What should you look for in an HVAC contractor in Phoenix? Getting your heating and cooling system replaced is a very important day and the right preparation on your part can add years of additional life to your unit with minimal repairs and great Air conditioner savings along the way. Get it wrong, and your air conditioner and heater will be plagued with emergency AC repairs, loud AC fan noises, bad capacitors and fan motors and an early death. Unfortunately, according to the DOE more than half of new systems in U.S. homes do not perform to their rated efficiency as a result of improper installation. In fact, improper installation can reduce performance by as much as 30%. This not only affects your utility bills, but can lead to a variety of comfort problems, including insufficient cooling, dust from leaking ductwork, and poor air distribution. At Green ID, we tell our customers it doesn’t matter what manufacturer you go with for your HVAC system, the most important thing is how it’s installed that first day. Here is a reference guide to help choose the right heating and cooling contractor.
Ask the following questions to each contractor:
1. What best practices does your company follow during my installation?
This single question posed to AC contractors can reveal a lot on how the company performs their installations. You can trust and like your sales rep but if they don’t know or you get a blank stare as a initial response, you’re better off finding a contractor who is a little less polished but knows their installation crews.
Experienced air conditioning contractors are good because they know where the hiccups occur during an air conditioner install and how to avoid them and they know what the most common call backs are and how to avoid them. Most of the time doing the right thing requires a little extra effort on their part during the AC install. For most AC contractors this is not the standard way of doing their installs and just like learning how to swing a golf club the correct way verses the easy way, it takes them out of their comfort zone and most would rather just skip doing the extra effort verses spending a little more time, effort and materials to do it right.
You definitely want to hear an air conditioning contractor tell you they do the following:
a. Charge the system with the correct amount of refrigerant after installation. This is not factory settings as every system comes with refrigerant already charged it. Many contractors just leave the factory charge and do not bother adding any more or measuring to find out how much more is needed and this is a big problem. If the distance from your outside condenser to the inside air handler is more than 15 feet, your AC contractor should be adding more refrigerant as the manufacturers only add enough refrigerant for 15 feet of refrigerant line.
b. Size the unit according to what your home needs, not based on the square footage of the house alone. This requires a Manual J calculation on the house so you should see your contractor measuring your windows and actually going in your attic to measure the insulation.
c. For package roof units, you want a side by side elbow, not a down draft and not a over-under aka twist elbow. This is a major no no that most AC contractors are guilty of not following. Down draft and over-under elbows are cheaper and easier to install and require less labor and materials but are NOT best for your energy bills, comfort and the life of your system. If your AC contractor is really stuck in their ways or really lazy, they will make up excuses on why down draft and over-under elbows are OK to install, they may even believe what they are saying is true but hold firm in your affirmation that you want a side by side elbow. Here's our list of reasons why a side by side elbow is better on package HVAC units in Phoenix.
d. Supply and return plenums
A plenum is a transition between the ductwork and the unit. If your furnace or air handler is in the attic like most are in Phoenix, the plenum is likely a sheet metal box that has flex duct connecting into it and the other side is attached to the furnace. If your furnace or air handler is in the garage or closet, the return plenum is the framed box that it sits on and the supply plenum is the sheet metal on top. Plenums are important for proper airflow, allowing the unit to breath and mix air in the box before it hits the evaporator coils. They are not always included in the cost of an AC but should be. It is extra work to install them but every home should have them.
e. There are several other must-haves when requesting specifics during air conditioner bids but the list above are the basics to start you on the right foot. I would make sure all these things were done on my own home and you should too.
2. How will you determine the maximum system size that can be installed with my existing ductwork?
I love this question because it immediately separates the true players from the fakes. It is a variant of the question of system sizing for the house and asking if the contractor performs a Manual J load calculation to verify the size of the unit. Here you are making sure your ductwork is going to be properly sized for the unit, which is just as important as matching the size of the unit correct to the house specifications (windows, insulation, duct leakage, sq ft, air leakage, etc). Having a 5 ton HVAC system with ductwork that can only handle 4 tons of air is a big problem and we see it all the time. It causes the HVAC system to work harder than it needs to, shortening the life of it’s components, comfort issues with hot and cold rooms, weak airflow, exaggerates ductwork leakage, and causes noisy systems.
The correct answer would be to measure the static pressure of the unit to see how well the air is moving in the and out of the ductwork before a new unit is installed. This will require your contractor to go in the attic (if your HVAC unit is located there) to measure and if you never see them go in the attic, you know that your static pressure was never measured. It is possible in many cases to increase the size of the ductwork to handle more airflow and that will be up to your HVAC company to determine.
To lower your energy bills, make your home more comfortable with less dust, you cannot rely on just changing the air conditioner and heater alone. Your contractor needs to consider the ductwork as well… and if they are really on their game they are going to talk about your insulation as well. Duct leaks and poor airflow to rooms are the major cause of comfort issues… it’s not having a dinosaur HVAC system. A new variable speed HVAC system is not a one-stop-shop to fixing those problems although some HVAC contractors may make it seem that way, resist the temptation to look at just the box.
3. Do you recommend and how much is it to install new refrigerant lines rather than reusing existing lines?
The answer you are looking for is “yes”, when switching from the old outlawed refrigerant R22 to the more environmentally friendly R410, we always recommend installing new refrigerant lines. The old R22 refrigerant is not compatible with the new R410 refrigerant, they don’t mix well together and you can ruin your compressor if the old R22 is not cleaned out of the refrigerant lines. Does it increase the cost? Yes, it will add to the cost but you are taking better care of your new unit now to have a worry-free system in the future. Changing out your existing refrigerant lines is labor intensive and copper lines are not cheap, but I like this question because it gives you an idea where in the ballpark this AC company falls in terms of best practice knowledge and actually caring for the quality of work or if they are just going for the sale.
4. Will you help me install my programmable thermostat?
It’s easy for HVAC installers to get used to just doing the installation routine without much customer interaction. However for a complicated AC system that costs thousands of dollars, it’s helpful to have a little explanation of your new unit and getting acquainted with all its nuisances soon after it’s up and running. This starts with the thermostat, the only interaction you’ll probably ever have with the entire system. Programmable thermostats can save money on your energy bills by setting the temperature up while you are away in the summer, similar to turning the lights off when you are not in the room. The smart thermostats of today can sense when you are away automatically raise the temperature up in an energy saving mode that you don’t have to think about. However, some thermostats are pretty complicated to navigate, change the settings, set up the wi fi and learn the functionalities. It can be like programming your VCR or the old digital watches, something we can put our attention to maybe once to try to program, then we just give up the rest of the year and just live with the factory settings the same as when we took it out of the box. Ask your AC company to agree to help you install and set up your programmable thermostat for easy additional comfort and savings.
5. How do you fix a hot room?
Whether you have a room that’s different temperatures than the rest of the house or not, this questions can tell you if your heating and cooling company is more on a cookie cutter path or takes a more customized approach. More and more heating and air conditioning contractors are defaulting to installing a new return in a hot room to help air circulate out of the room. It is true that you can never have enough returns in your home but it all depends on the best practices of the company. In our experience adding a return an help make a room more comfortable, but it’s subtle and won’t leave you feeling entirely satisfied. We have lots of feedback from our customers who had only returns installed, only additional supplies, and both additional supplies and returns and the results are not promising.
You can read our post on why rooms get so hot above a garage here to get an idea what truly causes comfort issues and the correct way to address them, but it is NOT by adding a return to a room (you’re welcome HVAC contractors).
6. When installing my ductwork connections, will you seal at all the duct seems first?
Proper heating and air conditioning installation has so much more to do with the ductwork than it HVAC contractors give it credit for. Again this question hints at a whole home approach to air conditioning installation. AC contractors that just consider the unit change out are leaving their customers short and are asking for a life time of AC problems. Early capacitor failures, bad fan motors and pitted contactors are signs that something else is going on in the attic outside of the actually unit that are causing early failure. Other signs the airflow and ductwork needs to be properly inspected are rooms that are different temperatures than the rest of the house, excessive dust and high energy bills. An air conditioning company may claim that this new high efficiency SEER 16 system is going to fix comfort and dust concerns but putting a high end AC unit on a badly designed duct system is like driving a Prius with a hole in the gas tank. It’s best to consider a whole home approach when replacing your air conditioner and start with a certified energy audit.
7. Will you test to confirm that duct leakage does not exceed recommended levels?
Testing for airflow and duct leaking is the only way to be sure if the work was done right. That test can be done with a blower door or duct blaster and is pictured here
Aerosealing is an effective way at sealing small holes in the ductwork but it will not seal anything greater than 1/8th of n inch. In many older homes, the ducts have a hole greater than an 1/8th of an inch so a manual seal is better suited and is what we at Green ID prefer because we apply our sealant on thicker and it our product has a longer lifespan than Aeroseal. Read more about Aersoealing and the bad wrap is has been getting here.
8. Will you confirm proper levels of refrigerant and airflow across the coil?
This last question is important because a typical HVAC contractor will say that the units come factory charged and that is enough the typical house. What they don’t tell you is that every manufacturer is different and many AC manufacturers have been chronically light on their factory refrigerant charge. This means that, yes, after every install the refrigerant levels should be measured and the proper amount needs to be weighed in to ensure the correct amount is put in the system from Day 1. A rule of thumb is if the refrigerant lines are longer than 15 feet, that is 15 feet from your outside condenser to the air handler in the attic, more refrigerant should be added.
Measuring airflow across the coil is important because you want to be sure you are getting the correct amount of airflow into the home. Air conditioning companies need to measure that all the air into the return is existing through the supplies and that it is the correct amount of airflow for the size of the unit. Most HVAC contractors will just install the box and forget about anything outside of it to the owners determent.
When you purchase a new heating and cooling system, you expect high performance. Not all Phoenix HVAC contractors are the same. Ask the AC contractors bidding for your business if they follow ACCA Best Practice Guidelines or ENERGY STAR® Quality Installation Guidelines (www.energystar.gov/qispec) to ensure that you are not buying just a piece of equipment but a properly installed heating and cooling system that provides comfort and efficiency.
My wife and I have been needing to find a good HVAC contractor that could help us with some different things in our home, and cooling things off. We've been having spotty issues with our air conditioner, so being able to have them look at that would be really helpful! We also have been thinking about adding a refrigeration room in our home for some food storage, and being able to talk to a professional contractor about that could be helpful for us! I'm glad you talked about asking a potential contractor about their best practices, and how you want someone who will give us the right size units! Thanks for your article!
3/29/2018 10:19:15 am
I agree that asking what best practices a company follows will reveal the most to you about how the company performs, like you said. You can determine their quality based on this fact. I am going to ask my future AC installer this before I hire them . I will have to research multiple companies to see who seems to have the best practices.
6/25/2018 08:24:42 pm
I learned a lot from this article. I agree with what you said.I personally want the best from the cooling system that I purchased. Thanks for sharing this article.
7/17/2018 01:21:22 pm
I like how you said that an HVAC contractor should try to save you money when they work on your AC unit. I also like how you said that they should know the proper way to make repairs and installations. My husband and I have an air conditioning unit that needs to be fixed, and we are looking for affordable HAVC contractors.
3/14/2019 11:39:45 am
I like your suggestion to ask HVAC contractors about how they would fix a hot room to make sure they have a customized approach instead of a cookie cutter one. My husband and I want to have a new AC installed soon, so I've been looking for tips online about how to choose a contractor. Asking about how they would fix potential problems will really help gauge their quality, so I'm glad you shared that idea!
3/28/2019 07:13:26 pm
It's great that you recommended asking a potential HVAC contractor what best practices they follow during your installation. My wife works at an office building that has had a broken heater. It may be good for them to hire a company to go and fix their heater for them.
4/11/2019 10:58:51 am
I like your suggestion to ask about what best practices they follow during installations, since it's better to have a contractor that's less polished socially but knows a lot about installation. My husband and I think it's about time to get a new AC system for our home because our old one has been losing efficiency and costing us money. I'm glad I read your article because now I have a better idea of what to look for in an HVAC contractor.
4/30/2019 12:38:02 pm
That's good to know that you should have them make sure that everything is sealed up in that system before they leave. That way if there is a leak they could fix it right then and you wouldn't have to worry about it breaking later. I wouldn't want to get coolant all over the house form it leaking out of the vents.
6/25/2019 02:57:57 pm
thanks for sharing this is very helpful glad i ran across your site.
7/10/2019 08:19:51 am
Thanks for explaining that good HVAC contractors will know to measure the static pressure to see how the air is moving inside the existing ducts. My husband and I bought an office building that needs some upgrades, including a new AC unit. I'm glad I read your article because asking about static pressure seems like a great way to find a commercial HVAC company that knows what they're talking about!
7/19/2019 08:43:32 am
Thanks for the tip to ask if they'll confirm that the duck leakage is below recommended levels. My husband and I need to have a new HVAC system installed. Your article gave me some good ideas to discuss with potential contractors!
7/26/2019 12:45:13 pm
Thanks for the suggestion to ask how they fix a hot room to see if they take a cookie cutter approach or a custom one. My husband and I think our air conditioning might need to be repaired because we've noticed the temperature is really inconsistent throughout our home. I'm glad I read your article because I feel a lot more prepared to talk with potential HVAC contractors about fixing the issue!
8/1/2019 09:19:51 am
Thanks for the tip to confirm that they'll test for duct leakage, since that's the only way to make sure the work was done right. My husband and I need to find a good heating and cooling contractor to install a better AC system in our home, due to our old one being in need of repair. I'm glad I read your article because asking your suggested questions will help me feel confident that we found a trustworthy and knowledgeable HVAC contractor to hire!
1/22/2020 06:48:07 pm
I love that you made a point about charging the system with the correct amount of refrigerant to make sure that it works correctly. My husband and I are looking for a refrigeration contractor that can help my husband with his commercial refrigerator at his restaurant. We will keep these tips in mind as we search for a professional that can help us best.
3/12/2020 08:36:43 am
Thanks for explaining that good HVAC contracts will measure our windows and insulation to accurately determine what size of unit is needed. My brother and his wife want to have a new AC system installed because they just moved to an area that gets really hot during the summers. I'll share your article with them so they know how to identify a knowledgeable AC service to trust with the job!
4/20/2020 12:31:19 pm
It was helpful when you explained that the best HVAC contractors will know about how the static pressure of the ductwork can affect the airflow of the system. My husband and I want to hire a good HVAC contractor to install an efficient system in the old fixer-upper home we purchased about two weeks ago. Asking about static pressure should help us find a knowledgeable HVAC contractor to work with, so thanks for sharing the idea!
7/24/2020 10:57:01 am
I had no idea that the only way to be completely sure that an HVAC contractor has done their work correctly is to perform a test of duct leakage! I have been noticing a lot of strange noises coming from my air conditioning unit for the past three days, and it has been keeping my two young children up at night. It would be great to find a professional to fix it and then do the leakage test to make sure that the repair was done properly.
8/24/2020 12:49:32 pm
Thanks for explaining how professional HVAC workers now what the common errors during an AC installation are and how to avoid them. I think it would be nice to have a professional install your AC unit. Then you would have no worries of it being installed wrong and messing up.
12/4/2020 09:46:21 am
I was very interested in it. But I didn’t get any proper guidelines. Finally, I find something great! Thank you very much it’s a great post.
12/16/2020 05:53:50 pm
Thanks for your tips about HVAC systems! My husband and I need to hire an HVAC contractor. I will start looking for someone who can help us with an installation.
1/14/2021 05:20:42 pm
Great tips! It's important to ask these questions and know exactly what you're getting out of their services. If you treat your HVAC guys well, you'll most likely get the best quality of service, so make sure to be nice. Also, if there are other things you need to be done during the time of service, make sure to tell them immediately so they can address your concerns instead of making last minute changes.
4/29/2021 08:24:54 pm
Thanks for the information on HVAC contractors. I would like to find someone with a lot of experience. I'll start looking up contractors online.
5/4/2021 01:43:39 pm
You made a great point about how experienced air conditioning contractors know when problems most likely occur during installation. There is no way I could do any of that on my own. I'd rather hire a professional who knows when to expect a problem than try and figure it out all on my own.
5/12/2021 03:14:14 am
I am so happy I found your blog and I absolutely love your information about HVAC contractors I liked and it is wonderful to know about so many things that are useful for all of us! Thanks a lot for this amazing blog!!
8/11/2021 12:44:27 pm
Thank you for helping me to understand that it is important to size an air conditioning unit according to the needs of your home when purchasing one. It seems like it would be a good idea to have an HVAC technician inspect your home before purchasing a new unit. After the inspection, an HVAC technician would be able to suggest which units would be good for your home.
10/27/2021 04:39:16 pm
I like your HVAC tips. I need to get a contractor. My AC broke down.
7/8/2022 03:58:27 pm
I think you are right about making sure your entire house is programmed. I need to get a contractor to rewire my house. I'll have to hire someone with good online reviews.
9/16/2022 06:59:28 am
The AC installation is complete only when the homeowner is completely satisfied. A professional technician should explain the entire system to the homeowner right from starting the AC to its actual operation to shutting it off. The other things that the technician should tell you about are adjusting the thermostat, the desired humidity levels, DIY procedures for basic maintenance, everyday AC problems that you may face and their solution, etc.
10/28/2022 08:17:25 am
I need to get a new HVAC system made, and I'm not sure what to do about it. It makes sense that working with an HVAC specialist would be important! I'll be sure to find one who has plenty of experience with this kind of thing.
12/16/2022 12:06:28 pm
I love how you point out how important it is to know how the company does their installations. My parents have been talking about how their AC unit needs to get replaced as it's pretty much falling apart. We'll have to look into finding a local company to come to replace the whole system for them before summer comes.
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