If you feel your heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) is on its last legs, you should start thinking about what you want to do and when to do it so you avoid having a failure in the midst of a heat wave or cold snap. The first thing to consider is what you want to accomplish.
- Is your home comfortable or does it have areas that are hard to condition properly?
- Are you intent on reducing your overall costs?
- Do you need more control over individual areas of your home?
- What can you afford to spend to achieve these objectives?
With your goals in mind, it is time to consider the type of equipment. You can replace using like for like. In other words, replace the existing equipment with current versions in the same technology. The beauty of this approach is you are almost guaranteed to achieve efficiency improvements. Ask your HVAC contractor for their recommendations regarding SEER and other equipment efficiency measures.
You might also consider going with a different type of system or technology. For instance, using mini-split systems in areas needing air conditioning that do not have ductwork. Or replacing a regular air conditioner with a heat pump. Again, your contractor can assist here.
With the equipment choice made, you now should identify the best manufacturer for that equipment. Look for manufacturers that have a well-supported presence in your area. The best equipment in the world is a risk if no one locally is able to work on and service it. Read reviews online and look for people who have direct experience with their products. Testimonials in literature and elsewhere are okay but reviews can be more revealing and are readily available online. Also carefully read the warranty; what does it cover, for how long and what is excluded?
Next it comes down to the contractor since they can literally make or break the job. If the contractor who performs your routine maintenance and repair carries the line you have settled on, you may be set. Be sure they have been trained and certified in the installation of the particular system you want. Contractors often carry a line they like or are comfortable with. Expect them to offer it in place of your choice. Review this equipment with the same care as the one you picked so you are sure if meets your needs and objectives.
If you do not have a contractor or the one you know cannot provide the equipment you want, check with the manufacturer for recommendations. It is always best to use a contractor that is certified by North American Technician Excellence (NATE). Check references and reviews on your contractor just like you did on the manufacturer.
It is a good idea to get more than one bid for your work unless you are completely comfortable with the contractor you have settled on. Get the proposal / bid in writing. The proposal should provide the specifics of what is being provided;
- Equipment (model and manufacturer),
- Installation scope,
- Removal and disposal of old equipment,
- Keeping the job site clean and tidy during and after installation,
- Time required,
- Securing necessary permits,
- Providing documentation needed for obtaining any rebates,
- Proof of licenses, bonding, insurance and
- Payment terms / schedule.
When it comes to payment, never pay the entire amount upfront. A certain amount, say up to 50%, is reasonable so the contractor can buy material and equipment. And be sure to always hold at least 10% back until you are completely satisfied with the job.
That’s it! You can now save money and be more comfortable with your improved HVAC system.