Three Common Questions Homeowners ask HVAC Technicians



3_HVAC questions for experts

Spending money on home heating and cooling often feels like buying tires — you know you need them, but you don’t want to buy them and you don’t want to experience a blowout while driving! So it’s kind of a complex situation. But depending on where you live, you’ll likely need a whole house heating and cooling system to regulate your indoor comfort. 

Unlike buying tires, too many homeowners wait until their heating and cooling system fails before thinking about repairing or buying a new system. That’s why an air conditioner, heat pump or a gas furnace should be considered a quality of life investment for your home and family. So naturally, you will have some questions when the heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) expert arrives at your home.

Here are some of the most common questions:

How much is this going to cost me?

 

The thought of unknown and unplanned HVAC replacement costs can be financially daunting. Service rates, replacement parts and entire systems have a wide range of costs, making it difficult to budget for your HVAC technician’s arrival.  On top of that, every home set up and homeowner expectations are different. While costs are specific to your service and customized to your system needs, costs can be broken down into the following three categories:


Maintenance:
Scheduled heating and cooling maintenance is intended to be a service-oriented visit. Many HVAC technicians offer a flat rate for maintenance, but your costs may depend on your home’s number of units, your location, and even the HVAC company.  If you have a heating and cooling maintenance service contract, your maintenance visit may be set at a pre-determined, discounted rate.
  

The cost of maintenance contracts can vary greatly. You can find maintenance plans for as little as $100, but you should compare companies, coverages and included services to determine which plan is right for you.1

While you may want to forgo routine HVAC maintenance, preventive maintenance on your heating and cooling system may prevent minor issues from turning into expensive, major problems over time and could maximize the lifecycle of your heating or cooling unit.2 According to the experts, it’s worth the money.3 

Repair: The cost to repair to your heating or cooling system may consist of a set service call fee, the time associated to make the repair and the specific replacement parts required for your system. If you need a service call outside regular working hours, labor fees may be more expensive than during normal business hours. The cost for HVAC repairs can vary just as much as car repairs — ranging from less than $100 to a few thousand dollars depending on the work required.

The more costly a repair, the more you should consider getting additional quotes. You want the best price to get the job done right, so take the time to hire the right HVAC dealer! Follow up repairs, lackluster energy efficiency, excessive utility bills and compromised indoor comfort may be just a few of the long term consequences associated with hiring the wrong technician.

Replacement: There are multiple considerations that go into the cost of installing a new energy efficient heating or cooling system in your home. The following are just a few of the variables that determine the price of your new heating or cooling system. 

  • Your home: You home’s square footage and construction impact the size and required capacity of your heating and cooling system. Typically, larger capacity or tonnage units are more expensive than smaller capacity or tonnage units.
  • Complexity of installation: The more complex the installation, the more it may cost for labor, installation and additional parts.
  • Location, location, location: 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 new heating and cooling equipment.
  • System features: Some innovative features may cost more upfront, but are designed and engineered to improve the energy efficiency of the air conditioner.
  • Additional parts: For a new unit to be installed in your home according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, the set-up or configuration modifications may require additional parts.

How do I know when it’s time to replace my old system?


Despite efforts to prolong the life of your heating or cooling system, there may come a time when it is better to replace your furnace rather than repair it. Every repair-replace scenario is unique to the unit and the expectations of the homeowner. A professional licensed HVAC technician can provide you with a customized estimate of repair cost, as well as supply equipment-specific reasons to consider a replacement unit. Below are a few factors that may help you to determine if it’s time to replace your old heating or cooling system.

Years in operation: Discuss the typical lifespan of your heating or cooling equipment with your HVAC technician.  Lifespan depends on many variables including usage, maintenance, installation and system set-up. 

Continuous or costly repairs: How expensive does an air conditioner repair need to be before it’s worth it to upgrade to a new system?

Lackluster energy efficiency and increasing utility bills: If your aging unit has a low-efficiency rating, it may be cost-effective to replace it with a more energy-efficient model. The long-term utility bill savings of purchasing a higher efficiency system may outweigh the price of a series of costly repairs.  

Compromised indoor 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.

Length of home ownership: You should evaluate how long you plan to live in your current home. Typically, the longer you plan to live in your house, the longer you have to recover the cost of a new high-efficiency heating or cooling system unit.

How can I save money on my utility bills?


The more electricity or fuel your household uses, the higher your utility bill will be. So, to cut utility bills, you have to reduce the amount of energy that your home uses. One way is with energy-efficiency heating and cooling systems.  Today’s HVAC systems are designed to offer a range of energy-efficient features that may help you save on your utility bill.

Gas Furnace: A gas furnace can offer an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) as high as 98.5%, meaning nearly all the energy purchased is used for heating your home. The minimum efficiency standard for furnaces using natural gas is currently 80%  AFUE.  

Heat pump in heating mode: Some heat pumps offer Heating Season Performance Factor (HSPF) of 9 or higher, which may provide significant energy efficiency and savings on monthly heating bills when compared to a lower HSPF model operating under the same conditions. The minimum efficiency standard for split system heat pumps is currently 8.2 HSPF. 

Air conditioner or heat pump in cooling mode: It’s increasingly common to see residential HVAC cooling equipment being installed with up to 18 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The minimum efficiency standard for split system air conditioners is currently 13 SEER in northern states and 14 SEER in southern states. The minimum efficiency standard for split system heat pumps is 14 SEER.

High-efficient HVAC equipment with innovative 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 heating and cooling efficiency levels include, but are not limited to:

  • Routine air filter replacements
  • Local climate
  • Thermostat or control system settings
  • Ductwork
  • Installation and maintenance schedule
  • Insulation and construction methods
  • Windows and doors
  • Programmable thermostats

If you are curious how your indoor heating and cooling equipment may be affecting your monthly utility bill or want to learn ways to improve efficiency, talk to your local professional licensed HVAC dealer.

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1 Consumer Checkbook. Are HVAC Services Contracts Worth It? November 2016. https://www.checkbook.org/national/air-conditioning-and-heating-contractors/articles/Are-HVAC-Service-Contracts-Worth-It-2909. 22 August 2017.
2 Maintaining your Air Conditioner. n.d. <http://energy.gov/energysaver/maintaining-your-air-conditioner>.
3 Energy Star. Maintenance Checklist. n.d. https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_maintenance. 22 August 2017.