A&M Heating and Air Conditioning News

Buying Heating and Cooling Equipment

HOW TO CHOOSE A DEALER

Your best source of a good company is one that has done good work for someone you know. So ask friends & neighbors what firm they use. If they had good results with this dealer, you have a much better chance yourself. There are way too many careless dealers and good dealers with lousy help – you have to be careful. There are many shortcuts that can be taken with the installation of new equipment that homeowners don’t understand. There are issues like sizing, brand, efficiency and how it is installed that play an important part to the operation and comfort the system produces. We will cover those issues next.

WHAT BRAND

That’s confusing. Most brands are similar but some are decidedly high end and some are low end. You can’t always tell by the price quoted or the warranty. Best bet is ask the dealer why they chose the brands they did, how long they’ve had them, who wholesales them locally. We chose our brand by quality & local support. A&M’s brand is well known and is well above average in quality from what we see of the industry. Our brand is distributed by locally owned wholesalers who maintain service & support we can count on. We feel that is more important than just name recognition. Dealers change brands often. They change for many reasons – usually price & incentives (like trips) but sometimes due to credit being cut off by that supplier. It helps to stay with the same brand so your techs get to know it. Changing brands frequently is confusing to the technicians & installers and often dealers don’t keep parts on hand.

WHAT SIZE

That’s confusing. Most dealers GUESS. That doesn’t do you any good. Most existing equipment is too large. In the “old” days, the thought was bigger is better. But big furnaces cycling constantly are not efficient nor do they deliver even comfort. Big air conditioners cycling constantly aren’t efficient, they don’t remove moisture well nor do they cool evenly. The newer high SEER units are particularly bad at moisture removal in the first 7-8 minutes of operation. The only way to know is survey the house. Not just square feet of floor but walls, windows, doors, take into account insulation, shade – anything that affects heat entering & leaving your house. Then use a spreadsheet to determine exactly what size you need. Don’t let someone GUESS at your comfort for the next 20some years.

WHAT EFFICIENCY

That’s confusing. It depends upon local fuel rates and how long you are going to be in the house. In many climates, standard (much higher than you have now) efficiency furnace & air conditioners are all you need. The extra for a super efficient A/C or 90% efficient furnace won’t pay you back in utility savings in the near future. BUT in extreme climates or with high fuel rates, the payback can be much quicker. In some areas, utilities offer rebates if you do buy higher efficiency unit which really helps on the extra price. This is something you need to talk over with your dealer and your utility can help you decide as well. You may also call or e-mail A&M with your location and rates and we can help. Don’t let a salesman pressure you into high SEER or AFUE equipment. That’s when to get leery! There are often local utility rebates and currently federal tax credits to help offset the price of high efficiency equipment.

WHICH REFRIGERANT

Today, the gas offered in residential is R410a. This was made mandatory for a system starting in 2010. In most cases, this will require a new indoor coil as well. It is wise to replace the refrigerant piping if you can as it has been used with different oil than R410a uses. If you can’t change the piping, the dealer will need to blow out the old oil from the system. Many dealers use a flush agent to thin out the oil to make it easier to clean out. Now, manufacturers have found a loophole in the law requiring R410a. If they just sell an outdoor unit they can sell it empty for the dealer to fill with R22 and use on your old indoor coil. Any time you reuse an old coil; you have a mismatch in the SYSTEM and lose capacity and EFFICIENCY. So unless you have a very new coil, it would not be wise to consider the empty unit. R22 is currently over 5 TIMES the price of R410a and climbing.

CHANGE THE COIL

The cooling coil that sits above, in or below your furnace is a matched part of your air conditioning system. If you are replacing your cooling system, make sure any bid includes a new, matched cooling coil. This is especially critical with the use of R410a outdoor unit. These units run at higher pressures than R22 systems so your old coil may not be able to handle that. Indoor coils are most likely to be your source of a refrigerant LEAK. Also the old coil is not meant for the high efficiency unit you would be purchasing and not deliver reliable, efficient performance at full capacity.

ASK YOUR SALESMAN’S CREDENTIALS

Here’s why- many of the larger firms are hiring salesman – guys (and ladies) trained to sell, not trained about heating & cooling equipment. They know how to make a sale (aka: high pressure) to an undecided prospect, not how to help you choose the right system for your home. So ask the representatives you meet what their background is: do they service, do they install, do they have any education in the field, and are they certified by the EPA, HVAC Excellence or NATE? I think you’ll find yourself more likely to believe what you are told when you know a bit more about the person who is doing the telling! At A&M we don’t believe in hiring salesmen, we only offer highly educated estimators that will provide you with the best options for your specific needs.

EXTENDED WARRANTY?

Most dealers are offering extended warranties on top of the manufacturer’s warranty and their own labor warranty. Periods of 5 and 10 years are common. Should you buy? If priced competitively and from the manufacturer or a reliable 3rd party firm, it would make sense to, especially on furnaces. As furnaces are becoming very complex and many of the components are made in developing nations to keep the price down, repairs are becoming more common and more expensive. In 10 years if you plan to stay in your home, you most often will recoup the investment. Do read the fine print, however, as these warranties only cover breakdown of the equipment. Maintenance and problems not related to an equipment failure are not covered. If you purchase a warranty provided by the dealer, remember you are tied to that dealer and would not be able to switch service providers. We at A&M always include with no additional charge warranty plans that conform to your equipment package.

HOW OLD IS YOUR UNIT?

E-mail us with the model number of your equipment and we can check our reference book and find out the approximate age and efficiency of your products. That can help you decide whether it is time, due to age or cost of operation, to replace the system.

Hopefully this has been of help to you.  If you have any questions or think of how we can be of further assistance please feel free to contact us at A&M Heating and Air Conditioning.

Adam C

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