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Before You Buy

Guide To Purchasing New Air Conditioning and Heating Systems

To work as designed, new A/C and heating equipment must be matched with the circumstances in your home or building and the fuel sources available. Our main goals here is to provide useful, flexible tools to help you make a educated decision.

Regarding Brands of Heating and Air Conditioning Equipment

Over his or her lifetime, a homeowner will not likely buy many air conditioning and heating systems. As customers, unless we have a significant experience that leads us elsewhere, we tend to go for the familiar. For some homeowners, this would hold true with the equipment brand they choose for a new HVAC system.

Five Factors That Will Influence Your Satisfaction the Most

The following five factors or choices will have the greatest impact on your comfort and overall satisfaction with new air conditioning and heating equipment:

  1. The quality of contractor and their personnel who calculate the load, design your system, and install the new HVAC equipment for your situation.
  2. Having regular maintenance, preferably by the same company. Regardless of who changes them, regular air filter replacements are critical to reliable operation.
  3. Having a reasonably energy efficient house or building (“envelope”) in which the HVAC system operates.
  4. The efficiency rating and related features of the heating and cooling equipment you select.
  5. The manufacturer’s and the installing company’s parts and labor warranties of the following main components: the compressor, evaporator coil, condenser coil, and the heat exchanger/furnace.

Due to consolidations within the industry and global manufacturing, there are fewer manufacturers of major air conditioning and heating components than there are equipment brands. This means some brands have major components in common. A partial list of possible common components within different equipment brands includes: compressors, condenser and evaporator coils, blower motors, and furnaces/heat exchangers.

Other factors that affect your decision on when to buy new HVAC equipment are:

Current promotions offered by the manufacturer or dealer/contractor.

  • If there are current rebates, tax credits, incentives, etc. offered by utility companies, or third parties on equipment with particular features, such as efficiency.
  • If there are any rebates or incentives offered by third parties on energy conservation improvements to your home or building.

If an extended warranty is offered on the major components or system. (Note: if the manufacturer or a third party will sell additional warranty time, this is a good sign of their confidence in it, whether or not you purchase the warranty.)

More Tips To Purchasing The Perfect System

Taking a little time up front to learn more about air conditioning and heating will save you time and money when you choose a system. Plus, the air conditioning and heating system you get will deliver the indoor comfort and lower your utility costs.

(1) When preparing to buy a new A/C and heating system, two of the most important decisions you need to make are:

  1. selecting the right local company to size the equipment, design the system and control the quality of the installation, and
  2. choosing the equipment with the efficiency rating and features to fit the specifics of your situation.

(2) Getting the correct size of air conditioner and furnace. Regarding size of air conditioning and heating equipment, the goal should be to get the optimum size and features for your climate and situation–bigger is not always better.

The three main areas Northwest Heating and Cooling considers in the load calculation include: the amount of heating and cooling needed in your climate, the amount of area you have to heat and cool, and the condition of the “envelope” or part of your home or building that interfaces with the outside air. Within each of these categories, there are many factors that affect the load and equipment size.

Northwest Heating and Cooling measures the size of A/C systems in tons. If you get a system with too low a tonnage rating, the system will work too hard and use too much electricity attempting to cool the air. Conversely, if you get a system with too much tonnage, the system will cycle on and off too quickly to “condition” the air properly. This results in “clammy” uncomfortable feeling cold rooms plus extra wear on certain parts of the system.

On the heating side, if the size of central heating system you buy is too large, you will pay more than necessary for the equipment. An oversize heating system cycles on and off too quickly, and causes extra wear on certain related parts. If a heating system is too small for the space, the room will take too long to heat up or have cold spots in it. In this case, running too long to try and keep up with the thermostat setting would likely cause extra wear on the heating equipment and waste energy.

(3) Pay attention to the efficiency ratings: SEER, AFUE, and HSPF/COE and understand the relationship between higher up front costs and long-term savings through lower utility bills for air conditioning and heating. For central air conditioners, efficiency is rated in SEER. The heating industry uses a rating called the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) to measure the efficiency of converting gas into energy for heating. Heat pump efficiency gets expressed in a couple of ways, either HSPF or COE.

(4) When considering cutting edge equipment or new models with a lot of features. Ask how long the product has been sold and if you should anticipate any additional maintenance or repairs with the extra features. If you purchase a model with a lot of extra features, you should consider getting an extended parts and labor warranty along with the maintenance agreement that we always recommend. Generally, the extra features come together with the highest efficiency equipment. Examples include multi-stage equipment or fan speeds and electronics with many settings.

(5) Find out if there are any efficiency rebates or conservation incentives available from your city or local power company or other third parties before you decide to make a major repair or buy a new system. Rebate programs often specify a certain minimum efficiency rating or energy conservation measures to be eligible Currently, there is a federal tax credits available for certain high efficiency equipment.

(6) When contacting Northwest Heating and Cooling, it will help to have the number of heated and cooled square feet in your home

(7) If your A/C unit needs replacing before the furnace or central heating, you should get trusted advice from Northwest Heating and Cooling on how the new and old components would work together. Even though the new A/C and old heating components might physically be made to work, this does not necessarily make matching them your best choice. If you can afford it, replace both the air conditioning and heating components at the same time for more predictable results. The availability of rebates could also be a factor here.

(8) If you can plan ahead and get a new system purchase done during the non-peak season (before blazing summer days or the arctic fronts blow in) your HVAC work will be easier to schedule and you are more likely to receive off-peak season pricing.

(9) When negotiating a contract to buy a previously owned home, if your homebuyer’s inspection finds a problem with the air conditioner or furnace, you will want to call Northwest Heating and Cooling or other reputable company for an estimate for repair or replacement. Since you do not yet own the home, some HVAC companies will not want to give a free on-site cost estimate for replacing the system. If this happens, you might offer to pay for the on-site estimate on a new system, provided the company will take some or all the cost of the estimate off any new system you purchase within a reasonable on the length of time. To prevent confusion later, ask to have this arrangement written on your receipt when you pay for the estimate.

(10) Annual maintenance agreements are often a good value in air conditioning and heating. To get off to a good start on maintaining your new system, we recommend you sign up for annual maintenance. Northwest Heating and Cooling would check the A/C side in the spring and the heating side in the fall. In addition to preventing repair or safety problems and helping keep utility bills to a minimum, Northwest Heating and Cooling offers associated discounts on repair parts or labor when they become necessary.

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