woman shrugging

Winter months are coming to a close. With perhaps only a few remaining bitter cold spells, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. You think: Maybe, just maybe, my furnace can survive yet another Iowa winter.

But during the most recent bout of plummeting temperatures, your heating system also takes a dive.

You know you need a repair - and fast - but how will you know who you can trust to remedy the situation and keep your family warm?

Don't let the situation, or a scamming repairman, get the best of you. Keep these five tips in mind:

1. Beware the bait of low up-front rates.

A quick internet search will pull up a handful of HVAC repair companies. Some will try to differentiate themselves with a low trip-charge fee to come out and inspect your system.

The savings will pacify your anxious mind - that is, until you get the final bill. Often, these companies make up the difference with higher than expected repair costs on the back-end, leaving you dumbfounded and indebted.

Instead, look for companies that use a standardized pricing system. That way, you know you're not getting the short end of the stick.

2. Look for the license.

Did you know that not every HVAC company requires its technicians to be licensed? Even years of experience in the business doesn't equate to the accreditation of holding an apprenticeship, journeyman's or master's license.

Holding a license means the technician must complete continuing education courses and abide by a universal set of standards.

If you're unsure of the technician's credentials at all, feel free to take a cue from the boys in blue: License and registration, please.

3. Demand Data.

If your technician is spending more time trying to convince you to purchase new equipment rather than troubleshooting it, that's a red flag.

In this day and age, there are tools to measure just about everything. Combustion, airflow, electrical consumption, voltages - you name it. So, if you're being told you need to overhaul your heating system, ask for the analytics to back it up.

There are always anomalies, like an electrical failure, that may be tough to measure and diagnose at first. However, these types of repairs shouldn't require you to replace your system.

4. Don't be bullied by buzzwords.

In a pinch, technicians may try to use scare tactics to pressure you into buying new equipment. While situations like carbon monoxide poisoning and heat exchanger failure are very serious, the technician's claims should always be rooted in fact.

If you're ever unsure, conduct some of your own research. Reputable organizations like the Air Conditioning Contractors of America are a great resource for homeowners seeking unbiased guidance.

5. Go with the guarantee.

The last thing you want is to shell out money for a repair only to have it break again one, two or five years down the road.

Do yourself a favor - look for companies who offer installation guarantees. Some companies may even cover the cost of poor repairs from previous homeowners. It never hurts to check!

And, like any other major decision, feel free to seek out a second opinion. No one company will have all the answers - and you don't want to be left out in the cold.

It's unfortunate that some companies may try to capitalize on you during a time of need, making it important to know what to watch for. That's why Bell Brothers is proud to have been voted Best of the Metro in USA Today Best for the second year in a row. It's simple - we treat our customers how we'd like to be treated.