We had a customer who called the other day and wanted an over-the-phone quote to replace their existing furnace. We explained to them we do not quote over the phone because we use facts and not guesses. We then convinced them to let us visit their home to get the information we needed. Here is what we found:
We went to the home, took measurements of the floor plan and windows, then entered it into our load calculation software along with other pertinent information, such as, sun load and insulation values. Our calculations showed the existing furnace was way oversized at a 100,000 btu’s and that the home only needed 21,000 btu’s. Big difference! Obviously the contractor who installed this furnace did not do a load calculation. Also, we went under the house to check the existing ducts. What we discovered was the current ducts had split apart and fallen to the ground. This means every time their oversized furnace came on it was heating the crawl space as well as outside. Not very energy efficient or economical.
This is why we do not give quotes over the phone. It is impossible without a thorough inspection of the home and the current system installed.
Here are some tips for choosing a heating and air conditioning contractor:
- A good HVAC contractor will visit your home to make an on-site inspection before any equipment recommendations are made. A load calculation should be part of that visit.
- Ask for references and check those references. In the end, references probably have the greatest impact on a homeowner who is considering a contractor. However, references should be considered in conjunction with other information gained through your search
- He or she should measure ceilings, floors, windows, walls and check insulation throughout the home. Systems that have been sized properly to fit your home provide better humidity control, cycle on and off less frequently, and cost less than oversized systems. Insist on getting a copy of the load calculations (or computer printout). These can be useful for comparing bids.
- Do not give your business to a company offering to give you an estimate over the phone without ever looking at the job to be done or don’t use a contractor who wants to size your unit solely on the square footage of your house.
- He or she should inspect your ducts for leaks, incomplete connections and compatibility with the rest of your system. Ideally, your contractor should use diagnostic equipment and repair leaks using a quality duct sealant (duct tape is not sufficient).
- He or she may also recommend changes to your duct system; as much as 30% of the efficiency of your system is related to the quality of your ductwork Overlooking duct improvements may compromise comfort and cost you money.
- Ask if the contractor is certified to get you all the available incentives and tax credits in your area. Many of the utility companies offer cash incentives for energy efficiency upgrades.
- Your air conditioner or heat pump condenser should always match the indoor coil and air handler. Your contractor should provide you with the AHRI Rating to show the the efficiency of the new unit. The air conditioner or heat pump will not get the manufacturer’s suggested SEER(Seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating if the unit is not matched correctly.
- Always obtain a written contract or proposal before allowing your contractor to install a new heating and cooling system, and be sure to ask about about warranties and maintenance agreements, (length, parts and labor coverage). Carefully evaluate a contractor’s proposal to ensure you get the equipment and service that best meets your needs.
- Remember, the contractor who gives you the lowest bid may not be the best choice for you. Paying slightly more may get you better equipment and better service.