Friday, January 15, 2010

You've Heard of Angie's List... This is Traci's List of The Worst HVAC Contractors in Austin

Angie's ListImage via Wikipedia
I love my house, I love my house, I love my house...I have to keep telling myself that because recently I haven't liked my house very much. We've had ongoing drama with HVAC issues, no heat, a short evacuation due to safety concerns and more than our share of inept HVAC contractors. Oh and not to be forgotten frozen pipes once we finally got heat back.

Angie's List is a database of contractors with high approval ratings from customers, great track records and successful jobs. Traci's List is the exact opposite. With the exception of Bluebonnet HVAC, this list reads like a Who's Who of the Worst contractors in Austin.

Let's see if I can summarize quickly:
So for a few weeks we've had colder weather. That doesn't generally hit Austin to any real degree until the middle of December. From the moment we switched our energy-efficient programmable thermostats to heat it was Game On. We would sit downstairs bundled up (ok just me) in a snuggie, while upstairs would quickly reach sauna levels. I'm talk 83 or 84 degrees upstairs and 67 downstairs. We have a warranty company who takes our money, sends crappy contractors and doesn't believe a word we say so we hesitated to throw more service call fees their way until it truly got unbearable. Then I placed my call to Allied Home Warranty and the games began. I'm not sure what their screening process is for contractors but it needs to be re-evaluated. I won't even get into the 6 visits in two months we had back in the summer on this post but suffice it to say they would send one group out to install something and another to fix the problems that one caused, over and over and over. But back to our current all started when the temperatures dropped, a pregnant wife put her foot down and refused to be cold anymore, and we began to fight over the one and only snuggie in the house.

12/29/09: All Texas Air Conditioning's first visit. They spent over an hour trying to find the issue, determined nothing was wrong and bailed when it started to rain hard since he needed to get his company truck out of the dangerous weather. Not sure if he's from the desert but rain isn't generally considered worth hazard pay here in central Texas. Funny enough I continued to have a 15 degree temperature difference between upstairs and down, a weird clicking in my furnace and needed my snuggie at all times downstairs.

12/31/09: All Texas Air Conditioning---where do I even start. The contractor arrived with his son and grandson in tow. I'm not sure if either one is in the business (especially since the grandson was all of 10), but since they spent several hours here and all they managed to do is replace a thermostat that was working fine, break a suction valve on my outdoor unit while replacing 2 lbs of freon, get stuck in my attic for 1/2 an hour (still not sure how that happened but he was starting to sound panicky), and then left telling me everything was fine, I'm just going to chalk them up to incompetence and recommend that you NEVER call them!

1/2/10: We have roaring heat upstairs, no heat downstairs and our HVAC is literally running 24/7 shutting off every 10 mins for about 30 seconds. So I call our not so beloved warranty company again. They tell me to call Texas Heating and Air. I do but get a "there's nothing more we can do for you, everything works fine" response. They call the warranty company and ask that I (probably as a troublesome client making crap up) get assigned to a different contractor. The warranty company sets me up with Dave's Heating and Air. I call them to confirm they can come out, but upon mentioning my warranty company, am told that my warranty company sucks, they don't pay their bills and Dave's Heating and Air really doesn't like to deal with them. But since I'm in a pickle they connect me to Dave himself, who reassures me he'll have a guy who's very familiar with my type of systems out first thing Monday. Monday arrives but no contractor and when I call to verify what time they'll be here I'm told that they no longer work with my warranty company. GREAT! Based on that unprofessional bit alone, I'm no longer recommending Dave's Heating and Air, even if I can sympathize with the fact that Allied Home Warranty sucks.  Back to the warranty company, who is surprised when I inform them that they've been fired by a contractor and finally by fate, luck of the draw or God watching over my shivering self, they set me up with a decent contractor - Bluebonnet, who is onsite within a few hours.

1/4/10: Bluebonnet HVAC discovers several disturbing things. One-a suction valve on the outdoor unit has been tightened so far it busted allowing all the freon in my entire system, along with a good bit of oil, to leak out. Hmmm that must be the same valve son or grandson tightened when adding my 2 lbs of freon. (No wonder my heat pump wasn't working at all). Then when I called him inside to check out the click click click we kept hearing for the last month, he spent all of 10 minutes upstairs before coming down and telling me the furnace circuit board is bad and the safety cut off for the gas is not working. He had to shut the entire system down since gas blowing but not igniting is a MAJOR safety concern.  Can you imagine how happy I was that my family was sleeping in a house that could have concievably blown up anytime in the last few weeks.  Nope mama was not happy at all!  Best yet, during Austin's first freak freezing cold 12 degree spell in years, we're not going to have any heat. Better prepare to invade the in-laws again.

1/7/10: Bluebonnet HVAC puts my original downstairs thermostat back on the wall since the new thermostat ( installed in October by an inept, rude, cursing, blame the client for everything contractor -- Southern Comfort H.V.A.C. Inc --another who makes Traci's Worst List but is recommended by Allied Home Warranty) was continually calling for the Heater to come on. They replaced the suction valve on my outdoor unit which, for those of us who steer clear of HVAC training and education, apparently keeps all your freon from leaking out causing your unit to not work. We lost 10 lbs of freon after the former inept contractor added 2 lbs and then tightened the valve to the point it busted and fell apart...and then they just left it.  Seriously thank goodness for Bluebonnet. Jeremy Cook knew what he was doing, was responsive and didn't ever bail in the middle of a job due to the big bad rain storm or a tricky problem. And finally after weeks of wondering if it would be easier to sell our home and move into an apartment...we have decent, normal, safe heat!

  • Austin Air Rescue:  Undecided. They seemed good and identified the problem but then refused to fix it since an incompetent contractor had messed it up. Allied ended up sending in Bluebonnet to save the day. (anyone seeing a pattern here...)

  • All Texas Air Conditioning: THUMBS DOWN!!!  DO NOT CALL.
  • Southern Comfort H.V.A.C. Inc: THUMBS DOWN...ridiculous, even cursed me, called me a liar, slammed my door and lied to the warranty company...too bad I take a crap load of pictures and had proof they were wrong. Not to mention they made three visits here and fixed nothing, broke a fan motor, fried a defrost board and eventually Allied Home Warranty sent in Bluebonnet (yep same Bluebonnet) to fix things.
  • Dave's Heating and Air: THUMBS DOWN...these guys are good, but they make my do not call list do to the unprofessional approach of dropping a client in need after promising service. That's just bad business in my book.

Ok that was no where near as short as I intended but it was seriously two weeks in chaos and that's kind of hard to summarize....LOL.  

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