Buying a new air conditioner for your home is a decision that will have an impact on your comfort and even health for years to come. It can also be a significant financial investment, so you want to feel confident in your decision.
Before you jump at the cheapest offer, or make a quick decision under duress when your existing system conks out, take a deep breath and read this first. There are certain things to understand, look for, and know before you buy your new air conditioner. These will help you make a smarter purchase for now and the long term.
Stick With A Professional
It may be tempting to purchase your unit online, where prices can be attractively lower, and then expect to hire an installer later. But not all contractors will install a unit that they didn’t supply, and for good reasons. For one, manufacturers’ warranties go through your installation company, which means you can end up without a valid warranty. That can mean some pretty significant costs if something goes wrong, and reputable contractors may not want to be responsible for that scenario.
Secondly, a contractor has no control over the quality of a unit they did not provide. The unit may be damaged from the start, or may not be the right size for your home. Professional contractors will make sure that you get the right unit for your needs, and will typically guarantee parts and labor for a period of time to ensure everything is working properly.
And unless you’re a professional HVAC contractor, installing an air conditioner isn’t a DIY job. It requires following any local and state codes, obtaining necessary permits, and understanding how to size the unit in the first place.
The bottom line is that if you’re buying a new air conditioner, ask a reputable, licensed professional for their recommendations. You’ll get a better understanding of what size and type of unit will best suit your home, and you’ll get a job done that meets technical and professional requirements. It’ll save you a lot of headaches, and in the long run can save you a lot of money on repairs and fixes.
Think Value, Not Price
There is a practical reality to investing in something as substantial as a new air conditioner or perhaps an entirely new HVAC system. Budget certainly comes into play, but if budget is the only (or primary) factor that you consider, you might come to regret that sooner rather than later.
Before you start calculating payments, consider this: how energy efficient is your unit? If you’re replacing an older unit with a new, far more energy efficient one, the amount of energy savings alone can pay for the unit before you know it.
Higher efficiency units can cost more up front, but save more on energy in the long term. Consider the value that you’ll get out of a new unit in terms of efficiency and savings as you calculate the price.
Keep size in mind, as well. Don’t skimp on BTUs because one unit is cheaper than another. Your air conditioner should be properly sized for your unique home – that means it takes into account the square footage of the house, climate, roofing material, number of appliances or electronics that are running, and other factors. Choosing a unit that is too small – or too large, for that matter – can significantly affect performance, and ultimately, the cost to run your unit. Using an improperly sized unit can also lead to more breakdowns and a shorter lifespan.
Look For Creative Budgeting Options
When you’re making an investment in the next ten or twenty years of your comfort and health, you may not want to go cheap, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank, either.
There are often ways to mitigate cost, and your contractor should inform you of these. If you’re replacing an old unit with one that is more energy efficient, there may be subsidies in your state that can help. You may also be able to take advantage of local subsidies and rebates, like those provided by your local utility company. These can be stacked for maximum advantage.
In addition to rebates, your contractor may have financing options available. Look for favorable terms, like 0% interest for a certain period of time. That can help you pay down the balance in more manageable chunks without incurring additional fees. Ask your contractor what’s available and take advantage of opportunities that make your investment easier.
Check The Warranty
If you’re buying a reputable brand like Coleman, Carrier, Amana and others, you can be reasonably assured that you’re getting similar quality and similar warranties.
But that doesn’t means they’re identical. Sometimes you can squeeze more value out of your purchase by checking the details. Manufacturers often offer Limited Lifetime Warranties, but the timeframes can vary. Some offer a term of 5 years, some 10, some as many as 12. That means if something goes wrong, especially with your compressor, which is typically the most expensive component, you’re covered for parts.
The other potential cost to you is in labor, so check the warranty details to see what they offer in terms of labor coverage.
Some manufacturers give you the option of purchasing extended warranties, which adds coverage to the original timeframe. If you want extra peace of mind when buying your air conditioner, you can consider including an extended warranty as well.
Know Your Installer
Next to the unit itself, the most important investment you’ll make is in the quality of the installer you choose. Installation has to be done right or you will blame the unit, thinking that it isn’t a quality machine or isn’t working as it should. You may even end up investing unnecessarily in repairs when nothing was broken in the first place – it was simply done incorrectly.
Start by looking for a licensed professional. That at least assures you that your contractor meets the minimum requirements for a professional in your state. Look for insurance, so you know you’re protected in the event of property damage.
If you can, ask for a referral or recommendation from someone you trust. Be careful with online reviews – they’re easy to fake, and can often reflect the best and worst of someone’s experience but not the most common experience. When reading reviews, look generally for descriptive ones that tell you why someone liked or didn’t like a particular contractor’s service, rather than a generic star rating. And pay careful attention to how a contractor responds to negative reviews. Anyone can have a bad day, but a contractor who has a bad day and makes it right is better than one who just has a bad day.
Know That You Can’t Know Everything
Even if you line your ducks up perfectly – you’ve found a highly recommended contractor, chosen just the right unit, and obtained favorable payment terms – things can still go awry.
Sometimes there are things you can’t know about the installation until after it’s done. So when your installation is done, and you start up your new system, you may find that it doesn’t work as well as expected. In that case, the ducts could very well be the problem.
Your contractor can visually inspect ducts in your attic or crawl space to ensure that they’re adequate, but there’s no magic crystal ball that looks inside walls yet. And nobody is going to rip open every wall to look! It’s not the most likely scenario, but it happens, especially in an old home, or if the ductwork was done on the cheap.
The important thing to take away is that you can’t control every outcome, but if you take the time to understand the unit you’re buying, the value you’ll get out of it, and the team performing your installation, you’ll have a far better chance of success. That means a wise financial investment, and years – even decades! – of comfort for you and your family.
If you’re thinking about buying a new air conditioner, contact us for a free consultation and estimate. We’ll visit your home and answer all your questions before you purchase. We want you to feel confident in your decision – and we want to keep you more comfortable!