Ask the Expert – Arizona’s Dukes of Air

NEED A NEW A/C UNIT?
WHY PAY MORE?

By Tonya & John Kubacki, Portofino Residents

Many people don’t realize what it takes to properly install a new air conditioner. There are many factors that influence the selection of the correct equipment. For example, knowing the correct “load” on the home, the configurations of existing ductwork, the layout of the home, East-West or North-South exposure, and your desired level of comfort, all play a critical role to ensure the unit selected meets your needs.

Sadly, we often see HVAC contractors either not taking the time, or not understanding the need, to perform the appropriate assessment of the home (e.g., a Manual I load calculation). Determining the correct load on the home is so important because it ensures the air conditioning system selected is sized appropriately for the home. Many contractors simply look at what is there and replace like for like. Why is this bad? Three reasons:

1. When the home was designed, the engineers that designed the HVAC system had no idea if the home would face East-West or North-South. They had no idea if there was going to be a large tree shading the windowed Western exposure of the home. They had no idea if windows and doors would be upgraded to provide greater thermal insulation. In short, they had no idea how the load conditions would be applied and how they might change over time.

2. In older homes, someone may have replaced the air conditioner already, and oversized it thinking that a home that required a 4-ton unit would actually do better with a 5-ton unit. A complacent contractor that doesn’t perform a load calculation will fall prey to the ignorance or laziness of the previous contractor who upsized that unit 15 years ago.

3. Homes in Arizona are notoriously built with inadequate ductwork, ductwork that is undersized or even installed improperly. This causes hot and cold rooms, uncomfortable living conditions, and can take a toll on your air conditioning unit.

Taking the time to perform the load calculation, sitting down with the prospective buyer and identifying their needs, identifying which rooms are uncomfortable and coming up with solutions to eliminate these problem areas. These are things that every HVAC contractor should be doing, but sadly very few do. Why spend thousands of dollars for a new air conditioning unit only to perpetuate the same comfort issues you had with the old system?

Beware of online shopping sites that claim to save you thousands of dollars by purchasing an air conditioner online. Typically, the equipment available to buy is a lower-end, less reliable brand. You pay a flat fee for the installation, but the installing contractor typically charges for add-ons that should be included as part of a “proper” installation. After you pay for all of the add-ons and feel taken advantage of, you’re paying close to what you would pay for proper installation. Oh, and through all of that, no one has performed a load calculation or discussed comfort issues and come up with solutions. What good is “saving thousands” if your
comfort issues aren’t addressed?

 

So, hire the right contractor, the one that performs the load calculation, the one that addresses all of your concerns. The one who installs it properly, thus precluding the annoying warranty callbacks and days without air conditioning. It may cost more initially, but it pays dividends over the long run. Benjamin Franklin once said, “The bitterness of low quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

 

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