Buying a new HVAC system is one of the most important purchases you can make for your home. Consumer Reports indicates that more than 75% of U.S. homes use air conditioning, and 90% of new homes are equipped with central air. An efficient HVAC system offers a comfortable environment in which to work, relax and enjoy your home.
Gathering all the correct information about HVAC systems can be intimidating. With the volume of information available online, it is natural to feel overwhelmed and confused about HVAC systems.
To help, we’ve built a guide for buying HVAC systems so you make an informed buying choice.
What Is an HVAC System?
HVAC refers to technology that allows for the regulation of a home’s atmosphere. HVAC is an abbreviation for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. HVAC systems enable occupants to have proper control over the heating and cooling temperatures of space. They are also commonly known by the names of some common components: ductless AC units, boilers, central air conditioners, heat pumps, or furnaces.
Types of HVAC Systems
There are four main types of HVAC systems: Split systems, hybrid systems, ductless systems, and packaged heating and air systems. You should choose what’s most suitable for your home and budget.
- Split system: “Split” between two main units or systems (one for cooling and one for heating), most common among the HVAC systems
- Hybrid system: Advanced version of the split system, the main difference is that it has improved energy efficiency as it is equipped with a hybrid electric heater system
- Ductless system: consists of an outside air conditioner for cooling and a heat pump for cooling and heating, suitable for homes where conventional systems of ducts cannot be used
- Packaged system: offers high-quality heating and cooling combined into one unit, usually used in homes without basements, and is usually installed outdoors
HVAC System Factors to Consider
Home Comfort: Temperature and Air Quality
You should always consider how various heating and cooling units will influence your indoor temperature, energy consumption and air quality. For example, did you know that choosing elements such as UV light in your HVAC system can increase your EPA indoor air quality score? A little inquiry will help you tackle airborne particle content and identify the best HVAC unit for reducing humidity.
HVAC systems have improved over the years. As a result, there are rating systems that determine their efficiency. Take a look at the system ratings, such as the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), HSPF, AFUE, and EER. For example, the SEER rating should be at least 15.
Your new HVAC system should be able to heat and cool the space in your home effectively. The capacity of an HVAC system is measured by BTUs (British Thermal Units). Generally, the higher the BTU rating, the greater the capacity.
Programmable Thermostat Compatibility
Ensure that the system you buy is compatible with a modern, programmable thermostat. This allows you to control your heating and cooling from virtually anywhere. In addition, you’ll be able to save money on your energy bills by turning the systems on or off when you are not using them. It will also prolong the life of your HVAC system. Some units can be controlled via a wire to other parts of a house, while the most modern can be controlled via smartphone from anywhere the phone receives service.
HVAC systems need regular maintenance for optimal performance, so buy a low-maintenance, cost-effective system. When you negotiate your installation, you should also negotiate a service plan that combines regular inspections with discounts on repairs and a labor warranty into the overall price.
Depending on the type and where it is installed, an HVAC system can be pretty noisy. Consult with your HVAC contractor to ensure the unit you choose is a good fit for your home and your noise tolerance levels.
When choosing the right HVAC system, your goal should be to provide a comfortable temperature for your home, even if it’s more expensive than others. While you should buy an HVAC unit according to your budget, consider other factors as well, such as energy efficiency and durability.
The cheapest option isn’t always the best quality and rarely will be the most efficient—remember too that the money saved in energy and repair costs, by purchasing the correct size and a better quality unit, should weigh into any buying decision.
HVAC System Costs by Type
The average cost is dependent on the brand purchased, the size of a home, and the HVAC installation cost charged by the contractor. An HVAC is a complicated system made up of many different parts. You might be making a complete replacement or just getting a new piece for your existing unit. In any case, it helps to know the system cost for several parts.
A central air conditioner works to keep your whole home cool by circulating air over refrigerated coils. The cost to install an air conditioner runs roughly between $3,350 and $5,950. On the other hand, a heat pump transfers air from a cooler area to a warmer area using thermal energy. A conventional heat pump will cost you around $4,000 to $8,000, while a geothermal pump can be about five times that price, about $15,000 to $35,000.
A furnace is a heating system that uses some sort of fuel to heat an entire building. A gas furnace will cost an average of $1,800 to $4,000, an oil furnace between $4,200 and $6,900 while an electric furnace ranges from $1,600 to $2,500. On the other hand, a boiler works to heat a home using hot water forced through pipes. It costs an average $1,500 to $3,500.
How to Choose the Right HVAC System for You
Be sure to purchase the right size system for your home. Older homes may not have the correct size system. Oversized equipment cycles too frequently, shortening its life. Also, it won’t provide the same level of comfort and indoor air quality as a correctly sized system.
Your contractor or HVAC technician should tell you what size system your home needs, as the calculations required often involve a multitude of factors including tree coverage, sun exposure, and insulation in addition to square footage and ceiling height.
Buy the highest efficiency HVAC equipment you can afford that will work with your home. Even though a standard-efficiency system and a high-efficiency system might have the same labor component, the high efficiency will prove more cost-effective in the long run.
Choosing the best HVAC contractor is a very crucial factor affecting the quality of the system. An HVAC system must be designed, customized, and fabricated for each home. A good HVAC contractor will evaluate your entire system, including ductwork and indoor air quality requirements. They will cater to your individual needs and make recommendations that will best suit you, your home, and your lifestyle.
Make sure your contractor is properly licensed in their field. Ensure you sign a consumer contract for home improvements. Your agreement should include both start and completion dates and include an agreement for who pays for what should the contract go over-bid.
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) components
IAQ components like humidifiers and high-efficiency air filtration systems are common add-ons to HVAC systems. Most contractors will discount these additional items when installing a new system. Ask about add-ons from your contractor.
Spend some time comparing manufacturers’ and contractors’ warranties. A warranty can save you a lot of time and headache when things break. Oftentimes, at least some parts and repairs are covered with a default warranty when buying new. If flipping a home or planning to sell a home or space, be sure to buy warranties that are transferable.