I had a call this week from a reader who asked why — since our website is positioned as a buyer’s guide — we do not have charts or grids that compare specific AC brands and their components. In spite of the video and other free information on our site that explains why, (and what to do instead) this is a still a common question. So, I’ll use notes from that conversation for today’s blog post.
Air conditioning and heating is a complex topic. Although there are many sub-topics and themes that are interrelated, we can distill the most important answers down to four points.
1-Quality of installation matters more than brand
Correct, professional installation includes, among other things, a precise load calculation for your specific situation — your location and building. You need to compare the features and benefits of the company and technicians who install your air conditioning system before you think about equipment and brand comparison. Look for contractors who use the “whole house approach”.
2-Central AC and heating components are parts of a system that include your home or building.
Unlike refrigerators, air conditioning and heating systems are not “plug in and forget” appliances. Any component, features or benefits that you could compare on paper must be installed and operate within a system that is affected by other factors. As just one example, duct work (which would not be included in a comparison of brands and models) is a huge variable – it will literally “make or break” your AC system, costs and comfort. As you can see, the two points above are related.
3- Your satisfaction and cost of operation over the life of the system
Most buyers focus on initial cost, discounts, rebates, payments or financing. However, there are additional points to consider in an installed system: a- how much does it cost to operate monthly, b-how much are repairs and maintenance over the life of the system, c- how many years before this system needs replacing again. Here again, the initial installation has a major impact.
4-It is fine to compare equipment brands — after you have considered the more important points.
OK, now to brands. Once you have picked one or more local AC companies who are qualified and diligent with load calculations and the other main points, you can choose from equipment brands and features. You can go to this page to read about the relationships between your local contractors and brands they carry.
Free Download: You can print out our chart to compare quotes or bids for a new installed AC and heating system. There is a companion video on the same page that explains how to use the chart.
I hope this post and free resources help you in your decisions. If you have related experience of feedback, please share it so others can benefit.