Pro HVAC company Southern Comfort Mechanical says on its blog, “If there’s mold growth inside the handler due to excess moisture, algae in the condenser drain line or a dirty evaporator coil, it can negatively impact your AC unit’s efficiency. The filters inside may also build up excess dirt and become clogged, which will also make your AC [or heat pump] waste energy trying to sustain the cool climate inside your home.” These issues are easy to solve. They don’t require replacing the air handler.
Since the 1980s, manufacturers of HVAC equipment have been making an effort to make the systems they manufacture more efficient. This was originally driven by rising energy costs, and has more recently been driven by increased awareness of environmental issues. Additionally, improvements to the HVAC system efficiency can also help increase occupant health and productivity. In the US, the EPA has imposed tighter restrictions over the years. There are several methods for making HVAC systems more efficient.
Window air conditioners cost less than central units, averaging $300. These systems generally suffice to keep a room cool on warm spring and summer days. They can bring added comfort for a reasonable price but are less powerful than a central air conditioner. If you have a bigger home with multiple rooms, you will probably need to have a larger system installed. Central air can cool several rooms at once, while window AC units usually only cover one or two rooms at a time.
Be careful of dishonest HVAC contractors. There’s no magical formula to see if an HVAC contractor is scamming you, unfortunately, but remember that they typically do this in one of two ways: first, they are charging grossly low prices (far below everyone else), or second, they aren’t including what everyone else is. In the first situation, they will charge you change fees, other hidden fees, or they stole the equipment and are passing themselves off as legitimate contractors (very common in California these days). In the second situation, they are charging you a very fair price, but aren’t including what the other contractors are (i.e. charging $10,500 for the installation which is fair, but not including the ductwork which is a scam unless there is some other, complex stuff going on there).
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.
Installation: The old furnace is disconnected from the ductwork plenum, exhaust flue, gas and electrical hookups. In most cases, a new plenum must be made onsite or ordered from a local sheet metal fabricator. A new vent might be required too. The furnace is set and reconnected. Adjustments to the blower fan speed and burner are made to optimize furnace performance for your home and climate.
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):
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.
AC units and thermostats have built-in delay features when they're shut down and then repowered. The delay can be as long as 10 minutes. And, if you've subscribed to an energy-saving device from your local power utility, the unit can take even longer to reset. If you've installed the parts shown and reinstalled the disconnect block, repowered the circuit breaker, turned on the switch at the furnace, moved the thermostat to AC mode and lowered the temperature below the indoor temperature, and the unit doesn't fire up after 30 minutes, it's time to call a pro.
If your compressor doesn’t have an overload button and you hear it humming or buzzing, poke a screwdriver or stick down through the top grille and try to spin the fan blades clockwise. If doing this gives the fan enough of a boost to get it going, the unit has a faulty capacitor that must be replaced. See How to Test and Replace an AC Run Capacitor, above.