According to Energy Star – a U.S Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program, most modern HVAC systems or air conditioners are built to last an average of 15 years, completely dependent on make & model, as well as your climate, how often you run the system, and how often your air conditioner is maintained. Your air conditioner is something most of us take for granted, and never really give any consideration to until it breaks down & leaves us vulnerable to the elements. When this happens, you’ll rush to find an HVAC company to come to your home, and hope they provide a quick & easy fix. But what happens when your air conditioner is too expensive to fix?
When faced with the choice of needing a new air conditioner system, you are left with many options and questions, such as: What product do I go with? What is the best HVAC company to use? How do I know that I’m getting a good deal?
Today, we are going to provide you with all of the guidance you need on selecting the right HVAC system and company for your new air conditioner replacement. No matter where you are in the country, this guide will be helpful for you.
Choosing the Right Product & Equipment
There are multiple options you can choose when it comes to replacing your HVAC system. There are a few minimum requirements that must be met when installing a new system, such as the size of the unit, building code requirements, BTU load required by the system, and minimum SEER rating required.
Option #1 – Highest Grade / Comfort First Systems
The first option you have when choosing a system, is a “comfort grade” system. These are typically your higher end models, and are usually variable speed HVAC systems. Single-stage HVAC systems waste energy by running at 100% capacity when they don’t have to. By contrast, HVACs with variable speed compressors have more flexibility in the amount of energy they use. Variable speed equipment also decreases the work needed to maintain the temperature of your home by delivering steady, continuous heating or cooling.
These are the most comfortable systems that you can install in your home, and while the initial installation costs may be a bit higher, you will end up saving money in the long term through the increased energy efficiency. The system may come with additional features such as built in dehumidification, upgraded thermostats
- Most Efficient System
- Most comfortable System
- Most Customization For Your Home
- $$$$ Highest Initial Investment, But Comes with Most Long Term Savings
- Usually Come with The Best Warranties
- Better For Homes That You Plan on Living in for 10-15 Years
Option #2 – Mid Grade / Standard HVAC Systems
Another option you have when replacing an HVAC system is a standard air conditioner. These are normally 13-16 SEER depending on the mechanical requirements of your state. These models are the usually economically reasonable in price & lifelong cost, but come at the expense of reduced comfort.
- Moderate Efficiency
- More Limited Comfort Options
- Less Customization for Your Home
- Standard Warranties Included
- $$$ Lower Initial Investment at a Higher Long Term Cost
Option #3 – Builder Grade Equipment
The last option to consider when making the decision to replace your HVAC system is builder grade equipment. This is usually the cheapest system that you can buy, and is typically reserved for contractors building homes that want to spend the least amount of money on the home’s mechanical system. These systems are ideal for landlords looking to replace HVAC units in rental homes, home owners looking for the least expensive replacement, and for high volume building projects.
- Least Efficient (Meets Minimum Efficiency Requirements)
- No Comfort Options
- No Customization Options
- $$ Lowest Initial Investment, But Highest Long Term Costs
- Limited/No Warranties
- Best for a home that you don’t plan on living in for a long time
Choosing the Right Company
Choosing the right company to install your HVAC equipment can be a confusing process. At a glance, it is hard to understand what companies are trustworthy, stand by their work, and will give you the best value for your money. No two HVAC companies are alike, however. Here are the major differences we have found when you need to choose a company to install your system.
Option #1 – Full Service HVAC Company
The first, and most highly suggested option is a full service HVAC company. These are typically larger companies that have been established in the community, and offer a wide range of services. These companies typically employee dozens of service technicians, have large, stocked warehouses, and have the resources to stand behind their work. When available, a full service HVAC company is the best option to choose when you decide to replace your system.
Some things that a full service HVAC company might focus on include:
- Focused on Residential Service
- 24/7 Customer Support
- Offer financing options & payment plants
- Planned Maintenance Programs
- Direct Manufacturer Support
- Large Fleet of Service Techs & Vehicles
- Factory Trained, Experience, & Quality Focused
- Customer Centric
- Best Warranties & Guarantees
Option #2 – Average / Generic HVAC Company
Average HVAC companies are generally smaller organizations where multiple roles fall on the shoulders of just a few people. Service Technicians may also be salesman, dispatchers, and installers. They are also typically product-focused, in that they sell & service a single brand of air conditioner. There are not usually any differentiating factors between one of these companies in Northwest Arkansas, and one of these companies in Knoxville, TN. These are normally transactional companies that may not follow up on the back end or after the sale.
A few factors that might warrant a generic rating for an HVAC company include:
- Nobody specializes in a single area or product
- Not fully focused on residential service
- Might be focused on installs only, no service department
- Lack Back-End Support
- Little or no customer service
- Limited Staff, Not 24/7 or Emergency Technicians
- Source Inventory from Supply Houses rather than have their own warehouses
- Warranties are subject to the manufacturer, lack labor warranties
Option #3 – Weekend Warrior / Hobbyist
The last option you have to choose when buying and installing a new HVAC system is to go with an individual person. Home owners have the option to purchase their own equipment from a home improvement store or sometimes online, but typically established companies will not install equipment that was not purchased and guaranteed by them. In that case, home owners will typically seek out an individual to install their new equipment. This could be someone that normally works for a larger company & does work on the side, someone that may just be starting out on their own, or someone that just “does it all.” They may or may not hold the correct licenses & insurance. They typically do not brand or market themselves, and as such do not usually drive marked or wrapped vehicles, and they may not be factory authorized.
Here are a few things to consider before hiring an individual to install your air conditioner:
- May or may not be licensed & insured
- Usually do not offer financing options
- Do not offer guarantees or warranties
- Lack of back end support
- Lack of follow up after installation
- If they choose to go on vacation, you may be stuck without cold or hot air
- Usually more expensive to hire option #1 or #2 to repair the equipment after the fact