But Tim, doesn’t this mean that a less-than-honest air conditioning company can just charge what he wants and say that it’s a difficult job? No. You see, dishonest contractors, typically, aren’t the brightest people (I figure if you’re still reading this, you’re warming up to me so I’m taking off the training-wheels). They aren’t smart enough to take difficulty into account, and will probably get confused if you ask them about it. They will tell you things like, “that’s how much the unit costs,” or “California has a new law that magically adds $5,000 to the price.” Trust me, follow your gut, and you’ll be able to tell who the honest contractors are...or just use one of our ASM-approved contractors.
After one company just took a cursory glance at our A/C and found nothing wrong, I called HVAC. I called them mostly based on Michael W's post on 8/10/14 where he told us the owner, Alberto, took his feedback and took it SERIOUSLY. That speaks VOLUMES to anyone who has been around long enough to know the characteristics of the serious players are and those who are the wannabes.
Pro Tips: Before you buy one of the learning thermostats available, you should beware of their shortcomings. First, many require a c-wire to work properly. A common problem is that the old thermostat might not use a c-wire, and this makes it confusing when swapping wires to the new thermostat. Secondly, if you change your thermostat setting often, you might become frustrated with a nest thermostat or other learning thermostat. It will be constantly trying to learn patterns in your random setting changes, and will therefore change your home’s temperature when you don’t want it to. If you have a fairly consistent schedule or don’t mind overriding the unit either manually or via the app on your way home or when leaving, then you won’t experience this issue.
As you can see, if we know what the contractor is actually paying for specific equipment, we know what their labor rates are, and we know what they bid the project for, then we can also use some basic algebra (or just let the program do it for us because we’re lazy) to figure out how much of a profit they are making off of us (you) at different bid prices:
Unfortunately, manufacturers and contractors don’t publish this information…it’s a secret. Why? Who knows…but we have access to a full contractor pricing database of 1,000’s of different units in our online HVAC installation cost calculator, so let’s choose one for our example calculation. We’ll go with Carrier equipment, since our readers always bother us about them (despite us telling them that they are overpriced):
Deciding if central air is worth the cost depends on your needs and local housing market. If you live in a hotter climate, it can definitely be worth the price. Not only can it keep your home at a comfortable temperature, but air conditioning can even save lives during extreme heat waves. But in a milder zone without severe temperatures, window units, fans or the breeze from an open window could be adequate.
The most recognized standards for HVAC design are based on ASHRAE data. The most general of four volumes of the ASHRAE Handbook is Fundamentals; it includes heating and cooling calculations. Each volume of the ASHRAE Handbook is updated every four years. The design professional must consult ASHRAE data for the standards of design and care as the typical building codes provide little to no information on HVAC design practices; codes such as the UMC and IMC do include much detail on installation requirements, however. Other useful reference materials include items from SMACNA, ACGIH, and technical trade journals.
Energy efficiency can be improved even more in central heating systems by introducing zoned heating. This allows a more granular application of heat, similar to non-central heating systems. Zones are controlled by multiple thermostats. In water heating systems the thermostats control zone valves, and in forced air systems they control zone dampers inside the vents which selectively block the flow of air. In this case, the control system is very critical to maintaining a proper temperature.
Although HVAC is executed in individual buildings or other enclosed spaces (like NORAD's underground headquarters), the equipment involved is in some cases an extension of a larger district heating (DH) or district cooling (DC) network, or a combined DHC network. In such cases, the operating and maintenance aspects are simplified and metering becomes necessary to bill for the energy that is consumed, and in some cases energy that is returned to the larger system. For example, at a given time one building may be utilizing chilled water for air conditioning and the warm water it returns may be used in another building for heating, or for the overall heating-portion of the DHC network (likely with energy added to boost the temperature).
Though this installation is not always complicated, it's best to work with an air conditioning contractor to ensure it's done correctly. Permits are usually required for this type of work and can be obtained by a state-licensed contractor. You should not attempt to install central air conditioning on your own since you need a license to handle the refrigerant chemicals (Freon) involved.
Important Tip: Don’t just pay attention to the high-end of the price range! – which is what I know you are all looking at, but also look at the low range. If a contractor is cheaper than this, ask “why?” Usually it is because they don’t have liability insurance, workman’s compensation insurance, are unlicensed, all of the above, or worst yet, they don’t use HVAC technicians. You are spending a lot of money. Make sure that they are licensed (In California, check here at CSLB License Checker) and insured.
PickHVAC Tips: Don’t be sold on systems with features you don’t want or need. Called “upselling,” it is rampant in the HVAC industry. Some features are nice – if you want them. If your single-stage furnace was loud and pushed out cold air at the start of the cycle, then a two-stage model will improve those issues. If you didn’t notice them, the upgrade will be a waste of money. That’s just one common example.
AC air handler buzzing sounds. Do you hear a buzzing sound when you turn on the thermostat? The only thing that comes on in the house when you turn on the thermostat is the fan relay and fan in the air handler or furnace. Try switching the thermostat HEAT/COOL switch to OFF. Then switch the fan switch from AUTO to ON. The fan (only) should come on. If the air handler makes a buzzing sound, it probably has a bad fan relay or, more likely, blower fan.