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Choosing a Company/Contractor

Beware of the Lowest Bid

Clearly, you want to spend as little as possible, but that doesn't mean you should automatically accept the lowest bid. Contractors that do what it takes to get your business often skip important steps in the process of doing the job right, e.g. permitting, assigning a specialist for a certain part of the job, etc. Down the road these shortcuts could actually cost you more in the long run. Those contractors that work out of their truck, so to speak, cannot afford to hire the best technicians to do your job.

Phone Books

Do people still use Phone Books? Believe it or not, yes, some folks do. Be careful selecting a HVAC contractor that advertises with one of those huge single or double-page advertisements. Those ads are expensive, and the overhead is passed on through the prices they charge for the work they do. Consider choosing contractors that have moderate ads; ones you don't have to worry about helping paying for.

Too Good to Be True

Most if not all companies offer sales throughout the year, but those that offer a "$19.95" service call or "no charge for service call if repair needed" should be scrutinized. Most likely, these ads are teasers so they can charge higher fees later. Furthermore, those incredible low-cost telemarketing offers should be carefully considered, too.

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Repair or Replace

Consider the Age of the HVAC System

Rule of thumb: If you are on the fence regarding repairing or replacing your heating and cooling system, simply take the repair cost and multiply it by the age of your system. If it exceeds $5,000 then it's most likely time to replace it. Also, the EPA and Department of Energy's joint ENERGY STAR program recommends that systems older than 10 years old, furnaces/boilers older than 15 years old should be replaced. Clearly, they may continue to work past those timeframes, but they will lose energy efficiency and cost your more in performance and monthly utility bills.

Replacement Benefits

Moreover, if your system is 10 or more years old, and the cost to repair is approaching half the system's current value, then a great deal of savings can be had by upgrading immediately. Tax incentives, i.e. tax credits, could save you up to 30% on a new high-efficiency system. Those that are concerned with environmental issues should know that the refrigerant HCFC-22/R-22 will be phased out completely by the year 2020. Therefore, if your current system uses R-22 then soon you'll be out of luck if your system needs it. Your utility company may also offer incentives for you to replace.

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Important Choice Factors


The size of your system means it's capacity that's measured in BTU's (British Thermal Units) or "ton(s)". One ton equals 12,000 BTUs. The system size your home needs is dependent on area that needs cooling and/or heating. Use the Energy Star website's calculatorfor guidance.


This describes how much cooling the unit delivers for each watt of electricity. Efficiency is expressed as the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, or SEER. The minimum SEER for a split central air conditioning system allowed today is 13, so look for units with SEER ratings of 13 or greater. The higher the SEER, the more yo ucan lower your energy costs.


A service plan that combines regular inspections with discounts on repairs and a labor warranty is worth negotiating into the overall price. Prices vary for such services.

Programmable Thermostats

Proper use of a programmable thermostat may reduce your cooling and heating costs up to 20%. Also, using a box or ceiling fan during the warmer months, which cost little to run, can make you feel 3 to 4 degrees cooler.

Upgrading Existing System

If you're upgrading your central air, don't assume you should buy the same-sized system. Any changes you've made to improve your home's energy efficiency, such as upgrading your windows or adding insulation, may reduce your cooling needs. On the other hand, if you've added rooms, you might need more cooling.

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