One of the most expensive purchases you will ever make for your home is an air-conditioner – whether you are replacing existing equipment or choosing a heating and air-conditioning system for a new home.
Once your AC system is up and running, it could be a decade or more before you replace it.
Since you will be living with it for a long time, you want to choose wisely.
If done correctly, a new air-conditioner will result in more comfort year-round, lower energy bills and better air quality — particularly because of recent improvements in cooling-equipment technology and installation procedures.
Here are basic points to remember during the process:
1. Pick a trusted contractor. Unless you have worked in the HVAC field, you cannot expect to completely understand all the details in air-conditioning; no homeowner can. This creates a situation where you might be taken advantage of, and you need to proceed carefully.
Do pick a contractor based on recommendations from friends or neighbors or a reputable referral network. Don’t choose one after talking to a telemarketer or because someone came to your door to make a solicitation. Be suspicious of mailings offering cut-rate prices.
Check on how long the contractor has been in business. Someone who has been around at least five years has a commitment to the job and can typically be counted on to return if you have problems.
HVAC contractors must register with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. Get the license number and check it out at azroc.gov under “contractor info & searches.”
Then check with the Better Business Bureau to see whether a contractor has been the subject of complaints. Finally, ask each contractor you interview for past customers’ names and call a few.
Ask references: Did the contractor do what was promised? Has he or she returned to fix problems that came up after installation? How do the customers like the air-conditioner they chose? What impact have they seen on their utility bills?
2. Take the contractor’s advice. Researching online or asking others who have purchased air-conditioners is always good. But be cautious about insisting on a specific brand or size of air-conditioner, especially when recommended by someone living in another state.
Once you choose an installer you trust, ask for suggestions. The contractor may know about options that suit your home better than what you had in mind. A good contractor also knows which manufacturers give the best warranty.
3. Buy an AC that fits your home. Make sure your contractor does research about your house, the microclimate you live in, and the condition and placement of your air ducts. That way, he or she can determine how much air-conditioning you need and whether you need to repair or realign ducts to improve your cooling efficiency.
Be very, very cautious. If a salesperson makes a proposal without visiting your attic to look at your furnace and air handler or without checking the AC in the yard or on the roof, he or she is not doing the necessary homework.