Central, "all-air" air-conditioning systems (or package systems) with a combined outdoor condenser/evaporator unit are often installed in North American residences, offices, and public buildings, but are difficult to retrofit (install in a building that was not designed to receive it) because of the bulky air ducts required. (Minisplit ductless systems are used in these situations.) Outside of North America, packaged systems are only used in limited applications involving large indoor space such as stadiums, theatres or exhibition halls.

DIY: Most DIY installations go smoothly. The major brands have compatibility checkers to see which of their models will work with the wiring your old thermostat is using. Potential problems involve the need for a C-wire, or common wire, when the existing bundle doesn’t include one. There are solutions discussed in our Thermostat Buying Guide, linked to below.


Our unit is 16 years old and we've had it checked out recently since it seems to be running excessively. Over all the tech says it is putting out well; it's the correct size, we have no shade and we've been having extreme heat with high humidity. The info you provided is very helpful and will help us make an informed decision when the time comes. Thank you so much.

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.
The HVAC installation costs below are based on residential installations only, and are priced for a single unit. Two units should be about twice the price. “Tim, shouldn’t there be a discount?” If people start giving you discounts, they are probably charging you too much to begin with.  That’s our philosophy anyway. Twice the parts and time should be twice the price from a fair contractor. The prices listed include component parts (with warranty), labor, and all materials for a complete HVAC installation.
PickHVAC Tips: Oil burns dirty, so it is important to have your plenum and ducts checked to see if they should be cleaned when replacing an oil furnace. If you don’t clean the plenum and ducts when replacing the furnace, the new furnace might not run as efficiently and comfortably as possible due to restricted airflow. This can also reduce the oily smell sometimes associated with oil furnaces.
They were quick to come out and diagnose the problem with my furnace, but I thought the estimate of $549 a bit high to replace the circuit board.  So called around and found Leo's Appliance in Concord that sells appliance parts and the circuit board was only $90.49 - that is the retail cost to me, so I imagine the wholesale cost is a lot less.  So BEWARE of this company since they wanted $500!!! to replace the circuit board which is located right in the front of the furnace - extremely easy to access.  I hate it that you cannot trust repair companies.
SEER is useful for comparing one model to another much in the same way that a car's calculate MPG is useful. It's not an accurate prediction of exactly how efficient the system is, but it can tell you which one is more efficient. Also, since SEER is based on a "cooling season", what region you live in will determine how long or short your cooling season is.
Outdoor Fan Motor -- The outdoor fan, also called the condenser fan, is exposed to external conditions. As such it is most prone to dust and debris and the extreme weather. In desert climates, the outdoor fan motor is subject to heat not only from normal operation but from the outside temperature as well. As it starts to fail, the fan may work fine in the cooler morning hours but stop by afternoon. This can shut down the entire system for hours. When they stop running completely, your air conditioner will no longer work. Running a faulty fan will lead to compressor failure, which is a very costly repair.
Cost Factors: The size of the unit, its efficiency and it’s single-stage, two-stage or variable-capacity are the top cost factors. Features like communicating technology and improved dehumidification performance also affect the price. Learn more about communicating technology here including the pros and cons, before being agreeing to a communicating system.
An alternative to packaged systems is the use of separate indoor and outdoor coils in split systems. Split systems are preferred and widely used worldwide except in North America. In North America, split systems are most often seen in residential applications, but they are gaining popularity in small commercial buildings. The split systems are a great choice for small buildings where ductwork is not feasible or where the space conditioning efficiency is of prime concern [20]. The benefits of ductless air conditioning systems include easy installation, no ductwork, greater zonal control, flexibility of control and quiet operation [21]. In space conditioning, the duct losses can account for 30% of energy consumption [22]. The use of minisplit can result in energy savings in space conditioning as there are no losses associated with ducting.
Fast forward 1 year and 1 week and the circuit board that HVAC Service had installed has failed again. They came out and said that it failed from water condensation dripping onto it, so we needed to replace it and reroute the pipes to prevent future water damage.  That would cost double what I paid last year.  Why didn't they fix the problem last year at the initial repair instead of putting in a circuit board that was bound to fail again?!? They were strongly recommending that the furnace be completely replace for a huge fee to avoid the same thing happening again.  I paid $59 for them to tell me they didn't fix it right last year. This didn't feel right, so I sought a second opinion.

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.
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.
Some of these components can be repaired or replaced by the homeowner, such as filters, fuses, and clogged up drain lines. Coils, compressors and the other components are best left to a professional. In some cases, you may have a system that is so old that parts are no longer available or else they aren't up to code. In this case you will have to consider replacing the entire system.

Having the most energy-efficient system ever built won't matter much if it's not maintained. Lack of maintenance is the number one killer of HVAC systems. Before each cooling season, it's recommended that your system get a professional tune-up. However, there are things you can do in the meantime to make sure your system runs efficiently throughout the year.


PickHVAC Tips: Electricity resistance heat is the most expensive heating type. You don’t want one of these unless you’re heating less than 30 days per year. The upfront cost of an electric furnace is much lower than the cost of a gas furnace. However, operating costs are two to three times higher. If winters are cold where you live, you’ll waste your upfront cost savings in just a few years of high electric bills.


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.
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