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New HVAC system buyers guide

New HVAC system buyers guide

Purchasing a new HVAC system can be a daunting task especially if you don’t know anything about furnaces, air conditioners, or your home’s ventilation system. Then there’s going through the process of finding the right contractor to do the job. In this article, we will cover various factors you need to consider before purchasing your new HVAC system.

First, if you’re not sure you need a new HVAC system the following are some indications that you do:

  • Your system is 15 or more years old – While some systems last longer than others based on usage and maintenance, many systems only last for about 15-20 years. Even if your equipment is still running, installing newer more energy-efficient equipment will save you money on your energy costs and is less harmful to the environment.
  • Your equipment needs frequent repairs – If you spend money every year on repairing your HVAC equipment, it’s likely you’re not only forking out money for the repairs but also for higher utility bills because your system is not running at its peak performance.
  • Your system is not properly heating or cooling your home – This could point to a number of issues related to your HVAC equipment including issues with your ductwork. Did you know that over half of all HVAC systems are improperly installed? This leads to reduced efficiency and a shorter lifespan and may be the case if your system is not working correctly.

You can find more information about when it’s time to replace your system on the Energy Star website.

Once you’ve determined you need a new system, you then need to choose an HVAC contractor to buy your new equipment from and have it installed. This part of the process can be overwhelming because you want to make sure you are getting the best value for your money and that the company you are working with is honest and reliable. The following are tips that can help you decide which contractor to hire:

  • Get a professional contractor – Make sure they are licensed, bonded, and insured. Your system’s efficiency is determined by its installation so getting it done right the first time can save you money in the long run even if you go with a higher bid. Recognize that most manufacturer warranties have certain conditions that require a professional inspection and installation signed off by a licensed HVAC contractor.
  • Investigate the contractor – Do your research, get recommendations from friends, family, and even Facebook, check home service referral sites, and the BBB and read online reviews from other customers who have had experience with the contractor. Be wary of a business with lots of unresolved issues and businesses with all five-star reviews. Realistically, most businesses will have a few unhappy customers. Keep in mind that not all reviews are accurate as sites like Yelp have been accused of allegedly editing their reviews and removing negative reviews for membership-paying clients.
  • Get multiple bids – It’s a good idea to get at least three bids and not sign any contract on the spot. Get a detailed quote and don’t just go for the cheapest bid. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The cheapest price doesn’t always mean that you are getting the best value. Make sure that you choose the contractor you feel is the most honest and reliable. You don’t want to get stuck with an improperly installed system that you may have to have re-installed or that may cost you too much in energy because of poor efficiency.

Energy Star provides these tools to help you make your HVAC system buying decision:

ENERGY STAR Bid Installation Checklist

ENERGY STAR Quality Installation Guidelines

Choosing the right equipment is important but can be confusing if you don’t know anything about HVAC equipment. The following are significant aspects to consider when choosing your equipment:

  • Size – The size and design of your HVAC system include the ductwork, piping, materials, joining methods, and equipment. Each system should be unique to your home and installed to provide optimal efficiency. In terms of HVAC equipment, size does matter. Bigger is not better as a system too large will frequently turn on and off causing decreased humidity control and increased energy usage. A unit too small may continually run and not have the ability to cool your home.
  • Ductwork – The size and placement of your ductwork is extremely important and can save you a lot of money if it’s done properly. If you install a new HVAC system with old, leaky, improperly placed ductwork, you may end up with inconsistent airflow, uneven heating and cooling and other comfort issues. When installing a new HVAC unit, it is recommended to replace the existing ductwork to ensure ideal efficiency and maximum energy savings.
  • SEER and AFUE rating – SEER is short for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. An air conditioning unit’s efficiency is measured by its SEER. In 2015, the Department of Energy declared that all air conditioning systems have to have a minimum SEER of 13 for split system air conditioners and 14 for heat pumps and packaged systems. In California, your unit’s SEER must be a minimum of 14 regardless of the system. In order to qualify for California’s BayREN rebates, you must have an air conditioning unit that has a SEER or 15 or greater. AFUE is short for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. Furnaces are rated by the AFUE ratio which is the percent of heat produced for every dollar of fuel consumed. A furnace with an AFUE of 80 will turn 80% of its fuel into reusable heat while the other 20% is lost somewhere throughout the process. Similar to your car’s MPG rating, the higher the AFUE, the lower your fuel costs. In California, the minimum AFUE rating for a gas furnace is 78. According to the EPA, a mid-efficiency unit has an AFUE rating of between 80 and 83 percent, while a high-efficiency unit has a rating between 90 and 97 percent.
  • Warranties – Find out what your equipment’s warranty covers and follow instructions on keeping it valid. You don’t want to accidentally void your equipment’s warranty. Most warranties only cover large system components so it’s a plus if the contractor you hire offers extended parts and labor warranty.
  • Rebates – Some contractors offer rebates. In California, Pacific Gas and Electric customers who own single-family detached homes may be eligible for incentives (BayREN rebates) of up to $3,150 for installing energy-efficient measures in their homes. This is a great opportunity to save money on your new installation and on your future energy costs. Sometimes the manufacturer of the equipment you choose offers a rebate. You can find out more about rebates from a reputable HVAC contractor.

Once you’ve compiled all your information, go with who you feel is going to be the best contractor for your needs. Finding the right one will ensure consistent, dependable comfort for years to come. Right Now Air & Solar makes your buying experience seamless for your comfort and convenience. Check out these additional tips when buying a new HVAC unit:

  • 1. Replacing all your HVAC equipment at the same time is ideal. Your outdoor unit and indoor unit work together to heat and cool your home correctly. A mismatched system may not provide the same energy efficiency or performance as a completely new system.
  • 2. When the weather is cooler during the spring and fall, HVAC contractors are less busy with inventory that needs to go therefore often provide better deals. Also, the mild weather makes an easier for unrushed installation.
  • 3. If you are considering going solar, having solar installed at the same time as your new HVAC system may reduce the number of panels you need because your new HVAC system won’t require as much energy use.
  • 4. Annual maintenance is important if you want to maximize your system’s performance and extend its lifespan. Most manufacturers require annual maintenance done by a licensed HVAC contractor to keep your warranty valid.

Ready for an estimate from Right Now Air & Solar? Schedule an estimate online now or give us a call at (707) 240-8777.