Contractor Selection

Article Summary

The most important decision regarding the success of your new HVAC system and energy improvements will be your HVAC contractor selection. Your contractor sets the standards for both sales and installation. The quality of your new system installation will have more bearing on the performance of your new HVAC system than the equipment itself. Select an HVAC contracting company that has the right core values. The company values are reflected in the quality of the company communication, attitude of the installers and quality of work. Select an HVAC contractor who is going to make your home more comfortable and energy efficient.

Please read our customer reviews, watch our videos, study this website and meet with our sales people before you commit to selecting an HVAC contractor. I think you’ll realize that few HVAC companies have an offer as comprehensive and unique as ours. Watch the two short videos on the home page: “Our Customer’s Say it Best” and “Our Company Culture.” Both videos are approximately a minute long and the speak volumes about how Advantage Home Performance conducts itself in the marketplace.


Quality work and your HVAC contractor’s business model

For many HVAC companies, doing quality work is often at odds with their business model. These companies often feel that duct modifications, duct sealing and adding insulation complicates a job in terms of installation and do not generate the gross profit that the sale of an HVAC unit does, thus not worth bothering with. These HVAC companies pay lip service to comfort and energy savings. They call their sales people “comfort consultants” and yet they routinely ignore duct sizing, duct modifications, duct sealing, air barrier work, insulation and solar control strategies. We feel that the title “comfort consultants” is a misnomer and is often intended to mislead homeowners.


Don’t wait until your unit fails to select a contractor

Do some basic research before you select a contractor and start that research before your unit fails. The typical lifespan of a central air conditioner is about 15 to 20 years. If your unit is approaching 20 years old it will eventually fail and you should begin to consider replacing it now.

There is good information written for homeowners in regard to selecting an HVAC contractor. At the end of this article you’ll find links to the Air Conditioner Contractor Association of America consumer site, Smarterhouse.org and Energy Star “Guide to Energy Efficient Heating and Cooling.” Investing in a new HVAC system is expensive, so it is valuable to spend some time educating yourself before you select an HVAC contractor.


Don’t get hung up on equipment manufacturer

We think there is very little difference in equipment from Carrier, Lennox, Trane and many other major brands. You can go to Consumer Reports to verify this for yourself. In fact, today’s equipment is relatively well made. We can assure you that manufacturers want quality installations as well because their equipment performs as designed when it is installed correctly and connected to a well-designed duct system.


Create expectations for your new system and contractor

There is a significant difference between a system that puts out some hot or cold air and one that performs at the high efficiency, comfort and safety levels intended by the equipment manufacturers. The right contractor is going to make the difference. Goal setting is important. What are you trying to achieve? This is why we start with questions like:

  • Are there noticeable temperature differences between areas of your home?
  • Is your current system too noisy?
  • Compared to your neighbors, do your utility bills seem high?
  • Do you have allergies?

Don’t abdicate your responsibility and let the HVAC sales person drive the discussion. Arm yourself with questions and then benchmark your HVAC contractor based on the quality of the responses you get. If you let them, your salesperson is going to avoid the topics and issues they are not familiar with.


You need information about your home if you are going to improve it

You can’t solve problems if you don’t know about them. If your contractor does not go into attics and crawlspaces to inspect duct work, insulation and the air barrier they are doing you a disservice. More often than not, we can deliver better comfort and performance by making duct repairs, sealing duct systems and sealing up the thermal envelope. Furthermore, many HVAC contractors don’t know enough about insulation, air flow, moisture flow, etc. to make intelligent recommendations for improvements. The title “comfort consultants” for these contractors is inaccurate and unearned.


Your estimator / salesman

If your HVAC contractor is only focused on the HVAC equipment and not also on the duct system and house, you have the wrong company. The company is more interested in making a sale then improving your home. If you are interested in improving your home a great company’s estimator / salesman is going to get to know your home before they give you a quote. Doesn’t that stand to reason?

Ideally your estimator / salesperson not only has experience installing HVAC systems, but also is BPI (Building Performance Institute) certified. This certification typically indicates that the salesperson has had formal building science training which would help them be problem solvers. Although the certification is important, it is meaningless if the company doesn’t actively offer total home performance solutions.


Be suspect of claims that are too good to be true

Very few homeowners are going to save 25% to 50% on their utility bills after buying a new unit. The unfortunate reality is that most people only see some savings and there are some people who haven’t even saved a dime. Only a small fraction of newly installed systems reduce utility bills by the amount they are capable of or that was anticipated. When big savings are achieved this often has more to do with the location and quality of the original duct system along with the condition of air barriers and insulation.

There is simply a lot more to efficient operation than the manufacturers’ ratings. Efficiency numbers are measured in a controlled, ideal laboratory setting. A lot can and does go wrong when a contractor takes the equipment out into the real world and installs it in your home. Most homeowners are simply not getting the efficiency they paid for.


Is your contractor willing to sweat the small stuff?

Your heating system is more than just an air conditioner or furnace. It includes the air distribution system, envelope of the house, filtration and ventilation system. No matter how efficient an air conditioner or furnace is, if the ducts and/or your home leaks, you are wasting energy and are compromising your indoor air quality.

The difference between an average house and a high-performance house often comes down to a contractor’s willingness to “sweat the small stuff” that the customer never sees like air sealing, insulation and ductwork. Performance testing assures that you the customer have a safe, comfortable, durable and efficient home when the work is completed.


Continuing education and quality control

At Advantage Home Performance we continue to make major investments in our employee’s education. Our sales team and crew chiefs are all well versed in both HVAC and building science theory as well as best industry practices. This commitment to continuing education is just part of our quality control process for your satisfaction and our piece of mind.


Resources

1. ACCA – The Indoor Environment & Energy Efficiency Association The Air condition Contractors Association of America has a series of short videos for home owners as well as ACCA Standard 5: HVAC Quality Installation Specification. http://www.acca.org/homes

2. Energy Star A guide to Energy Efficient Heating & Cooling https://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/publications/pubdocs/HeatingCoolingGuide%20FINAL_9-4-09.pdf?ded8-36a8

3. This is the American Council for Energy Efficient Economy The Smarter House website is well done http://smarterhouse.org/


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