If you have a central heating and cooling system in your home, the following three questions have likely crossed your mind.
1. How much is this going to cost me?
2. Should I repair or replace my HVAC equipment?
3. How can I save money on my utility bills?
An air conditioner, heat pump or a gas furnace should be considered a quality of life investment for your home and family. Just imagine how different your life would be without the benefits of these modern conveniences. So understandably, you will have some questions when your local heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) expert arrives at your home.
How much is this going to cost me?
The thought of unknown and unplanned HVAC costs can be a stressful. Service call rates, labor rates, replacement parts and entire systems have a wide range of costs, making it difficult to budget for your HVAC technician’s arrival. On top of that, every home set up and homeowner expectations are different. While costs are specific to your local HVAC companies and customized to your system needs, they can be broken down into the following three categories:
-System Maintenance: Many HVAC technicians offer a flat rate for heating and cooling system maintenance. However, your maintenance costs may depend on the HVAC company you choose, the number of cooling and heating units in your home, and your location. If you have a maintenance service contract, your maintenance visit may be set at a pre-determined, discounted rate. You can find inexpensive maintenance plans, but you should compare companies, coverages and included services to determine which plan is right for you.1 While you may want to forgo routine HVAC maintenance to save a few dollars, preventive maintenance on your system may prevent minor issues from turning into expensive, major problems over time and will maximize the lifecycle of your heating or cooling unit.2 According to the experts, the cost of HVAC maintenance is worth the money.3
Repair: The cost to repair your heating or cooling system has lots of potential variables. The final cost may include the service call fee, the labor required to make the repair, and the specific replacement parts required for your system. If you request a service call outside regular working hours, labor rates may be more expensive than during normal business hours. The cost for HVAC repairs can vary just as much as car repairs — ranging from less than $100 to a few thousand dollars depending on the work required. If you are looking at a costly repair, you should consider getting multiple quotes. You want to get the job done right without being overcharged so be sure to hire the right HVAC company! Hiring the wrong company may lead to many long-term issues including multiple follow up repairs, lackluster energy efficiency, increased utility bills, and compromised indoor comfort.
-Replacement: There are multiple considerations that go into the cost of installing a new energy efficient heating or cooling system in your home. The following are just a few of the factors that may impact the price of your new heating or cooling system.
-Your home: Your home’s square footage and construction impact the size and required capacity of your heating and cooling system. Typically, larger capacity or tonnage units are more expensive than smaller capacity or tonnage units.
-Difficulty of installation: The more complex or time intensive the installation, the more it may cost for labor and additional parts.
-Location, location, location: Every location has cost-of-living variables, supply/demand characteristics, and city or county specific regulations. Your home’s location may impact the cost of your new heating and cooling equipment.
-System features: Some high-efficiency features may cost more upfront, but they are designed and engineered to impact the overall efficiency of the system for years and years.
-Additional parts: For a new unit to be installed in your home according to the manufacturer’s recommendation or city or county code, the installation or configuration modifications may require additional parts.
Should I repair or replace my HVAC equipment?
Despite efforts to prolong the life of your heating or cooling equipment, there will come a time when it is better to replace it rather than repair it. Every repair-replace scenario is unique to the unit and the expectations of the homeowner. A professional licensed HVAC technician may provide you with a repair estimate, as well as supply equipment-specific reasons to consider a replacement unit. Below are a few factors that may help you to determine if it’s time to replace your old heating or cooling system.
- Lifespan of equipment: Discuss the typical lifespan of your heating or cooling equipment with your HVAC technician. Lifespans vary and may depend on usage, maintenance, installation and system type.
-Frequent or costly repairDiscuss the typical lifespan of your heating or cooling equipment with your HVAC technician. Lifespans vary and may depend on usage, maintenance, installation and system type. Frequent or costly repairs: How often or expensive are repairs going to be before it’s worth it to upgrade to a new system? As homeowner you should certainly consider this important factor.
- Low energy efficiency and operational cost:If your HVAC equipment has a low-efficiency rating, it may be more cost-effective to replace it with a more energy-efficient model. The long-term utility bill savings of purchasing a higher efficiency system may outweigh the price of a series of costly repairs.
-Indoor comfort level: Advanced features, such as improved motor and compressor technologies, as well as smart home automation and communication provide homeowners with more precise temperature control, noise reduction and energy efficiency when compared to their current system.
-Length of home ownershiphip Advanced features, such as improved motor and compressor technologies, as well as smart home automation and communication provide homeowners with more precise temperature control, noise reduction and energy efficiency when compared to their current system. Length of home ownership: You should evaluate how long you plan to live in your current home. Typically, the longer you plan to live in your house, the longer you have to recover the cost of a new high-efficiency heating or cooling system unit.
How can I save money on my utility bills?
The more electricity or fuel your household uses, the higher your utility bill will be. One way to reduce the amount of energy that your home uses is to increase the energy-efficiency of your heating and cooling system. Today’s HVAC systems are designed to offer a range of energy-efficient features that will help you save on your utility bill.
- Gas Furnace: A gas furnace can offer an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) as high as 98.5%, meaning nearly all the energy purchased is used for heating your home. The minimum efficiency standard for furnaces using natural gas is currently 80% AFUE.
- Heat pump in heating mode:
Some heat pumps offer Heating Season Performance Factor (HSPF) of 9 or higher, which may provide significant energy efficiency and savings on monthly heating bills when compared to a lower HSPF model operating under the same conditions. The minimum efficiency standard for split system heat pumps is currently 8 HSPF.
- Air conditioner or heat pump in cooling mode: It’s increasingly common to see residential cooling equipment being installed with up to 18 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The minimum efficiency standard for split system air conditioners is currently 13 SEER in northern states and 14 SEER in southern states. The minimum efficiency standard for split system heat pumps is 14 SEER.
High-efficient HVAC equipment with innovative technology is only one piece of the puzzle. If other key energy-efficient solutions are ignored, your energy bills may still be higher than you would like. Additional factors that can influence heating and cooling efficiency performance includes, but are not limited to:
§ Routine air filter replacements
§ Local climate
§ Thermostat or control system settings
§ Insulation and construction methods
§ Windows and doors
§ Using Programmable thermostats
If you are curious how your indoor heating and cooling equipment may be affecting your monthly utility bill or want to learn ways to improve efficiency, talk to your local licensed professional at Dayton Heating & Air today at
1 Consumer Checkbook. Are HVAC Services Contracts Worth It? https://www.checkbook.org/national/air-conditioning-and-heating-contractors/articles/Are-HVAC-Service-Contracts-Worth-It-2909. 2 Maintaining your Air Conditioner. n.d. <http://energy.gov/energysaver/maintaining-your-air-conditioner>. 3 Energy Star. Maintenance Checklist. n.d.https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_maintenance.