Tag Archives: air conditioner

Should You Buy A Private Label Air Conditioning and Heating System?

If you are getting bids on having a new AC and heating system installed, you might be offered a private label system. Like other private label products you may be familiar with, instead of having the manufacturer’s name on the equipment, it is branded with the company that is selling and installing it.

The main reasons HVAC contractors will offer a private label system are straightforward:

  1. Because the quality of the installation matters considerably more than which brand of equipment is being installed,  independent HVAC contractors are now putting more emphasis on “selling themselves” rather than the brand of equipment.
  2. Customers are less likely to compare it to the equipment in competing bids
  3. Since there is less brand advertising and perhaps less markup between them and the factory, the contractor who installs the equipment likely has room to make more profit margin in their cost on the equipment than on branded units. Or they can lower the price to you and make the same profit as on branded units.
  4. You (or the next owner) are more likely to call them for maintenance, repairs or replacement.

HVAC Industry insiders often refer to the equipment as “boxes”

The inference here, of course, is that the ac and heating equipment, heat pumps, etc.  are a commodity. To the extent that they are made from mechanical parts built by factories (some of them the same ones…) from all over the world, I agree with this assessment.

In some of the industry forums, I often read about confusion over who currently makes the equipment for certain well-known HVAC brands vs. who used to make them or whose parts they used.  Brands and factories get relocated overseas, change ownership, or get split up to the point that some industry insiders are not sure who even currently owns some brands.

A private label air conditioner and heater system can be a good buy if:

  1. You are convinced that the company and their technicians who will install it offer an acceptable overall value. Among other things, this includes: accuracy in sizing the equipment and quality of its installation, efficiency, features, benefits, customer service and more.  You can read more about that here on how to buy.
  2. You get documentation on what company or companies the warranty is through, and are comfortable that they will be around for the life of the equipment, and will make good on any defects or mistakes.
  3. If a third party is involved in the warranty (someone other than the actual manufacturer, such as Goodman, or the local company who is installing the equipment, then read this blog post before buying.
  4. You get written verification that your private label equipment qualifies for federal or other rebates. Note: the model number on private label equipment is often the same as for other models made by the factory that builds it.

Let us know if you have any experiences in this area so others can learn.

Dual Fuel Heat Pumps: Comfort and Efficiency

Even though the worst part of winter is behind us in many parts of the country, we are still getting a lot of questions about dual fuel heat pumps. The main reason: our site focuses on how to buy a new AC and heating system, and all these components are often replaced at the same time. Now that the weather is warmer (and before the first wave of heat arrives) those who have waited to get their system replaced are now looking for ways to lower their utility bills or get tax a credit on higher efficiency HVAC equipment.

Let’s start with a definition: Dual Fuel Heat Pump

A dual fuel heat pump is a heating (A/C can also be combined…) system that relies on electricity and one other source of heat, such as natural gas or heating oil.

Before going further, we should include a bit of history

In the earlier days of heat pumps, they were often used in homes and buildings where a primary fuel such as natural gas, heating oil, or butane was not available. In that case, electricity was the only common option. Most heating was accomplished through the use of a compressor and working fluid (aka Freon or refrigerant). For easier understanding, heat pumps are often described as “an air conditioner or refrigerator in reverse”. That’s easy to understand if you have ever stood behind your refrigerator or outside AC unit. Anyway, in a heat pump the main work of creating heat is powered by electricity. Because they don’t “extract and move” heat very well when the outside temperature drops below a certain point, heat pumps require a secondary or “emergency” source of heat. Before dual -fuel models became available (and still today when electricity is the only energy source), the secondary heat source was resistance or “strip” heating. Nearly everyone has seen this type of heating in the orange glowing part of radiant heaters. The element in these gets hot quickly, but electrical resistance is generally not an efficient way to heat space –they use a lot of electricity for the amount of heat given off.

Because they require the use of a compressor and for other reasons, some might ask

In situations where gas or heating oil is available, why bother with the heat pump…why not just have a high efficiency furnace?

This is a good question, and it makes for lively debate. The quick answer is that, with a dual fuel heat pump, a sensor in the system chooses the mode (electricity powered heat pump OR gas/oil/etc. furnace) that is most efficient for the current temperature, outside conditions and thermostat setting. Here’s an example: in the daytime in cooler or cold season of the year, have you ever been inside your home or office feeling chilly, and walked outside to warmer feeling air? That’s a good example of when a heat pump would likely be more efficient choice than gas. Why burn fuel when you could “move” warmth from the outside with a lower energy equivalent of electricity.

While discussing ways a dual fuel heat pump can be installed, the following scenario was brought up:

Homeowner has a heating system in good condition and high enough efficiency, but their older or inefficient air conditioning unit goes out. If done properly, by a competent installer, a new combo air conditioner/heat pump can be installed and connected with the existing gas or oil furnace to create a dual-fuel option. In our experience, non-standard retrofits such as this require a higher level of skill than the normal installation of equipment that has been designed to work together.

If you want to read more about heat pumps, you can go to the about heat pumps page on this site.

Have You Cleaned or Changed Your Home Air-Conditioner Filter lately?

On our short list of the highest impact, easiest actions you can take to save money on your monthly utility bills, changing the A/C filter in your house or apartment is near the top.  It’s the number 3 item to be exact.  Filter changes are easy and inexpensive enough that we could have just as easily given them the number one spot, though.

Depending on the type of filter element(s) in your system, the time interval between changes usually runs one month, but can be longer on some types of filters.  All air filter elements need to be changed or cleaned on a recurring basis, though.  In addition, they all have the following attributes in common:

  1. Changing or cleaning your AC filter on a regular basis will save you money on your energy bills
  2. Keeping clean filters will also save you money and time with lower repairs and related costs
  3. When your HVAC system works more efficiently,  you likely be more comfortable indoors
  4. In addition to protecting the A-C and heating equipment, filters are available that take out allergens and other contaminants that can adversely affect your health
  5. To keep track of changes, and in case multiple people are involved in filter maintenance, it’s a good idea to make and post a simple reminder grid with the following items:
  • Change/Clean Frequency
  • Dimensions of Filter (length, width, thickness)
  • Number of filters in the system
  • Location of filters
  • Type of filter and, if applicable, brand
  • Where to purchase or order filters
  • Whether or not the filter is user (owner) serviceable
  • Date of last change or cleaning

We hope this reminder helps save you energy and be more comfortable. We look forward to reading your comments and suggestions.

Maintenance or repair of your AC and heating system: pay a little now or pay a lot more later

Would any reasonable person wait until the engine of their car seizes up to think about checking or changing the oil? Of course not. In addition to the inconvenience, repairing or replacing a car engine costs a lot more than an oil change. Therefore, most people have their car serviced two or more times each year or at certain mileage intervals.

Why then, do so many people wait until their home or building air conditioner won’t cool or their furnace won’t ignite to call their HVAC service company? Not only do they have to pay more for repair or replacement than they would have for air conditioning or heating system maintenance. On the first really hot or cold day in their area, people who skimp on having their A/C and heating system maintained usually line up behind their neighbors who did the same. They might even have to stay home from work to meet the service company when repair calls get backed up.

Having your HVAC system put on a yearly schedule of having the A/C serviced in the spring and the heater tested in the fall saves money and time. The monetary savings aren’t limited to repairs either. A good example is found in the way air conditioners run. A home A/C system will run and produce cool air, even if the refrigerant (often known as Freon) is somewhat lower than optimum. However, it won’t run or cool nearly as efficiently as it would at optimum levels. The result: you can save on utility bills every month, plus have fewer or lower cost repairs and save time with a well-tuned system.

With the direct cost of oil bumping $110 per barrel (not to mention the indirect costs and concerns) we should save on fossil fuels and electricity every place we can. Since nearly everyone uses heating and cooling daily, scheduled HVAC maintenance is an ideal place to start. Do it now and you will avoid the summer rush.