It is the end of March in Madison WI and we still have our heat on. Waking up to 15 degrees outside at the end of March? Not fair. We all know that living in Madison can be cold and bitter during the winter months. So what happens when your heating and/or cooling system breaks down? It can be an overwhelming experience to find a local heating contractor if you don't have someone you already trust. You need to find someone quickly but don't want to make the wrong choice or end up paying way more than necessary.
With many years in the Madison real estate market and loads of connections with contractors, we have access to the most trusted people, tips and information that can help you find a contractor you are comfortable with. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, be prepared by following these tips from EnergyStar.gov:
Find out about license and insurance requirements for contractors in your state. And before you call a contractor, know the model of your current system and its maintenance history. Also, make note of any uncomfortable rooms. This will help potential contractors better understand your heating needs.
Get a referral
Ask your favorite Madison Realtor, friends, neighbors, and co-workers for contractor referrals. You can also contact local trade organizations for names of members in your area. Take it another step and call for references.
Find special offers
A heating and cooling system is one of the largest purchases you'll make as a homeowner. Keep your costs down by checking around for available rebates on energy-efficient ENERGY STAR-qualified heating and cooling equipment. Begin your search at www.energystar.gov.
Look for ENERGY STAR
ENERGY STAR-qualified products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and offer significant long-term energy savings. Contractors should be able to show you calculations of savings for ENERGY STAR heating and cooling equipment.
Expect a home evaluation
The contractor should spend significant time inspecting your current system and home to assess your needs. A bigger system isn't always better; a contractor should size the heating and cooling system based on the size of your house, level of insulation, and windows. A good contractor will inspect your duct system (if applicable) for air leaks and insulation and measure airflow to make sure it meets manufacturers' specifications.
Get written, itemized estimates
When comparing contractors' proposals (bids), be sure to compare cost, energy efficiency and warranties. A low price may not be the best deal if it's not the most efficient because your energy costs will be higher.
Check City of Madison guidelines
The City of Madison requires a permit for the installation of a new furnace. And then they need to come back to inspect it after the furnace has been installed. Make sure your contractor arranges for this and cooperates with the City. If you don't live in the City of Madison, call your building inspector at your village, town or city hall.
Sign a written proposal with a contractor before work gets started. It'll protect you by specifying project costs, model numbers, job schedule and warranty information.
Pass it on
Tell friends and family about your experience with your heating and cooling contractor. Another great tip is to gather two or more of your neighbors and see if you can get a group discount for your annual furnace check up by all hiring and scheduling together. And of course tell your friends about ENERGY STAR. Almost one-quarter of households knowingly purchased at least one qualified product last year, and 71% of those consumers say they would recommend ENERGY STAR to a friend. Spread the word, and we can all make a big difference.