All About HVAC Replacement
An HVAC system is one of the most hard working units in residential homes. No matter the type of system currently installed in your home, there comes a time when the unit needs to be replaced. This may be due to the age of the unit, damage that is beyond repair, or you’ve decided to upgrade to a larger or more energy efficient system, or downgrade to a smaller system to provide more in-depth coverage.
Replacing an HVAC System
HVAC is an acronym for “heating, ventilation and air conditioning” so, when you are considering replacing your current system, there is more than one area to think about.
By asking the right questions before replacing, you’ll be better informed about what to expect when selecting a system that can handle the needs of your home’s square footage.
What to Know Prior to Purchasing an HVAC System
Knowledge is power and when it comes to selecting the right HVAC system, you want to be armed with a complete set of information. With this comprehensive list of things to cover before making a decision about your HVAC system, you won’t be in the dark about the direction you should take to supply adequate coverage for your home.
Replacement of Entire HVAC System
It is recommended when replacing one part of the system, whether the compressor or the air handler, to update both systems and, at a minimum, have the ductwork inspected in case it needs replacing. Although only one part of your system may need replacing, it’s recommended that you replace the entire system to maintain maximum system efficiency. Replacing the entire system means spending more money upfront but you’ll save money in the long run because your entire system will be in sync.
Choosing the Correct HVAC System Size
It may be time to upgrade or downsize in order to get the optimum in heating and cooling. For example, if your current system is too large for the square footage of your home, regulating the temperature and the humidity level will be difficult, resulting in higher energy costs. On the reverse side, a system that is too small for the square footage of your home can’t produce the right temperature levels — especially during extreme hot or cold weather.
It is necessary to figure out the load capacity needed for your home. With the expert help of a contractor, the calculation will provide the information necessary to choose the right size equipment as well as the amount of air that needs to be distributed to each room.
The Basics When Choosing a New HVAC System
Two main points are cost and efficiency determined by standard ratings.
- HSPF means Heating Season Performance Factor. This rating determines the efficiency of a heat pump. The current standard that all new heat pumps must have is a minimum of rating of 7.7.
- SEER means Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. This rating notes the efficiency of the cooling system. The current rating is set at a minimum of no less than a 13 for all new systems.
- Keep in mind when shopping for a new HVAC, while units with a higher HSPF and SEER rating than the current standard will cost more, you will have a better return you’ll have on your investment over time
Requirements for Choosing a Licensed Contractor
As noted, a licensed contractor is a requirement for HVAC installation. You hire a certified professional for two good reasons. First, the contractor is responsible for determining the load capacity necessary to adequately heat and cool your home. The contractor will do the calculations to determine the size of the unit needed as well as the distribution of the air to cover each room.
Second, once the size is determined, the contractor will suggest types of systems, explain how each works, help you make the right choice, and then do the installation.
Here are a few tips to help you hire the right contractor for your HVAC replacement project.
- Make a list of licensed, insured, and bonded HVAC contractors in your area then schedule a visit for each contractor. Allow plenty of time for the contractor to walk through your home to do any measurements and calculations and inspect your current system.
- Ask for proof of current license and insurance. Anyone can say they have the credentials or have the verbiage on a business card. You need the license number so you can do a follow up to ensure the license is active. The same holds true for insurance. You don’t want anyone working on your system who does not have the proper insurance coverage for potential accidents or damage.
- Make sure the estimate the contractor provides is dated and signed by an authorized representative of the company and has all areas of installation covered which includes when the job will start and be completed, specifies each job that is to be done, what type of equipment will be used, what work is included in each price, cost of additional materials, and cost of clean-up and/or removal of old equipment and duct work.
- Like the estimate, the contract must be signed and dated prior to your signing and there should be no blank areas anywhere on the contract.
- Ask what type of after-installation service is provided as well as what the warranty does and does not cover.
- Find out if the contractor offers a service agreement for maintenance and what it covers.
- Ensure the contractor has the appropriate qualified help to complete the job by the date specified.
- Make a note that cheaper does not mean better in the long run. You always pay for what you get and with a HVAC system, the initial cost of replacing and installing may be high, but you want it done correctly to prevent the possibility of future problems due to shoddy work.
Validating Contractor Credentials
Once the list of contractors has set an appointment to check your home and provided estimates, take the next step in ensuring each contractor is legitimate by doing a background check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB.) The bureau will have information about issues, complaints, or law suits on file and readily available for you to read.
Do I Need to Make Any Improvements to My Home?
If you’re replacing the HVAC system, a major goal of the unit should be conserving energy and cutting costs. Not only do you want a HVAC system that accommodates the square footage of your home, you want it to do so without unnecessary stress and strain. This means, tuning up your home to reduce the cost of running the system. Improvements can include easy do-it-yourself projects such as caulking cracks around windows and doors, sealing crevices around the door frame, addressing gaps at door thresholds, and insulation.
With your home tight and secure from incoming drafts or from loss of heat or cold, it’s possible you can have a smaller HVAC system installed.
Can I Do the Work Myself?
Unless you have the credentials and the proper license, the answer is no. Installing, repairing, or replacing a HVAC system requires the knowledge, know-how, and applicable license do to the job properly. Depending on the state you live in, at a minimum, a building permit is a requirement before a replacement HVAC is installed. If you need a permit and fail to comply, it can cost you monetarily in fines as well as the unit being removed and reinstalled by a licensed contractor who applies for and receives a building permit.
What Type of Maintenance is Necessary for My New HVAC System?
Like any major appliance, maintenance is required to keep it running smoothly and efficiently. With a HVAC system, there are a few things, you as the homeowner, can do that don’t require any technical knowledge or experience.
- The air filter is a hard working part of the system as it removes particles of dust, dander, and potential allergens. Some months of the year may kick up more dust than others, so an inspection and replacement of dirty filters should take place at least four times a year. Just think quarterly and do a check after each season.
- Set the temperature on the thermostat at around 78 degrees in the summer. During the winter, set it for around 68 degrees.
- Inspect air vents in each room. Remove any dust covering the vent slats so there’s smooth ventilation and be sure nothing is blocking the vent openings.
- The outside unit is equally important to maintain unrestricted airflow. Do this by keeping any grass, weeds, shrubs, or plants away from the unit.
- Invest in a yearly HVAC maintenance plan and let the professionals take care of the nuts and bolts of the system. A trained HVAC technician will inspect and fix any loose electrical connections, check the condensate drain for blockage, ensure all controls are working properly, inspect the ducts for any sign of leakage, add lubricant to the moving system parts, and adjust, if necessary, the system’s blower to ensure the air is flowing properly throughout the home.
Regardless of the reason for replacing a HVAC system, it is a big investment. To receive the best return of investment, replacing a current unit with one that is of equal or better standing in terms of SEER and HSPF ratings will save you money. Along with the right HVAC system designed to fit your needs, having the unit installed and maintained by a qualified professional will also save you money and energy.