HVAC, Technician Tips, Business Tips, Pro Features

How to Bid HVAC Jobs with Accuracy and Agility: A Step-by-Step Guide

January 10th, 2024
17 Min Read

While it's no secret commercial and residential HVAC estimation requires different skills from those required for repairing an air conditioner or installing a heat pump, HVAC businesses can train their teams to close more leads by using HVAC estimating software to enhance their estimation and bidding process.

In this post, we’ll walk you through the seven essential steps of bidding for an HVAC job:

  1. Review the job specifications

  2. Analyze the drawings

  3. Perform a quantity takeoff

  4. Work out labor costs

  5. Factor in overheads and profit margin

  6. Create your HVAC estimate

  7. Review and present your proposal

Then, we’ll share nine tips that show you how our HVAC estimating software, ServiceTitan, provides the tools to streamline and optimize the HVAC estimating process from start to finish, so your company can win more HVAC jobs and maximize profit:

Want to see ServiceTitan in action? Schedule a call with us to learn more about how our HVAC contractor software can help you successfully bid for HVAC jobs and grow your HVAC business. 

How to Bid HVAC Jobs: 7 Steps

In our experience working with hundreds of HVAC businesses, these are the seven essential steps involved in the bidding process for residential and commercial HVAC jobs:

Step 1: Review the Specifications 

If the type of work you’re building an estimate for is commercial, such as a construction project, you’ll usually receive an RFP (Request for Proposal) containing detailed specifications of the HVAC job. 

Study the specifications carefully and ask questions before you start working on your HVAC bid. 

Step 2: Analyze the Drawings

Examine all drawings carefully, including blueprints and architectural drawings, if available. These, in addition to the specifications, should give you a detailed overview of the scope of work involved, which will influence your labor costs, the cost of materials, and the equipment necessary to carry out the HVAC work. 

Step 3: Perform a Quantity Takeoff

A quantity takeoff is a list of all the materials required for the job, including their costs. Using the blueprints, calculate exactly how much of each item you’ll need. 

Add up the cost of all the materials (including any markup) and include this in your cost estimate to calculate your total price.

Step 4: Work Out Labor Costs

Now that you know the scope of the job, you can work out how many HVAC contractors you’ll need to carry out the work and how long the job will take to estimate your total labor costs.

You can use ServiceTitan’s Labor Rate Calculator to help you.

Step 5: Factor in Overhead and Profit Margin

Now that you know your operating costs (steps 3 and 4), make sure to include a percentage of your overhead, too. These include costs such as rent, utilities, insurance, admin staff, trucks and travel to the job site, equipment, and more.

Finally, you should add in profit to the overall estimate.

Learn more on how to organize your financials for profit in the ServiceTitan Playbook.

Step 6: Create Your HVAC Estimate

Now, you are ready to build your estimate, which should include a clear description of the HVAC service or installation you will provide (for example, “complete ductwork replacement”), and the estimated cost of that service. 

You should also list the materials you will be using, with costs for each, and the total price of the estimate, including taxes.

Remember to include the date, a reference number, and state how long the estimate is valid for (for example, 30 days).

Step 7: Review & Present Your Proposal

Once you have drafted your estimate, review and consider having someone else review it. It’s also wise to compare your bid to any previous HVAC jobs of a similar size to ensure there is no discrepancy in price.

Once you have completed these steps and you are satisfied with your estimate, your bid is ready to present to the potential customer. 

Note: Many HVAC businesses compile these estimates manually or use spreadsheets or estimate templates to help them. But, in our experience, the most efficient way to produce accurate HVAC estimates that win you profitable HVAC jobs is to use HVAC bidding software like ServiceTitan, which helps to organize the entire bidding process all from one place, including creating an accurate bid with tiered pricing options, automating follow-ups to ensure no outstanding bids are forgotten, and tracking bid performance. This is tedious or nearly impossible to do with a manual bidding process.

How ServiceTitan’s HVAC Bidding Software Helps Win Profitable HVAC Jobs

ServiceTitan’s HVAC estimating software helps HVAC contractors save time and produce accurate estimates for commercial and residential customers swiftly and efficiently, with no need to use any manual processes. Our solution provides a complete project management system that gives you an exact view of the time, costs, and margins for every HVAC job and helps you manage the entire bidding process and HVAC workflow. 

Here are nine tips on how to improve your bidding process for HVAC jobs using ServiceTitan’s estimating software, where applicable:

Tip #1: Improve HVAC Estimating Training 

  • Boost frequency of training sessions.

  • Provide training in key growth areas.

Train your team on how to perform a comprehensive analysis of residential and commercial HVAC projects, so they can identify all potential problems and the best solutions to satisfy clients' needs. This becomes even more significant in the world of commercial HVAC contract jobs, which typically rely on the lowest bidder from subcontractors' construction bids.

“If you win, you start wondering, ‘OK, I was the lowest price…Did I miss anything?’ I never want to be competing on that,” says Ian Goldberg, president of the commercial division at Frank Gay Services, a Central Florida-based provider of commercial HVACR, plumbing, and electrical services. “You’d rather be competing based on work quality, establishing a relationship, and getting calls. You want to own something from start to finish,” he explains.

Cardinal Plumbing, Heating & Air in Virginia invests in weekly training sessions for the technicians and salespeople to improve communication skills, the art of upselling, and how to explain complicated HVAC topics to customers to close more contracts.

The best HVAC estimators excel at problem-solving, communication, and maximizing sales opportunities. Find out where your team can grow, and provide specialized training in key areas so your entire team can succeed.

Learn more HVAC technician tips here and how to develop training programs in the ServiceTitan Playbook.

Tip #2: Dispatch for Profit

  • Send the right person to the right job.

  • Focus on communication skills.

When it comes to big-ticket HVACR proposals, your best communicators become indispensable.

"It’s really important to send the right person to the right job,” says Nikolai Matveev, owner of Cardinal Plumbing, Heating & Air. “Good communicators are not always really good on the technical side, or it’s the opposite, and somebody really good at the technical stuff isn’t really good in communication. That’s one of the biggest obstacles, to find the people who can do both really efficiently.”

Many HVAC companies find it’s more efficient and effective to separate these two jobs, relying on a salesperson with time and expertise to evaluate and estimate larger jobs for homeowners or commercial clients. Dedicated estimators who know how to bid commercial HVAC jobs or government HVAC contracts will likely produce a more accurate HVAC bid sheet since they thoroughly understand blueprints, specs, and bidding documents.

Cardinal Plumbing, Heating & Air eventually hired a salesperson who obtains leads from the service technicians. He handles the complicated equations for sizing or balancing an HVAC system, then breaks down the details for customers.

“He’s a very experienced guy, so he’s doing all of those heat load calculations and making sure to explain it really well to the customer,” Matveev says. “He’s taking his time and not in a rush, so that’s not a problem. With technicians, when they do sales, sometimes they know they have four more places to go that day and just give the customer one option and go.”

HVAC contractors can use ServiceTitan’s HVAC Load Calculator to help. It’s an easy-to-use online calculator that quickly gauges the BTU range for any property. It factors in the interior square footage, amount of windows, and it even considers your region’s climate. You can determine the HVAC system your customer needs and present them with the best solutions for their situation.

Note: ServiceTitan also provides a free HVAC Duct Calculator, which calculates duct size by airflow or by dimensions, and an HVACR Fault Finder, which helps your techs to problem-solve compressor electronic system failures. Learn more about HVAC apps in this article, and read our comprehensive HVAC tools list here.

Tip #3: Utilize a Flat-Rate Pricebook

  • Maintain a uniform pricing structure.

  • Clearly communicate to customers.

HVAC contractors calculate their prices using one of two pricing models:

  1. Time & Materials (Hourly Rate): Costs are based on the time spent doing the work labor cost), and for the materials used on the job (material costs).

  2. Flat Rate: Charges one fixed rate for the job, where time and materials are included.

We recommend HVAC businesses use the flat-rate pricing model so that customers know exactly how much a job will cost, regardless of how long it takes. Flat-rate pricing also incentivizes HVAC techs to work efficiently, so they can cover more jobs and bring in more revenue. 

“Your HVAC pricebook is the foundation for everything you do in your company,” says Kathy Nielsen, owner of Operations Excellence. She has worked in the skilled trades for 20 years, including leading a large HVAC company as general manager. “Your HVAC pricing guide drives your tech efficiency, profitability, reporting, truck replenishment, and inventory.”

ServiceTitan’s Pricebook Pro

Service Titan’s pricebook software, PricebookPro, comes with a broad range of pre-built, flat-rate HVAC services including detailed descriptions and clear photographs. Pricebooks can be organized by verticals and business units so there’s no need to trawl through unwieldy lists of catalogs, products and materials. Simply click through each category to get to the specific part you’re looking for. 

You can integrate with specific suppliers via ServiceTitan’s Pricebook Connect. These can be linked to your pricebook so you are notified of price changes or have the changes made to your pricebook automatically. Any pricing updates and adjustments are reflected across the entire pricebook and are accessible to all office staff and techs instantly (via mobile tablet or desktop). 

ServiceTitan will even send notifications of any upgrades or recommendations that sell well for specific HVAC services you offer. This protects your profitability as you are always on top of the latest products and opportunities for selling higher-ticket products as soon as they are available. 

ServiceTitan offers advanced editing and automation features so you can apply edits and markups in bulk that apply across your entire pricebook, or you can select specific groups or categories. You can also apply edits to individual line items. In addition, ServiceTitan’s Dynamic Pricing feature allows you to set up rules that automatically update your pricing, such as when you want to change your labor rates

These features save a huge amount of time and streamline the whole process of managing your HVAC pricing. This means you can be confident that your pricing is up-to-date and correct when you build your estimate.

Learn more HVAC pricing tips in this post and this post

Tip #4: Present Customers with Tiered Options

  • Empower customers in buying decisions.

  • Explain the benefits of each option.

While ventilation, heating, and cooling system work requires technical expertise, it's equally critical that your team can explain important information to the customer. Presenting customers with good-better-and-best options at different price points empowers customers to choose the option that's best for them, enabling your team to finish the job.

At Cardinal Plumbing, Heating & Air, field techs present customers with multiple options for each portion of the job estimate.

“They’re required to give the customer a couple of options and educate them,” Matveev says. “We don’t leave customers in the dark. We want to make sure we’re taking advantage of every call we go to, and that it’s benefiting the customer.”

A well-written, detailed HVAC proposal helps your commercial or residential HVAC service customers understand the costs associated with installation, repairs, or equipment upgrades.

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Chris Graham, who runs a one-man air conditioning and refrigeration business in Texas, explains that the key to upselling as an HVAC technician is to present homeowners with the facts in an easy-to-understand and presentable way, explaining how the age of a system or a home plays into the repair or replacement, and what tasks need to be done to save money down the line.

Graham, who ranked as top seller at two previous HVAC companies before starting on his own, says the two biggest hurdles for technicians attempting to upsell services or products are lack of knowledge and absence of an established estimating process.

“Look at the whole picture,” Graham says. “The equipment age and the home age, and wrap it all up into a presentation, and it sells itself, basically.”

With ServiceTitan, HVAC contractors can easily prepare Good-Better-Best proposals, either in real-time when out in the field (via their mobile tablet) or back at the office. 

In particular, using ServiceTitan mobile on a phone or tablet enables HVAC techs to access estimate templates and create proposals while at the job site by selecting and attaching pricebook items to the relevant photos and visuals. This helps explain the need for each repair or service to the customer, so they can select their option and approve and e-sign the estimate there and then. Then, once the estimate is approved, ServiceTitan connects it to the rest of the HVAC workflow such as scheduling and billing

Tip # 5: Recommend Memberships (Service Contracts)

  • Generate recurring revenue.

  • Bring in reliable work for the slow season.

Signing up customers to memberships or maintenance agreements is one of the most reliable ways of generating recurring income for a service business. It’s also an effective way to bring in reliable income during the slower seasons (typically spring and fall for HVAC).

When HVAC techs visit a site for a routine service call or to price a new job, training them to look more holistically at the property can often uncover opportunities for other work, including recurring service contracts.

With ServiceTitan, you can create membership agreements from scratch or adapt and improve an existing agreement.

HVAC contractors can select agreements from a wide range of customizable templates and set up and store as many as needed to suit different membership types, such as residential or commercial. 

Agreements are easy to set up and, once up and running, can be integrated with your HVAC estimates and workflow.

You can learn more about how to set up and use membership agreements to increase profit in this article and for commercial projects here.

Tip #6: Offer HVAC Financing

  • Present affordable options to customers.

  • Expand ticket sizes.

HVAC contractors who offer financing increase sales opportunities, because all options become more affordable to their customers.

With ServiceTitan Mobile's integrated customer financing, a tech's tablet automatically displays financing options to customers when they view the good-better-and-best options.

"If you walk into any sales opportunity and you have multiple different options, it's an absolute game-changer," says Carly Armstrong, National Account Manager at ServiceTitan. 

"Offer these each and every time, and you're going to see a huge impact on the bottom line of the business."

ServiceTitan's partnerships with top providers GreenSky, Service Finance, Turns, and Financeit streamline the process so companies in the HVAC industry can easily offer monthly payment options to customers. HVAC companies customize their own financing plans, so all financing solutions remain profitable and can be approved within seconds.

“When you talk about integrated financing, it’s not just whether they finance or not,” says Darius Lyvers, Chief Operating Officer at F.H. Furr Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning and Electrical in Northern Virginia. “It opens the door for the customer to afford all your products, and they may buy something they otherwise wouldn’t have if you hadn’t presented financing options."

Learn more about financing in the ServiceTitan Playbook

Tip #7: Automate Lead Follow-Up

  • Establish follow-up procedures.

  • Focus on customer solutions.

When customers hesitate to commit on the spot, follow-up procedures become critical. Determine who follows up on open estimates and establish a system to document every interaction with a customer. 

With ServiceTitan’s estimating software, you can automate this process by sending reminder emails or texts to follow up on open HVAC estimates. This eases the workloads of office and field staff and means that no outstanding estimates are forgotten.

“A lot of customers need time to swallow that pill, and so we need persistence in following up. Call back time and time again to see if there’s more information we can give them,” says Barry Palmer, CFO and co-owner of All Pro Air in Riverside, California.

At All Pro Air, the technician who creates the estimate is responsible for following up. Because they know their paycheck depends on it, they’re good about documenting it. They check to make sure all of the customer’s questions are answered and gently remind them to take action.

“They know who they need to follow up with, and so they can log that data into ServiceTitan. Make the calls, resend quotes or make new quotes,” Palmer says. “Persistence is definitely a big key component. At the end of the day, the customer is trusting us to help guide them in picking the best system and solutions for them.”

Because all the data for every estimate is stored within ServiceTitan — customer information, the estimate details, and any queries — this can be easily accessed and used to follow up the estimate, increasing the likelihood of closing the sale. 

Learn more about following up estimates in the ServiceTitan Playbook

Tip # 8: Integrate with Other Business Processes

  • Streamline the entire workflow to save time.

  • Improve the customer experience.

Using an integrated software solution like ServiceTitan means you can incorporate every step of the estimating process within the same software as your entire workflow, from the initial phone call, to creating the estimate, fulfilling the job, and collecting payment. This saves time compared to using different software for each process, reduces the chance of errors, and improves the whole customer experience.

Once the customer has agreed to the HVAC estimate, ServiceTitan lets you:

  • Generate electronic purchase orders. 

  • Order equipment and materials.

  • Manage the job by logging any change orders as they arise and have those changes automatically apply to all relevant processes.

  • Schedule and dispatch the work order.

  • Generate the HVAC invoice, send it via email to the customer, and automatically file it electronically.

  • Accept check or credit card payments at the job site via mobile or through the ServiceTitan portal, speeding up cash flow and reducing the need for follow-up calls.

  • Integrate directly with accounting tools such as Intacct and QuickBooks so you don't have to change your current processes.

Learn more about invoicing best practices in the ServiceTitan Playbook and check out our HVAC invoicing tips here.

Read more tips here on how to integrate QuickBooks with ServiceTitan.

Tip #9: Track HVAC Job Data

  • Capture real-time data.

  • Evaluate growth.

Monitoring data from your commercial and residential HVAC jobs is essential to increase your company's efficiency and boost your bottom line.

ServiceTitan's software provides an overall snapshot of your company's performance, as well as the ability to run detailed reports down to each tech, including generated revenue, average ticket price, and closing rate. 

With our technician scorecard, you can stay up-to-date on every HVAC tech’s stats, such as number of calls per day, estimates closed, revenue generated, memberships sold, and more. Likewise, our CSR scorecard lets you monitor metrics for your customer service team, such as number of calls handled, conversions, etc. 

Real-time data gives you insight into how you can improve your HVAC estimating and bidding process, so you can increase leads and grow your HVAC company.

Learn more about HVAC key performance indicators (KPIs) here and here.

Ready to Try ServiceTitan to Help Bid for HVAC Jobs?

When it comes to construction projects or HVAC contracts for bid, it's imperative to know how to price HVAC jobs, by taking material, equipment, and labor costs into consideration.

HVAC contractors who use ServiceTitan's HVAC estimating software remove the guesswork and uncertainty from commercial and residential HVAC estimations, equipping their teams to accurately price all HVAC contracts, and clearly communicate to customers what the cost covers. 

"If you don’t have the right procedures, then even if you hire the right people, they still aren’t going to be very productive," concludes Nikolai Matveev of Cardinal Plumbing, Heating & Air.

ServiceTitan gives you the ability to estimate HVAC jobs from anywhere, follow up and track those bids, and integrate them into the rest of your business processes so you can bring in more revenue and grow your HVAC business.

Want to see ServiceTitan in action? Schedule a call with us to learn more about how our HVAC contractor software can help you successfully bid for HVAC jobs and grow your HVAC business. 

ServiceTitan HVAC Software

ServiceTitan is a comprehensive HVAC business software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and achieve growth. Our award-winning, cloud-based platform is trusted by more than 100,000+ contractors across the country.

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