Tag Archives: new

Compare Bids for a New Heating AC System AND Anticipate Contractor Add-On Costs

Comparing Equipment Features
Attempting to compare heating and AC brands, or shopping for features get the most attention from buyers. We wrote about this in last month’s blog and in other place.  We provide a free grid to compare new equipment cost at a glance. From your research or bids, you can fill in the blanks on this printable chart to cut through the “noise” and understand the equipment efficiency and other objective features. However, this equipment must be installed as a system in the structural environment of your home or building, which has variables. So, on to our main topic.

Preparing for What ELSE Might be Necessary to get a New HVAC System Installed
In situations where the new heating and cooling equipment is going into an existing structure (as contrasted with new construction) there are some major potential “gotchas” to prepare for.  I’ve experienced this personally, so hopefully you can benefit from my lessons, some of which were costly. Two good examples of this are electrical wiring and ductwork. They both have the potential to be significant “add ons” to the scope of the work in the project.

Electrical Wiring
If you are having central heating and AC installed into an existing structure for the first time, be sure to get info about wiring conditions.  This would be especially true for a older home or building with original wiring.  Essentially, you want to make sure that the wiring, connections, and circuit breakers, etc. can safely and efficiently handle the new load. If they cannot, you will experience circuit breakers tripping or perhaps much worse.  Because inadequate wiring will increase the cost of a job or might slow down the decision to buy a new system,  some equipment installers might be tempted to not bring it up at all. Or, they might focus the discussion on the new equipment first, get that signed, then bring up the wiring issue and cost.  This is also true for an older structure that already has central heat and air, but needs them replaced.

Ductwork
If your home or building already has ductwork, there are several parallels with electrical wiring to consider:

– The existing ductwork might be usable, OR it may need to replaced due to its structure, design or condition.

– Most potential issues can be seen ahead of time, but some could be discovered during installation of the new system.

– Project add-ons can be  awkward to negotiate or expensive to buy, because work has already begun.

The solution: Focus First on Getting High Quality Advice and Labor on the Installation
We rarely miss an opportunity to highlight the variable that matters most in heating and AC: the quality of the installation.  If you choose a dealer whose sales reps and technicians are trained, experienced and  ethical, dealing effectively with existing wiring or ductwork should be automatic. That way, you can be sure to get the right equipment for your situation and needs AND deal with potential variables in the original project scope.

If you and your contractor handle it well, getting a new system installed will be the start of a long-term relationship that includes preventative maintenance. There are also manufacturer and possibly installer warranties to consider, and those will be the topic of our next blog post.

If you find this useful, please share your thoughts and experiences with other reads. If not, let us know how we can improve.

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).

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.

Helpful Steps for Choosing a New Furnace or to Replace Your Central Heating System

What types of fuels or sources of heat are available to your home or building
Before spending too much time researching heating systems, you must determine which fuels or external heat sources are available to your home or building. This will provide the initial list of choices you have.  For example, if gas is not readily available, gas/electric dual fuel heat pumps are off the list.  Further, if surrounded by solid rock close to the earth’s surface, then you are much less likely to consider geothermal heating.

Your climate: number of days with high temperatures below freezing
If your location has many days of sub-freezing high temperatures, this will likely cause an all electric heat pump to be in auxiliary heat mode more than you would want. If the source of that auxiliary heat is strip heating (electricity) there may be better alternatives.

Type of construction of your home or building: basement, attic space and existing heating infrastructure
If your home or building has existing piping or ductwork already in a floor, basement or attic and it is in good condition, you will need to factor this in your decision.

We recently were told an account of a homeowner in Montana who had piping for radiant heating in their concrete slab.  The piping sprung a leak and, assuming it was all bad, the owner got bids to bypass the old piping and a new system.  A quick excavation revealed a nick in the old piping system that dated back to its installation, not degradation.  So, uncovering the cause saved an unnecessary expense.

If you are considering the re-use of existing ductwork, be sure that your price quotes or bids address the condition of the existing ducts.  Include interior condition as well as sealing against air leaks.

Forced air systems vs. radiant heat: personal comfort and preferences
Do you prefer warm or hot air blowing into your rooms from  a forced air system or gradual warming through radiant heat?  Within the blowing warm air category, if there is an all electric heat pump involved, the air that comes out of the vents into your rooms will not likely be as warm as the air from a gas furnace. If you are cold natured or have respiratory issues or allergies, these factors could also affect your decision.

Length of time you plan to own your home or building, if known
If you know you will be there many years, this could affect the type of system you select. Reason: a future owner might not place the same value on your type of new system as you do.  With fuel costs mostly going up,  a higher efficiency system is still recommended, though.

Training, experience and integrity of installation companies you are considering
As written elsewhere on our website, the quality of the installation of your furnace or heating system will likely prove to be a bigger variable to your indoor comfort and satisfaction than the brand of equipment  you select.  Go here to read a quick list of tips on how to select a heating and furnace contractor.

Four parts to the cost of ownership of the life of a system
Over the life of your new furnace or central heating system, there are four types of costs to consider. You can read our blog post in May 2008 to learn more details about these.

  • Initial cost of installed equipment
  • Energy efficiency: cost of fuel or energy to operate the system over the life of the system
  • Maintenance cost over the life of the system
  • Life span and replacement cost at end of life of system

We hope these tips will help you stay warm and enjoy lower energy usage and bills!  Please post your experiences.