With Florida's hot summers, home air-conditioning units are getting a work out, but when it's time for a repair, be careful who you call.
"We need to be very cautious with certain decisions and certain repairs," Rick Sarmiento told Local 6.
[WEB EXTRA: A/C lessons ]
Sarmiento knows firsthand the frustration of trying to have his air-conditioning unit repaired. When his malfunctioned, he called a company that he had used before but got far different results.
"They sent one of their technicians, and he was here no more than three minutes," Sarmiento said. "After three minutes, he diagnosed that I needed to replace both my thermostats."
Sarmiento said he replaced both thermostats for $160 and paid the company's $89.95 diagnostic fee.
The company came back out and charged another $160 for Freon and the unit still didn't work, according to Sarmiento. He said he ended up paying a different company to finally get it repaired.
"Everyone wants to make a quick buck and take advantage of the consumer," Sarmiento said.
Do Your Homework
Paul Rivera with One Stop Heating and Cooling has been fixing air-condition units nearly 30 years. He said consumers should have an open dialogue with their technician.
"It's real important for the customer to get informed with a service technician about the process," Rivera said.
Consumers should also check out their technician's credentials.
Last year state regulators got more than 1,900 complaints about unlicensed contractors, which includes air conditioner repairmen.
1) Always ask for a license and certifications. North American Technician Excellence or "NATE" certification is preferred.
"It's very important for customers to pick a reputable company; these reputable companies do qualify their technicians," Rivera said.
2) Make sure you ask for an estimate before any work is done.
Local 6 News went undercover and made an appointment for a technician to check the air conditioning at a home in east Orange County.
Local 6 specifically asked for an estimate before any work was done. The tech flushed the drain line and tried to charge $266.
Local 6 called around and found other companies charge less for the same service. Because the tech didn't give an estimate before doing the work, we challenged the charge and the company lowered the price and matched the competitor's price.
3) Challenge the fees if the diagnosis doesn't fix the problem. In Sarmiento's case, the first diagnosis did not.
4) Know the most common problems and what they cost to fix.
A clogged drain line or a blown capacitor are common problems and both are under $200 to correct.
5) Have annual maintenance done on your unit.
6) Always be on guard.
"I need to be cautious and not just accept some outrageous diagnosis and some outrageous bill," Sarmiento said.
Changing your filter once a month also helps your unit run better.
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