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Serving Wake County and the Surrounding Areas for Over 25 years

Spring 2013

Unlicensed Contractors, and why you should avoid them

An unlicensed contractor is someone who performs work without state certification. It can be dangerous and costly. Choosing a licensed contractor can keep give you the peace of mind that the work will be performed with quality in mind. After all, the licensed contractor seeks to further his good reputation. Happy customers means good business.

Every state has a different set of requirements for contractor eligibility, but they all share a few key components. Reviewing these will give you a sense of the legal process that licensed contractors must undergo to perform state–certified home improvement services.

  • At least 18 years old with a high school diploma or equivalent education
  • U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • Other occupational license documentations must be shared
  • Explanation of citations, violations or liens resulting from construction work

Additionally, many states require that applicants take a written examination in their field of practice. Applicants may have to prove that they are financially viable to properly operate a business, they have on–the–job experience, and may also be asked to supply letters of reference from previous employers, customers, and bankers.

If you’re unsure about your contractor, take heed of the following signs:

  • Door–to–door solicitation with lofty claims of service.
  • Feeling rushed: if you sense that your contractor is being aggressive or pushy.
  • Some states make it a requirement that all certified contractors need to publish their license number on their vehicles, estimates and advertising. If your state requires this and you don’t see it, that may be a sign of evasion.
  • If your contractor asks for the total fee upfront or a large percentage in advance.

If you suspect that your contractor is not exactly telling you the truth about his licensing, ask to see a physical copy, and feel free to contact your state licensing board to look up any available background information. The board is not only there to provide reference, but also to help you resolve disputes and conflicts between you and your contractor—if you negotiate with an unlicensed contractor, you are on your own. 

Myths about your cooling system

The age of information has brought with it an age of myths and partial truths. Knowing the myths from the facts, and understanding the way some so–called tips conceal the whole truth, is a valuable lesson in learning more about the way your cooling system actually works. For customers who are eager to make their air conditioning systems more energy–efficient and cost–effective, some of these may come as a surprise. Remember to consult a professional about any cooling concerns during the spring and summer months. 

  1. The higher the SEER rating of my AC unit, the higher my total energy–efficiency. The SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) measures how efficiently the system can cool the living spaces. While it is true that units with a high SEER rating often significantly cut air conditioning costs, there are other factors to consider. For example, if your ductwork contains leaks or is clogged with dust and other debris, your cooling system will still suffer energy loss due to lack of airflow, no matter how efficient your air conditioner is.
  2. Blasting my AC at the hottest parts of the day is the best way to keep my home cool. While this is at least partially true, the best way to ensure that your home stays cool throughout the day is a more moderate thermostat schedule. Ensuring that your home is properly insulated, including the duct system and the areas of the house through which it runs, means keeping that cool air inside, and reducing energy costs. What’s more, blasting your AC is not an efficient use of the system: it costs more money and energy than relying on gradual shifts in temperature.
  3. Fans cool the air. Fans do not necessarily cool air, but they do help by moving air around in a given space. Ceiling fans can be useful to help with ventilation but aren’t as affective as central AC.
  4. Duct tape seals ducts. Your central air system relies on extensive ductwork to circulate cool air throughout your home. Sealed ducts are therefore important to keeping your home cool and your system efficient. Despite its name, duct tape does not actually seal ducts very well. It was created as a temporary fix. Contact a professional to have him use a proper sealing material.
  5. Turning up my thermostat when I leave the home helps to reduce air conditioning costs. Well, sort of. While it’s better to raise the temperature of your cooling system during the day when you’re not there, rather than turning it off completely, but the crucial considerations are for how long and exactly how much of a temperature differential. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that you’ll benefit the most from this technique only if it is done for at least 8 hours and for no more than 5 degrees. Otherwise, it does not make a substantial difference. Keep in mind that multi–stage heat pumps are also designed to save energy in this way, so raising the thermostat would actually make your heat pump less efficient.