What to Ask Before Hiring an HVAC Refrigeration Contractor

Ragtime - HVAC Systems Mechanical

What to Ask Before Hiring an HVAC Refrigeration Contractor

A Case Study: Ragtime Tavern Seafood & Grill

Ragtime Tavern Seafood & Grill has been an Atlantic Beach favorite in northeast Florida for more than 30 years. The popular tavern-style eatery opened in 1983 as a small neighborhood establishment, with 10 tables and a single bar occupying the east end of its current location. During its early days, maintaining air-conditioned comfort from the searing Florida heat was accomplished through the restaurant’s two air conditioning units situated atop the commercial building’s roof.

Ragtime has since grown three-fold, not just in popularity and menu offerings, but also in square footage. The restaurant, owned by multi-brand restaurant company CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries, Inc., now fills the entire building and includes several additions that house larger dining areas, a lounge, tap room and microbrewery. Ragtime’s HVAC and refrigeration needs have also changed over the past three decades, but those renovations have not been as efficient or effective. By all appearances, early contractors upgraded the building’s rooftop air conditioning system by stitching old and new HVAC components together, piece-by-piece, until it resembled – and functioned – like a rusting, leaking, Frankenstein monster.

When JAX Mechanical was contracted by Retail Mechanical Services (RMS) and Ragtime Tavern & Seafood Grill earlier this year to correct several critical issues, they found Ragtime’s air conditioning system and roof were both in dire shape. Half of the equipment didn’t run; the other half was spread out randomly across the roof. The roof leaked in multiple locations. To stop the leaking, the owners had encased the entire area with foam sealant, layering on more and more over the years until the foam was nearly 10 inches thick and the shingles were no longer visible. Renovations couldn’t even begin until the roofing crews first cut through the thick blanket of hardened foam to expose the hidden roof.

JAX Mechanical Service Manager Mark Rassano and his team were hired by RMS to support the HVAC and mechanical needs during the 27-day job. The restaurant planned to stay open during construction, so all daily work had to be complete enough for the restaurant to remain fully – and safely – functional. For example, when an inspection delay pushed back the scheduled installation of new rooftop kitchen hoods, work crews had to be nimble and flexible to accommodate the delay and still complete the task thoroughly so that the kitchen could open on time.

As part of the project’s scope, JAX Mechanical also cleaned up the haphazard configuration of HVAC and refrigeration equipment splayed across the building’s rooftop. JAX Mechanical crews consolidated the new HVAC system into an easy-to-maintain row of built-in-place racks. This custom-designed solution ensured that as future service crews made repairs or troubleshot issues, there would be zero manhours lost trying to locate the problem hidden within a maze of outdated dinosaurs.

CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries will reap multiple benefits from the new HVAC and refrigeration system: the ability to keep its Ragtime Tavern customers comfortable in the summer heat, a totally leak-free building, and a discernable change in energy efficiency and energy cost savings. The multi-brand restaurant group was so pleased with the project’s success, they hired JAX Mechanical to provide HVAC and refrigeration services for its three additional Florida properties: Seven Bridges, located off Southside Boulevard; A1A Aleworks in St. Augustine; and is newest location, Rock Bottom, across the street from the world-famous Daytona Speedway.

There is a valuable lesson to be learned from Ragtime Tavern Seafood & Grill’s story. Foremost, when hiring a contractor, JAX Mechanical recommends consumers ask some essential questions to ensure the potential company is best qualified to service your needs.

  • Is your company licensed to do the work, and are your technicians NATE certified?
    • NATE stands for North American Technician Excellence. It is the nation’s largest non-profit certification organization for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians. NATE is owned, operated, developed and supported by the entire HVAC/R industry and participation is strictly voluntary. NATE certified technicians have proven their knowledge in the HVAC/R industry by passing specialized NATE certification tests.
  • Are you fully insured?
  • Can you provide references?
  • What continuing education and training do you provide for your employees?
  • Does the project require permitting and an inspection? If so, will you be obtaining these?
  • How many technicians does your company employ?
  • How long have you been in business under your current name and location?
  • Will you provide a written estimate?
  • What is the timeline for completion?
  • Will the same crew be on the job every day?
  • Do you store tools on site? If so, how and where?
  • How do you deal with unexpected charges?
  • Do you guarantee your work?
  • Do you offer a maintenance plan and what services are included in it?
  • What is your response time to maintenance calls?
  • How do you mediate complaints or customer dissatisfaction issues?

High-efficiency, low-maintenance control systems are the gold standard at JAX Refrigeration. We bring more than 20 years of knowledge to our industrial control system design and implementation. Our licensed engineers work alongside our clients at every phase to ensure their requirements are met with the most cutting-edge technologies available. For more information, give JAX Refrigeration a call at (904) 249-1400.