Buying a New AC System? Be Sure You Read the Fine Print…Starting with the Ads

This morning, I received a “community savings” free newspaper for my neighborhood. In it, a local heating and AC company advertised in bold black letters “2 ton 16 SEER A/C System with Gas Heat Installed10 year warranty $1,550” The price was in big, bold red letters so it would really stand out. In much smaller black print below was the phrase “after rebates and tax credit, plus tax”. Then below that, in white lettering on a light blue background (which I had to look really closely to see…), there was the “catch all” disclaimer, an asterisk plus “for most installations”.  I’ll write more about this specific ad later in the post.

Folks, this is a good example of why we created the free cost comparison grid and the video on the same page that explains why and how to use it.

Your overall goal is for your new HVAC system to deliver the most comfort and the lowest bills over the life of the system.  The lifetime cost of your system will likely be considerably more than the original purchase price.  Why? Because it includes monthly energy bills, maintenance,  repair bills, and the number of years that pass before you have to buy another one.

When comparing price quotes or bids for a new AC and heating system, there is a how to buy checklist you should use . The first thing on the list is the quality of the installation.  Once you have that screening done, and you have two or three bids from contractors you know to be reputable companies, you can use our grid to compare features and price of each bid “apples to apples”.

Back to the original ad example

The ad described in the first paragraph rolls in rebates and tax credits into the advertised price. Elsewhere on the page, these were stated to be worth up to $3,600 in value. On our comparison grid, we specify that these be separate line items. The reason: putting each bid into a standard format reduces confusion and “creative pricing”. As a side note, since not all new equipment qualifies for the federal tax credit, be sure you get the qualification specs and info for it in writing.

As for the disclaimer for most installations, there was no way to say if this company applies this honestly or not. I have never heard of them. I can say, however, that since new AC and heating equipment has to be installed into your existing home or building (with the wiring, and possibly your ductwork) there are many ways a bidding company can either cut corners (to keep the appearance of the total package price low) or to leave themselves “wiggle room” for adding on cost midway through the installation. Or both. Once your sign the contract and the work starts, you are no longer in an optimum negotiating position, unless you covered the possible variables and cost options for them carefully in writing and in advance.

Please share your experiences, good or otherwise, so others can learn from them.

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