There is No Cookie Cutter Solution: Every home and situation are different when it comes to installing a new heating/cooling system. Each individual home needs a custom solution in order to maximize the return on your investment and help you be as comfortable and energy efficient as possible. Before making a decision or your contractor provides you with an investment proposal, there are a few questions that need to be answered: Is the unit sized properly? What is the best efficiency model for my application? Is the ductwork in good condition? Is it better to repair it now and wait? After these questions have been answered, then you can move on to the next step in the process of getting a new unit installed. There is no “one size fits all” solution to your heating/cooling comfort.
The Whole House Matters: Your entire home makes up the system that the heating/cooling unit is a part of that also includes the duct system, envelope, attic, crawlspace, and your living space. The entire home needs to be analyzed before a decision is made about a new heating/cooling unit because it is a system that has to work together. If the ducts or house are leaky, if there are hot or cold spots, if your home needs more insulation, or your bills are excessively high, there could be another issue at work besides the heating/cooling system. A whole home comfort and energy audit is required to see if any of the above problems are present. This process includes a physical inspection of the home that includes the attic and crawlspace, a blower door and smoke test, and an infrared scan of the ductwork and home envelope. This yields information that will help you make the most informed decision that concerns any comfort and energy efficiency upgrades, which includes a new heating/cooling system. There can be some times where you need to make a fast decision concerning your unit due to extremely hot or cold weather or a repair issue, but it is very important to slow down and get as much information as you can before making a big investment and decision.
There are Always Choices: As a customer, many salespeople will tell you that this is the only solution that will work for you. There is no such thing as only one solution. If you are told that there is only one solution, we suggest that you talk to someone else for another analysis. Every manufacturer has different heating/cooling system models so right off the bat you have multiple choices. Sometimes you may just need an upgrade, a repair, or a tune up rather than replacing the entire unit. One of the most important questions you need to ask when going through this process is: What are we trying to accomplish? Once you have this information, you can start going through the options you have to make the best and most informed decision regarding your heating/cooling system. There may be an option that would work best for you, but you always have a choice regarding your heating/cooling system.
Bigger is Not Better: In the HVAC industry, especially when it comes to a gas furnace, bigger is not better. In order to determine the capacity of the heating system needed for your home, an analysis of your home is vital. A heating system that’s oversized will reduce the comfort for you in your home, increase energy usage, and shortens the life of the system. In the long run that can cost you a lot of extra money that could have been saved with the properly sized unit. A specific procedure is required to determine the exact size heating/cooling system that includes the size of your house, where the unit is located, what condition the duct system is in, how old the home is, how many people live in the house, etc. If this analysis is not performed, then it is impossible to ensure that the heating/cooling system will be the correct size for your home.
Efficiency Ratings: Efficiency ratings of a heating/cooling system are important, but the main reason you use central heating/cooling in the first place is to stay comfortable in your home as the temperatures change throughout the year. Our industry spends a lot of time talking about equipment efficiency ratings and since every manufacturer has systems with high efficiency ratings, what is the whole story and what does it mean? The duct system, the insulation within the home, and how leaky the house is can have a much bigger impact on the overall energy costs and comfort within your home. Proper system installation, proper air flow, and how the system is maintained has a greater impact on the system’s life and the overall efficiency than the actual efficiency rating does. Individual pieces of a system are created in a factory, but these pieces are put together to form your system on site at your home, so the company chosen to install the system has a greater opportunity to positively or negatively affect how the heating/cooling system will operate in the long run.
Brand-X: Brands are not created equal, but does that mean that you have to overpay for some big manufacturer’s giant marketing budget? Absolutely not. In today’s industry, equipment is quality manufactured and similarly featured, the playing field has essentially been leveled when it comes to equipment. Beware of getting “branded”. A successful heating/cooling system installation depends a lot more on who is doing the work and how they’re doing it, than the brand of equipment does. On occasion, there could be a special application where one brand does have the advantage, but on the standard equipment and efficiencies, there really isn’t much different between the different brands of equipment. Rating organizations that rate the reliability of products that need professional installation mostly use survey information to rate these products and not warranty data from the manufacturers. You should be careful of those organizations and of the contractor that tells you their brand is the absolute “best”.
Call a Professional: All companies are not the same so when you’re trying to find the best company, you could be put into a situation of never comparing the same “Apple Pie” vs “Apple Pie” proposal. It takes many ingredients to make a great apple pie, just like it takes many ‘ingredients’ to make a professional heating/cooling system installation. The first step should be a comprehensive inspection and evaluation of your home by a certified Home Comfort & Energy Advisor professional. This inspection should include items that will affect your comfort, energy efficiency, health and safety. These items are listed below:
Your heating/cooling system is just one of the components in an intricate network of components that make up the entire “house-as-a-system”. Every action or change has a reaction and sometimes can lead to unintended consequences and your home’s performance is no different. Taking the time to do your homework upfront is an important factor to ensure you’re making the smart investment into energy savings, better comfort, and to accomplish whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve. If nothing else is considered within the house other than the heating equipment, the long-term energy efficiency and comfort of the home may not be maximized.
How to Finance: One of the best things about getting comfort and energy efficiency upgrades added to your home is that they can save you money. If you feel that your heating bills are way too high, then upgrades such as a new unit, air dealing, insulation, and duct renovation can greatly reduce the amount of money you’re sending to the utility companies every month. We have seen homes where the energy usage decrease by as much as 60%-70%. This result may not be typical of every home, but we do guarantee a 20% reduction if all the recommended work is done after a whole home energy evaluation. An even greater perk of this type of work is that the overall comfort level in a home is almost always improved at the same time the energy usage is reduced. You’re going to spend money either way; you’re going to send it to the utility company and still have comfort problems or you can invest the money in improving your home and be more comfortable at the same time. In almost every case, we are finding that it is a win. In some cases, we have found that customers have financed the work and the monthly savings has completely offset or almost offset the monthly investment amount for the work.
Now What? Installing a new heating/cooling system in your home is a big investment, one that will affect your utility and comfort bills for years to come. If you make an oversight or forget to get something evaluated correctly, you can’t just trade it in like you can with a car, you’re stuck with it or left paying a lot of money to fix the situation. What if you’re not happy with something? What routine maintenance needs to be performed and how often? How do you obtain “warranty service” if needed? How will your service provider support you in the short and long term? When choosing someone to install this system in your home, make sure you have a true “Professional Service Company” and not a “fly-by-night installer” who disappears once the installation is complete.