Getting an Estimate on Replacing your Air Conditioning and Heating System

1) Compare Apples to Apples – If you get several bids, quotes or proposals from different contractors make sure they are based on the same specifications and the same equipment. Be exact on your specifications to make sure you are comparing identical systems. Make sure that you have considered everything including warrantees and other appropriate considerations listed here before making a decision. Remember also that unlike a new car an air conditioning system has to be built by the Contractor and even the best equipment is no good if improperly installed.

2) Require Proper Permits – Make sure your heating or air conditioning contractor gets all the required permits for your area. Permits were designed to protect the consumer from fraudulent contractors or workers that do inferior or dangerous work. If you live in a city where a permit is legally required and the contractor does not get one you may be required to redo the job, at your own expense, even if done correctly and may have trouble insuring, refinancing or selling your home.

3) Get Specifics on Warrantees – Find out what kind of warranties are included in the bid. Get both the Manufacturer’s and the Contractor’s warranties on the equipment and installation in writing. The Manufacturer’s warranty should state how long your unit is covered and which of the specific components are included in the warrantee. Most dealer warranties only cover the cost of the parts. Ask what kind of warranty the Contractor offers on labor. Most HVAC systems come with 10 yr. Parts and 1 yr. Labor Warranties. Additional labor warranties up to 10 years can be purchased.

4) Don’t Accept Phone Estimates – Beware of Companies that offer to give you an estimate over the phone without ever looking at the jobsite. You want an air conditioning or heating technician not a psychic. Beware of Companies that quote a price over the phone and then charge you more once the job begins.

5) Find out What Brands they Sell and Service – When you call a service company ask what type of systems the company can service to make sure they work on your brand. Also ask what type of systems they carry and choose a contractor that sells a brand you have heard of such as Carrier, etc. A contractor who carries a brand you have never heard of may not be as reputable and will not be able to offer you quality equipment.

6) Ask about their License – If you are calling for installation make sure the company has the appropriate license and their personnel are trained to work on this particular type of equipment.

7) Do a Little Research – Information can help immensely when you ask questions of a Contractor. (Since you are here already I will assume you are doing this one!)

8) Consider Buying High Efficiency Equipment - A reputable Contractor may be able to offer you multiple bids or quotes with a choice of equipment and advise you on which system they believe is best for you.

9) Get a Written Estimate or Quote – Always get a written estimate, proposal or quote which list the equipment, the service to be provided, the warrantee, terms of payment and the price, including labor cost, permits and appropriate taxes. Remember to get copies of everything that you sign including amount and method of payment. When full payment is made get written proof of final payment.

10) Get a Secondary Drain Pan – On horizontal air conditioning installation any bid, quote or proposal should include an emergency or secondary drain pan. If it is above a ceiling or area that could be damaged by water overflow. If the main drain system becomes clogged then the emergency pan will help reduce the potential for water damage.

11) Ask how the System will be Sealed – A professionally installed cooling and heating system should be properly sealed to prevent any air leaks. Sealing the system cost more in time and in materials, but it can save you a lot of money in the long run.

5 Common Air Conditioning and Heating Installation Problems
In 50 plus years of service & installation we have just about seen it all, from plenums made of cardboard to units installed upside down but there are 5 common mistakes that we see all the time in our line of work, have you been a victim of one of these basic air conditioning and heating blunders. Check out the list below and find out.

1) Improperly Sized System – One of the most common problems with an air conditioning or heating system is being too large or too small. To avoid this problem make sure they run a proper load calculation for the job. A reputable heating and air conditioning contractor will come to your home or job site to make an inspection before any bid, quote or proposal is made. A proper load calculation should be done at this time using computer software or professional guidelines like the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s Manual. The contractor should spend a half hour or more measuring ceilings, windows, floors and walls, and checking the insulation or “R” value of the home. Equipment that is oversized will not provide proper humidity control and will cost more to operate. Equipment that is undersized will not be able to provide sufficient comfort and will run more, which means higher energy bills and a shorter life span.

2) Improperly Sized Ductwork – Duct and register size should also be based on the load calculation for proper operation. Undersized return air or supply ducts can impede efficiency and overwork your compressor resulting in early equipment failure.

3) Improperly Sealed Ducts – Duct work that has not been properly sealed will leak and loose valuable cooling or heating into the attic or other undesirable area which can cost you money.

4) Improperly Installed Drains – Or drains installed without an emergency overflow pan. No matter how well maintained there is always a chance that a main drain will fail and water will leak through your ceiling or walls. Condensate drains thathave not been installed according to the mechanical code can cause other problems such as drafting of sewer gasses and other unpleasant problems.

5) Poor Air Quality – Poor indoor air quality can be caused by many different things like carpets, mold, mildew, resins, pollen, etc. and are aggravated by things like poor air turnover or high humidity from an oversized unit. A reputable contractor can help to correct these problems by fixing your air and heating system and adding accessories to further assist in eliminating these contaminants.