10 Tips for Hiring a Heating and Cooling Contractor

1. Study up — Find out about license and insurance requirements for contractors in your state. And before you call a contractor, know the model of your current system and its maintenance history. Also make note of any uncomfortable rooms. This will help potential contractors better understand your heating needs.

2. Ask for referrals — Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers for contractor referrals. You can also contact local trade organizations for names of members in your area.

3. Call references — Ask contractors for customer references and call them. Ask about the contractor’s installation or service performance, and if the job was completed on time and within budget.

4. Find special offers — A heating and cooling system is one of the largest purchases you’ll make as a homeowner. Keep your costs down by checking around for available rebates on energy-efficient ENERGY STAR qualified heating and cooling equipment. Begin your search at

5. Look for ENERGY STAR — ENERGY STAR qualified products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and offer significant long-term energy savings. Contractors should be able to show you calculations of savings for ENERGY STAR heating and cooling equipment.

6. Expect a home evaluation — The contractor should spend significant time inspecting your current system and home to assess your needs. A bigger system isn’t always better; a contractor should size the heating and cooling system based on the size of your house, level of insulation, and windows. A good contractor will inspect your duct system (if applicable) for air leaks and insulation and measure airflow to make sure it meets manufacturers specifications.

7. Get written, itemized estimates — When comparing contractors’ proposals (bids), be sure to compare cost, energy efficiency and warranties. A lowest price may not be the best deal if it’s not the most efficient because your energy costs will be higher.

8. Get it in ink — Sign a written proposal with a contractor before work gets started. It’ll protect you by specifying project costs, model numbers, job schedule and warranty information.

9. Pass it on — Tell friends and family about ENERGY STAR. Almost one-quarter of households knowingly purchased at least one qualified product last year, and 71% of those consumers say they would recommend ENERGY STAR to a friend. Spread the word, and we can all make a big difference.

High Efficiency HVAC Versus Standard HVAC

Lower energy bills. Even today’s “standard” systems are likely more efficient than the system it will replace. Federally-mandated “minimum” standards have steadily risen in recent decades.

  • Lower cost environmentally-friendly chlorine-free R410-A refrigerant. The ozone-depleting R-22 chlorofluorocarbon R-22 is no longer available for newly manufactured air conditioners and heat pumps. And while it’s still available for servicing older units, production has been cut. As a result, it’s price has already more than tripled in just the past year. At the same time, the cost of the new refrigerant has steadily declined. As more and more homes convert to the new refrigerant, the cost of the older refrigerant will continue to rise as that of the new refrigerant will continue to fall.
  • Two-stage burners and compressors that operate at lower rates to save energy. Only on those really cold winter and hot summer days will these systems operate at 100%. The rest of the time, they’re keeping you warm but with considerable energy savings.
  • Improved circulation, better air quality, greater humidity control & reduced temperature swings with power-saving variable speed blowers. In place of standard system’s on-or-off-only option, fans ramp up gradually to a speed matched to current demand. Slower speeds when temperatures are moderate, higher speeds only when temperatures soar.
  • Greater summer comfort at higher thermostat settings. The low-consuming variable speed fan keeps air moving for longer periods. This enhances humidity removal at the coil and keeps family members cooler in the living space even at higher thermostat settings. Of course, that means lower electric use. Because the variable speed fan is low-consuming, it can be set to run continually further enhancing cooling. Even greater cooling and savings can be obtained with the addition of advanced thermostats. These not only offer the most effective humidification in winter but in summer work in concert to remove more moisture than a standard system saving signicantly on cooling costs.
  • Longer equipment life. With new refrigerant and compressor design, today’s air conditioners and heat pumps run at lower pressures and cooler temperatures with fewer moving parts.
  • Reduced noise levels — both inside your home & out in the yard. No more whoosh as your system comes on. Changes in blower speeds are so gradual, you probably won’t notice. Because compressors and burners work at lower rates most of the time, their noise is cut as well. Today’s high efficiency units have improved sound dampening built in as well.

What You Should Know About HVAC Filters And Indoor Air Quality

Everyone agrees that you should change your HVAC filter on a regular basis, but not everyone agrees on the type of filter you should use. Next time you go shopping for a furnace (or AC) filter, here are a few things to keep in mind. These tips can save you a bundle and perhaps even prevent you from inadvertently damaging your HVAC equipment.

The primary purpose of a filter is to protect HVAC equipment, not to improve indoor air quality, as many homeowners have been led to believe.

Perhaps this was because high-efficiency filters that are too good may actually slow airflow across the heat exchanger, reducing the unit’s efficiency, raising your energy bills, and causing furnace damage due to overheating. Similarly, a high-efficiency filter can freeze the evaporator coil on a central cooling system. (A dirty filter can do the same thing.)

Even more of a shocker is that furnace filters do relatively little to reduce the number of small particles you inhale. That’s because these particles tend to be in the air wherever there is human activity—and that’s not necessarily where your return registers and ductwork can capture them.

In addition, furnaces (and central ACs) run only seasonally. Even during the heating and cooling seasons, furnaces run only part of the time. So it stands to reason they are not filtering the air when the fan is not running.

Want to save money and stop wasting time trying to figure out conflicting furnace filter maker ratings systems? Make your next filter a permanent electronic air Cleaner. For additional indoor air quality performance try a UV light or a HEPA Filter