The High Cost Of Saving Money

Once upon a service call, I gave a customer a quote for a furnace repair. When he heard the price he balked and began telling me that four years past, he had the same part replaced by another company for significantly less money. To punctuate his story, he showed me the competitor's invoice.

Scanning the invoice, I noticed it was only forty dollars less than our price, and the other company had also replaced the inducer motor for a few hundred dollars more. I explained that four years ago his two-year-old furnace was still in its youth, and I had personally never seen an inducer motor fail that prematurely.

"Besides" I told him, "I'm here today to replace a part that was not installed properly to begin with, which shortened its lifetime. Although you perceive me to be more expensive, my service is actually a much better value compared to the four year old price. Especially when you consider that I'm not finding other problems, and I will install the part correctly so it will last longer."

So often our technicians encounter everyday installations that appear to be done right, yet the homeowner is unaware that the service or part they paid for was actually noisier, more prone to break down, a safety hazard, less efficient, unnecessary, or simply just not working right. Contractors can get away with this kind of service because often the repairs are such that they can't be checked, or the consumer doesn't have the know-how to check them, and at the time of service the lesser solution worked.

These types of repairs frequently fail beyond the standard one-year warranty period most contractors offer. As an example, the proper method to install a line set between the air handler at your furnace and the outdoor unit for your A/C or heat pump includes a procedure called Triple-Vac and Nitrogen Purge. Whether this process is done or not, the copper pipe line set will look identical on the outside. There is no way anyone, including the city inspector, can verify the procedure was performed once the line set is installed.

However, after brazing just one joint the difference is obvious on the inside. One system will have scaling (see scaly pipe photo) and the other looks untarnished (untarnished pipe photo). That scaling will cause a compressor failure that will cost thousands of dollars to replace down the road. Shoddy, unverifiable work can occur with plumbing as well. An expansion tank must be properly tuned upon installation, yet it looks the same tuned or not. This one step, if neglected, can shorten the life of your water heater and expansion tank.

As consumers, we're often torn between not wanting to overpay, but knowing that to do anything right will take more time, material, energy, and effort. We don't necessarily want a cheap price if it's going to cost us more down the road, just a thorough, professional Job at a fair price.

So how do you find a service company that does the job right? One word: Credentials. Did you call the first name in a Google search? How are their reviews? How long have they been in business? Are they a Factory Authorized Dealer? What does the Better Business Bureau say about them? Are employees drug tested and background checked? Do they have licensed technicians, trained weekly?

Finding a top-notch company you can trust is key to getting the best "value" for your dollar, but discovery takes time. It makes good sense to start looking for your "go to" contractor before you're faced with a plumbing or heating crises.

So how do you find a service company that does the job right?

One word: Credentials.


©2013 Bruce Davis, Jr. Reprinted by Permission. The author is a second generation plumber and HVAC technician. He earned his Commercial Plumbing License and later became N.A.T.E. Certified and E.P.A. Refrigerant Certified for HVAC service and repair for commercial and residential HVAC appliances. Bruce has years of experience as an HVAC Technician, Boiler Technician, and Plumber. He is now General Manager for Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating, Inc. located in Seattle, WA and has been with the company for his entire career. Bruce oversees the company’s Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning business. Visit or email

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