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Commercial HVAC Costs and Tips

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Running a business is no easy feat. There are a million pieces to juggle, and the last thing you need is shivering or sweating employees or customers. You need a reliable commercial HVAC system, and a contractor who can help you every step of the way.

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. In both residential and commercial spaces, installing or repairing HVAC systems isn’t a DIY job. Commercial HVAC contractors and technicians need special licenses and expertise to keep the equipment safe and efficient. Like most major installations and renovations, the cost can vary widely depending on your contractor and many other factors.

We’ve put together a guide to help you find great commercial HVAC services that will keep your business at comfortable temperatures, year-round.

What’s the difference between commercial and residential HVAC?

Residential and commercial HVAC systems are totally different ballgames. While residential HVAC systems might change a little based on the size of a home, commercial HVAC systems are going to vary dramatically, and will often be customized for each business. For example, a commercial HVAC system can either heat and cool a small local veterinary office, or a massive convention center with over two million square feet. Commercial systems are also more likely to include multiple thermostats to manage temperatures in different areas of the building.

That’s why the size and complexity of commercial units needs to be flexible. Commercial units come in modules that are added or removed depending on how much cooling and heating is needed. A benefit of these modules is that a business can expand its heating and cooling system as the business grows. However, this modular system means commercial systems have a very different structure than residential systems, and require specialists.

Another key difference is that commercial HVAC companies will often install the HVAC system on the roof. (A large, commercial system indoors would disrupt your business with its size and noise.) Installing the system on the roof also lets technicians access it easily for maintenance and repairs without disrupting your customers.

The last big difference between commercial and residential HVAC systems is the drainage systems, which funnels condensation away from your HVAC system. A commercial HVAC system needs multiple drainage pipes and collection pans, while residential systems usually just need one pan outside the house.

What to look for in a commercial HVAC contractor?

Looking for a commercial contractor isn’t as easy as Googling, “Who are the commercial HVAC contractors near me?” (Though that’s a good place to start.) This process will take some research to find a contractor who will fit your job.

One of the easiest ways to get started is to fill out our application to receive quotes for your commercial HVAC job.

It’s important to find a commercial HVAC contractor who is experienced and trustworthy. Your business can’t function without a comfy climate and reliable system. An HVAC system is just as important as any other part of construction. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Commercial HVAC contractors should have experience with a building like yours. While contractors with the correct licenses can legally work on any size building, you’ll want to find someone who has worked on a job that’s like yours. Ask about what styles of construction they’ve worked in, and what size jobs they specialize in. You should also check out their online reviews and Better Business Bureau

  • Check to make sure they’re bonded and insured. Making sure a company is bonded and insured is a good way to establish the company is reputable and established. When a company is bonded, it means they’ve purchased protection for customers if something goes wrong such as incomplete work, missing work permits, or other technical mistakes.


When a company has compensation insurance, their employees are covered if they get hurt on the job, meaning they won’t file a claim against you or your business. Liability insurance covers any damage to your business or property that results from the company’s work.

  • Check if your contractor is NATE Certified. Short for North American Technician Excellence, NATE certification is the gold standard for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration technicians and contractors. Certification it means they’ve demonstrated their knowledge of modern HVAC systems by passing a nationally recognized test.

  • Only hire a contractor after they’ve seen your building. The only way for HVAC commercial companies to truly understand your job is to inspect your building in-person. When someone makes a bid on the first phone call, it’s probably just an estimate, or even a guess. You don’t want to go with a company that makes a low bid and then raises the price down the line.

  • Get at least three bids. Yes, it will take longer. But this is the best way to make sure you’re getting a competitive price. You’ll get a much deeper understanding of your job by examining different bids.

  • Pay attention to response times. Does your contractor quickly call you back to answer your questions? Will the company you choose be available for a middle-of-the-night emergency? You need to know that the contractor you select will be responsive to all commercial HVAC repairs that may arise.

  • Don’t just look at the sticker price. Cheapest isn’t always your best route. When you get quotes, be sure to compare apples-to-apples so you understand the full cost. For example, are each of the companies including the same equipment? Does their hourly rate include truck delivery and insurance, or are those separate add-on charges? The most expensive bid may be middle-of-the-road when you take every expense into account. Commercial HVAC installation is a big investment, and you want to pick the most qualified company for your job.

  • Sign a contract. Before any work begins, sign a written contract. This will help you and your commercial HVAC company avoid any conflicts and ensure you’re both on the same page about the details.
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Prices of Commercial HVAC

Unfortunately, there’s no way to easily know the cost of a commercial HVAC system without a contractor giving you a bid based on your building and unique needs. As a rough rule of thumb, according to CoolingCo, “expect to pay between 1.6 to 2 times more to cool a busy commercial space compared to a similarly sized residential space.” However, here are a few elements that will affect the price.

  • Insulation: A well-insulated building reduces your building’s overall HVAC needs and energy use.

  • Size: Larger properties need bigger and more complex HVAC systems.

  • People: According to The Cooling Co, every person in your building requires about 400 BTUs. If your business is a packed restaurant, it may require a bigger system than a mostly empty bookstore, even if both buildings are about the same size.

  • Manufacturer: Every HVAC company’s equipment will come at a different cost. Like all construction materials, there’s a wide range of quality and durability.

  • Controls: Does your building have a single thermostat for one big room, or dozens of different offices, which each need control? Do you need to be able change the temperature while your away from your business? The level of control you need will increase the cost.

  • Piping and Ductwork: Are you replacing existing pipes that distribute water, or installing new ones? What’s the condition of the air ducts that distribute the air through your building? Pipe and ductwork is labor-intensive, which will increase your cost quickly.

  • It can add up quickly, but you’ll want to protect your investment with preventive commercial HVAC maintenance. Make sure to take that into account when determining your yearly HVAC cost.


If you’re ready to start researching commercial HVAC contractors, the easiest place to start is our two-minute-application form.

Last updated on May 23, 2019

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