It’s no surprise that homeowners want to save money. After all, owning a home and all the upkeep that comes with it can really strain the bank account.
But when it comes to purchasing HVAC systems, homeowners would do well to factor quality and professional experience into their buying decision, even over price. The one-man operation might sometimes be able to undercut the bigger outfits, but is sacrificing long-term quality for short-term gain really advisable? Beware of “Too Good to be True” estimates, and look more deeply into what is actually being offered, because there’s something homeowners really ought to know …
The HVAC Contractor – 70%
The quality of a home HVAC system is dictated by the quality of the contractor installing it by a whopping 70%! Consider this graph from Consumer Reports:
Systems must be installed correctly, sized appropriately, placed in serviceable areas, fitted with the right kind of ductwork, and have electrical, refrigerant, and air supply needs accurately calculated, just to name a few. Too many companies will just slap a system in without considering a customized solution, which leads to higher energy costs at best, and future problems for homeowners at worst.
Furthermore, if a company doesn’t pull the right permits, or cuts corners during an installation, homeowners can be negatively affected for years to come. High energy costs, avoidable repairs, systems that never quite keep up, or in extreme cases, systems that break down prematurely are the most likely consequence of “going cheap.”
For instance, we recently outfitted a local business with a new HVAC system. The previous contractor had been thrown off the job by the local building inspector for not pulling permits, which set the customer back weeks … which cost them revenue. On top of that, the duct work had originally been installed at 90 degree angles, which is a basic HVAC “no-no” since it severely restricts proper air flow. A professional HVAC installer wouldn’t have made these basic mistakes, which resulted in repeated system shutdowns due to overheating, high repair costs due to an overworked system, and a monthly cleanout of the entire ductwork system.
Suffice it to say that if an HVAC professional doesn’t pull a permit or says it’s not needed (they almost always are), it’s a sign you should look elsewhere for your HVAC needs, because you’ll likely pay a lot more in the long term for sloppy work. Permits might sometimes be inconvenient, but they protect homeowners and contractors alike from liability, and if someone doesn’t want to take the time to do the job right, maybe they shouldn’t be doing it at all.
The HVAC Equipment Manufacturer – 20%
Now, 20% of HVAC quality is driven by the equipment manufacturer, according to Consumer Reports. Nothing is perfect, and sometimes a system doesn’t work right out of the box the way it’s supposed to. This is rare in our experience, but it does happen. Luckily equipment is usually warrantied and HVAC technicians can swap the parts or systems with relative ease. It can be inconvenient, but it rarely results in a situation that costs homeowners money. Sanford is a Carrier factory-authorized dealer, for instance, so if a part doesn’t function the way it’s supposed to, Carrier exchanges it.
This is a great reason to hire a professional HVAC company for your installation and service needs, and it also will keep your warranty in good standing. Otherwise, if a part breaks down and your warranty isn’t valid, then you’ll incur unnecessary out-of-pocket expenses for parts and labor.
The Customer – 10%
This slice of the graph is good news for homeowners! If a system is installed by a reputable company with solid backing from its equipment manufacturer, chances are you won’t have any major problems.
But I did say “if.”
This doesn’t mean that homeowners should forgo professional maintenance by any means. Regular maintenance is essential to protect your investment, ensure proper system efficiency and function, and fulfill warranty agreements. If you don’t conduct proper professional HVAC maintenance, then your system may not be covered when something does go wrong.
We’ve seen too many homeowners who didn’t properly maintain their systems run into catastrophic failures … usually on the hottest or coldest days when systems are working the hardest. Most of the time, they end up paying considerably more than the yearly $119.40 Service Partner Plan membership fee (minimum plan) Sanford offers, which protects equipment with scheduled maintenance and also gives members a 15% discount on service repairs, among many other benefits; the 15% discount alone is worth the $9.95 a month, and for a limited time, we’re offering a FREE Service Partner Plan membership for one year.
Or homeowners follow advice from people who aren’t HVAC certified, like construction contractors or carpenters, which ultimately degrades the longevity of their system. For instance, a customer was recently advised by a building contractor to spray out her condenser coil with a garden hose, rather than hiring a professional HVAC service provider.
This is terrible advice.
While spraying it out in this way may remove some of the most obvious particulates like twigs and leaves, it also pushes a significant amount of small matter into the system, such as grass, dust, and pollen. This kills a system’s lifespan because the coil relies on the maximum amount of air flow to work most effectively. In this situation, air circulation is reduced by all the little debris that’s still in there, which means the system doesn’t pull enough air into it, which means the fan, motor, electrical components etc. all work harder to achieve the same amount of work. If it’s working harder than it’s running more often, which is costing the homeowner money in operational costs in the short term, and a costly system replacement years earlier than necessary in the long term.
Would you change the air filter in your car and then throw a handful of dirt into it? Not if you expect your engine to operate properly.
The bottom line: Do your research, and find a reputable company with a proven track record for your HVAC heating and cooling needs. You’ll save money in the long run, and have the peace of mind of knowing your system is providing the comfort you deserve at the lowest possible price.