Monday, 15 September 2014
An Unfortunate Story With Lessons Learned
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This is a true story about a homeowner who lives in Nashville and was selling a house she owned in Huntsville.  Before she could find a buyer for the Huntsville house, the air conditioner went out.  So she made an "emergency" visit back to Huntsville to deal with the problem, and contacted an HVAC dealer in that area.  Since the broken system was 25 years old, the HVAC company said she would need a new system.  Not knowing much about HVAC and not getting any further quotes, this homeowner went ahead and paid them the $8,500 they quoted her, and got the work done during her short visit.  When she got back to Nashville two days later and told a friend how much she was charged, they were astonished. 

Now armed with the make and model of the unit that was installed - a rather low-end SEER 13 unit - she was able to get other quotes on that exact unit including installation from three other HVAC companies in the Huntsville area.  All were in the $5,000-$6,000 range, so it seemed she had been over-charged.  This homeowner began educating herself, and found out that beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the government is mandating a SEER 14 or better.  The homeowner was upset because the HVAC company did not explain any options to her, did not itemize the quote or invoice, and just assumed the lowest-end unit would suffice since she was selling the house anyway.   What the HVAC company didn't know was that she was having a hard time selling the house and was planning if it didn't sell in the next 2 months, she would move back and live there herself. This homeowner really felt the HVAC company took advantage of the fact she was in a bind (in town for a short time) and knew she hadn't a clue what a SEER was (check out our blog What's Your SEER?)!  Although she called the HVAC company to complain and ask for a price reduction, her protests fell on deaf ears. 

The moral of the story is two-fold:

(1) Homeowners need to educate themselves and do their research before making a big purchase, even when pressed for time…. or ESPECIALLY when they are pressed for time, because that is when they are most vulnerable for being taken advantage of!   Arming you with the information you need to make smarter choices is why we write this blog!

(2) An HVAC company that doesn't talk with you to find out your goals and personal needs and doesn't explain to you what you're getting and the various options, is not a company you need to be doing business with.   Also, how a company handles a customer complaint says a lot about the heart of the company. 

I'm sure there are lots of you with HVAC "horror stories."  In fact, we often are on the other end of cleaning up other folks' "mess."  But we don't mind… that's what we're here for and we're always happy to help!  

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Posted on 09/15/2014 10:01 PM by Tony Anderson
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Thursday, 4 September 2014
Repair vs. Replacement
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Whether you're talking about heating or cooling, there will come a time when you wonder: should I repair my unit or replace it?  Well, like so many things in life, it depends.  There are no hard-fast rules to answer this question.  In this post, we arm you with information so you can make a more informed decision as to whether a repair is justifiable or if it is throwing good money away. 

Bad reasons to replace your unit:

  • Some rooms in your home are too hot or too cold.  This is usually due to duct problems or inadequate insulation things that a new system will not fix.  So, find the true cause.
  • You do not have a programmable thermostat.  If you've read some of our previous blogs, you know that a programmable thermostat can save you up to 30% on your heating and air conditioning bills, so they are definitely worth having!  However, a programmable thermostat can be added to almost any unit, without having to replace the entire unit.
  • You have excessive humidity or dust problems.  This is usually due to leaky ductwork, or air being pulled from your crawlspace or basement and being distributed throughout the house.  Sealing your ducts may fix this problem.

Good reasons to repair your unit:

  • The fix is inexpensive, easy, or minor.  We've had folks think they need to replace their system because it wasn't cooling well, and it turned out to be that the indoor coil was filthy or the system was packed with dog hair. After a good cleaning, the equipment was working fine. Clogged filters and overgrown weeds, too, can cause your cooling system to grind to a halt, but are easily fixed.
  • The equipment has been well-maintained, has a good service history, and has been dependable.  The system has not gotten a reputation for breaking down under stress (extremely hot or cold days).
  • You will be moving in the near future (within 2 years).  It usually takes about 3-5 years to recoup the cost of a new, more efficient unit, so you may not be around to reap the benefits.
  • The unit is fairly new (6 years old or less).  It may still be under warranty and the parts should still be readily available.  Plus, its SEER rating might not be that different from a newer one.

Good reasons to replace your unit:  In the list below, if two or more of these is applicable, then replacing your unit may be the best option.

  • The unit is old. The EPA and Department of Energy recommend HVAC systems older than 10 years old and furnaces or boilers older than 15 years old be replaced.  Though these systems may last a few years longer, they will increasingly lose energy efficiency over time, costing you energy dollars. Plus, after about 12 years, parts are sometimes discontinued which causes them to be more expensive, if not completely unavailable.
  • The unit has had increasing need of service and has become less dependable.  Equipment with numerous failures or repair problems is not likely to get better.  If your system can't handle the demands on its performance during the hottest and coldest times of the year, or has broken down multiple times over the past several years, repairs may not be in your best interest. The cost of repairs adds up over time, costing you more than investing in a new system.
  • You plan on staying in your home/business at least 2 more years.  The money you save in additional repairs and in electricity/gas bills may begin to be realized.
  • The cost of repair is more than 30% of the cost of a new system, or parts are not readily available. Keep in mind that repairs may come with only a 1-year warranty, while a new system will come with at least a 10-year warranty (many are more!).
  • The unit is undersized or oversized for your house, has become increasingly noisy, or is of poor quality.  Home remodeling over the years must be taken into consideration, and the system may no longer be "right-sized" for your home. Repairing a low quality system (not a reputable brand) still leaves you with a poor quality system.
  • Increased efficiency and green benefits may give you added incentives to replacing your unit.
    • Efficiency: If you completely restore an aging unit, you will still only have the efficiency that it was rated for when it was manufactured.  Suppose your older unit is rated at 10 SEER (refer to our blog What's your SEER?).  A newer unit will be a minimum of 14 SEER (as of Jan. 1, due to government mandates), so you get 40% more cooing for the same amount of money.  Older furnaces may have an efficiency rating of 65% while newer ones are 95-97% efficient.  Savings of about 30-60 percent on your electric or gas bill are possible when you replace an older unit with high efficiency, Energy-Star equipment. Installing a new system can pay for itself in energy savings within a relatively short time.
    • Green benefits: The U.S. Government and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have mandated the phase-out of R-22 refrigerant by 2020 in an effort to protect the ozone. Upgrading to a R-410A system not only helps the environment, it helps you avoid the high costs of repairing an older system as supplies of R-22 are further cut each year due to the phase-out and prices of R-22 get higher and higher. 

 

Do You Trust Your HVAC Specialist?

Many HVAC repairmen are paid on commission rather than a flat service rate (see our blog here), which means it's in their best interest to get you to replace your unit when a repair might be all you need.  Repairing often requires higher-skilled technicians which may need to spend more time troubleshooting the system, so the profit margin may not be as great.  You want a company that can advise you reliably whether to repair or replace a unit based on what is in your best interest, not based on what is convenient or what method earns them the most money.

 

If you're still on the fence about whether to repair or replace your system, the best solution is to have a highly trained and qualified technician give you an honest assessment.  We'll help you determine whether repairing or replacing your existing system offers you the best solution to fit your needs.  Some simple maintenance techniques may help prolong the life of your system and make immediate replacement unnecessary. Then you can take the time now to research and plan for replacing your unit so you have the time to make an educated decision instead of being rushed because you don't have heating or cooling.

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Posted on 09/04/2014 5:30 PM by Tony Anderson
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