7 Mistakes To Avoid When Buying An A/C System!

Here are the short answers. See below for the full list!

# 1 – Forgetting The V in HVAC

HVAC stands for: Heating, Ventilation Air Conditioning. Most homeowners have no idea if their ducts are in a row (pun intended). The ducting system can be in the walls (which in most cases will always be fine and can be left alone), however most ducting for homes depending on the region is going to be in the attic.  The attic is a hot, dusty place with spiders so no wonder most of us have no idea what’s up there.

# 2 – Buying A System Online

The online world has brought us many advantages and some disadvantages. Your A/C – Heating system isn’t just a box that blows cold and hot air. It is an integral part of your house and every house/home is different, even in tract housing.

# 3 – Sales People

Sales is awesome! The world runs on sales, without sales the world would stop. However it’s the second part of the title here that is the problem “People”. Sales is great but Sales”people” can (not always) be a problem.

# 4 – To Split or not to Split

“It is always recommended to change out both at the same time however very seldom is it required.  Energy efficiency ratings of A/C units can change drastically depending on the type of FAU (Forced Air Unit) that is installed with it”

# 5 – Warranties

Warranties are important, there is always warranties on parts, equipment and labor. Bigger better warranties should NOT be the deciding factor between equipment choices, it should be a metric you look at but not the heaviest one.

# 6 – Bids

Some statistics have shown that over 75% of HVAC purchases are made on one bid/proposal to the home. This is completely acceptable barring a few reasons. See full article below

#7 – Review sites.

Use review sites as a tool, not as the “Go To” answer as to weather a contractor is good or bad. Not all sites are what you think.

Full Article:

Top 7 BIG Mistakes to Avoid when buying a new A/C or heating system.

Outside of Kitchen Remodeling, Air Conditioning systems or A/C systems are one of the biggest expenses homeowners can take on.

With this being a large investment that hopefully will be around for 15-30 years or more we should probably be aware of the pitfalls to look out for. (Not necessarily listed in order of importance)

Mistake # 1 – Forgetting the ( V ) in HVAC. 

HVAC stands for: Heating, Ventilation Air Conditioning. Most homeowners have no idea if their ducts are in a row (pun intended). The ducting system can be in the walls (which in most cases will always be fine and can be left alone), however most ducting for homes depending on the region is going to be in the attic.  The attic is a hot, dusty place with spiders so no wonder most of us have no idea what’s up there.

It’s important to have your ducting inspected once a year and absolutely prior to buying a new A/C or heating system, some ducting type is wrapped or insulated with Asbestos (A material known to cause cancer) and others could be just in bad shape. After 2002 most ducting started being sealed better however prior to those years your ducting will most likely need to be replaced.

Forgetting to have your ducting inspected is one mistake you will regret. A/C Systems are not plug n play, it requires a professional to come inspect the system and duct-work.  Which leads us to # 2.

  • Did You Know: Did you know that your ducting is also sized for the system ( or at least should be ). If you’re thinking about changing the tonnage of your A/C – Heating system. Make sure your ducting is the appropriate size to handle the new air flow.

 

Mistake # 2 – Buying a AC system online

The online world has brought us many advantages and some disadvantages. Your A/C – Heating system isn’t just a box that blows cold and hot air. It is an integral part of your house and every house/home is different, even in tract housing.

Some sites offer selling equipment directly to home owners which sounds great other than needing to find a contractor to install the system which most reputable contractors will not touch those systems because once they touch it they own it if something goes wrong.

Other sites give you a great fixed price for installing a system without anyone ever going to your home. That’s like buying a car you’ve never been in on the internet. You like the way it looks but it may not be the most comfortable ride you’ve ever been in; the handling may be bad and the seats don’t go back far enough. (There’s no returns).

Stay away from online offers that don’t have someone visiting your house first to evaluate your needs and your home. There are way too many variables that can change things like: Asbestos, Electrical Panels, City Code requirements, Equipment sizing, Ducting quality and performance and the list goes on!

 

Mistake # 3 – Salespeople

Sales is awesome! The world runs on sales, without sales the world would stop. However it’s the second part of the title here that is the problem “People”. Sales is great but Sales”people” can (not always) be a problem.

Not all are bad but how do you know the integrity of your salesperson. Most homeowners simply go on their gut feeling, however hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent training HVAC people how to “Close” you, how to be friendly and identify within the first few minutes things about you that they can bring up in conversation to try and bond with you and to artificially give you a good “Gut” feeling.

Most of us go with our gut and in and of itself that’s not always a bad thing. However her is what you need to know:

  1. Time Management:
    1. Salespeople should always be 10-15 min early to their appointment
    2. When it comes to replacing your system a true HVAC professional should take at least 30-45 minutes just examining your current system. 60-90 minutes is preferred. When you call an HVAC company you should block out around 3 hours of time. For multiple systems or very large homes consider more.
  2. Appearance:
    1. Clean clothes – Your contractor or sales person should not look like they just crawled out of another attic (even though they most likely just did)
    2. Collard Shirts – Tee Shirts with company logos are great for when the work is being done, however if your contractor or comfort adviser did not wear a collard shirt to first meet you they may be lacking some professional training which most likely will translate into sloppy work.
    3. Foot Booties – This is a basic for contractors, these booties are meant to protect your floors. Contractors and salespeople are in and out of attics all the time. (Bird Droppings, Rat Feces, Asbestos) all sticking to the bottom of their shoes. You Don’t want this dragged into your house.  Oh and putting their foot booties on or wearing them outside kinda defeats the point of even using them
  3. Check their vehicle –
    1. Is it professional?
      1. Nice wrapped vehicles speak a lot about the professionalism and quality of the contractor.
      2. Is it clean inside? Take a walk outside and look inside, if it’s full of McDonald’s wrappers and trash that’s a good clue as to how your house is going to be left.
    2. Where did they park?
      1. Contractors should never park in your driveway unless it’s the only safe option. It’s inconsiderate and speaks “I’m not a professional” pretty loudly.
  4.  Racing to the bottom!
    1. Cheap things are not good and good things are not cheap! Being the cheapest to install the system is not always the best thing. Think about all the jokes about things that are built or installed by the lowest bidder!  There is always concern. HVAC is a tremendous amount more then a box outside that blows cold air and a box inside that warms and moves the air.
    2. ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors Of America) state that 90% of the A/C Systems in the US are installed wrong! This is typically cause because of two reasons:
      1. Lack of training and experience from the contractor
      2. Contractor feeling the only way to get a job is to be the cheapest bid and the only way to be the cheapest bid is to hire the cheapest labor (Typically unskilled & Experienced) or not wanted by other contractors for various reasons like (Fired from other employers, Bad background checks etc) or even worse; cutting things out of the job that the homeowner will never see or know is missing saving the contractor money which increases their profits. These items will typically mean poorer performance and more maintenance on your system over it’s life.  So basically you think you’re getting a better deal but it will cost you, your comfort and your home way more in the long run.
  5. Presentation Material:
    1. Yes it cost more to have nice marketing and presentation material but remember you get what you pay for. Your contractor should always have something that is professionally printed in color to present to you and you should always have something left behind or emailed to you.
  6. Contracts
    1. Always get a copy
    2. Check your local state for “Right Of Rescission” In California for example homeowners have 3 days to cancel any contract without penalty. There are some exclusions to this such as monies the contractor has already spent etc. So check your state contractors board.

Mistake # 4 – To Split or not to Split

Most HVAC systems in the U.S. are Split systems which include an outside unit (Condenser or Heat Pump) and in an inside unit (Furnace or Air Handler). A heat pump system is basically an all-electric system, there is no natural gas or propane feeding a furnace.

There are some units which are “package units which have the A/C and heat all in one unit (normally on a roof) so for the purpose of this article we will only focus on split systems.

For split systems, your outside unit is connected to your inside unit (could be in a closet, garage or in the attic) by a copper line-set which is what carries the refrigerant to and from the unit outside.

There is an evaporator coil that is attached to the inside unit and this is what takes a standalone central heating system and makes it an Air Conditioning system as well.

There are only a very small amount of times when you are required to change out your inside unit when you A/C system needs to be replaced.

Doing your furnace or air handler later can save you money off your A/C system now however here are some things to keep in mind. Prices go up every year, waiting till next year or the year after will not be cheaper to install a furnace.

It is always highly recommended to change out both at the same time however very seldom is it required.  Energy efficiency ratings of A/C units can change drastically depending on the type of FAU (Forced Air Unit) that is installed with it and leaving your old outdated one can drag your shiny new A/C unit down.  Not changing out your furnace and A/C at the same time can be a mistake especially when you’re going to higher efficiency units.

To Side note there are several high efficiency units on the market that that require specific types of furnaces/Blowers and it would be required to change out both.

Mistake # 5 – Warranties

Warranties are important, there is always warranties on parts, equipment and labor. Bigger better warranties should NOT be the deciding factor between equipment choices, it should be a metric you look at but not the heaviest one. Many contractors push their Bigger Better warranty as the golden reason for choosing their product, many times these warranties are bigger and better because they need to be due to product failure history

Most homeowners are not aware that most warranties on HVAC equipment will require that they have a “qualified or certified” company come out once a year to do a maintenance on the equipment.

Once a year for the furnace/air handler and once a year for the A/C Condenser / Heat Pump.  Failing to have this routine maintenance can cause your warranty to be voided.  Huge Mistake, however many contractors use this a “IN” with you.

While there are big advantages to using the same company every year to do your certified maintenance, however if your HVAC company is not taking care of you, don’t hesitate to start shopping for this maintenance yearly or when it’s needed, since HVAC contractors consider maintenance customers “Gold” there is a chance you can get better deals each year.  Now you know why so much is spent on advertising their A/C Tune Up packages.

Mistake # 6 – 3-Bids

It’s a common knowledge that most seasoned homeowners feel they are always supposed to get 3 or more bids, but let’s face it, when it comes to HVAC if you’re following the other rules like having the home evaluated by a person most of the contractors will spend up to 3 hours in your home. Statistics have shown that over 75% of HVAC purchases are made on one bid/proposal to the home. This is completely acceptable barring a few reasons.

Think about this list.  If you can comfortably check of items know that your contractor is professional, on time, with a great appearance, they were detailed, honest and took their time. If there proposal is within your budget then feel confident in your decision. One of the easiest ways to test out your contractor is to check their Contractors license with you state, check review sites like Fairbids.com, Yelp, etc. Which leads us to # 7

Mistake # 7 – Review Sites

Paid Review sites are great as long as they are taken with perspective. A paid site are sites where contractors can pay to get leads. (Angies list, Home Advisor etc as well as sites that contractors can pay to help their rankings like Yelp.

Remember statistically most people only get on review sites to complain. And as of the writing of this blog it was a common understanding that some of the most popular sites allow the business to pay that site to remove bad reviews. So how does that help the reviewer? It doesn’t.  The contractor should always be willing to share Awards they have won, local community outreaches or events they participate in or sponsor. Sometimes these things go further then what some is yelling online because they had a bad experience. Don’t get us wrong Review sites are great but can not always be trusted for accuracy. Fairbids.com is not a Paid Site. Contractors cannot pay Fairbids.com to increase their rankings or remove bad reviews.

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