Not many people will ever purchase a furnace, air conditioner or heat pump for their home. In fact less than half the population will ever purchase one or the other once in their lives. So without experience how does the consumer know what to look for when making a buying decision, especially when good, impartial advice is hard to come by? In my three decades in the residential heating and air conditioning industry the most common question I heard was “what am I forgetting to ask?” So let me try to help with some of the questions you should ask yourself, the contractor you are considering and maybe even a few of the answers.
1. Am I comfortable?
Buying a new heating or cooling system is a major investment, but it is also an opportunity to correct any issues you might have with the comfort level of your home. Do you have hot or cold spots throughout the house? If your home has more than one story are the upper levels warmer than the lower level in the summer? Is your existing system too noisy? Is your air too humid in the summer or too dry in the winter? Do you suffer from allergies? Equipment technology has advanced dramatically the past few years, and products are now available to solve all of the above. Make a list of any comfort issues you would like to address and be sure to review them with your contractor.
2. How long will I be in this house?
Today manufacturers produce equipment with a wide range of efficiencies. Furnaces range from 78.0 AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) to over 95.0 AFUE. Air conditioners and heat pumps start at a government mandated minimum of 13 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) to over 20 SEER. But as the efficiency of the equipment goes up, so does the initial installed cost. If you plan on moving in the next five years it rarely makes sense to install the most efficient, and costly, equipment available. On the other hand if your plans are to be in your home over ten years higher efficiency equipment can provide a very reasonable payback. If you have records of what you have spent heating your house the past year your contractor should be able to provide you with an accurate estimate as to what your energy savings should be, and what length of payback period you should expect.
3. When should I replace my furnace or air conditioner?
The short answer is before you need to. But many people wait until their equipment breaks then are rushed into making a decision. In general the average useful life of a furnace is 20 years, an air conditioner 15 and a heat pump slightly less than that. If your equipment is around that age and needs anything other than a minor repair then you should consider replacing it. While you can save about 5% by replacing both your furnace and air conditioner at the same time it normally is not necessary to do so, as just about any furnace will work with any air conditioner. Exceptions to this would be heat pumps and two stage air conditioners, but in general if you want to keep a newer furnace or air conditioner and just replace the old or broken component there should be no problem.
Thank you for considering CARE Heating and Cooling, Inc. Let us prove to you why you should call us “When you need a company you can trust.”