10 Insider Facts You Must Know About Home AC and Heating Systems

If you’ve read our previous blog posts, you have likely observed that they tend to go into a lot of detail.  Today’s blog post is different, and fills a response to a reader’s request for a broad view – an “executive summary” or “101 level course” — of the ten most important current HVAC topics for homeowners.  At the end of each item, in parenthesis, I’ll comment on whether it applies to repair, installation, maintenance or all.

1.    Your most important decision: which local company to call to repair, maintain, or install your system. If you get this part right, you can take a lot less time reading (or skip altogether…) items 2-10 below. (all)

2.    Do some research and choose a heating and AC company when you are not in hurry. Waiting until your system breaks down (needing to have it repaired or replaced) to pick a heating and AC company usually leads to less than optimum results.  You don’t wait until the engine in your car quits to have the oil changed, do you? (all)

3.    The “envelope” of your home affects your indoor comfort and utility bills too.  Work with your AC heating service to use the “whole house” approach to get the optimum mix of heating and cooling capacity and improvements to the envelope of your home. A few examples of improvements that affect system performance are duct sealing, insulation, solar screens, and radiant barriers. (all)

4.    There are more companies (brands) selling equipment than factories that manufacture it.  (installation)

5.    Surfaces in your system that the air passes over – the surfaces where heat and cool get exchanged– must be kept clean to work effectively and for certain parts to not break down prematurely. Some of these are user serviceable (some types of air filters) while others are not.  Find out which ones are from your heating and AC company. (maintenance)

6.    If the insides of your ductwork need cleaning, before taking action you should determine the reason why, instead of simply paying to have them cleaned. (maintenance and repair)

7.    Getting on a yearly maintenance plan for your system can help prevent equipment failures, save on utility bills, and can prevent dangerous conditions (carbon monoxide leaks) by any fuel-burning systems.  (maintenance and repair)

8.    Extended warranties can be a poor value, especially if they are offered by some companies other than the equipment manufacturer directly.  A few red flags: policies offered by “third parties”, obscure exclusions and deductibles in the fine print. (installation)

9.    If you are looking at a major component replacement, such as evaporator or condenser coils, air handlers, compressors, or heat exchangers, understand that “field matching” (ad hoc mixing of components) is less likely to perform well over the long run. Contrast these with a factory matched system.  Also, field matched repairs usually do not qualify for rebates or incentive programs. (repair and installation). A current example of this is the “dry charged” unit we wrote about last month.

10.    Two specific areas that tend to generate more complaints are duct cleaning and extended warranties.  If you are not convinced yet, go back to item number 1 again. (all)

The explanations for all these items are found in sections on our website or in our other blog posts. Even so, if you have a question on one of the items in the list above, or have a related experience to share, send us your comments so others can learn from it.

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