You've probably noticed many appliances boasting an Energy Star Certification. What this means is that manufacturer voluntarily built the product to help reduce greenhouse gases and meet non-regulatory guidelines offered by the Environmental Protection Agency. To earn an Energy Star rating, a product or system must be tested by a third party that has been recognized by the EPA for meeting their testing qualifications.
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:
An air conditioning system, or a standalone air conditioner, provides cooling and humidity control for all or part of a building. Air conditioned buildings often have sealed windows, because open windows would work against the system intended to maintain constant indoor air conditions. Outside, fresh air is generally drawn into the system by a vent into the indoor heat exchanger section, creating positive air pressure. The percentage of return air made up of fresh air can usually be manipulated by adjusting the opening of this vent. Typical fresh air intake is about 10%.
Some systems include an "economizer mode", which is sometimes called a "free-cooling mode". When economizing, the control system will open (fully or partially) the outside air damper and close (fully or partially) the return air damper. This will cause fresh, outside air to be supplied to the system. When the outside air is cooler than the demanded cool air, this will allow the demand to be met without using the mechanical supply of cooling (typically chilled water or a direct expansion "DX" unit), thus saving energy. The control system can compare the temperature of the outside air vs. return air, or it can compare the enthalpy of the air, as is frequently done in climates where humidity is more of an issue. In both cases, the outside air must be less energetic than the return air for the system to enter the economizer mode.
They are also often harder to install. A proper location on the roof must be selected that can support the weight of the unit. Then a platform must be built and a drain pipe for the unit must be run along the roof to avoid problems with mold and corrosion. A crane must be used to lift the unit onto the roof while a team guides it into place and hooks it up.
Stick with a maximum of 16 SEER units in most cases. Like I said above, contractors push higher SEER units because they make more money, but these units can be expensive at this stage of development, and can drive up your HVAC installation cost. 21 SEER units run about twice the price of a 14 SEER unit, so unless you live in a desert and plan on being there for 30 more years... Likewise, a 16 SEER unit typically costs only about $600-$1,000 more than a 14 SEER, and will usually pay for itself over the lifetime of the unit.
DIY: We don’t recommend a DIY approach. Depending on the system, working with gas, electricity and refrigerant create dangers. Beyond that, it is essential that split system components be selected for compatibility. DIY installation of an HVAC system will void the warranty of most brands. The manufacturers won’t stand behind the warranty when anyone other than a certified installer does the work. This is true since improper installation is the main cause of poor system performance and mechanical breakdowns.
Is there a such thing as a PQ-15 valve? No…but how do we know? And oh, by the way, there are only two types of line-sets: 3/4 inch, and 7/8 inch. All modern equipment runs on a 7/8 inch line-set, so the only time they’ll have to change something is if you have antiquated 3/4 inch line-set from the 60’s or 70’s. I’m digressing though…the point is that they can easily prey on uninformed consumers…like you, baby bird! Don’t worry though…you’ll be flying by the end of this article.
Knowing what you should be paying for your HVAC equipment and installation is essential to getting a fair deal. Most HVAC prices aren’t advertised. Contractor strategy is to get a salesperson into your home to sell you on a package of equipment, accessories and installation. This makes comparing systems difficult, and some sales pressure might be applied.
A BTU is the amount of energy required to heat or cool one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. So a 1-ton air conditioner can cool 12,000 pounds of water by one degree every hour. That’s all it means, so don’t let yourself be lost in jargon! How this affects your HVAC installation cost is that the larger your house is, the more tons will be required to heat and cool it.
The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers is a body that covers the essential Service (systems architecture) that allow buildings to operate. It includes the electrotechnical, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, refrigeration and plumbing industries. To train as a building services engineer, the academic requirements are GCSEs (A-C) / Standard Grades (1-3) in Maths and Science, which are important in measurements, planning and theory. Employers will often want a degree in a branch of engineering, such as building environment engineering, electrical engineering or mechanical engineering. To become a full member of CIBSE, and so also to be registered by the Engineering Council UK as a chartered engineer, engineers must also attain an Honours Degree and a master's degree in a relevant engineering subject.
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My point is that the brand of equipment you choose is going to affect your HVAC installation cost greatly. People often call us for an air conditioning installation job and say, “I would like to install Carrier equipment.” Now, if you are a future client of ours, I’ll have to warn you – I can be a bit of a smart-ass. Why can’t work be fun? Besides…I was in the Navy for 11 years, what do you expect.
I call to follow up at the end of the next day and she said that she has not been able to get in touch with the owner. By this time, I am starting to get frustrated because I am starting to get the run around. I question her if I am even on the schedule or if they attempted to schedule a crane. She says they are extremely busy and that she does not know. So I say, basically I have waited over 2 weeks and you have not put me on the schedule and I am at the end of the install line. No answer. I tell her to talk to her boss and find out what is happening, and I will think about what direction I want to move in at this point.
Air conditioners can create a lot of water because they remove moisture from the air. To get rid of this, they have a [usually plastic] drain pipe that comes out of the side of the air handler. Over time, algae can block this pipe and, when it does, the AC won’t work. In fact, some condensate drains have a float switch that won’t let the AC run if water backs-up. Water can also puddle around the unit or flood the area. To deal with condensate problems, please see Air Conditioner Leaks Water, below.