Talking to an HVAC professional about an air conditioning replacement can be intimidating. There’s a lot to know, and it’s probably not going to be cheap. But considering that a typical air conditioning unit lasts 10 to 15 years, what you invest today will help pay for itself in the longer term. That being said, it’s still important to know what to ask and the pitfalls to watch for.
Always Ask About Licensing and Insurance
Before you so much as let someone start to quote your HVAC job, ask about their licensing and insurance status. Not only will this save you a ton of time by weeding out anyone who isn’t actually a practicing professional, you’ll avoid issues that can arise if, for example, your HVAC is installed without a permit, or there’s a jobsite accident without proper coverage. HVAC installers should always be licensed according to your state and local guidelines.
Your installer should also carry the proper insurance policies. For example, a comprehensive policy will protect you should there be damage to your property as a result of a mistake made during the installation. And Workers Compensation insurance can also help by protecting you from being held liable should your HVAC workers have an accident on the job. Be aware that small shops don’t always carry Workers Compensation because of rules on who can be insured, so if your installer doesn’t carry Workers Compensation, be sure to get a liability waiver.
Your HVAC Estimate
As far as the estimate itself is concerned, there are several questions you should ask right up front. These questions and their answers should also be included on the estimate itself, as it serves as a sort of informal contract on the job you’re having done. Make sure you’ve hit these points:
- What’s the brand and SEER rating of the unit that will be installed? If you’re having both your furnace and air conditioner replaced, ask about the fuel type and efficiency of the furnace, as well. If you’ve got a standard heating and air conditioning system, this is your opportunity to switch to something a bit more energy efficient, like a heat pump, so be sure to ask if there are other options that can use your existing ductwork.
- What size is the unit that will be installed? Make sure to note the size of the unit you’re having removed and how well it worked during its service. A single like-for-like replacement unit should be the same size if the performance was good, or should be adjusted slightly depending on your actual needs. Note that you will need a matching A-coil if you change air conditioner sizes without changing your furnace, too.
- Will you need ductwork? Ductwork can usually be reused, but as it gets older it can develop damage, come apart, or rust through, depending on the materials and conditions it’s subjected to. If any amount of ductwork is being replaced, make sure to have this noted and broken out in the estimate, because ductwork costs can add up fast. On the other hand, this is also a great time to add additional registers or cold air returns in older homes to help improve efficiency.
- What other things will be done while they’re working? HVAC companies do more than just install heating and air conditioning units. They can remove old furnaces left behind in crawl spaces, clean your ductwork, install smart thermometers, or provide you with electrostatic filters, just to name a few. If any of this work is being done, have it included in the estimate and later ensure it was completed as promised.
- Is there a warranty? Most importantly, make sure you have all the details on any warranties offered. Most HVAC systems will come with warranties on the individual parts, as well as a separate warranty on labor. This information can be extremely useful should your air conditioner need unexpected repairs, like a replacement control board or compressor.