Find Great Refrigeration Contractors
By now, you might be saying:
"Thanks for showing us how to build a walk in cooler, Old Man Winter. However, I have no intentions of assembling one myself. Can you provide us with some tips on how to find a reputable refrigeration contractor who can help with this?".
Of course I can! But first...
Let's be clear. You need a commercial refrigeration contractor to connect your refrigeration unit whether or not you assemble your walk in cooler yourself.
You can save a few bucks by building the box yourself, but don't worry if you're not exactly Handy Manny. Most commercial refrigeration contractors can help with assembling your walk in cooler too.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
At Mr. Winter, we've been manufacturing walk in coolers and freezers since 1976.
We don't say that to impress you. We say it to impress on you that we've been around long enough to know there are great refrigeration contractors, bad refrigeration contractors, and all types of refrigeration contractors in between.
The key reason why some people end up with the wrong refrigeration contractor is price. Cheaper is almost always never better, yet many double down on "best price" despite the countless precedents.
Instead of choosing a contractor based on best price, use this 3-step screening process to find a reputable refrigeration contractor who can help solve your problems, not create additional ones:
Conduct Research Online
1. Start with Your Favorite Search Engine
This is the discovery phase of your online research. The goal with this step is to compile a list of refrigeration contractors to research further.
- commercial refrigerator repair
- refrigeration repair commercial
- commercial refrigerator repair near me
- walk in cooler repair
- commercial fridge repair
- walk in refrigerator repair
- walk in cooler repair near me
- commercial cooler repair
I know, I know...you're not looking to repair a walk in cooler. Stick with me. These keyword phrases are going to yield the best results for compiling a list of refrigeration contractors.
If they repair walk in coolers, or commercial refrigerators, they most likely have experience building walk in coolers and installing commercial refrigeration units.
Sort through the results. Don't stop at page 1. Keep going until you have enough names to make a proper list. How many is enough? You decide, but I'd say 5 to 10.
2. Review the Company's Website & Social Media Accounts
Now that you have a list of prospects, it's time to start researching them online. The goal with this step is to narrow your list of prospects based on specialties, availability, and any other factor important to you.
Start by entering a company's name in the search bar of your favorite search engine. This should lead to results similar to this.
Research the company's website and social media pages. Don't just visit the home page and leave. Surf around and peruse.
What kind of services do they offer? How long have they been in business? Do they have a blog or video library with information specific to your problem? How do they communicate with people in the comments section of their social media posts? How easy is it to get in touch with them or request a quote?
A company's website and social media pages are the front door to their business. If they're not educating you and making you feel welcome on these platforms, it's best to move on to the next company on your list.
3. Read Online Reviews
Be careful though. Trying to determine the validity of information gathered via the Internet is as challenging as ever. Posting a fake review is just as easy as posting a legitimate review.
Follow these tips to separate the real from the fake when reading reviews:
- Discount reviews that are gushingly positive
- Discount reviews that are scathingly negative
- Focus on reviews that compare the product or service to a similar one
- Look for commonalities in reviews (i.e., what are customers repeating?)
- Lean toward products or services that have received a lot of reviews
4. Verify Licenses
Do your prospects have the licenses necessary to work in your area?
Don't trust, verify. The Licensing Information Page compiled by the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agency (NASCLA) makes it easy for consumers to access each state's regulatory agency for licensure.
Interview Multiple Contractors
It's best practice to have a direct conversation with your finalists in person cause body language matters. However, we understand that can be difficult. If you can't secure an in-person meeting, try scheduling a face-to-face via Zoom.
Try your best to avoid a simple phone call. A lot gets lost in translation.
Be prepared to discuss the scope of your project and provide as much detail as you can to make your conversations more efficient and your quotes accurate.
Here's a good list of questions to ask your finalists:
1. What types of COMMERCIAL refrigeration systems have you installed?
You want to make sure the company you hire has experience working with the type of refrigeration unit you will be installing.
Do they have experience with medium temperature condensing units, low temperature condensing units, or both?
Do they have experience installing commercial refrigeration assembly parts?
2. How many walk in coolers or freezers have you assembled in your career?
A contractor who hasn't assembled at least a half dozen walk in coolers or freezers may not have the experience necessary to execute your project at a high level.
3. How many walk in coolers, freezers, and/or refrigeration units have you installed in the last 12 months?
The answer to this question sets up the next question.
4. Can you provide a list of your references from the last 12 months?
If a contractor tells you they installed 24 walk in coolers and/or commercial refrigeration units in the last 12 months, but their list of references only has 6 names on it, it could mean you have a 25% chance of success with this contractor.
5. What is the biggest mistake you've ever made?
This question gives contractors an opportunity to be open and honest. Everyone messes up from time to time. The best professionals are those who acknowledge and overcome their biggest mistakes.
Proceed with caution if a contractor tells you they've never made a mistake.
6. How did you handle that mistake, and can I contact that customer?
If they deflect or object to contacting a past customer, they might not have been completely honest with their previous answers.
7. Will you obtain all of the required building permits?
The permitting process is the last thing you need to worry about when you have a business to operate. Experienced refrigeration contractors not only know which permits you need, they know how to get them.
8. How long will it take you to complete the job and how will the work affect my operation?
Some jobs can be completed within 5 or 6 hours. Others may require a few days. It depends on the complexity of the job.
An experienced refrigeration contractor knows what "unexpected" issues can arise and lets you know what kinds of inconveniences, if any, the work may cause.
9. Do you have a warranty?
It's important to think about future service issues.
The best contractors guarantee their work. The specifics of the warranties may differ so it's important to ask about the duration of their warranties and what is covered.
10. Can I get that in writing?
Nothing you and a contractor agree to verbally matters if it's not included in your contract or agreement. Nothing is complete unless you get it in writing.
Your contract should include:
- a detailed description of the work to be completed
- the price of each item
- a payment schedule
- the start date
- applicable guarantees
- signatures and dates
Any changes to the contract must be acknowledged with initials and/or signatures from all parties.
11. Can you provide a copy of your certificate of insurance (COI)?
Don't assume a contractor is insured. Ask for physical proof.
A COI provides the name of the insurance company, the policy number, and what policy limits the contractor carries.
Contact the insurance company directly to verify the coverage and make sure the policy is in effect.
12. What is your payment schedule?
A reputable refrigeration contractor will never ask you to pay in full upfront.
Your payment schedule should be staggered so your final payment is not due until the work is complete and all building permits are closed.
Do not pay in cash. Using a credit card provides some recourse should the work not be completed as agreed to in writing.
Checking references can be time-consuming, but if you're going to spend anywhere between $10,000 and $40,000 on a new walk in cooler to store your valuable perishables, making sure your refrigeration contractor has been successful in the past is a good way to ensure that your project is a success.
The best way to find out if the refrigeration contractors you're considering have been successful in the past is by speaking to past customers.
Try contacting references whose projects most closely resemble yours and any problem customers the contractor mentioned previously.
Here are a few questions you can ask past customers:
- How was (insert company's name) level of service?
- Did they stick to the budget and completion date?
- How has your walk in cooler or freezer held up?
- What did you like most and least about their work?
- Would you hire them if you had to do it all over again?
Using this comprehensive contractor screening process should provide a good sense for who the right contractor for your project is. Listen to your instincts, not your pocketbook, when deciding on a refrigeration contractor.
Paying a bit more upfront can be well worth it in the long run if the end result is a well-built walk in cooler and refrigeration system that keeps your valuable perishables fresh and profitable for years to come.
Ready to start shopping for a new walk in cooler or freezer? Check out our wide selection of custom-built and quick ship walk in coolers and freezers here.
Now that your walk in cooler is up and running, let's take some time to learn how to store perishables inside your cooler.
Follow the 3 steps outlined in our next chapter - How to Store Food in a Walk in Cooler - to minimize waste, avoid foodborne outbreaks, and keep perishable items fresh and profitable.