Using An Unlicensed Contractor Won't Keep Away The Chill

NEW YORK, Jan. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- MS -- As the temperatures drop outside and financial pressures heat up, many homeowners are turning to unlicensed HVAC contractors to repair their heating systems, a situation with the potential for serious physical and financial dangers.

The use of unlicensed contractors is an increasing trend tied largely to the struggling economy. As more professionals are being laid off, they are offering to do handyman jobs cheaply on the side. At the same time, homeowners are also struggling financially, and looking for the type of discounts an unlicensed contractor can offer.

Although the cheapest price or going with "a buddy's friend" might sound good, the results, says Tom Archer, brand manager of Bryant Heating and Cooling Systems, can be devastating.

"Our dealers are seeing an alarming increase in the number of improper installations and repairs," says Archer. "These include incorrect wiring, potential carbon monoxide poisoning due to improper venting, undersized duct work for the system installed, invalid warranties and no guarantee on workmanship."

There are five key questions for homeowners to ask when looking for qualified HVAC contractors:

1. Is the contractor licensed by the state? Many states have Web sites listing the contractors and the licenses they hold. California homeowners, for example, can check online at

2. Does the contractor have the right license for the work being performed?

3. Is the contractor a certified member of a professional organization? To obtain a designation of "NATE (North American Technician Excellence) Certified," for example, contractors must pass a rigorous test.

4. Did the contractor provide references, and have you solicited proposals to compare not only the cost but the specific work to be performed and the materials used?

5. Is the contractor fully insured and bonded? This includes workers compensation insurance and general liability insurance for damage to your home or injury to the homeowner or the contractor's employees.

Relying on an unlicensed HVAC contractor may save you some money today but the long-term costs could leave you out in the cold.

To find a licensed dealer/contractor in your area, you can visit the dealer locator section of to search by zip code.


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