Heating, ventilation and air conditioning or HVAC systems allow you to heat, cool and circulate air inside of your home.
HVAC consumes anywhere from a quarter to forty percent of our energy budget, depending on how cold the climate is where you live and how well insulated the property is.
What should you look for in a new HVAC system? And what should you look for in HVAC suppliers?
It is worth paying a little more to get more energy-efficient HVAC equipment. We’ve already mentioned how much energy they consume. Simply buying a unit a few percent more efficient can save you hundreds on your energy bill every year. A more efficient unit could also result in rebates from your utility company or the government. However, the top of the line units may not be worth it, especially compared to the return on investment you get if you add weather stripping and install a programmable thermostat.
Many British homes use boilers to generate hot water for general use as well as heating one’s home. If you have a boiler system, you should prioritise qualified installation. This means finding plumbing services experienced in boiler repairs and installations instead of assuming someone who can sell you an electric furnace can properly connect and maintain the boiler, too. Research the track record for the installation company. After all, their mistakes installing the new air conditioner or furnace could result in expensive service calls later, and in a worst-case scenario, it will void the warranty.
Warranty and Support
Don’t look at just the purchase and installation cost of the HVAC equipment. Compare models based on long-term operating costs. Energy efficiency, for example, lowers the operating costs of the heater or boiler. However, models can also vary in how much maintenance they need. How often does the control board on that model of furnace error out? How often do the heating elements in that electric furnace burn out? And what will the installer do if this happens soon after you bought it? You may want to prioritise models that rarely break over cheap ones that generate a steady stream of service calls.
The warranty that comes with the HVAC equipment gives you a rough indicator of the equipment’s quality. The items they never cover are the ones more likely to fail. If key components like compressors and motors aren’t covered for more than a year, that’s a red flag. Be careful of the warranty terms. Parts and labour warranties are worth more than more limited warranties, and very limited warranties may be meaningless. Read the fine print. It may say that the unit has to be installed at regular intervals by the installer or a manufacturer approved service provider. Then your warranty is voided the moment you replace the filter or burnt out capacitor yourself.
Skip the extended warranty. First, they’re generally priced such that you pay far more than you’ll get out of it. Second, if the equipment is as failure prone as the salesperson tells you, then you don’t want to buy it. You might be better off with higher quality equipment, an actual service agreement or an overall home warranty that includes the HVAC equipment.