Tag Archives: repair

Can You Trust Online Recommedations Or Compaints About AC Companies?

I recently had a first hand, local experience that reminded me that we cannot trust the integrity of many online recommendations or complaints for AC and heating.  Especially if the comments are anonymous.  The two primary reasons for this are straightforward:

1-Less than ethical A/C and heating service companies (or agencies working for them…) sometimes hire writers to write good stuff about themselves online and, even worse, fabricate rants and complaints about competing HVAC contractors.

Service companies do this for two main reasons: a– to make their website found more easily for searches related to their business.  b– to influence potential customers who are doing online research. Of course, these two are connected.

2-Real customers are more inclined to rant when they are unhappy than they are to write a good online recommendation when the work goes well. This is only natural….since they are paying for the work, it is normal to expect that the repair or replacement of their system will go without many problems.

So, how do you know which local company to call when you need to repair or replace your air conditioner?

Here are a few tips that will help you make your own “composite profile” that is more reliable than online rants and raves.

  1. Don’t wait until your AC system quits to have it serviced.   Research and interview several companies for a short list. Use the criteria below to choose one, and get on their scheduled maintenance plan for the spring and fall. In addition to helping prevent emergency AC or heating repairs and replacements, you will avoid the peak demand times and get preferential service.
  2. Ask your neighbors. If several of them recommend the same company, that’s a good sign
  3. Check Better Business Bureau Online
  4. Ask a few direct questions:
  • Number of years in business under the same name and ownership.
  • Who owns them: equipment manufacturer, franchise, service corporation, independent company, etc.
  • Association memberships, such as ACCA
  • Training and Certifications
  • Experience
  • Do they perform background checks for the technicians who will come to your home or business?

Please write comments about your experiences, so others can learn from them.

Even the Best Air Conditioners Break Sometimes – And When They Do…

Most days of each month, I read an HVAC industry online news group. In those, I read that even the most established brands of AC and heating equipment sometimes have defects, recalls, service bulletins, and so on.  This is in spite of how well they are assembled at the factory or installed at your location.

Here’s our take on the situation:  when your system needs repair, which it likely will at some point, have yourself set to get it going again with minimal inconvenience, discomfort, and cost.  To prepare for the day when your system goes on the blink, below are a few practical questions to consider when you are deciding which local HVAC contractor to install it and brand or model of equipment to buy (in that order of importance).

– How long has the contractor been in business under the same name, location and ownership?

– What training, certification, and experience do their technicians have?

– What is the relationship of the contractor to the brand(s) of AC and heating equipment they sell: Owned by them?  Exclusive dealer?  Independent dealer?

– How many service trucks and technicians do they have?

– Does the local contractor have 24-7 service?

– Do they charge extra for service after hours, weekends or holidays?

– What is the parts and labor warranty from the manufacturer? From the installer?

– If you sign up for a yearly maintenance plan, do you get preferential appointment times, pricing, or both on repair work?

– Do they have a good rating with minimal unresolved issues at the Better Business Bureau – BBB?

– When you search online for their company name, are the online comments generally positive?

On this last point, online testimonials or rants, be aware of what we call the “wild west” effect. By that, we mean that, far too often, we see and hear about companies writing good stuff about themselves or even bad stuff about their competitors.  And some real customers who take the time to write are not always objective.

Not to worry. If you use most of the points above and ask your neighbors who they use, you’ll get a reliable composite of the companies you are considering.

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.

Deciding To Repair Or Replace Your A-C System When Money Is Tight

To stay current on trends, we monitor several air-conditioning and heating industry blogs and HVAC email lists.  In them we are reading that a lot of homeowners are asking their local service company to do just the bare minimum to keep their AC or heating system running.  In recent blogs, we have written on related topics, such as:

a- Initial installation cost may not be highest cost item of owning a heating and air conditioning system over its life. It could be electricity/fuel costs or even a combination of maintenance and repair costs. 
b- Alternative sources of financing, such as a local community-chartered credit union. In those, a person does not have to work at a job related to the credit union. Rather it is based on residency or some easy-to-meet requirement.
c- $1,500 Tax credits, manufacturer or utility rebates or financing for purchasing a new a/c and heating system.

Given the current squeeze on household budgets, the request to avoid a major purchase or to minimize cash outlay is certainly understandable.   Of course, if someone is requesting the minimum repair, chances are they are not calling for service until their system fails to cool or heat properly.  However, If the system is old enough that replacement parts can no longer be sourced, or if a major component such as a heat exchanger or AC compressor has failed, even the minimum repair estimate may large enough to cause a cost/benefits dilemma with your current system.

When facing a major repair or even a modest service work on an older heating and AC system (generally, 10 years is considered old, especially in regards to efficiency), we are listing: 

Seven Useful Questions For Repair Or Replacing Your A-C Heating System

1- How long do you plan to own your home or building?
2- How much have your repair bills averaged costing over the past 1-2 years?
3- Do you believe electricity and fuel costs will tend to go down, stay the same, or go up?
4- What other repairs might you be facing in the near future, other than the issue at hand right now?
5- How much would you save on your monthly utility bills in electricity and gas costs with the new system?
6- How much are the total rebates and tax credits available on a new system?
7- How many months will it take to pay back the cost of the new AC and heating system? After that initial payback period, how much will I get in return each month as a return on my investment?

If there is literally nowhere to turn for the funds to give you a choice, then you may only have to keep your cash outlay as low as possible. However, if you do have choices, making the decision to go with more efficient equipment could pay a monetary return of and on  your investment.  Your local HVAC service company should be able to answer questions 4, 5, 6, and 7.  With these, you should then be able to make a well informed decision.  We welcome your comments and experiences.

 

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.