Whether you are purchasing a new house or replacing an existing house, making decisions concerning an HVAC system is huge. The HVAC system affects your health, safety, and comforts 24/7/365, so getting it right is supremely important. However, this is not a decision you make frequently, so let’s look at some essential considerations.
What should I look for in an HVAC Contractor?
With so many contractors to choose from, making a decision can be confusing. Choosing someone you can trust and work with over the years is a primary concern.
Your installation contractor will know more about your system than any other firm, so make it someone you will feel comfortable calling for service and repair. Make sure your contractor is:
Quality. Start with licensed contractors, with certified technicians, authorized by the manufacturer of the system. As an authorized vendor for the system, the contractor will understand manufacturer warranties and guarantees.
Recognized. Is the contractor affiliated with national organizations, such as Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)? Such organizations have rating systems to help clients make decisions.
Dependable and Responsive. Look for reviews on websites and in printed material. Are existing clients pleased with service calls and response times? Referrals will reveal the quality of workmanship and professionalism you can expect from the contractor.
What type of HVAC system do I need?
HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. This system circulates, cleans, and conditions the air for your comfort and safety. Each system is custom-designed for space, with several component parts. Who designs a new HVAC system?
The HVAC contractor will use several criteria to design a unique system for your home; criteria include square footage, number of rooms, windows, and doors, the local climate, and occupant needs. Let’s look at the 4 most common HVAC system choices.
One of the most common systems is a split system, with the AC condenser unit outside and the furnace/blower unit inside. Insulated coolant lines connect the two components. The same blower services the AC and furnace.
A packaged framework places both components outdoors and is a very efficient HVAC system, especially for smaller spaces. Both cool air and hot air are produced outside and a duct connects the unit with the home. These systems maximize indoor spaces, as all components are outside.
Variable-speed units can be split or packaged. The advanced system requires very sensitive thermostats and increases or decreases the blower speed as needed. The blower adjusts from 30% to 100% capacity, depending upon need. Typically, blowers run longer at reduced capacity and save energy.
A heat pump system does exactly what its name implies—it is always moving heat from one area to another. In the summer, it removes heat from the inside to the outside and in the winter it moves heat from the outside to the inside.
The major drawback of a heat pump system is that in extreme winters, there is not enough heat to bring into the house. In many settings, heat pump systems require an emergency heat backup system.
How do I determine HVAC system size?
Your system will be “sized” in tons—for example, your HVAC contractor may call for a 3 ½ ton unit. The contractor will determine the need and design a system a little larger than the actual need. Why? If the system is too small, it will run all of the time and can be maxed out with extreme temperature spikes.
If the system is too large, it will not run as frequently as needed, then work hard trying to catch up. Both too small and too large will shorten the lifespan of the system, so like Goldilocks, you need a system that is “just right.”
What about my ductwork?
Part of your HVAC system design is the network of ducts extending to every area of the house. For new homes, the ducts will be sized and placed strategically for efficiency and comfort. For existing homes, the ductwork should be inspected, cleaned, and repaired as needed. A new system design will take duct size into consideration.
Taking care of your ducts is a very important home maintenance task that keeps your air clean and your system working efficiently. Duct problems to know about include:
Any of these issues may result in poor airflow.
Which thermostat is right for me?
The thermostat is a combination of a thermometer and a switch. It turns the system on or off according to the temperature. Old thermostat models had a dial face and adjusting the temperature required turning the dial. New model thermostats are programmable and may come with a smartphone app that allows you to adjust room temperature on the fly.
Programing your thermostat allows you to determine the ideal temperature throughout the day. Do you like to sleep in a cooler room? Lower the temp and program it to warm the house 30 minutes before the alarm goes off.
Do you need the house quite as warm or cool while everyone is away? Save some money and still have the ideal temperature when the family makes their way home. Smart thermostats will even allow you to adjust the temp for unexpected needs.
Which filter should I use?
There are so many filter choices to choose from, so here is Filter 101. Standard filters are made of paper but come with different size openings. The smaller the opening the more particles they catch. Change your paper filter at least every 3 months. Homes with several pets will need more frequent filter changes.
You can find filters that are washable, allowing multi-use from the same filter. Your HVAC contractor will also have several options for special needs, such as family members with asthma or other respiratory illnesses.
HEPA filters and electrostatic filters remove even finer particles from the air and ultraviolet light in the ducts will eliminate microorganisms from the circulating air.
Must I replace the whole HVAC system at once?
Owning a home requires maintenance, repairs, and eventual replacement for your HVAC system. Life expectancy for your system is approximately fifteen years; every year following is borrowed time.
However, one component may need to be replaced before the whole system needs to be replaced, so here is something to remember.
Ideally, each component in your system should come from the same manufacturer to ensure they all work seamlessly. A cross-product system may not work as efficiently as you anticipate. Your HVAC professional will be able to answer questions concerning compatibility.