The Three Key Components to Replacing Your Heating and Cooling System

28 11 2012

If you are looking to replace your heating and cooling system, then there are three major factors that you need to keep in mind.  These factors will not only guarantee your comfort, they will also improve the longevity and efficiency of your new system.  These factors are the actual system itself, the systems fit on the home, and the quality of the installation.

The system itself is pretty straight forward.  All equipment has an efficiency rating making the efficiency of the equipment easy to compare.  Just make sure to stick to the facts.  Efficiency ratings should be backed by an AHRI certificate verifying the rating.  However, efficiency isn’t the same as quality.  Here again stick to the facts.  A true heating and cooling professional should be able to share with you how a system works and what engineering aspects of that system make it a better system.  Again, if they can’t tell you what makes it a better system then chances are it isn’t.

The systems fit to the home is one of the more complex and more difficult to understand factors.  In order for a contractor to know what fits the home, they must first understand the heating and cooling requirements of your home.  This is done with a manual-j load calculation.  This load calculation involves entering the exact information about your home into a computer program.  The contractor will need to know the size and type of windows on your home and which way the windows face in relationship to the sun.  They will need to know the insulation values in your walls, ceilings and floors.  They will need to know how many people live in your home and what heat-producing appliances are in your home.  They will also need to know the size and type of doors that are on the home.  Basically, they need to measure and look at just about every aspect of your home.  Then factoring in where you live, the computer program will tell them exactly how much heat your home requires on the coldest days of winter and how much cooling your home requires on the hottest days of summer.  This information will help the contractor choose the appropriate size and type of system for your home.  Matching the new system as close to possible to the heating and cooling requirements for your home ensures the system cycles correctly thus providing maximum efficiency and comfort.  Any contractor who does not do this calculation should be dismissed accordingly!

The last important factor is the quality of the installation.  The number one energy robbing problem with heating and cooling systems is lack of proper installation.  Even the best system can be rendered useless if not installed correctly.   Choosing the proper company to install the system is critical.  This will take a little research on your part.  First of all, any heating and air conditioning contractor should be able to provide references.  And I am not talking about 2 or 3, I am talking about 100.  Anyone can come up with 3 people who like them.  In addition, that company should have a clean Better Business Bureau rating.  They should have NATE certified technicians (NATE certification is highest and toughest to obtain certification in the heating and cooling industry).  All heating and air conditioning contractors are required to have their work inspected when installing a new system.  But, just because they are getting their work inspected doesn’t mean it is done right.  Typically the inspection department isn’t looking for design issues or properly configured equipment, they are only looking for safety hazards.  So, getting a job inspected doesn’t guarantee is done right.

Your heating and cooling system is the hardest working appliance in your home and it accounts for nearly 70% of all your energy costs.  Take the time to make the right decision.  Learn about the equipment and choose the better equipment.  Make sure you understand what your home needs and how the proposed system meets those needs.  Lastly, make sure to use a contractor who has the experience and expertise to install the system correctly.  Take the time to do these things and you can’t go wrong!


Take a Trip Before You Replace your Heating or Cooling System?

28 11 2012

Most people look at me funny when I suggest this, but it would be time well spent and provide you with a higher level of comfort about the company who is going to be working in your home.  So, you need to replace your heating or cooling system and you want to make sure the company who is going to do the work is professional.  You call some contractors to give you estimates for replacement and you decide to buy from the company who you were comfortable with and who gave you what you perceive as a fair deal.  Problem here is that heating and cooling contractors are smart enough to send out the smartest and nicest people they have to represent the company.  “Slick Willies” as I call them.  They are professional sellers not heating and cooling professionals.  They tend to tell you what you want to hear and not stick to the facts (see my earlier post of sticking to facts).  Now you have made your decision and the folks who actually show up to do the work just about make you sick.  Your uncomfortable with these people running around in your home.  So this is where the trip comes in.  Do a quick web search for heating and cooling supply companies in your area.  These are the supply companies that provide heating and cooling contractors with their parts and supplies.  When you find what looks like one of the larger supply companies, drive there and observe the caliber of folks who come in and out.  I guarantee it will be an eye-opening experience.  You could also ask to meet the folks who are coming out to do the work before hand or ask for bios with pictures before you make a decision.  Might be a little more fun though to take the trip.

Stick to the Facts when purchasing a New Heating or Cooling System

28 11 2012

Okay, your old furnace, heat pump, or air conditioner has finally gone out or maybe you where smart enough to plan ahead, either way it is time to replace.  So, you’ve done your research and learned as much as you can and it is perfectly clear as to what the best solution is, right?  Doubtful!  Unfortunately, purchasing a new system can be about as clear as mud.  So, I offer this little bit of advice.  Stick to the facts!  Learn the exacts of the equipment and the company putting it in.  If the company representative who comes to your home doesn’t provide you with facts to back up their solution, then you can dismiss them right away.  Furthermore, stay clear of what you read on the internet unless it comes from a factual source (i.e. BBB, Department of Energy, Energy Star, or Consumer Reports).  There are plenty of “backyard professionals” who post information on the internet and they don’t know much more than you.  They know only enough to pretend they know what they are talking about.


Why Use a Company Whose Owner Puts Thier Name On It

21 11 2012

This is a follow-up post to answer some questions I received concerning a comment I made a few days ago.  I commented that it was a good idea to use a heating and air conditioning company whose owner was proud enough of the service they provide to put their name on the company.  So, what does that mean.  Well in our industry new companies pop up every year.  In fact, just look at your phone books from one year to the next and you will see different ads from one year to the next.  People start new service companies and either they fail or they have such a bad reputation that they shut down and start back under a new name.  Someone who puts their own name out there and stakes the reputation of their company on their name can’t hide.  They get one shot to do it right.  A company owner who really wants to succeed and provide great service is also willing to stake their name on it.  Having worked in the heating and air conditioning service industry for decades, I have come to the conclusion that if their name is on it, then you are probably better off.  But, there are exceptions, so always do your research and check their Better Business Bureau ratings and ask for references (ask for 100 as anyone can provide 3 to 4).

By the way, I always encourage people to check the Better Business Bureau ratings for a company.  The Better Business Bureau is the only ratings service that actually verifies and concludes every complaint.  There is no other source of verified reviews for a company available on the internet.  Trust me, I have seen companies post fictious reviews about other companies on the internet.  And, you would think that a company could get those reviews removed, you would be wrong.  So, lesson is use the BBB and don’t believe everything you read on the internet.  More often than not, it is misleading.

Take Care of Your System

21 11 2012

The average homeowner has no idea how their heating and cooling system works nor how to take care of it.  The lack of proper maintenance is one of the most popular causes of system failure.  (Outside of just age, the other is incorrect installation)  Your heating and cooling system is the hardest working appliance in your home.  It works 24-7 to keep your home comfortable.  It consumes on average 60% to 70% of your energy usage.  It is the most expensive appliance to replace with an average replacement cost of $5000 to $8000 per system.  Given those statistics you can understand why taking care of it is so important.

The two most important things a homeowner can do is to change their air filter on a regular basis and have their system properly maintainance at least once a year (preferrable twice).  How often you change your air filter is dependent on what type of air filter you use.  Typically the 1″ disposable filters need to be changed every month.  When it comes to maintenance, make sure you have a professional company who does a thorough “preventive” maintenance on the system.  Many companies offer low-cost “seasonal” maintenances that are more designed to lure you in as a customer than take care of your system.  A true preventive maintenance takes a technician hours to perform.  The technician cleans and analyzes every component of the system.  They check each component for signs of wear and potential future failure.  Only a true preventive maintenance will protect your system and lengthen its lifespan.

The True Cost of Service

19 11 2012

Most homeowners only understand one thing when it comes to service, and that is “How Much”.  I get countless phone calls asking how much we charge to provide service.  Well, here is where the problem starts.  Homeowners need to be aware that there are companies who pray on people who call in with that question.  They quote a low service call fee in hopes of luring that customer in.  This is where the true cost of service comes into play.

  1. If, and that is a big if with these companies, the service technician knows what they are doing and they find the problem and repair it, then they bill the customer at a higher rate to make up for the lower service call fee.
  2. However, more often than not, that service technician isn’t experienced or trained will enough to properly assess the problem.  He or she then replaces numerous parts in order to resolve the problem.  The homeowner then pays for un-necessary repairs all because of the incompetence of the service technician.  In addition, the repairs that are done are not done correctly causing the system to run inefficiently.
  3. And finally, you get what I call the “greedy thief”.  Unfortunately just about every service industry has unethical people who take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners and our industry has its fair share.  These companies send out service technicians that are under paid.  It is up to the service technician to “up sell” the homeowner in order to earn more money through commissions.  Here again, unsuspecting homeowners are taken advantage of and sold un-necessary parts and repairs.

The bottom line is that un-necessary repairs and incorrect repairs will cost you much more than the few dollars you think you saved by calling the other guys.  So, do your homework.  Ask for references or check out their rating on Better Business Bureau.

And here is one last quick tip, a business owner who is truly proud of the service they provide puts their name on the company.