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Which HVAC Brand is Best?
We’ve been in the business almost 20 years now and have installed and serviced a variety of HVAC units. We are not paid by manufacturers to promote their brand(s); instead, we recommend brands based on our vast experience and our customer’s individual needs. If the customer has a preference for a certain brand, we do our best to provide it. But, if you really want to know which brand is best, here are the facts:
The Dirty Little Secret
When you look beyond the label slapped on the outside of the unit, you’ll see that most of the internal components are the same. There are about six HVAC equipment manufacturers in the U.S. who make about 150 different brand names. Many of them use the same internal components and are produced on the same assembly line in the same factory. Goodman and Amana are made in the same factory, yet Amana typically costs more. Carrier, Bryant, Payne, Tempstar, and Day and Night are made in the same factory, yet Carrier has more name recognition due to more advertising. York and Luxaire are both owned by Johnson Controls. There’s almost no difference between Trane and American Standard. Lennox, Ducane, and Concord are all made by Lennox. Even less obvious is that some of the internal components of all brands are made by just a handful of third-party companies, making many components interchangeable between brands. With so much the same, what’s the real differentiator?
The Real Differentiator
Unlike many other products, when you purchase an HVAC system, much of the design and engineering occurs on-site (at your home). Each home is different and presents different challenges with ductwork, physical location, clearances, etc. No brand, no matter how much it cost and its reputation, will perform reliably if not installed and maintained correctly.
The overwhelming majority of HVAC failures are the result of improper installation or maintenance. In fact, a good percentage of our business comes from people who hired the cheapest contractor to install their unit, or who think they saved money by not having regular spring and fall maintenance. There’s a proper way to install and maintain an HVAC unit and it’s worth paying for that expertise, because going with the lowest bid can often cost you later.
Just as not all doctors, mechanics, or hair stylists are the same, neither are all HVAC contractors. Sometimes, it’s worth going a bit out of your way, or waiting an extra day for an appointment to get a professional you trust.
Pitfalls to Watch For
Watch out for contractors who:
- will offer you a great deal on a discontinued model,
- do not provide continuing education for their technicians or use transient laborers,
- don’t inspect your existing ductwork (if it’s a replacement) or will quote you a price over the phone,
- won’t be around to honor the service agreement you purchased.
At Interstate AC Service, we use only qualified, licensed HVAC service technicians, we never use undocumented workers, we provide continuing education to our technicians, our technicians are not paid on commission, and we are committed to customer service.
Don’t be fooled by a system that says it will last for 20 years. Not without regular maintenance it won’t! If you neglect your system, it won’t matter what brand you buy! Here are some other things to watch for:
- Proprietary Design: With some brands, the parts may be proprietary and not interchangeable. So, there may be longer wait times for replacement parts because you can only get them from one manufacturer, and it may make the unit more expensive or difficult to maintain over time.
- Specifications: When comparing units, be sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Comparing a SEER 14 unit to a SEER 21 unit is not valid, because each is built to different specifications and their cost to operate varies widely. Be aware that not all manufacturers offer units with the same SEER rating (Don’t know what a SEER is? Check out our post What’s Your SEER?).
- Features: Look at the extras that may be rolled into the price. Is part of what you’re paying for the extended warranty? A bigger thermostat screen might not be worth paying extra for, but a quieter unit may be… only YOU can determine what features are of value to YOU.
- Reviews: Few people will go online to write something positive about an air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace. It’s only when it doesn’t work that people typically feel compelled to write a review. Keep in mind when reading reviews, you cannot know reliably what the circumstances were. Most failures are not due to the workmanship inside the unit but to the faulty installation and maintenance. Did the installer install a mismatched AC condenser and evaporator? Was the unit maintained under a service contract the entire time? Take the reviews online with a grain of salt!
- Allegiances: Use an impartial contractor – one that is licensed to install and service all major brands. A “factory-authorized dealer” for a single brand can only offer you the prices and features of that brand, even if that might not be best for your needs. Not having a vested interest in one particular brand means you’ll have more options. [Note: Interstate AC Service is licensed to install and service all major brands – both residential and commercial.]
The most important aspect of your HVAC system is not the brand you choose, but the contractor! Except for minor differences, all brands are fairly comparable, but it’s the installation and service that matters. Unfortunately, buying a “top” brand (one you’ve heard of or has good reviews) doesn’t matter much when it comes to HVAC units.
If you live in the Nashville or surrounding area, and need help with an HVAC issue at your home or business, know you can call on Interstate AC service at (615) 832-8500. We’ll provide unbiased, professional service you can trust. We never forget we’re here for you!