarious position, with the manufacturers no longer protecting the consumer from incompetent contractors.Â Since Colorado doesnâ€™t have any state-licensing requirements in the HVAC trade (unlike electricians and plumbers), cities like Greeley license approximately fifteen new contractors per year while another fifteen get out of the business each year leaving their customers with no service or warranty coverage,. Moreover, as things stand today, anyone can run an ad in the yellow pages, buy brand name equipment and can attempt to install it because there is no protections in place from the state of Colorado (as there are in many other states), or the manufacturers of the equipment as there has been in the past.
We believe that many Colorado consumers would be shocked to learn that:
lÂ A large percentage of retrofit furnace and A/C installations are done without a permit, and with no form of independent inspection.
lÂ Although the City of Greeley issues a HVACÂ license based on a test, the heating and cooling business is so multifaceted (takes more than one personâ€™s expertise) that a test that truly protected against incompetence would be next to impossible for one person to pass.
lÂ The fastest growing segment of Greeley Furnace Co. involves fixing or reinstalling another companyâ€™s work.
lÂ Many HVAC contractors do not service their product, thereby leaving their customers, more times than not, out in the cold or hung out to dry.
Greeley Furnace Co. believes that someone in the market for a new furnaceÂ should never assume that:
1) There is a high level of competence in a given HVAC company
2) All companies pull permits
3) All companies do work that meets code
4) All companies do work that is safe
5) All companies have some level of quality
6) All companies not only have service technicians, but they are well trained
7) All companies have service available â€śafter hoursâ€ť
8) All companies have employees, as opposed to â€śsubcontractorsâ€ť
9) All companies are insured (liability, workmanâ€™s comp, etc.)
10) A given company is factory authorized for the equipment it sells
11) A given company has a history in the business (Sixty HVAC contractors have come and gone in the Greeley area over the past five years)
12) A given companyâ€™s employees can be left alone in your home (are bonded)
13) All companies know how to properly size equipment for your home
14) All companies are equal in education
15) All companies have EPA certifications and use procedures that are environmentally friendly (like the safe reclamation and disposal of refrigerates and mercury)
In light of the foregoing caveats, where should the HVAC customer go for reliable information about a given company? The Greeley Furnace Co. urges any potential customer to do the following:
1. Use the above list of caveats as a basis for asking a given company direct questions
2. Consult the Better Business Bureau for references
3. Consult the local building inspection department for references
4. Ask a company for references of past customers
5. Ask for insurance certificates
6. Ask for proof of education and experience
7. Ask for the equipment manufacturerâ€™s authorization of a given company to sell equipment
8. Check out the dealerâ€™s website.
In conclusion, with all thatâ€™s going on, the destruction of the manufacturer/authorized dealer relationship, the sheer number of businesses getting in and out of the HVAC Business, the lack of state licensing, and the internet making equipment available to anyone, a consumer must be aware that the existing fragmented market structure doesnâ€™t guarantee any level of quality, service, experience, and competence that the consumer could formerly take for granted.Â Â Now, more than ever, the ancient Latin phraseÂ ÂľÂ Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware!)Â ÂľÂ should be heeded.