30 Questions When Buying A New HVAC System


Introduction

Do you really know what questions to ask when replacing an HVAC system for your home? You are in the right spot to get HVAC questions free.

The first step in what to know before replacing your air conditioning system is the right questions to ask. Be well enough informed as to what you want.

Just saying, “My house has to be cool in the summer and warm in the winter”, and leaving the rest up to a contractor is not a good enough strategy for you to have the most optimum system.

If you’d like to get right to the questions to ask when getting a new furnace and and air conditioner then skip my formidable introduction then select the Table of Contents for some quick navigation.

Who wouldn’t have questions to ask when replacing an HVAC system? Get informed now because the installation and repair of heating and air conditioning equipment is one of the most expensive investments related to your home.

There is just a ton of questions that should be asked when buying a gas furnace, like the best time of year to buy HVAC systems. Like a good attorney, they know the answer before they ask the question.

The TRUE highest cost system is the system that is not installed properly.

This is another saying related to a new installation of HVAC Equipment. “The best day in the life of an new HVAC system is the day it was installed.”

Neglect some of these questions and you may wonder if you bought a lemon.

The reviews that are left online regarding this brand or that brand being the worst make or model are 9 out of 10 times not the fault of the equipment. The problems are mostly installation related.

This is a serious problem. How will you choose the right contractor?

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Here are the 30 HVAC questions you absolutely need to ask if the apply of course. Read through the highlighted questions and delve into those that feel pertinent to your situation. Become more knowledgeable and less likely to being taken advantage of.

Table Of Contents

  1. Are Estimates Free?
  2. Are There Any Special Offers Or Rebates I Can Claim?
  3. Will You Provide Proof Of Licensing And Insurance To Do This Work?
  4. Is A Forced Air System Best For Me?
  5. How Will I Know What Size System Fits My Home?
  6. Do I Need More Than One Zone?
  7. Will You Quote Me More Than One Efficiency?
  8. What Types Of Filters Do You Offer?
  9. Will You Inspect My Existing System, Including Electrical Wiring And Duct Work?
  10. How Will You Determine If My Duct Work Is Adequate?
  11. Can You Provide Referrals From Existing Customers?
  12. Is Their A Written Service Plan Available To Maintain My New Equipment?
  13. Who Takes Care Of All The Paperwork Involved In Warranty And Rebates?
  14. Will I Be Given Copies Of All The Paperwork Created To Determine My Installation?
  15. Will You Explain To Me The Complete Operation Of My New System In A Manner That I Can Understand?
  16. Will You Be Performing A Blower Door Or Equivalent Test To Determine Duct Leakage?
  17. To What Extent Will You Be Sealing My Ductwork?
  18. After We Sign The Paperwork, When Will The Work Begin And How Long Will The Job Take To Complete?
  19. What Will Be The Location Of My New Equipment?
  20. Will The Makes, Model Numbers And Energy Ratings Be On My Contract?
  21. Will You Provide A Convenient Place For All Equipment Related Paperwork To Be Readily Accessible For Future Service?
  22. Will Method Of Payment Be On The Contract And Do You Have Financing?
  23. Do You Offer A 100% Money Back Guarantee?
  24. What Permits Will Be Required For My Job?
  25. What New Technologies Are Available?
  26. What Is The SEER, HSPF, and COP Or The Percentage Of Efficiency Of My New System?
  27. What Is The Guarantee On Your Labor?
  28. Do You Haul Away The Old Equipment And Clean Up All Job Related Debris?
  29. Do You Have Adequate Staff To Install And Do Service In A Timely Manner During Extreme Weather?
  30. Are Your Technicians NATE Certified?

1. Are Estimates Free?

An initial question that needs to be asked prior to the visit. Estimates should always be free. Sales people in the HVAC industry a generally paid a commision on the sale.

Some companies train their technicians to give estimates while others have the techs refer the call to a sales person. If your equipment is found defective by a technician, ask if the service call charge will be dropped if you buy new equipment from their company.

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2. Are There Any Special Offers Or Rebates I Can Claim?

The best avenue for finding out about available credits would begin with contacting your utility companies that are related to your equipment. Gas company for gas equipment and power company for heat pumps, etc.

Be sure to contact your utility first because some utilities have only certain contractors that are approved for installing HVAC equipment that would qualify for local rebates.

Federal tax credits are constantly changing. Intuit’s Turbotax website keeps an updated list of what equipment the feds will offer credits for. You should consult a good CPA for more details. A good tax consultant should be up to date on tax incentives.

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3. Will You Provide Proof Of Licensing And Insurance To Do This Work?

To protect yourself, you need to know if the people you hire are properly insured and licensed. Contractors in most jurisdictions should have, at the least, liability and workman’s compensation insurance.

Never rely on your own insurance. If a mishap occurs then your insurance company and your contractors insurance will work together to resolve the problem.

Their Workman’s compensation will protect you if one of the contractors employee’s injures themselves on the job.

Licensing varies from state to state. Call your local construction contractors board and find out what your area requires. While on the same call you can check to see if your contractor has all the necessary licensing.

Never take the word of anybody on insurance and licensing. Verify.

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4. Is A Forced Air System Best For Me?

If you currently have a ducted system and the duct work is still intact and has proper design to deliver the air needed for your new system then it would be advantageous to stay with a forced air system. A complete duct system has the ability to deliver comfort to every room, quietly and efficiently.

Some homes have no duct work and alternatives are quite surprising these days with the ductless mini split heat pumps and air conditioners that so many people are asking about. If you are unfamiliar with what a mini split is then just take a quick peak here on Amazon. When you do you’ll probably say “oh yah, I’ve seen these before.”

With a mini split system you can have one outdoor unit that supplies several indoor heads. The price goes up dramatically as you add heads to the system.

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5. How Do You Calculate Furnace Size?

There is more than one way to determine correct size. The most reliable is what the industry call a Manual J. It’s an engineering work sheet that can determine the BTU’s required to heat and cool your home.

Manual J takes into consideration many factors that include dimensions, insulation, window, and other load factors.

Using the square footage only to find the size of the new equipment can be a dangerous guessing game that could leave you with either a too small or too large of system.

Some people think bigger is better. Not so in areas of high humidity. Water vapor in the air is critical to remove and can only be removed with run time. Buy a unit that is too big and it will cycle off before you remove that humidity. Buy an AC that’s too small and guess what, you just sweat it out.

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6. Is Zoned HVAC Worth It?

Zoning has so many great applications. Especially on a two story home. Having the ability to control the upstairs and downstairs separately adds a considerable amount of comfort to a home.

With one zone on a two story home, the level or floor with the thermostat is the level that gets satisfied. The other floor is seldom comfortable.

You should do a lot of research on zoning before breaking up one system into zones.

One of the flaws in zoning systems that’s difficult to overcome is for example, in a three zone system, when you have one zone calling for heat or cool, it means that all the dampers in the other two zones are closed. Thus all the air is routed through the one open zone. To relieve all that air a bypass damper is installed.

The bypass duct with a barometric damper relieves the pressure, but all that conditioned air is recycled which causes temperature swings that have to be controlled. Be sure that the zoning system you are deliberating over has controls designed to overcome that.

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7. Will You Quote Me More Than The Average HVAC Efficiency?

It’s quite possible that going up to another level of efficiency could have a return on your investment. Add up the savings over the average life of the type of system you’re interested in and see the savings from utility costs.

Depending on your current systems age the savings could be dramatic when looking at higher SEER ratings. Spend a moment looking into this calculator at kobiecomplete.com.

Don’t be satisfied with one level of efficiency in your quote. The added cost could very well be worth the investment over the life of the new system.

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8. Do I Need Air Filters With A High MERV Rating?

Most contractors have their favorite filters they like to use. At least now their’s a universal grading system called a MERV rating. Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value that measures the overall efficiency of filters.

Not long ago, filter manufacturers rated their own filters for efficiency with no consistency between them. So it was difficult to say who’s was best. When you shop for filters now, almost without exception, a MERV rating will be visible.

Higher MERV ratings means more dust and airborne particles are captured. The best ratings where most residential homes would range from 7 to 12 MERV.

My preference is utilizing return air filter grilles centrally located in the home. By using filter grilles the whole system is filtered from the get go. You can upgrade a filter grille that holds a 1′ filter by adding a Honeywell aftermarket filter.

These filters are available on Amazon and they are such a slick fit for even an existing filter grille. Notice the 1″ lip that surrounds the filter, that fits into the grille and the 5″ filter sets inside giving you a lot more time between filter changes and better filtration.

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9. Will You Inspect My Existing System, Including Electrical Wiring And Duct Work?

Adding new equipment where none was before will require new electrical circuits. Not all HVAC contractors are licensed electricians. Some counties allow heating companies to run one circuit. It’s one of those questions to ask the construction contractors board.

Replacing existing units may still make it necessary to upgrade a circuit or change breakers.

Putting a new furnace or heat pump system on existing duct work that leaks or has distribution issues would be like putting lipstick on a pig.

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10. How Will You Determine If My Duct Work Is Adequate?

Each room in a home requires a certain amount of airflow to maintain comfort and required changes of air. A room that is fed by too small of duct will be uncomfortable. If you have any of those rooms, address it with your contractor.

Flex duct can be an issue to address. It can be installed poorly or be of an age or brand that may not hold up well for another 10 to 15 years.

Adequate duct work should be sealed properly. A blower door or duct blaster test could give you peace of mind knowing that all that conditioned air is going where it should and not into crawl spaces or attics.

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11. Can You Provide Referrals From Existing Customers?

Asking a potential contractor for older referrals from their customers can give a home owner a idea of the quality of work that’s expected. Newer referrals would have less history to praise about the contractor.

Looking online on Google Maps would give some idea about what people have to say. Could be good or bad. It’s not unusual for a good company to have a few bad reviews. There are some bad customers out there.

Don’t be too gullible when ready reviews. Ever heard of fake reviews? The best reviews come from friends, relatives, and even casual acquaintances.

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12. Is Their A Written Service Plan Available To Maintain My New Equipment?

Manufacturers can use lack of maintenance as an excuse to not honor a warranty. Compressors can easily be damaged by lack of airflow caused by a dirty (plugged) filter.

Service plans can be expensive and the work promised is not always there. Be sure they offer a check list of what is to be covered in a maintenance program and ask how you can be assured that those items are completed.

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13. Who Takes Care Of All The Paperwork Involved In Warranty And Rebates?

Ideally the contractor would take care of all the paperwork. It’s an item to be negotiated during the contract phase.

Goodman equipment for example offers a 5 year warranty out of the box. If the contractor or homeowner goes online and fills out the warranty registration then an additional 5 years is added for a total of 10 years parts only.

Dealers are generally paid a minuscule amount for warranty labor from manufactures. It’s assumed that they as the installers have some responsibility.

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14. Will I Be Given Copies Of All The Paperwork Created To Determine My Installation?

Within reason homeowners should be able to see anything the contractor used to determine the details of a job. Everything, that is, minus what their costs are.

All paperwork related to equipment is required to be left on the job and should be displayed in an obvious place for future service work.

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15. Will You Explain To Me The Complete Operation Of My New System In A Manner That I Can Understand?

Most people are happy with just knowing how to operate a thermostat. Having a general knowledge of how a system operates and how to recognize a problem can prevent a small issue from becoming a big problem

Bringing the technical talk down to a level of understanding that the novice can run with takes talent. Asking the right HVAC questions should become a habit.

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16. Will You Be Performing A Blower Door Or Equivalent Test To Determine Duct Leakage?

Duct leakage is one of the biggest wastes of energy. In older homes that have sheet metal duct work Consider a single joint in a duct run that supplies just one room in a home.

The image above is a 90 degree elbow which would be a very common item in the average home. Each of those three joints is called a gore. Each gore is a hairline crack.

Add up all the 90’s and other joints holding sheet metal fittings together, and there could be the equivalent of a rather large hole blowing good conditioned air out or sucking bad air into the home.

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17. To What Extent Will You Be Sealing My Ductwork?

Depending on how much duct is accessible, the more sealing that is done the more efficient a system will be. The work can be a definite DIY project. Duct sealing products come in tape form or paint it on with a brush. Amazon has a decent product. Cleans up with water and dries quick enough to handle in a short time.

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18. After We Sign The Paperwork, When Will The Work Begin And How Long Will The Job Take To Complete?

This is a question that should be in the contract. Hold them to it. Be considerate of circumstances beyond the contractors control, just as you would expect them to be for you.

HVAC companies are very seasonal when it comes to work load. That’s why choosing a company that is fully staffed can be beneficial. Selecting a small company can leave you at their mercy, but could still be preferable because of the more personal relationship to the manager or owner.

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19. What Will Be The Location Of My New Equipment?

This is amongst the most important questions to ask your heat pump installer.

Heat pump are big offenders when it comes to location. Never near bedroom windows or quiet areas of the home. Although heat pumps have become considerably less noisy than years ago, it is best to consider this part of an installation very carefully.

Access to indoor equipment is vital and some codes require so many inches in front of furnaces for serviceability. Filters need to be where it as little effort as possible to change. The more difficult it is for you to change a filter, the less attention the filter will get.

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20. Will The Makes, Model Numbers And Energy Ratings Be On My Contract?

When the equipment arrives, is the time to check what’s on the contract. Finding out that what you ordered is not what you got installed is painful. If the makes and model numbers of your new equipment are not on the contract there is very little recourse for the homeowner if the new equipment doesn’t match.

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A simple wall mounted file holder can be hung near the indoor unit to hold all paperwork related to the equipment.

Even though we live in an instant information society, often times a technician will need data available on installation instructions that come with new equipment.

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22. Will Method Of Payment Be On The Contract And Do You Have Financing?

If the contractor is squared away he will offer financing. The interest rate is usually quite high for this type of payment. Ask for the cash price first. Better yet pay with your credit card and get the points!

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23. Do You Offer A 100% Money Back Guarantee?

HVAC contractors that offer a 100% money back guarantee advertise the fact right up front. It’s great for reducing fear and anxiety in customers who are reluctant to pull out their checkbooks.

Nothing will make a contractor perform better than knowing he has a risk of losing payment for a job poorly done. Usually that includes removing the new equipment.

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24. What Permits Will Be Required For My Job?

Undoubtedly permits will be required. In our state we are even required to submit three forms related to lean laws when a job exceeds $2000 in cost. There is a $200 fine to the contractor for not complying.

Not too many of us are lucky enough to find a county that doesn’t require permits. But there is one in Nevada or there used to be, just can’t find it now. Our governments have made it a very good source of revenue in the name of protecting the public, against ourselves sometimes.

Even a mini split installation requires a permit. Just about any added HVAC equipment will fall under the jurisprudence or needing a permit.

Oh, permits really are necessary. It’s the same with any other law or restriction. Enough people abuse something and before you know it there’s a law to prevent it and ten other things that might not even relate.

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25. What New Technologies Are Available?

Most of the new technologies today have to do with communicating furnaces and heat pumps. WiFi and blue tooth devices that allow you to see what your home is doing while away on vacation or a trip.

The standard in HVAC equipment has been to have several wires between indoor, outdoor and thermostats. With communicating equipment the signals between units is more digital and there are only two wires.

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26. What Is The SEER, HSPF, and COP Or The Percentage Of Efficiency Of My New System?

These are the acronyms the industry uses to establish efficiencies. Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is used to note the cooling efficiency. Heating Season Performance Factor (HSPF) denotes the heating efficiency.

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27. What Is The Guarantee On Your Labor?

Most contractors offer a one year labor warranty. That has been determined to be enough time to cover any defects in installation. But, in fact, that isn’t always true.

If you have doubts or concerns, an extended policy might be a good option. Insurance is good if it’s reasonable. These policies have a lot of legalese.

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Who wants to be bothered with removing the old stuff? Let them take it back to the shop as they go.

I once had a customer call me and ask where his old heat pump was. I had to tell him it was dispose of just like I do with all systems I change out. He wanted it back. I had to give him another one just like it.

I said, “what are you going to do with it?” He said he was going to put it back together. Mmmm.

Just have it in the contract so there will be no misunderstandings.

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29. Do You Have Adequate Staff To Install And Do Service In A Timely Manner During Extreme Weather?

It bears repeating. There are about three contractors in my area. When the bad weather hits, their schedules go out sometimes up to three weeks before they can service a customer. This should be totally unacceptable, unless a home has a couple different sources of heating or cooling.

Have the company’s response time in writing.

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30. Are Your Technicians NATE Certified?

There is a coalition of organizations that belong to NATE. They include the EPA and American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

NATE is another one of the industries acronyms that stands for North American Technician Excellence. An independent organization that provides testing and certifies HVACR technicians and installers.

The testing is rigorous and is not always passed the first time around. A score of 70 or higher is required. Training is divided into specialty groups that include air distribution, air conditioning, heat pumps, gas heat and oil heat.

A NATE patch on a technicians shirt indicates he or she is among the best in the trades and chances are the job they perform will be top notch.

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Conclusion

Ask a lot of questions.

Chad Peterson

Chad Peterson is near 40 year veteran of the HVAC industry. "I like to explain heating and air conditioning problems in a way the average home owner can understand. "

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