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%.
We installed a TRANE XL18 HVAC with a TRANE HV80 furnace 16 years ago and it still works great in Tucson, AZ. We inquired into a replacement for the future since the R-22 refrigerant will be off market at the end of this year. Our maintenance folks want to sell me a new system anyway (even though the TRANE works great). We are considering the BOSCH Inverter heat pump as a lower cost option down the road. Watch out for the tricky salesmen trying to sell beer at champagne prices though. Get estimates on whether you need to replace your current system and how much it could cost. And if they are factory certified.
So, the total price to a contractor for this project is $7,195.77 (Carrier is expensive), which we’ll use to calculate a fair HVAC installation cost. As I said, we typically use 40% in the industry to cover our own personal profit, as well as our insurance and other expenses. Let’s take a look at page three of a Final Report from our own online HVAC calculator, the HVAC Design & Consultation Program.
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).
Indoor Coil -- The indoor coil is a heat transfer device. It absorbs the heat from the inside of the house and passes it on to the refrigerant and is pumped outside. Dust that builds up on the coil can hamper its ability to absorb heat. High heat transference coils use very thin metal. Airborne chemicals can cause corrosion which leads to leaks. The constant vibration of the compressor can also cause solder joints to weaken and leak. An indoor coil may operate for weeks with a tiny leak, and you may not notice the loss in performance right away. As soon as a leak is made known, it should be replaced or repaired immediately.
An air conditioning system's SEER is especially important if you live in a climate that changes temperature dramatically. The SEER is determined by the cooling output during the winter divided by its electric input during the winter. The higher the rating, the more efficient it will be. In January of 2006, the U.S. put standards in place for cooling units which are still in effect today. They must have a minimum SEER of 13. So, if you live in a home with a system installed before the new standards went into effect, consider having it replaced. SEER 13 units increase home efficiency by 30 percent.
Do you live in a historic home and want to tie your new system in to work with existing features? The price will go up to do the job right. All of these things add up to slow down the HVAC company, which takes more time, which costs more money for labor and parts. This is especially true if they are a legitimate company which is licensed, bonded and insured. Simply put, this is the “X-Factor” in your HVAC installation cost. Again, you could get people to do it for cheaper…but you won’t be happy with the results, I promise.
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.
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.
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.