San Francisco Air Conditioning and Heating: Service, Repair, and Equipment Contractors
This local page provides resources and information about A/C and heating service, repair, maintenance, and installers in San Francisco, California and the bay area. Areas covered on this page include Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, San Rafael, San Leandro and San Mateo. Refer to the separate page (linked on our home page) for the San Jose area. This information includes featured HVAC contractors plus a link to our handy and free printable grid to compare price quotes. Here you will also find sources of energy efficiency and equipment rebates, the ratio of heating to cooling needed each year, heating & A/C schools and more.
About HVAC contractors
The contractor you choose will make a big impact on your satisfaction and purchase of a new air conditioning and heating system. Why? They determine the size and type of equipment for your situation and they control the quality of the installation. If you have not yet seen them, in the navigation menu on top of this page you will find quick tips and expanded topics on two essential topics: how to select the right HVAC contractor and how to buy a new heating and cooling system.
Due to relationships with their equipment distributors or ownership by a manufacturer, some air conditioning and heating contractors install a limited number of equipment brands. Many independents have a brand for which they are dealers, but will order and install any brand of new equipment you prefer. However, most contractors perform repair and maintenance on any make of central heater, furnace and air conditioner.
In addition to heating and cooling for indoor comfort and energy savings, an increasing number of HVAC companies perform air quality work such as air filters, dehumidifiers and humidifiers, ventilation and prevention of toxic carbon monoxide gas from your furnace. However, not all of these perform energy efficiency improvements to houses or buildings, such as the addition of solar screens or radiant barriers. If the service company you select does not perform conservation improvements to structures, they should be able to recommend another bay area company that does.
How to compare air conditioning and heating equipment price quotes
Air conditioning and heating systems are made of components or units, and these can be interchanged to make many possible combinations of performance and efficiency. Additionally, these components must be chosen and installed to accommodate the particular situation in your home or building. For all these reasons, comparing proposals, features, and prices can be more than confusing.
To help you sort through your options, use our free and printer-friendly cost comparison organizer found in the menu on the top of this page. If you get multiple price quotes, it will save you time and headaches. This grid allows you to compare the essential features from contractor bids including: main components; equipment efficiency in SEER and AFUE; manufacturer’s and installer’s warranties; and equipment brand.
How the San Francisco climate and resources affect your HVAC needs and decisions
The bay area climate can generally be described as a Mediterranean climate tempered by local topographic features to create cool damp winters and dry summers. Among the notable features: water surrounds the city on three sides; and the city has many steep hills. The ocean and bay influences create a climate with a remarkably narrow temperature range: only about 14 degrees Fahrenheit difference between the highs in winter (December: 56 degrees) and summer (September: 70 degrees). Another interesting comparison is the small span of about 26 degrees F. between the average December low (46 degrees F.) and average September high (70 degrees). Of course, temperatures do sometimes spike and dip outside these long-term averages. During certain months, especially in the western part of the city, heavy fog can be a big factor. Overall this temperate climate produces quite a few days in which home heating or cooling is not necessary. However, during these days, a dehumidifier, whole house air filter or fresh air ventilation could make a pronounced difference in your well being and comfort inside.
The climate in the SF bay area affects the heating and cooling loads plus the payback period when comparing the efficiency ratings of different air conditioners, furnaces or heaters. On the climate map of the U.S. with 5 zones, San Francisco is situated in cooling zone 1 and heating zone 1. These require approximately 584 cooling hours and 4626 heating degree-days per year. As a relative comparison, the average San Francisco office or home needs almost 8 times more heating than air conditioning over a calendar year. Keep in mind that San Francisco is located near the border of two zones. Differences in position one of 50 or so hills, proximity to the bay or other topographical or climatic influences can cause microclimates. For this reason, be sure to rely on actual measurements and calculations from your heating and air conditioning contractor.
Pollen, allergies and air filters in San Francisco
In San Francisco air filters for the home or office are a necessity to some residents. Certain coastal California plants can strongly influence what type of air filter you and your A/C system need. Some notable allergens include mulberry and oak tree pollen, grasses, and molds. The daily pollen count and allergy forecast for the city and the surrounding bay area can be found here.
Local utility and conservation providers
For the San Francisco area, the following utilities or agencies offer energy efficiency rebates and incentives or information. In many cases, your A/C and heating contractor can coordinate all available energy conservation and rebate programs, from federal tax credits to lstate and local programs and incentives.
The DSIRE database lists statewide resources
The availability of a primary fuel such as natural gas or heating oil can determine which type of central heating unit will give you the optimum combination of comfort and energy savings. Since natural gas is generally available in San Francisco, many homes and offices have gas central furnaces or boilers rather than heat pumps or other all-electric heating. Recent developments in dual fuel heat pump design, along with the possibility that natural gas prices might climb faster than electricity rates, might change this trend. In situations where a heat pump makes the best choice, some of the factors that affect air source heat pumps include the average daily temperature, fluctuations in temperature, and humidity. Other local conditions such as solid rock outcrops located close to the surface limit the use of ground source heat pumps. For more heat pump information, go to the top of this page and find it under Expanded A/C and Heating Details.
How a whole house approach includes the “envelope” in the load calculation
If you plan to get price quotes to buy a new A/C and heating system, look for contractors who will insert the heating and cooling demands of the San Francisco climate along with the size and condition of your home or building “envelope” into a complex, but critical load calculation. For many reasons, a rule of thumb load calculation based only on square footage or using the same size system as the old one without verification should be avoided. This calculation requires considerable training and experience.
Resources for HVAC technical or vocational training in the San Francisco area
For those interested in learning more about the technical aspects of air conditioning and heating in the San Francisco area, such as schools or courses to get a California HVAC license, here are some local or regional educational and association links:
CA Chapter of ACCA: State branch of the Air Conditioning Contractors Association of America.
Golden Gate ASHRAE Chapter: The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.