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  • HVAC Installation Experience Matters

    HVAC Installation Experience Matters

    How Important is Installation?

     

    Your TV remote control won’t work if the batteries are not aligned correctly, and your fence may fall over if the posts aren’t deep enough. Proper installation matters!

     

    There are 1000’s of possible examples! If something isn’t installed correctly, it won’t work as it should. This is especially true of heating, ventilation, and air condition (HVAC) equipment. HVAC installation is much more complicated than installing batteries or digging a hole.  So, it’s important to make sure your local HVAC technician is experienced, qualified, and backs their work.

     

    Energy-Efficient HVAC


    If you install a high-efficiency system, the installation can help deliver the efficiency rating you expect. A National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study says that if your high-efficiency equipment is installed improperly, it may not be running as efficient as you think!1  “Without proper installation, air conditioning and heating equipment will perform significantly below rated energy-efficiency levels,” says Piotr Domanski, who leads NIST research on the performance of HVAC and refrigeration equipment.  “Our measurements indicate that improper installation could increase household energy use for space heating and cooling on the order of 30 percent over what it should be."2  Homeowners must be sure they hire trained, qualified, and installation-experienced HVAC technicians.  But this isn’t always as easy as it sounds!

    Dealers, Technicians and Contractors, Oh My!


    For most homeowners, HVAC installation is not a “DIY” project. Creating comfortable indoor temperatures is a balancing act between equipment, air flow, and mechanics. Therefore, finding a qualified HVAC installer is crucial to a quality installation. But with so many companies, technicians, and contractors to choose from, finding the right person for the job can be difficult. How can you check high-efficiency equipment expertise of an HVAC technician?

    Spending time choosing the right dealer can pay off in the end. Homeowners should consider researching their dealer’s:

    • Qualifications
    • Technical certifications and training
    • Industry associations
    • Availability - What days/times are they available?
    • Labor limited warranty options

    You may find the most qualified technician in your area, but what happens if they don’t work weekends.  This can cause problems if a repair or maintenance is needed after installation!  If you can’t get in touch with your technician, you may be forced to wait for repairs. Hiring the wrong technician for installation can cost you time or more fees.

    Although residential HVAC licensing requirements vary by state, licensing can provide proof of professional training.  However, a license may not reflect actual installation expertise. If you have been or know a new teenage driver, you may understand the value of experience!

    You may want to consider getting HVAC technician recommendations from family, friends, and neighbors.  Be sure these recommendations are for the same type of HVAC work that you need to be completed.  “How to Select a Heating and Cooling Contractor” highlights some suggested evaluation tactics.

    There is a better chance that a dealer understands the high-efficiency installation process, manufacturer’s products, proven best-practices and possible site-specific challenges if they have both training and real-world experience.

    HVAC Certifications


    Bad reviews, excessive return trips, and unhappy customers are not good HVAC business practices! Dealers’ technicians must continually learn about the latest technology and high-efficiency products. Technicians can earn independent and manufacturer-based certifications as a way to increase their HVAC knowledge and confirm their understanding.  Homeowners may have a greater peace of mind during installation if their technician has been approved or recognized in the process.
    Some HVAC industry certifications include:

    • NATE: The North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is the nation’s largest non-profit certification organization for HVAC technicians. The organization develops and tests real world industry knowledge. Candidates can earn installation and service certifications in multiple specialty areas.3
    • HVAC Excellence Certification:  The mission of the HVAC Excellence certification program is to improve skills by testing the technical education process. The Esco Group provides many types of certifications for technicians at all levels in their career, from Employment Ready Certifications to Professional Technician and Master Specialist Certifications.
    • EPA Certification:  All technicians who maintain, service, repair or dispose of appliances that contain regulated refrigerants, including air condition coolants such as R-22 or R-410A, must be certified in proper refrigerant handling techniques. HVAC technicians cannot buy refrigerants without the appropriate EPA Certification.

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    1, 2 Domanski, P. A., Henderson, H. I., & Payne, W. V. (October 2014). Sensitivity Analysis of Installation Faults on Heat Pump Performance. Retrieved from http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/TechnicalNotes/NIST.TN.1848.pdf
    3 NATE. (n.d.). Retrieved from North American Technician Excellence: http://www.natex.org/site/1/Home
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  • Which AC Features Can Save You Money?

    Money-saving Air Conditioner features

    Unless you live off-the-grid and have cut the utility cord, you probably have a monthly electric bill. The bad news is that the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that residential electricity costs will continue to rise into 2018.1 This is not the best news for homeowners who have enjoyed lower electricity prices for the past few years - especially for those with older central air conditioning systems!

    In July 2007, the average U.S. residential electricity price was 11.07 cents per kilowatt hour*. The EIA forecasts the July 2018 price to be near 13.33 cents per kilowatt hour* – that’s over a 20% increase in 10 years.1

    But there is good news too! If you are in the market for a new air conditioner, there are energy-efficient units with advanced features that can help reduce electricity bills and improve indoor comfort.

    The SEER Factor


    Before we get into the specifics of SEER, we need to understand what it means! SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It measures the annual energy consumption and efficiency of the unit’s cooling ability in typical day-to-day use.  

    The higher the SEER rating, the less energy an air conditioning unit will use to operate.

    Air conditioning systems in the U.S. installed before 2006 could have SEER ratings of 10 or less. Currently, the minimum U.S. SEER rating for central air conditioners and heat pumps is 14 in the South and Southwest regions and 13 in the North.

    There is good news for homeowners looking to replace their current AC! Higher SEER air conditioners may include features that provide premium cooling performance and money-saving efficiency.

    Let’s Shift Gears


    Imagine driving your car in the same gear, year after year, regardless of the driving conditions. There is a good chance that it won’t get the efficiency or longevity that you would like. The same concept can be applied to your central air conditioning system.

    The good news is that certain high-efficiency air conditioners use two-stage technology that offers part-load efficiency. This means that your central air conditioning doesn’t have to run at 100% in every circumstance, but can adjust to load requirements in an energy-efficient manner.

    If you lower your thermostat or control system more than a few degrees, your AC compressor and circulating fan will operate at 100% cooling capacity to reach the desired temperature. If your air conditioner only needs to maintain the set temperature, it may not need to run at 100%! This is where two-stage technology comes in! A low-stage demand from the thermostat can result in up to 35% speed reductions at both the compressor and indoor unit circulating fan. Two-stage cooling generally results in extended operation at a low speed, providing improved indoor comfort, and using less electricity than single-stage systems.

    Variable-speed cooling is driven by a variable-speed compressor that can adjust output to match the load requirement. This type of compressor provides premium cooling performance which can result in lower energy bills when compared to a single-stage compressor. Because the unit doesn’t have to start and stop as frequently, it uses less energy than a standard AC would use.

    Let’s Review


    Even if electricity is getting more expensive, it is possible to save energy while cooling your indoor spaces. But a high-efficient air conditioner with advanced technology is only one piece of the puzzle. If other key energy-efficient solutions are ignored, your energy bills may still be higher than you would like. Additional factors that can influence cooling efficiency levels include, but are not limited to:

    • Local climate
    • Thermostat or control system settings
    • Ductwork
    • AC installation and maintenance
    • Insulation and construction methods
    • Windows and doors

    If you want to trim costs associated with indoor cooling, talk to your local, professional licensed HVAC dealer. Or, you can always cut the cord and move off-the-grid!

    cta-outline_stay-cool


    1 Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved from US Energy Information Administration: http://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/report/electricity.cfm
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  • The Pricing Puzzle: The Cost of a New Air Conditioner

    Cost of a new air conditioner

    When it comes to cars, trucks, and SUVs, each varies in size, efficiency, comfort and price. On top of that, each car dealer may have their own pricing model that impacts your final cost of your new vehicle. The same can be said of air conditioners —except they aren’t operational without installation!  Air conditioners should be professionally installed to perform the way they were designed!


    There are multiple considerations that go into an HVAC dealer’s estimate or final bill for installing a new energy-efficient air conditioner in your home. Below are a few of the considerations that may contribute to the cost of a new air conditioner for in your home.


    The Air Conditioner and Features

     

    Like automobiles, air conditioners range from basic to high-end models. The minimum efficiency model may initially cost less than an energy-efficient air conditioner with added features. However, some of these additional features are designed and engineered to improve the energy efficiency of the air conditioner, which could save you in energy costs over the life of the unit.

    Features that may contribute to the cost of the cooling equipment may include:


    • Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)
    • Communications compatibility
    • Sound inhibitor options
    • Condenser speed
    • Compressor type
    • Motor capability
    • Other manufacturer specifics


    Square Footage and Design

     

    Would you buy a small car to tow a large boat? Probably not! It’s important to make sure your purchase has the ability to perform its required task! An air conditioner must be sized correctly in order to do its job — effectively cool your indoor spaces!


    You home’s square footage, construction and age impact the necessary size and required capacity of your cooling system. For instance, how well your home is insulated often affects the way your air conditioner operates. Higher R-value insulation ratings can help keep your home cooler and work in conjunction with your home’s air conditioner to help lower your utility bills. Higher insulation values may result from weatherized doors, walls, roofs and/or windows.


    Typically, as a specific AC model’s size and cooling capacity increases, so can the price. Your local HVAC dealer can help determine the size of the air conditioner that best fits your home design, budget, and indoor cooling expectations.


    What’s Your Address?

     

    Every location has cost-of-living variables, supply/demand characteristics, and site-specific regulations. Your home’s location may impact the cost of housing-related products, including your new air conditioner.


    Many states and local municipalities have specific requirements that specify the cooling equipment permitted in your city and the method of its installation. These local codes can impact your cost by influencing the efficiency rating, sound levels or underlying technology of your new air conditioning system. Your local, licensed professional HVAC dealer should be knowledgeable of your site-specific requirements and meet the required codes of AC installation.


    Installation and Labor

     

    Once the specific size and model are determined, the air conditioner installation and labor costs are calculated. For every home installation, a license or professional HVAC dealer has to determine:


    • Additional parts required
    • Time length of job
    • Number of professionals required

     

    Each cooling system installation is unique. Your installer must create a balance between the new AC mechanics and the pre-existing equipment, duct work and necessary air flow. The more complex the installation, the more it may cost for labor, installation and additional parts.


    • If ducts are used to distribute the cool air in your home, the quality of these ducts plays an integral role in the effectiveness and efficiency of your new cooling system. If your licensed professional HVAC dealer finds that your existing ductwork is inadequate, they may need to modernize it.
    • Cost may also be influenced your cooling system’s location.  For example, tight spaces both indoors and outdoors can make it more difficult to remove the current unit and install the new air conditioner.
    • Licensed professional HVAC dealers have various levels of experience, qualifications, and labor limited warranties that back their work. These variables may elevate the quality of your installation. 

     

    Installation is crucial to the effective operation and longevity of your new air conditioner. Proper installation may eliminate the need for unplanned visits, added costs and inconveniences, as well as ensure your system is running at peak performance. The lowest or even the highest bid may not be the best installer for your project. To ensure you hire a qualified professional that best fits the job, read “How to Select a Heating & Cooling Contractor?


    Goodman Air Conditioners
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  • What is a Two-Stage Air Conditioner or Heat Pump?

    Two Stage Cooling Energy Efficient Feature


    If you are researching a new air conditioner or heat pump, you may notice a few features that didn’t exist a few years ago. One of those is two-stage cooling, and its demand by homeowners is rising!

    Two-stage cooling refers to the type of compressor that’s in the outside condensing unit. This feature allows for two levels of operation depending on your cooling needs — full capacity on hot summer days or part capacity for milder days. It is a great energy-efficient option when compared to a traditional, single-stage unit.

    It’s All About Demand!
                      

    When you “start” a bicycle with your feet on the pedals, you have to put in a lot of initial effort to get up to speed.  You may even have to stand up to get the pedals going! The same idea can be applied to an air conditioner or heat pump turning ON at 100% capacity. A single-stage unit cools at 100% capacity until it reaches your preset indoor temperature and then turns off.


    Think again about riding your bike. It takes less energy to maintain a comfortable biking speed than it does to get up to speed. The same concept applies to two-stage cooling. A two-stage heat pump or air conditioner may use 100% full capacity to reach your desired interior temperature, but then it may use part-capacity to maintain your setting as long as possible.


    Depending on the outdoor temperature and the energy-efficiency and insulating variables of your home, your two-stage air conditioner or heat pump may have to remain at 100% to maintain that preset indoor temperature. This is similar to riding your bicycle uphill — you can’t back off your pedaling efforts or you may get pulled down the hill. Just like the heat, the opposing force is too great so you have to keep up your power in order to reach your goal!


    For example, if the outdoor temperature is 95°F and the thermostat or control system is set at 75°F, your system might stay at 100% capacity to reach and sustain 75°F. But if the outdoor temperature is only moderately warm, a two-stage system may be able to operate with less capacity to maintain the preset indoor temperature. Depending on your home’s energy-efficiency variables, the limited cooling demand may result in nearly a 35% speed reduction at both the compressor and indoor unit circulating fan compared to a single-stage heat pump or air conditioner.



    Benefits of Two-Stage Cooling

     

    The two-stage unit may seem to run longer than a traditional single-stage unit, but this part-capacity operation offers energy-saving benefits that you will feel throughout your home:

    • Consistent Indoor Comfort – With its ability to adjust cooling output, your two-stage air conditioner or heat pump may minimize the peaks and valleys of cooling often found with the ON/OFF cycle of a single-stage unit. The lower stage capacity is able to maintain the pre-set temperature longer than if the system turns off when it reaches the pre-set temperature. This allows for steady cooling comfort in your home.
    • Dehumidification - The extended operation of a two-stage air conditioner or heat pump runs longer which removes more moisture from the interior spaces structure.  While the main job of the air conditioner or heat pump is to condition the air to a set temperature, these comfort-creating pieces of equipment may lower the indoor humidity level as a by-product of the cooling process.  Better humidity control leaves you with more comfortable interior air. When humidity levels are better controlled, you may be able to increase the set temperature on your thermostat or control system and still be comfortable in your home.
    • Energy-Efficient – You may think that because a two-stage cooling unit operates longer than a single-stage unit that it would use more electricity, but electricity usage peaks when a system turns ON. The two-stage feature actually reduces the peak start/stop load cycle which reduces the draw on your electricity. The capacity of the air conditioner or heat pump compressor changes to meet the cooling demand and therefore reduces energy consumption.

     

    While full cooling capacity provides indoor comfort on the hottest days of the year, the extended operation at the part capacity helps maintain the indoor temperature for a longer period of time and dehumidifies the conditioned air in the process. With two-stage cooling, your air conditioner or heat pump may help you enjoy steady and consistent cooling when compared to the single-speed unit.


    Stay cool with Goodman Products
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  • Eliminate Indoor Hypothermia – Furnace Repair or Furnace Replace?

    coldest-place

    If you are reading this, you may be wearing a coat, scarf, hat and mittens inside of your home.  To ward off hypothermia, you probably placed an emergency call to your HVAC contractor! Whether your furnace is on the fritz or you are just looking for one that is more energy-efficient  to heat your home, there may come a time when you have a discussion with your independent HVAC contractor on whether to repair or replace your gas furnace.

    The decision may not be an easy one! Unless your furnace is a hazard or damaged beyond repair, there are no hard rules in determining whether to repair or replace your furnace. However, below are a few concepts that may help:

    This Old Furnace


    According to Energystar.gov1 , your older heating system may be less efficient and have an AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating of 56%-70%. New energy-efficient furnaces are now required to have a minimum of 80% AFUE, meaning more energy is converted into usable heat – potentially saving you money on energy bills.

    As a furnace ages, it may likely need repairs or more than average maintenance service. The estimated cost to keep the furnace running, as provided by your local HVAC dealer, will give you more concrete reasons to replace or repair.  However, age isn’t everything.

    Repair Cost vs. Replacement Cost


    Homeowners should decide their repair cost cutoff point. How expensive does a furnace repair need to be before it’s not worth it? Consumer Reports suggests that if the cost to repair your current furnace is 50% of the cost of a new furnace, you should replace it.2

    For example, if your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that is not covered by a limited warranty, the equipment replacement in addition to labor costs may exceed up to the 50% threshold.  At that point, it may be time to replace. Additionally, the long term energy bill savings of purchasing a high-efficient furnace may outweigh the price of a series of costly repairs.  On the contrary, if the problem is an easy, relatively inexpensive fix that restores peak efficiency, a repair may be the best approach.

    To get a more specific, cost vs. benefit assessment, a homeowner should discuss repair vs replace costs with their local HVAC dealer.

    Save Green


    Today’s systems can have an AFUE as high as 98.5%, meaning nearly all the energy purchased is used toward heating your home. An 80% AFUE gas furnace means that 80 cents of every energy dollar warms your home.1

    Energy efficiency standards vary by region. To determine your minimum standard, check with your local HVAC dealer.

    New Technology Offers a Consistent Temperature


    For some homeowners, their old gas furnace operates in either 100% ON or OFF. Historically, when the indoor temperature falls, the furnace kicks on at full capacity until the desired temperature is reached. This on/off cycle means that the indoor temperatures might continuously fluctuate.

    Advanced technology enables your gas furnace to reduce temperature swings while quietly running more efficiently. For example, a furnace with a variable speed indoor blower motor can operate at different capacities to more accurately control the flow of heated air to your home. This energy-saving feature can save you money on utility bills compared to single stage furnaces because the system doesn’t have to run at full capacity to reach the set temperature.

    Length of home ownership


    Typically, the longer you plan to live in your house, the longer you have to recover the cost of a new gas furnace. When determining to repair or replace your current unit, homeowners should evaluate their anticipated length of home ownership by asking themselves the following questions:
    • Are you living in your “forever home”?
    • How long do you expect your current home to fit your lifestyle? (getting married, having children, etc.)
    • Would a job change force you to relocate?
    • In how many years to you plan to sell your home?

    While there are a lot of variables to examine when determining whether to repair or replace your furnace, the best source of information can come from your licensed professional HVAC contractor.  Because these local professionals understand the details associated with your particular system, they are the most qualified to provide repair or replace guidance.

    cta-outline_stay-warm

    1 Furnaces. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy Star: https://www.energystar.gov/products/heating_cooling/furnaces
    2 Should you repair or replace that product? (2014, January). Retrieved from Consumer Reports: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2014/02/repair-or-replace/index.htm?loginMethod=auto
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  • What Is SEER and Why Does It Matter?

    What is SEER

    If you’re in the market for a new air conditioner or heat pump, you have probably noticed that each unit comes with a SEER rating related to the unit’s energy efficiency and performance for cooling.  But what exactly is SEER, and why should it matter to you?

    Higher SEER Equals Higher Efficiency


    SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and it measures the annual energy consumption and efficiency of the unit’s cooling ability in typical day-to-day use.  The higher the SEER rating, the less energy the unit will use.  Many older residential air conditioning systems in the U.S. may have SEER ratings of 10 or less. The good news for homeowners in the market for a new air conditioner or heat pump is that current high-efficiency residential equipment can boast SEER ratings of 25 or higher. Higher SEER units typically cost less to run, which can save homeowners money on energy costs.

    Before the SEER rating was adopted, cooling equipment was rated based on how much energy was used while running at full capacity in a controlled environment.  The method was similar to calculating the average fuel efficiency of a vehicle while driving it 100 mph on rollers in a climate-controlled lab. The test results would not be an accurate measurement of the vehicle’s typical efficiency.

    As a result, the SEER rating was developed in order to provide consumers with a more accurate representation of the typical energy use of an air conditioning unit or heat pump in cooling mode. The SEER rating takes into account a number of important factors:
    • Climate zones
    • Part-load efficiency
    • Energy consumption in standby mode
    • Varying load requirements

    Minimum Efficiency


    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sets energy efficiency standards for air conditioners, heat pumps, and other HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) equipment. In 2006, the DOE raised the minimum SEER requirement from 10 SEER to 13 SEER nationwide in an effort to promote energy savings that benefit the consumer.  In 2015, the DOE again raised the minimum SEER requirement for central air conditioners and heat pumps installed in certain regions of the U.S.1 Currently, the minimum SEER rating for central air conditioners and heat pumps is 14 in the South and Southwest regions of the U.S. and 13 in the North.  

    What’s Right for You?


    Your air conditioning system may get a lot of use in warmer months. While in some areas of the country, these systems are running almost year round. For homeowners in these locations, you may want to consider an air conditioning or heat pump with an Energy Star rating to possibly save even more in energy costs. However, if you live in a more temperate area where you go much of the year without cooling; a minimum SEER rating may make the most financial sense.

    To reduce your energy costs and learn more about Goodman’s high SEER products, speak with an independent Goodman dealer in your area.


    cta-outline_find-dealer

     

    By Jen (Anesi) Roby, former Legislative Editor at ACHR NEWS magazine and current Chief Editor for
    Plumbing & Mechanical. The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration (ACHR) NEWS is the HVACR contractor’s weekly newsmagazine and is the industry’s most trusted and utilized direct communications link to the HVACR buyer. www.achrnews.com/publications

    1 Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps. (n.d.). Retrieved from Appliance Standards Awareness Project: http://www.appliance-standards.org/product/central-air-conditioners-and-heat-pumps

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  • Is a High-Efficiency Furnace Right for Me?

    Is a high efficiency gas furnace right for me

    In North America, many homes are heated using forced-air systems. Your gas furnace, which is often located in the basement, attic, crawl space or utility closet, may use natural gas or propane as the energy source to create heat within the furnace’s heat exchanger.  Air is moved across the heat exchanger, which is then distributed through the ductwork to heat the home.


    What Factors Affect Efficiency?


    Each gas furnace model has an energy efficiency rating in the form of a percent. This number is its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE), or the ratio of annual heat output of the furnace compared to the amount of annual fuel energy it consumes. For example, if a furnace has an AFUE of 80%, it means 80% of the energy in the fossil fuel is being converted to heat while 20% escapes and is wasted.1


    How AFUE Can Save Me Money?


    Many older furnaces may have efficiencies of only 56 to 70% AFUE, which can cost the homeowner more to heat their home compared to a higher AFUE model. Switching to a newer, more energy-efficient gas furnace that can reach upwards of 98% AFUE means nearly all of the energy from the fuel is effectively used to heat the home.1 As a result, the homeowner’s monthly heating bills can be reduced.

     

    Condensing Vs. Non-Condensing


    The gas furnaces available in North America can be put into two categories: condensing and non-condensing.


    • Non-Condensing Furnace: A mid-efficiency furnace (80% and 90% AFUE) vents exhaust gases out of the home, typically through the roof.
    • Condensing Furnace:A high-efficiency furnace (90% AFUE or higher) utilizes a second heat exchanger to heat the air from condensed exhaust gases in order to reach higher efficiencies. A high-efficiency condensing furnace requires specialized venting.

    Choosing a Furnace


    The initial cost of a high-efficiency condensing furnace can be more expensive than a less efficient model. According to The Department of Energy, homeowners will likely save more money on fuel bills over the life of a high AFUE product when compared to a lower AFUE or less efficient gas furnace. 1 However, when determining if a higher-efficiency furnace is cost-effective for your budget, homeowners should evaluate their anticipated length of home ownership to determine how long it would take to recuperate initial costs of a higher AFUE model.


    • Are you currently in your “forever home”?
    • How long to your expect your current home to fit your lifestyle?
    • Do you plan to sell your home in the near future?
    • Would a job change force you to relocate?

     

    Additionally, many states and utilities offer tax credits and other incentives to homeowners who install high-efficiency furnaces. An experienced local dealer can assist you in determining whether a higher efficiency gas furnace or a mid-efficiency model is right for your needs.



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    By Jen (Anesi) Roby, the former Legislative Editor at ACHR NEWS magazine and current Chief Editor for Plumbing & Mechanical. The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration (ACHR) NEWS is the HVACR contractor’s weekly news magazine and is the industry’s most trusted and utilized direct communications link to the HVACR buyer. www.achrnews.com



    1 Furnace and Boilers. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy.gov: http://energy.gov/energysaver/furnaces-and-boilers

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  • How to Select a Heating and Cooling Contractor?

    Homeowner HVAC reviews

    Whether your home’s heating and cooling system is in need of routine maintenance, emergency repairs or a total replacement, selecting a qualified HVAC contractor is an important, yet often daunting task. To ensure you hire a qualified professional that best fits the job, there are several important steps to take.


    Do Research

     

    A little internet research can go a long way in weeding out subpar HVAC service companies. 


    • Heating and cooling manufacturers’ websites often provide an independent dealer locator with contact information and key details for contractors near your location.
    • Websites like Nextdoor and Yelp may make it easier to locate local contractors, identify recommended companies, and read customer reviews.
    • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), an organization that represents HVAC contractors, offers a searchable database of its contractor members.
    • Better Business Bureau provides accreditation and gives businesses a letter grade, from A+ to F, based on information it is able to obtain, including complaints received from the public.

    Referrals

     

    Ask neighbors, friends, and family for referrals. Referrals can give a homeowner insight as to the type of experience they can expect from a particular contractor. Similarly, you can ask contractors for customer references and contact them to gather more information. According to energystar.gov, homeowners should “ask [the references] about the contractor's installation or service performance and if the job was completed on time and within budget.”


    Read Reviews

    A quick glance at the number of review stars can often be misleading. Be sure to read the written comments and look for licensed contractors with a good reputation for value, quality and customer service.

    • Did the contractor address the problem?
    • Did the contractor provide clear details of the problem to the homeowner?
    • Did the contractor resolve disputes in a timely, thoughtful, and respectful manner?

     

    Reading reviews may provide a homeowner with insight as to a contractor’s commitment to customers’ satisfaction. Providing prompt solutions and addressing any errors is the mark of a good service company.


    What to Look For in a HVAC Contractor?


    Your state may require that HVAC contractors be licensed, bonded and insured. This information can often be found online. Once you have scheduled a service appointment, there are a few things to pay attention to:


    Communication:
      Does the technician or dispatcher stay in touch with you by phone, text, or email leading up to the service appointment? Do they communicate any schedule changes in a timely manner?


    Punctuality:
      Does the technician arrive within the specified time window?


    Appearance:
    Does the technician appear “work ready” or are they wearing a dealer
    uniform?


    Certification:
    Many technicians are certified through organizations such as NATE (North American Technician Excellence), and these patches are often displayed on their uniforms. Does your technician have any certification patches displayed on their uniform?


    Patience:
    Does the technician listen to your concerns, take time to explain their findings and answer any questions you may have?


    Thoroughness:
    Depending on the nature of the appointment (emergency vs annual inspection), a technician may perform a complete system evaluation and/or an inspection. This process can take time and should not just be a quick once-over. Upon completion, the technician should go over any concerning results.


    Documentation:
    The technician should provide written documentation of all the work done and/or provides quotes in writing.


    A good technician will be pleasant, professional, knowledgeable, courteous, patient and willing to answer your questions. Remember, they are a service company — their job is to serve you to the best of their ability. If you are not happy with something, do not be afraid to ask them to fix it.


    Value and Service Expectations


    It is important to seek the best value for your particular home’s need. If you are looking to purchase and install a new heating or cooling system (or both) from a contractor, be sure you are working with a professional licensed HVAC contractor who is willing to provide a limited warranty for their work and products installed. Doing the job properly the first time may help eliminate the need for repeat visits, as well as ensure your system is running at peak performance.


    Many HVAC service companies offer maintenance agreements, which provide for scheduled maintenance of the HVAC system and equipment. This can be a worthwhile investment. Maintaining the efficiency of your equipment and components can help ensure peak performance and may extend the life of the system.


    Manufacturer Dealer Locator


    Most HVAC manufacturers provide tools to assist homeowners in finding an independent dealer. Goodman’s dealer locator lists independent HVAC contractors who offer professional and licensed HVAC services by location, services provided and certification. These contractors typically offer a value-focused, flexible and informative approach to heating or cooling maintenance, service or purchases.


    cta-outline_find-dealer
     

    By Jen (Anesi) Roby, former Legislative Editor at ACHR NEWS magazine and current Chief Editor for Plumbing & Mechanical. The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration (ACHR) NEWS is the HVACR contractor’s weekly newsmagazine and is the industry’s most trusted and utilized direct communications link to the HVACR buyer. www.achrnews.com/publications

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  • Should I Repair or Replace My Air Conditioner?

    repair or replace your AC?

    Unless you are exercising – you do not expect to sweat inside your home. So when your air conditioning system breaks down, you want it fixed yesterday!  It’s time to call your AC contractor to get it fixed.


    But a time may come when you need to decide whether to repair or replace your air conditioner, and the decision may not be an easy one. Unless your air conditioner is damaged beyond repair, there are no hard rules in determining whether to replace or repair your system. However, below are a few concepts that may help guide your decision:


    This Old AC


    Even with proper maintenance and the dedicated efforts of a highly-skilled HVAC contractor, an aging air conditioner may start to show its age. If your unit is nearing its life expectancy, you may consider a replacement as an alternative to costly repairs.


    According to the Department of Energy, many older residential air conditioning systems in the U.S. have SEER ratings of 10 or less.1 Currently, the required minimum SEER rating of a residential air conditioning system differs by region, but ranges from 13 SEER to 14 SEER.


    SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and measures the annual energy consumption and efficiency of the unit in typical day-to-day use.


    Under similar working conditions, standards dictate that higher SEER air conditioning units are more energy-efficient than lower SEER units. “Switching to high-efficiency air conditioners and taking other actions to keep your home cool could reduce energy use for air conditioning up to 50%.”2 Based on this logic, if your aging unit is a low SEER model that requires significant repairs, it may be beneficial for a homeowner to replace it with a more energy-efficient one.


    However, age isn’t everything when considering repairing or replacing your air condition unit.



    Repair Cost vs. Replacement Cost


    Air conditioning repairs come in all shapes, sizes and costs! Every repair-replace scenario is unique to the unit and the expectations of the homeowner. A professional licensed HVAC technician can provide you with an estimate of repair cost, as well as supply equipment-specific reasons to consider a replacement unit.


    If a repair is necessary, homeowners should decide their repair cost cutoff point. How expensive does an air conditioner repair need to be before it’s worth it to upgrade to a new system? The long-term utility bill savings of purchasing a higher efficiency air condition system may outweigh the price of a series of costly repairs.  However, if your HVAC contractor provides repair estimates that come close to your predetermined budget threshold, it may be best to start researching new air conditioner models.


    On the contrary, if the air conditioner problem is an easy, relatively inexpensive fix that restores peak efficiency, a repair may be the best approach.


    Comfort and New Technology


    When deciding between an air conditioning repair or replacement, homeowners should consider if their cooling needs are being addressed by their current unit. You may ask yourself:


    1. Is my air conditioner unit loud?
    2. Do I notice inconsistent temperatures and fluctuations in my home?
    3. Is the AC cooling my house as I expect it should?
    4. Why are my energy bills higher than my neighbor’s house with similar square footage?

     

    But before you replace your current system because of cooling issues, have your HVAC contractor check for large air leaks, insufficient ducting and/or breaks in the duct seals.  There are times when the real source of a cooling problem is not a dying HVAC unit, but ineffective components of the system.3


    Technology is changing the way we live and AC manufacturers are taking note by applying advanced mechanics to their products to increase comfort. Advanced features, such as improved motor and compressor technologies, as well as smart home automation and communication may provide homeowners with more precise temperature control, noise reduction and energy efficiency when compared to their current model.

     

    However, if you want your air conditioner to simply work the way it’s intended to, air conditioner repairs and annual maintenance may help you get the most miles out of your current unit.


    Save Green


    Despite SEER rating, if your air condition system is not running at peak performance, you may be spending more money on utility bills than necessary. According to the University of Kentucky Biosystems Engineering’s Builders Guide, a poorly functioning high-efficiency system may cost more to operate than a well-designed, moderate efficiency unit.  Keeping your system at peak performance and running as intended can be financially beneficial!


    However, if your HVAC technician reveals that an aging, lower SEER air condition unit may be the primary culprit of your high utility bills, you should research the cost/benefits of a installing a higher SEER replacement unit.


    SEER ratings associated cost savings can be compared to the set MPG (miles per gallon) in your car. Under the same driving conditions, your gasoline costs to drive 30 miles in a 15 MPG car will be higher than one with a 30 MPG rating. The same goes for SEER ratings. Under the same cooling conditions, a 10 SEER unit will be more expensive to do the same workload as a 14 SEER unit.


    Length of Home Ownership


    Typically, the longer you plan to live in your house, the longer you have to recover the cost of a new high-efficiency air conditioning unit. When determining to repair or replace your current AC, homeowners should evaluate their anticipated length of home ownership by asking themselves the following questions:

    • Are you living in your “forever home”?
    • How long do you expect your current home to fit your lifestyle? (Getting married, having children, etc.)
    • Would a job change force you to relocate?
    • In how many years to you plan to sell your home?
    • Will a new energy-efficient air condition help sell your home if necessary?

     

    While there are a lot of variables to examine when determining whether to repair or replace your air conditioner, the best source of information can come from your licensed professional HVAC contractor.  Because these local professionals understand the details associated with your particular system, they are the most qualified to provide repair or replace guidance. 


    cta-outline_stay-cool

    1 Central Air Conditioning. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy.gov: https://energy.gov/energysaver/central-air-conditioning

    2 Air Conditioning. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy.gov: http://www.energy.gov/energysaver/air-conditioning

    3 Heat & Cool Efficiency. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy Star: https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_hvac

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