What to Look For in a Heating & Air Conditioning Contractor
Most people take for granted the comfort provided by their central air conditioner, heat pump or furnace until something goes wrong and the unit needs to be replaced. When this happens, you need a quality heating, ventilating and air conditioning/refrigeration (HVACR) contractor who is knowledgeable, skilled and qualified to do the job. A quality contractor will:
- Comply with all state and local building codes and regulations.
- Be prompt, courteous and provide fast, reliable service while trying to accommodate your busy schedule.
- Have the professional skill and knowledge to service your current heating & cooling equipment, and if necessary install new equipment to match the specifications of your home.
- Readily provide you with testimonials of satisfied customers if asked.
- Carry proper business insurance & license number.
- Be a member of trade specific orgranizations. This means your contractor will be updated with the current technologies and latest trade specific technical information.
Things to look for when purchasing a new heating system:
The first thing you need to know before you begin the search for a new heating system is whether you are currently using the best fuel source available. For example, if you currently use a heat pump, you may look to switch to natural gas if it has become available in your area. There are pros and cons to every fuel, and a switch could add hundreds of dollars to the cost of a new heating system, but be well worth it in the long run.
It usually pays to check with your heating contractor, who can help you get a feel for what you will save in your energy costs over the next five to ten years with the fuel source you choose. By doing this, your contractor can show you what your long-term savings will be versus your short-term investment. You may also be eligible for rebates and/or low interest financing programs.
One size does not fit all. No matter which type of heating system you decide upon, you must install a system that is properly sized for your house. This is something that the homeowner cannot do on his or her own. Your heating contractor should perform an approved heat loss evaluation on your home to determine how much heat is required to heat your home on the coldest day of the year, and no more. Installing too large of a system will only waste energy and break down more often, shortening the life of the system.
AFUE and efficiency. Today’s heating systems come in two basic efficiencies: the 80% efficient models and the 90% efficient models. Efficiencies are measured by their Annual Fuel Utilization of Energy or AFUE. What does this mean? It is very similar to the way Miles Per Gallon or MPG, is used to determine how efficient a car’s engine is. The higher the rating, the more efficient the heating system.
High efficiency or low efficiency? The minimum efficient heating system you can purchase today is 78% and the maximum is about 97%. You may be saying to yourself, “It seems silly not to purchase the most efficient heating system available, since it will save me the most money on my heating bills.” This may be true, but there are many other factors involved when you are considering a very high-efficiency system. These include whether you will vent the system using a direct vent or the chimney. The 90% efficient systems require what is called direct venting. This method bypasses your chimney and goes directly through the wall of the house. There are very strict codes set by both the manufacturers and most states as to how direct venting may be done. If these specifications are not rigidly followed, the results could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
The best advice for selecting a new heating system is to compare the total investment in an 80% efficient system versus that of a 90% efficient system, factor out any incentives, rebates, etc., and break it all down to an apples-to-apples comparison. Then have the contractor show you what your energy savings will be.