Tag Archives: equipment

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.

Defective Drywall News Get More Involved – The Plot Thickens

In this post, we will follow up on our last blog entry about defective drywall in U.S. homes and reports of damage to inside components of AC and heating systems.

In case this topic is new for you, here’s a brief summary: Some types of drywall (aka sheetrock, gypsum wallboard, etc.) are being reported to emit hydrogen sulfide, which combines with moisture inside homes and building and damages copper in air-conditioning and heating  equipment, systems and wiring.  There have been complaints of other types of effects (to electronic equipment; and from humans) but our focus in on HVAC systems. This is a developing story that first aired earlier this year.  If estimates of the number of affected homes and the cost per home to fix the problem is accurate, we are puzzled as to why this is not getting more national mainstream media attention.

The plot seems to be thickening, because earlier reports mostly focused on drywall imported from China. However, now some recent reports are stating that sulphur gasses are being emitted from drywall from sources other than China.  While the reason(s) that the drywall is producing hydrogen sulphide is still being studied and debated, the effects to A-coils and other inside AC and heating equipment look like a big deal to us.  As is typically the case, determining who will eventually pay for the damage will probably drag on and on.  In the mean time, some unlucky homeowners are in a real fix.  Some say they can’t live in the house any longer, but and can’t sell it or rent it either.

Below , we are including links to the Consumer Products Safety Commission  CPSC, and also a report from the CBS news website on November 23.

Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC Drywall Information Center Report

On the CPSC website, the agency states that it has received more than 2,000 reports from residents in 32 U.S. states and territories. Those complaints include health symptoms or the corrosion of certain metal components in homes, and are related to the presence of certain drywall produced in China.

CBS News Online Defective Drywall Story – November 23, 2009

This article from CBS News tell a similar story, and it involves laboratory testing for sulphur gases and countries of origin other than China.

In our opinion, it’s too early to know the scope of the potential damage.  If you would like to keep up with the story, you can bookmark us and can check back here.  Or if you want to receive alerts directly, check out Google Alerts and enter one of these terms: “drywall” or “defective drywall”, “drywall news”.  Then you’ll receive emails directly.

If your home’s AC and heating system has been affected, please share your experiences so others can learn.

Crowdsourcing re: How To Get Three Bids On A New AC & Heating System

We are seeking our reader input on the topic of getting three bids, proposals or price quotes on replacement AC and heating equipment.

Essentially, we want to hear your experiences on the two main ways to get bids: (a) contacting one company that has a contractor network and has three (or some predetermined number of) contractors to contact you, versus (b) selecting and contacting contractors directly yourself.

In addition to items you want to write about, we would like to know the following:

  • Who set the appointment?
  • What went well?
  • Where did problems arise?
  • Would you use the same process again?
  • What, if anything, would you do differently?

At the same time, we would like to hear your experiences how specific items that are not addressed or emphasized on many bid proposals can affect the outcome.  In particular, how the existing equipment such as ductwork, wiring, etc. was handled.

We look forward to hearing from you and helping others learn from what went well (or otherwise).

Tax Credit of $1,500 For New Heating and Air Conditioning Systems

As a provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, homeowners can now receive up to $1,500 in tax credits when they install qualifying high-efficiency heating and AC  equipment into an existing home.

Difference in a tax credit and tax deduction
Before going further, we will point out that this is a tax credit, not merely a deduction. Basically, a deduction reduces the amount your tax bill is calculated from. A tax credit offsets the amount of taxes you owe.  In all cases, talk to your tax advisor before taking action.

The act allows 30% of the amount invested for qualifying equipment and during specific dates in calendar 2009 and 2010, up to a maximum credit of $1,500.  This means that qualifying expenditures can be up to $5,000.  Although the focus in our blog is on HVAC equipment, the total credit also applies to certain types of energy efficient windows, doors, insulation, solar water heaters and other energy saving items.  At the risk of belaboring the point, one credit covers all these categories, not one credit per category.

Special provisions for geothermal heat pumps
If you are considering a geothermal heat pump (or solar water heater) we are hearing that there are some extra stimulus incentives, including higher allowances and more years to qualify.  Ask your tax adviser and contractor for the details.

Get the details in writing
In reading air conditioning and heating industry news and blogs, there is some confusion over which replacement equipment qualifies (or which efficiency standard to rely upon) for the efficiency standards of the act.  This is not unusual for the early stages of a new tax credit and the complexities of the U.S. tax code.  Because of this, we advise you to get the details in writing from your contractor or tax advisor as to whether (or not) any purchase you are considering qualifies for the tax credit.

Our wish is that you enjoy more comfort, lower energy usage, and lower monthly bills.

Buyer’s Guide To Heating and Air Conditioning Says “HVAC Equipment Brands Are Less Important Than Quality of Installation”

We frequently get asked this question:

“Why would a buyer’s guide not list equipment by brands, models and features so we can compare them?”

A blog is a great forum in which to explain this. For easier reading and response, we will answer in a top 5 list:

1. The brand that is on the new equipment matters much less than correct installation.  It is often stated among insiders that a good HVAC technician can make lousy equipment heat or cool OK, while a poorly trained or inexperienced technician might not make the best equipment in the world heat or cool reliably or efficiently.  We’re not saying cut corners on the equipment¬—we are saying focus first on the training and experience of the company and employees who will install your equipment. Then let them explain which types of equipment you should consider. Remember, these are also the folks who will provide maintenance or warranty work on your system.

2. Heating and A/C systems are made up of components that can be mixed and matched, yet contain some common elements, such as air handlers. Rating new equipment either by brand or piece by piece like TV sets is not very useful. Just because two pieces of equipment will physically fit or function together does not make doing so a good idea for optimum results, however.  It is true that a manufacturer’s suggestion of equipment models to be matched is preferred over a “field match”. 

3. Some of the mixing and matching of components can involve existing equipment, such as your ductwork. Unless there is new construction or a total system replacement involved, some existing equipment may be used. Here we get back to quality of installation and the integrity of the installer. If your existing ductwork is used and it has an interior problem (such as mold or contamination) or unsealed leaks, then comparisons of equipment features such as efficiency are much less relevant.  Look out for low bids that cut corners on ductwork, old inadequate wiring or other use of existing equipment.

4. Once must consider features and specifications listed by manufacturers or even independent testing organizations, as they relate to conditions and the envelope of the structure where it will be installed. 

5. There are more brands of equipment than manufacturers of components.  Therefore, some brands share common internal parts.  As an example, look at the common ownership among the brands listed on the lower part of this page . Out of ten major brands, depending on how they are counted, there are about six companies who control them.

As a quick recap, points 2,3, and 4 above reinforce point #1: the integrity of the installation will affect your overall satisfaction and comfort more than the brand of equipment.  A quality HVAC service company will guide you on your equipment options and then install them correctly.  However you go about making your comparisons, start with the quality of the installer first. Then compare features and benefits of the equipment.  You can use our free comparison grid to help.