There is never a good time to spend money on services or things that you do not need.  With many homeowners being cost conscious in today’s economically stressful environment, it is more important than ever to weigh out what we need to spend money on and what we can “save” on. I saw a post on a neighborhood chat platform asking for a referral for a company that would give an estimate for a heating repair – essentially the homeowner was asking if someone could refer a company that would pay an employee to drive to their home, make an educated determination of the repair that was needed and provide an estimate for the repair.

Depending on where the service technician was driving from, and considering the time spent in the homeowner’s house, that ask from the homeowner cost the company money for gas, wear and tear on the vehicle, insurance, administrative overhead and the pay and benefits for the technician – that ask cost the company about a hundred dollars.

With the heavy regulations imposed on reputable, licensed and insured service companies – like electricians, plumbers, heating and air conditioning technicians – it is almost impossible to offer a free diagnostic service – unless the company is not properly insured or licensed or certified to do the repairs you are requesting.

We all hate to pay a service fee charge – whether it is from a hotel or airline that charges an intangible “service fee” or a home service provider – but you must know that both of these are not the same.

When you call a company because you are in need of a repair – to identify an electrical short, a clogged drain or a malfunctioning heating or air conditioning system to name a few, you need a trained and licensed technician. Someone who has professional experience and knowledge of their industry.  Someone that will accurately diagnose the problem and provide an accurate estimate of the scope of work, which includes labor and materials, to get the job done right AND done right the first time.

Many hours go into the continued education and training of repair technicians. With the introduction of new industry technologies, a repairman must continue to learn new techniques and understand more intricate electronic systems. That takes an investment of time and money by the individual or company.

We once had a customer ask our company to provide a second opinion because she called a company that she wasn’t sure she could trust – she asked them to come to her home because the repair estimate was “free”.  They told her she needed a part for her air conditioning system, and because of the work that was involved, which included parts and labor, and work on the refrigerant lines, it would be particularly expensive.  To note, $1,400.

She had heard from a neighbor about our company and the great experience she had in the past.  When she called us, we explained to the customer that we do charge a service call fee to send a qualified technician to her home and she agreed to allow us to come. Within 20 minutes our technician found the problem with her air conditioning system – it was not what the previous company had mentioned, and didn’t require us to work on the refrigerant lines. The repair, with the service call charge, cost her less than half of what she was quoted. AND if the other company were to do the repair they claimed she needed, there would have still been an issue with her system.

A service call fee is the fee that is charged in order for the service technician to come out and perform a service – the service is diagnosing the problem. As noted previously, the fee is meant to cover the businesses common expenses associated with each service call, including travel expenses and travel time, service vehicle expenses, and labor expenses.

Every repair company has their own way of doing business and associates their fees based on their costs. This fee can vary from company to company, depending on many factors. However, it is important to know that even a service company that claims they do not charge an initial “service call fee” may mask that by either overcharging for a repair or adding a miscellaneous repair that may not have been needed.

As with any and every home repair, make sure the company you are hiring is licensed and insured, and stands behind their work with a guarantee – whether it is a 30-day, 90-day or one-year guarantee – obviously the longer the time the better. It is possible that a repair made today can get your system working or fix the problem.  The question is how will the service company stand by their work if the repair made didn’t solve the source of the problem and you are in the same position you were before paying for the repair.

Vincent Laurino, General Manager                     Bob Mims Heating & Air Conditioning

(718) 273-8175