Choosing a service provider- Do Your Homework
Unless you have someone you know and trust, I would suggest first tapping your network of friends and collegues. If they have been down this road before use their experience. If not, you are in no-man’s land. You can check the listings and look for licenses, certifications (BBB), etc but know that you can’t certify integrity. It is critical that you get a few estimates and don’t be surprised if they vary widely. Here are some questions to ask your potential provider
- What do recommend? (more on this below)
- Specifically (and in writing) what products and services does this price include?
- Is this the ‘drive out’ or final price?
- What if you find “other things” that need to be done once you get into the job?
- Is there any room for negotiation in this price?
- When can you start? When will you be finished?
- Is there anything else I should know? (I love this question! )
Also, be prepared to use your intuition. My first interview was a 2 hour sales pitch with lots of extra work that would ‘help me in the long run’. It took me full day to get the ‘sleeze’ funk out of my house and the fear of NOT adding all the upgrades he was pushing out of my head.
R-22 vs R-410a Cool! Kinda?
I’m no expert on coolants but the bottom line here is the industry is set to make a big change in HVAC coolants in 2010. The old stuff (R22) is going away, the new stuff (R-410a) is coming in. There are many resources on the web about the differences between the two and how the r22 phase out is going to go down. Read them. Here is why– R22 and R410a use different equipment –and they are really not compatible with each other. Meaning you can’t put the new stuff in the old equipment or interchange the equipment parts. I’ve seen sites that say you can just suck out the old r22 and put in the new r-410a but most of the service providers I talked to would not touch this with a 10 foot pole.
So, if you need to replace only the outside A/C and you choose to upgrade to a new r-410a you will need to replace the whole thing including the part called coils (they are in my attic). So you see where this is leading… your old R22 dies. Do you replace it with an brand new unit that takes r22 and is being phased out? What about repair or maintenance? How will this effect any warranties you get with a new unit? Or maybe you upgrade to the more expensive r410a unit and re-do everything?
Duct work – My stress headache is back!
Duct work is in my attic. They are big tube things that circulate the air to and from your house and the A/C units. Remind me of Chuck E. Cheese playground only silver. Your duct work may or may not be the right size and configuration for your A/C . Apparently these tubes can be the unsung hero of your A/C unit. Get this right and you will extend the life of your unit, increase your efficiency, and be way more comfortable in your home. But no one could really tell me how much more life I would get out of it or how much more efficient it would be.
One service provider quoted me $2100 (in addition to the actual a/c unit) to straighten out the duct work. Another provider said something like, “Were you cool enough when the old A/C was running?” My answer was yes, I passed on the duct work.
F is for efficiency – SEER rating
SEER rating is the way they rate the efficiency of the A/C unit. There is lots of information on the Internet and it is pretty straight forward. Higher the SEER rating the more efficient the A/C. Ratings generally start at 13 and go up to about 21. Seems like 14/ 16 are mid-line and mainly what I dealt with. It is hard to determine the actual benefit of paying the extra money for the higher rating (say 16 vs 14). Maybe you can find it, I didn’t. Other things I read about to consider for efficiency are duct work,a good installation, and keeping the equipment maintained.
Now Its up to You…
This is the part where Yoda tells Luke Skywalker he must feel the Force and find his own way. Do your homework, educate yourself, work your network, and use your intuition. Good Luck to you! And for the curious…
How my situation turned out
After consulting 3 service providers, I replaced my old r22 unit with a brand new one with a 10 year warranty. I went with a company that I judged to be a honest and trustworthy. I did not redo my duct work but know that I can add that later if it becomes important to me. Yea, I realize that R22 and supporting equipment is phasing out. But the fact is there are many R22 in the world cooling homes right now and I’m banking on the fact that we along millions of others will have access to parts and service for the life of this unit.
If you have experience with this, write a comment and pass it along. Help me add to the clarity and stomp out confusion!
[tags] HVAC, R22, R410a, SEER rating, 4 ton, Air conditioning, central air conditioning units [/tags]