As geothermal heating and cooling systems have gained in popularity, so have the number of contractors. And with so many "experienced", "green", "experts" to choose from; it's no wonder many people don't know how to recognize the qualities of a superior contractor — or the warning signs that can lead to regret. Ultimately, you'll want to choose a qualified and experienced contractor you'll enjoy working with.
Before even choosing a contractor, you should gain more knowledge about the geothermal industry. Education is truly the first step to making a good decision. You do it before you buy a house, a car or anything else. Why not before you hire someone to design and install the most efficient, renewable heating and cooling system on the planet. After all, geothermal is more sophisticated than the standard heating and cooling system.
The phrase "You get what you pay for." is especially true in the contracting business. If you want good contracting you should decide to deal with a contractor because of the overall value you receive, NOT because they are the lowest price. Total value is based on quality, service and price. If you choose a contractor based on the lowest price, you WILL be disappointed in either the quality or service.
With so many new geothermal contractors in the market some have resorted to shadier practices for landing sales. Review your proposal thoroughly, specifically looking for costs associated with the complete system, upgrades, tax, etc. The extra time and effort could save you thousands in additional expenses that may have been left out of the original proposal.
In addition to ensuring the contractor puts time and effort into the proposal, you will also want to make sure that your geothermal contractor puts time and effort into providing you with the proper system sizing. In order to properly size the geothermal equipment and loops, they have will have to perform a heat loss/heat gain calculation. To maximize efficiency and performance they should also consider your future plans for additions or remodels.
Choose a contractor that can handle all aspects of your geothermal system. An experienced geothermal contractor should have highly skilled staff in electrical, excavation, piping and HVAC to complete your project from start to finish. After all, when you work with one contractor, you're more likely to receive better workmanship and customer service.
Use a licensed, insured and bonded contractor. It is cheap insurance using a licensed contractor. Oftentimes, unlicensed contractors are unlicensed because they do not have the skills and qualifications to become licensed, such us experience in their field, management skills, knowledge of local and state building codes, or perhaps criminal background checks prevented approval to obtain a license. More importantly, unlicensed contractors can leave you financially liable should there be an injury on the job or property damage.
Choosing the perfect contractor doesn't have to be a burden. Just always keep in mind — that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
This expert insight is by Jake Rabe, co-owner of Rabe Hardware and an experienced geothermal installer. Rabe Hardware is an Enertech dealer.
Jake Rabe grew up around the family business, Rabe Hardware Inc., where he began learning about home mechanical services at an early age. He joined the Marine Corp and served as an F-18 fighter jet mechanic during the Gulf War. In 1994, Jake and his wife became owners of Rabe Hardware and have since developed the business into Iowa’s leader in the geothermal industry. Jake has more than 17 years experience and has done more than 1,500 geothermal installations.