HVAC Replacement: What to Look for in an HVAC Quote
When it is time to get a new HVAC system, it is best to ask for an estimate or HVAC quote from a contractor to give you an idea of how much it will cost to replace your system. Recently, we’ve seen a few quotes from other contractors that were puzzling to us and our customers. We hope the following tips will help you ask the right questions, so you know what you are buying and can make an informed choice.
Look for equipment model numbers and SEER ratings.
One of our customers showed us a quote she had received from a different air conditioning contractor in Katy, Texas, and it lacked basic details that anyone would want to know. It simply stated they would replace their air conditioner with a SEER 16 model. There was no brand name and no model numbers.
You should always expect to receive the brand name, model numbers, and SEER rating, which is a rating of how efficient the equipment is, on any quote you receive. You can use this information to look up the equipment on the manufacturer’s website to read more about it.
You can determine really quickly if you are getting the manufacturer’s value line, their top-rated equipment, or something right in the middle. As with cars, there’s a wide variability in similarly-rated equipment and you should know what you’re buying. If someone isn’t telling you and it is not specified in the quote, it is likely you are getting the least expensive, lowest-quality system.
Capitalize on efficiencies of matched systems.
Manufacturers of air conditioning and heating equipment design the component parts of their system to work together for the highest efficiency and longevity. This called purchasing a matched system. This is not to say that this is the solution for every situation; however, when possible, we often recommend that someone replace all of the equipment at the same time.
There are differences among similarly-rated equipment that is equivalent to the trim level when buying a car. For one SEER-rated system, I can choose from two different air handlers, two types of gas furnaces, and six different outdoor condensing units for one brand! There are different bells and whistles which include more safety and energy efficiency features that distinguish them from each other.
A good HVAC contractor can help you run the numbers and determine if the benefits of a matched system might outweigh just replacing one part of it. Today’s newest variable-speed systems have a higher upfront cost, but often result in enough energy savings that the new system pays for itself outright over time. You often do not need the top of the line HVAC system to realize this savings, either.
Ask about warranties on equipment and labor
HVAC equipment manufacturers provide factory warranties for their air conditioning and heating systems. Usually, they last five years if the equipment is not registered and 10 years if it is registered. Be sure to ask if the HVAC company will register the warranty automatically or if the homeowner will be charged with that task.
Factory warranties do not cover the cost of labor for an HVAC technician to remove and install a new part or piece of equipment if it fails early. There’s quite a bit of time involved in processing a warranty repair including returning the failed part, retrieving the new part to be installed and the paperwork to be completed. Much of that is invisible to the customer to make the repair more convenient for them.
Some HVAC companies include or offer a labor warranty or extended service plan to cover the cost of labor if a warranty repair is ever needed. Having this optional coverage will in essence make fulfilling a factory warranty repair hassle-free.
Terry’s A/C & Heating provides a labor warranty with all installations for five years in most cases. Most companies give you one year. For customers who want optional coverage up to 10 years, this is available through a third-party insurer for an additional fee.
Is your satisfaction guaranteed?
HVAC manufacturers like Carrier provide satisfaction guarantees on equipment that is installed in your home. Carrier Factory Authorized Dealers offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee that lasts for a full year after a new air conditioning and heating system is installed.
If you aren’t satisfied after a year, your Carrier Factory Authorized Dealer will repair or remove the installed components for you while you receive a full refund on the original purchase price.
It’s helpful to have that assurance after investing in a new HVAC system that should last a decade or more. Factory-authorized dealers for any brand including Carrier means that the dealer often has superior training and technical assistance at their disposal, too.
Ask about rebates and financing
Be sure to ask about specials or rebates that might help offset the cost of a new system. Keep in mind that manufacturer rebates are more abundant in the spring and the fall. Sometimes HVAC companies offer their own specials.
Financing is another way that HVAC companies can make the purchase of a central air and heating system more affordable. If this is of interest to you, ask about it at the time you receive the quote. Know that Factory Authorized Dealers are often able to offer more favorable financing terms.
Learn what value-adds are offered
Your quote should include any value-added services or equipment. This will help you compare apples to apples when you are evaluating bids from multiple companies. It may be hard to tell if an HVAC company is using the highest quality materials or not. Knowing about what value-adds come with installation can give you a few clues.
Terry’s A/C & Heating, for example, includes a lifetime drain pan, an all-access drain accessory to make maintenance easier, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (if a home doesn’t have them), UV-rated insulation for outside copper lines and surge protectors (if needed) with all their HVAC system installations. The reason we make these value-adds standard operating procedure is to help customers avoid costly repairs later on and keep them safe. We find customers are happier when their system lasts and doesn’t breakdown as often.
What accessories will you need?
If you’re installing a new HVAC system and you have concerns about how your current system is performing, now is the time to ask questions so those concerns can be addressed. Sometimes it is a matter of upgrading some of the ductwork, sealing leaks, adding insulation and rebalancing the system.
If air quality is a concern, there are many options that can be added within your duct system, and the best time to add those is when a new system is installed. For example, we can add an in-duct media filter, UV lights, and air purification system to filter and remove pollutants from the air. The difference in the air quality after we installed an air purification system in a home that was flooded after Hurricane Harvey was eye-opening.
Do your research
Bottomline, you don’t need to know all the technical details to arm yourself with enough knowledge to learn the basics of the type of HVAC equipment and the brand you are purchasing.
- Consumer Reports is one source of third-party reviews for central air conditioning and heating equipment.
- The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, an independent trade association, which sets industry standards for HVACR equipment and independently tests equipment is another resource.
- Energy Efficiency Rating and SEER ratings are also helpful to distinguish among different equipment models.
This research will help you ask the right questions when evaluating HVAC bids side by side. Whether you have been one of our customers or go with someone different, the HVAC company you choose should be able to answer your questions, describe differences among the equipment and why they recommend the specific equipment for your situation.
Plan ahead to maintain your new system
We would be remiss if we did not mention asking HVAC companies about their scheduled HVAC maintenance plan. Here’s why:
- Maintaining your system regularly is one of the ways you can maintain your factory warranty.
- Servicing your system twice a year, fall and spring, keeps your HVAC system in the best shape for much longer.
- Taking care of your system regularly ensures it doesn’t breakdown very often.
- An HVAC service plan might also come with equipment or installation savings built-in, so it can be something to ask about if you’re planning to sign on anyway.
Terry’s A/C & Heating offers an HVAC service plan called the Peace of Mind Protection Program to make scheduled maintenance easier to remember. Central air and heating systems are serviced twice a year – in the fall to get ready for winter and spring to get ready for summer.
Need a Second Opinion?
If you need a second opinion to replace your heat pump or central air conditioner and heater, you can count on a detailed quote from Rob and Kenny at Terry’s A/C & Heating. For a quote, it is standard for us to charge for our time, but we can waive that fee if you decide to use our company. A new HVAC system in your home is a big investment in your home’s total comfort, so it pays to understand what you’re really buying and to get all of your questions answered.
We believe that a customer should know what they are buying — whether it’s a reliable value model AC system and heater or the latest variable speed heat pump. Call us at (281) 495-7830 to discuss your air conditioning and heating needs. We’d be honored to earn your business. We serve the Southwest side of Houston and surrounding communities of Katy, Richmond, Fulshear, Sugar Land and points nearby.