We speak with thousands of customers or potential customers every year. As you can imagine, we get a lot of questions.
No article could cover every topic and question about the HVAC industry, which is why we created our Learning Center to tackle a variety of topics.
Some questions, though, are relevant to nearly everyone we speak to. These are the questions that are directly related to cost, comfort, service, and installation of a new air conditioner, heat pump, furnace, or another piece of equipment.
If you find yourself asking any of these same questions as you prepare to invest in a new heating or cooling system, read on.
What’s Included in the Installation Process?
The process starts the day before, when an installation coordinator should reach out to confirm the appointment.
In the morning, installers will arrive, typically in a team of two, after calling you as they’re leaving for your home. The lead installer will review the job with you to make sure it’s exactly what you’re expecting. While this is happening, the other installer will be preparing for the work. This preparation includes putting down canvas drops to avoid tracking dirt into your home and clearing out the area around your existing equipment.
Once you and the lead installer have agreed on the job’s parameters, the demolition of your existing equipment will take place. This could include vacuuming refrigerant from your A/C system and removing equipment to be safely disposed of.
Then the installation proper takes place, with installers working simultaneously on the indoor and outdoor units as needed. Everything should be installed to manufacturer specifications.
The installers will then test and commission the equipment to ensure it’s running as efficiently as possible. This also provides benchmarks for performance for future maintenance visits.
Lastly, the lead installer will review the job and pass along any information about the use or maintenance of your system that will help you.
Not all HVAC contractors perform each of these steps, but each is important to ensure a thorough installation.
The entire process takes a full day, usually around 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. Some complicated, larger residential jobs require a second day to complete everything.
How Long Will My HVAC Equipment Last?
Ideally, 15-20 years. This is dependent on both proper installation and regular maintenance. If either one of these is skipped or sub-par, the life expectancy for an HVAC system can be far less.
Warranties on equipment are typically for 10 years on parts. Some will extend to 12 years, depending on the brand and model of equipment. For example, many Trane XL products have a 12-year warranty on the compressor when installed by a licensed contractor, whereas 10 years is more typical for other brands.
Depending on the licensure and training of a contractor, this warranty can be extended in other cases as well. For example, Fire & Ice can offer 12-year warranties on our Mitsubishi ductless mini-splits because we have the training and certification required to qualify. Not all contractors have the same level of training, which can affect things like warranty length.
Regular maintenance includes changing filters periodically and scheduling maintenance with a contractor once or twice a year, as recommended.
Making sure these are taken care of is part of the responsibility of the homeowner. Your HVAC partner can help you establish this proper care routine.
Do I Need a Maintenance Plan?
Technically, you don’t. What you do need, though, is a plan of attack for maintenance. Maintenance plans are usually the easiest way to create this plan.
Every system needs maintenance or it will break down and eventually need to be replaced far sooner than it should be. This is true of any system. The problem comes with the fact that when a homeowner is left to schedule maintenance on their own, they often don’t. Or they wait until the system is showing signs of disrepair. By that point, it’s already too late.
Even if your system is working, that can be very different from it working efficiently and without unnecessary wear and tear on internal parts.
So there are elements of most maintenance plans like priority calls or reduced rates on certain types of service, and those things are all great. But the true benefit of a maintenance plan is that you no longer have to be responsible for scheduling regular maintenance, and will know that you are getting the best bang for your buck with your air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace.
Is Gas or Electric Better?
This answer can vary based on your home and comfort needs, but in areas of the country with severe winters, many prefer gas systems. The reason is that an electric system’s inverter technology, while very efficient in certain situations, can take a while to start working efficiently in the coldest temperatures. In these climates, gas systems can often produce warm air more quickly.
Sometimes you don’t have a choice. Even here in Columbus, OH, some homes won’t be able to have a traditional gas system. In those instances, it’s a moot point. The good news is, both gas and electric systems have many great options these days.
If you’re further south, though, and your winters are comparatively mild, electric systems are often the norm and can be very efficient in such conditions.
Do I Have to Replace A/C and Furnace at the Same Time?
If your system is gas, no, they can operate independently and don’t need to be replaced at the same time.
If your system is electric, yes, you’ll need to replace the heat pump and air handler at the same time due to how the technology in the pieces of equipment overlaps and compliments one another.
In either case, it may make financial sense to take care of both at the same time. You can often save money on installation, and you can synchronize things like warranties and the efficiency of your heating and cooling systems.
Will I Need New Ductwork?
The idea to remember with ductwork is that all HVAC equipment moves air. We focus a lot on the equipment itself in our articles, but moving air is what it’s all about.
To that end, ductwork is the nervous system that allows HVAC equipment to move air properly. If it’s too large or, more frequently, too small, your entire system will suffer. At that point, it won’t matter if your air conditioner or furnace is properly sized. The ductwork won’t have the capacity to contain and transport the air.
The only way to know for sure is to have a contractor out for a free estimate. Many homes need no modifications to their ductwork, but if a home is older, or if there have been additions and modifications to the home itself in previous decades, the ductwork is often outdated.
Ductwork costs can be significant, so make sure you know if your home is properly ducted before committing to an HVAC investment.
How Much Will My New A/C or Furnace Cost?
We’re going to give you some ranges below, but the only real way to know what a system is going to cost is to have a contractor out for a free estimate.
Factors that go into the ranges listed include:
- The efficiency of the equipment
- The size of your home (and thus the size needed to heat or cool it)
- Whether or not you need ductwork installed or modified
- If special condensate pumps are needed to deal with moisture
- Whether your system is single-stage, two-stage, or variable speed.
Typical Cost Ranges
Furnace: $4,000 - $8,000
Air Conditioner: $4,500 - $12,000
Full System: $7,000 - $18,000
RELATED: How Much Does a Heat Pump Cost?
Do You Have Financing Available?
The short answer is yes, we have multiple types of financing.
The longer answer is that financing is available, but the type of financing may depend on your needs, the equipment you end up choosing, and what financing terms you qualify for.
We partner with Wells Fargo to offer multiple 0% interest credit line options. The length of this deal varies depending on the equipment you purchase. The 0% period can last anywhere from 12 to 72 months. Some longer plans also exist, but they generally carry interest with them from the start.
Lastly, second-look plans exist for those with low credit scores, and they can be discussed individually with one of our licensed representatives.
Why Can’t I Get an Estimate Over the Phone?
You can, actually, but only if we define what we mean by “estimate.”
You can get a rough ballpark figure over the phone. What you can’t receive over the phone is a contractual proposal, which is ultimately what you’ll need to move forward with an HVAC investment.
The other problem is that there are so many variables to HVAC installations that your ballpark figure might end up being significantly more or less than what it will really cost.
Every job we do is custom. The state of your house, its size, the number and state of the windows and doors, the height of the ceilings, state of the ductwork, and your specific pain points all affect the final proposal you’ll receive from a thorough contractor.
The more important fact is that no contractor can give you a truly accurate estimate unless they do the same measurements and calculations.
So is a phone estimate ever useful? It can be when you’re first starting to look, and trying to figure out if how much you think it will cost is even remotely accurate. If you’re expecting a $1,000 air conditioner installation, for example, that ballpark figure might help you realize that your budget is way off. Beyond this, though, you won’t get any closer to making an informed decision unless you take the time to have your home properly sized and discuss all your options with a professional.
Does Brand Matter?
The brand of your air conditioner or furnace can make a difference, but it’s not the most important factor in the life of your HVAC equipment. Regardless of brand, if a system isn’t installed to manufacturer code, you’re going to be losing comfort and money. Who installs your system, and their attention to detail, matters more than the equipment itself.
That said, some brands have higher efficiency and reliability ratings than others, and some will have a wider range of options available, or additional features not found in other models.
We hope this answers some of your burning questions, but it really only scratches the surface of what you can know that will help you make a great HVAC decision for your home.