Hiring someone to repair and maintain an Hvac system is as personal as choosing a friend almost. You'll need to trust this person to tell you "what's wrong and how much?" you should spend on a repair. You probably don't know too awful much about how the heating / cooling system works from a mechanical standpoint so, you're (in effect) trusting the repairman with your wallet.

When I look to have something fixed, I want to talk to the actual mechanic who will do the work first. Answering services and large companies notwithstanding. Make sure you speak with the one who's going to write the service bill before you hire. Anyone should have that right.

Even if you don't know Hvac, you do know people, and that's the key. If you detect honesty, skill, and get straight forward answers you're on the right track.

Whether you Fix Your Heater, Heat Pump or A/C System when it breaks down or buy a service agreement is a matter of personal choice. The inside scoop is simply that most service agreements I've read don't cover much. The cost is low because the company is counting on the serviceman to find problems, not prevent them. They want customer loyalty and you'll call them first because you expect a huge discount on your heating system repair. It's probably not forthcoming. They might even have a quota of repair parts to sell per serviceman, per month!

 A maintenance agreement should cover 2 visit per year that are automatic, and include safety inspections, wiring inspection, general cleaning of the furnace, heat pump, airconditioner. Coils outside should be washed in Spring AC maintenance, inside coils should be washed if needed, a reduced fee charged (if difficult to access), is reasonable. Keeping air filters clean will eliminate the need in all but severe cases, for this extra charge.

Freon should charged at a lower price, and if freon is needed a leak search should be done. Ours is free, but a small charge is usual. Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps do not use Freon. It leaks out or stays in. There are many cases where a Freon leak is acceptable in size (cost) compared to coil or equipment replacement. This is a judgment call, but should be explained in terms of dollars and sense!  If a unit only has a few years to live and uses a pound or two of freon every season, then you may not want to spend well over a thousand dollars on a new coil.

About other services under agreement. We offer free monoxide testing. The truth is, I'll test at the "drop of a hat" no charge, just for my own piece of mind. In between visits because the furnace is making a noise or the heat pump is iced up, should also be free service. Don't get me wrong, there may be repairs needed. But the house call should be free. On a call by call basis there could be a reason to charge for a call, but not usually. If you buy your own thermostat and can't get it to work, or if you hit the air conditioner with your lawnmower and its leaking freon, you probably will pay a house call charge.

It's so easy for a serviceman in a position of knowledge and trust to bend the truth a little and sell you a part, that it's become commonplace now of days. I hate it. It's a dishonor to my chosen trade, and goes against every lesson I've taught every man ( and three ladies) I've ever trained. It is also a condition of employment in some companies. You know who you are, and there is no way to justify it with elaborate "what if this happens" scenarios to scare your customers. Pardon me while I step down off my soap box.

I offer a service agreement, commercial as required by many landlords, and residential for folks who want me to do the remembering about maintenance, and be first on the list when there is a problem. What you buy is two maintenance calls in advance, with cleaning coil or coils included, at a discount of course. What I'm betting is that if I look at it twice a year I probably won't see you much in between time, and if I do you'll get a much better deal on any repair you might need.

If you would rather just remember that Rainbow was the company that treated you fairly, answered all your questions, and that you didn't pay more than you should have, that suits me just fine too. Call me when you need me, I'll treat you right, even without an agreement. EMC