8 Common HVAC Repair Scams to Avoid


When your air conditioner or furnace stops functioning and needs a repair, you put your full trust in a local HVAC contractor to fix the problem efficiently and honestly. Unfortunately, there are some technicians that do not operate their business in the most ethical way.

8 HVAC Repair Scams

Below are 8 of the most common HVAC repair scams that you should look out for.

1. Bait and switch

Dishonest HVAC companies will generate more business by making amazing offers that are hard to refuse. Once they are in the door, they will take advantage of this time to sell you on other services, or mislead you on the condition of your unit to sell you more than you expected. Whether it be a cold call offering a service you “need” or a technician offering a service that’s “free”, be weary there is a catch.

If you get a quote from an HVAC contractor that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always get a second opinion if you think the technician is scamming you.

2. Refrigerant recharge and overpayment

If your unit is short on refrigerant, it means there is a leak. Refrigerant runs through a closed system and should never run low.

The “recharging” scam is a dishonest technician’s way of unnecessarily billing you for refrigerant you shouldn’t even need. The leak is the source of your problem, and your technician should tailor their service accordingly. If the technician only tops off the refrigerant, they are putting off the repair that really needs to happen and thus you will be paying for the refrigerant more than once. They will likely call you again to offer another recharge because they know you will need it.

Another popular air conditioner scam is charging for more refrigerant than you received. If you think you are being scammed, try to supervise the process. The technician should be charging you by weight, measuring the difference in the refrigerant container before and after they filled your unit.

3. R-22 is illegal

This is a very recent scam and a hard one to decipher. Some contractors are telling customers that R-22 is illegal because it is being phased out and cannot be used anymore, and this is not true.

As of January 1, 2020, it is no longer legal to produce or import virgin R-22 in the United States. That does not mean R-22 refrigerant is unavailable, more expensive, or illegal. It just means systems that use R-22 will have to rely on existing stocks of virgin refrigerant or use reclaimed refrigerant, both of which are readily available.

Some air conditioning units require additional refrigerant. This is a sign of a coolant leak. However, not all types of refrigeration are the same.

Most newer models have R-410a refrigerant, which is considered a more environmentally-friendly alternative for AC refrigerant. However, older models have what is known as R-22 refrigerant, which has become much more expensive as it gets phased out.

If your system needs a R-22 refrigerant, known as freon, it can cost anywhere from $40-$175 more per pound, in addition to labor costs. This can add an extra $1,000 to your HVAC repairs.

4. Cracked heat exchanger

Furnace heat exchangers do eventually crack if not properly maintained or installed, but this also happens to be a popular furnace repair scam.

If a technician says your heat exchanger is cracked and you need to get it replaced immediately, you may want to get a second opinion or ask for proof. This repair is quite expensive and you should not give the green light without seeing the crack yourself.

Also, ask if your furnace is leaking carbon monoxide. A reliable HVAC technician will have combustion analyzers and ambient carbon monoxide meters with them.

5. Replacing parts unnecessarily

A service technician may tell you a part needs to be repaired or replaced when it is perfectly fine. If this is the case, chances are the part is very expensive and the cost of replacing the entire system is not far off from the repair cost. This includes a contractor saying you need to replace equipment just because it is old!

A big red flag is when a technician suggests you need to replace several parts. This is very rarely the case. In the vast majority of air conditioner and furnace failures, one defective part compromises the integrity of the whole unit.

Though it is rare, you will see several parts fail if the unit is poorly maintained or the initial repair needed to happen a long time ago. Always get a second opinion!

6. Oversized unit

Bigger is not always better when it comes to air conditioners and furnaces. There are contractors who will push the biggest unit they have with no regard for the type of unit or size of your house/building. Units that are oversized are more expensive to install so the contractor can charge more for the job. They are also more expensive to run in the long term and will cost more in service and maintenance.

7. No price breakdown

A common scam we see here is contractors not giving a cost breakdown and saying the repair is very expensive, sometimes so expensive that the unit should be replaced. You should always confirm what is wrong with the unit, what needs to be replaced or repaired, and ask for the price breakdown (service fees included).

An honest HVAC technician should be able to give you those numbers without question. If something does not seem right, do a little research and ask for a second opinion.

8. Upfront cash payment

No reputable HVAC company asks for payment before providing you with any services. If a repairman asks for payment upfront, he or she might try to take your money and run. There is no reason for air conditioning or furnace repair companies to employ this policy unless they are hoping to get away with something.

Related: Tips On Choosing the Right HVAC Contractor

5 Ways to Avoid HVAC Scams

Obviously, companies are in business to make a profit. While most of them prioritize serving their customers as best as they can like we do at Service Legends, some will cut any corners to get ahead and make a quick buck. If you are already aware of the most common HVAC repair scams, here are the best ways you can avoid a scam yourself.

1. Get a Second Opinion

Getting second opinions in the HVAC world is very common. If you have any reason to doubt the HVAC technician or their service estimate, always get a second opinion.

Many services related to furnaces and air conditioners are quite expensive, so it’s in your best interest to get two technicians to take a look. This will not only save you money, but it will help you avoid the HVAC scam artists. If you are near us in Des Moines, Iowa, give us a call for a second opinion!

2. Always Be Suspicious of “Free”

Maintain a healthy suspicion of “free” services or too-good-to-be-true deals. Whether you get a cold call from a telemarketer or you see an ad online promising a free service, always be suspicious of the bait and switch scam. Chances are they will strongly encourage you to pay for another service once they’re already in the door or say they’ve spotted a necessary repair.

3. Insist on a Written Agreement

Do not trust a service provider who does not provide a written agreement. Verbal agreements are neither professional nor reliable. The least you can do is demand written proof so you can take legal action if the technician completely scams or misleads you. This will not only save you from some scams, but it could save you money with a service or product warranty!

4. Read Reviews

Before you call a local Des Moines area HVAC contractor that you’ve never worked with, do a quick search online and read their reviews. One or two bad reviews among many great reviews is nothing to worry about, but if there are consistent complaints about being scammed by the company or contractor, you should probably look elsewhere.

5. Ask for Proof

If your technician insists that you need a repair, simply ask for proof. They should be showing you exactly what is broken or dirty so you have no shadow of a doubt you are getting great service. If they cannot provide proof, turn to our suggestion above and ask for a second opinion. If the repair is absolutely necessary, providing proof should be very simple!

Let Service Legends Help With Your HVAC System

Service Legends in Des Moines, Iowa has been helping homeowners throughout the Des Moines Metro Area for over two decades. We know an HVAC scam when we see one and we would be happy to give you a second opinion if you have any suspicions. Contact us today for all your Des Moines furnace and air conditioner repair, maintenance, inspection, and installation needs!

515-657-6634Request Appointment Online