It probably won’t be today; it probably won’t be tomorrow, but someday in the future, you’ll need to replace your air conditioner. Like all things, it doesn’t matter how well you maintain your faithful air conditioner, someday it will be time for it to be replaced by a newer one. Air conditioners these days have a lifespan of roughly 10 to 20 years, depending on the model, which means that sometime between those years of 10 and 20 you expect your air conditioner to start to falter a bit, to lose some of its energy efficiency and to start needing repair more often.
That’s when you know it’s time to think about buying a new air conditioner. But beyond that decision, there’s a lot you may be wondering about when it comes to air conditioner shopping and replacing. The process itself isn’t exactly detailed anywhere so you may feel like you’re downriver without a paddle when it finally comes time to pack up the old air conditioner and bring in the new. That’s why it can be very helpful to know what kind of questions to ask your Austin air conditioning and heating contractor. That’s what this tip of the day will go into, the best questions to ask your contractor when it comes time to replace your air conditioner to ensure you get quality air conditioning in Austin this upcoming spring and summer.
What Size AC Should You Get and How Is This Determined?
The size of your soon-to-be new air conditioner is an extremely important aspect not to be overlooked. And by size, we’re generally not so much talking about literal spatial dimensions so much as we’re talking about cooling capacity. Both an oversized and an undersized air conditioner can spell serious consequences for you and your energy bill down the line so this is a question worth going over with your HVAC contractor.
Now, one reason this is a good question to ask is that it can help you quickly weed out contractors who are either lazy or incompetent. This may sound mean but it’s important that you get only the best service when it comes down to something as essential as your air conditioner and you can’t be guaranteed to get that from just anybody. So if you ask what size air conditioner you need there are certain answers you might hear that should clue you in to the unsuitability of the contractor you’re talking to.
First of all, this question shouldn’t be answered by simply stating that you should get whatever size air conditioner there was in there before. That means they're assuming the original contractor sized the system properly and that nothing has changed since. You also don’t want them to give out a generic answer that bigger is better so they’re going to upgrade you from say a 3 ton unit to a 4 ton unit because air conditioners can certainly be oversized as well as undersized. You should also make sure they’re not just giving you an answer based on the square footage of your house because using a rule of thumb based on square footage doesn't work, and they should measure the house themselves rather than relying on your number.
The proper way to size heating and cooling systems is to calculate the actual heating and cooling loads for your home. To do so, the contractor has to measure the house completely, get all the insulation R-values, window types, orientation, infiltration rate, duct leakage, and more. Then they put all that into their load calculation software and find out how many Btu's per hour your home needs. The most common way of doing this is to use the Manual J load calculation protocol.
Proper sizing is important because an air conditioner does two jobs. It cools the air, and it dehumidifies the air. In a humid climate, an oversized air conditioner will cool just fine but won't dehumidify well. Also, oversized systems go on and off a lot, and all those start-ups and shut-downs will shorten the life of your air conditioner. That’s a process called short cycling, when the air conditioner is too big and so it cools the house quickly, shuts off not much later, and then starts back up again all within a short cycle. This may sound good but it actually will lead to higher bills and a shorter life span for your AC unit.
Will They Inspect Your Ductwork Before Installation
You may not have considered having your ductwork inspected during an AC replacement but you should. The ducts in your house are the conduit through which your air conditioner will cool your house. It’s an essential piece of the puzzle and unfortunately many ducts out there today are not in their best condition. Leaks as well as poor sizing are common problems with ductwork found in many homes and these problems can be identified and rectified but only if the contractor will put in this extra step before the installation of the new air conditioner.
Many duct systems don't move as much air as they should because of ducts that are too small, kinked, too long, or have other types of constrictions. At a minimum, your HVAC contractor should measure the total external static pressure and make sure it's within the limits specified for the equipment they're installing. Ideally, they'll also measure the air flow to each room to make sure your home will be heated and cooled uniformly. Remember, it's not all about the air conditioner. The overall performance depends a lot on how well the ducts move the conditioned air.
It may be hard to believe but approximately 70% of the duct systems that are installed in residential homes are not sized correctly to deliver the proper conditioned air into the home. Most of the time the duct system is too small which increases the resistance on the equipment. This most certainly will lower the efficiency of the equipment by making it run longer to satisfy the thermostat. Also the system will have a higher rate of service problems and it has been known to reduce the life of an air conditioner by as much as 4 years. That’s a significant loss of air conditioning life.
What are the Terms of the Warranty
Understanding your warranty is an important part of owning an air conditioner. You need to know what kind of breakdowns you’re covered for and what kind of replacements you can expect out of your warranty should something unexpected happen with your new air conditioner. And on top of that you need to know how long you’re covered.
Manufacturers’ warranties cover various parts for a specific period of time. Make sure you know what is covered on your new unit and how long the warranty lasts so you can have qualifying work performed under the warranty if needed, rather than paying out of pocket. Some manufacturers offer extended warranties for purchase, and your contractor can help you out if you wish to extend the warranty term. Quality HVAC contractors will also offer a warranty for their labor, so be sure to ask what is covered by their warranty and how long the warranty term lasts.
A warranty is no good if you don’t understand its terms and what it covers. So make sure you ask your contractor about the warranty or warranties you’re getting with this new air conditioner purchase and installation.
Ask About the Details in the Service
There’s a lot that goes into replacing an air conditioner. From hauling the old one out of there and disposing of it to getting the new AC to your house and into place there are many smaller and equally important steps. Make sure you ask things like what the timetable is for the installation, from start to finish? You should ask the contractor if they will haul away the old unit and dispose of it properly, and if that is included in your fee. Is clean-up included and will the work area (ductwork, walls, flooring) be finished as they were before the work commenced?
These are the sort of detail-specific questions that will let you know both whether you’re working with an experienced and professional contractor and what kind of services you’re going to get and be charged for. The more you know the better you can prepare and preparation is key to these kinds of procedures. Some other questions to consider asking to be thorough include: Are there any rebates or tax credits available for installing a new system? Do they handle all of the necessary permits and approvals with the local authorities? How long have they been in business (under the same name)? Do they offer a money back guarantee? Consider these questions a sort of screening process for your next contractor to make sure you are working with someone who can get the job done well and not overcharge or leave you in the dust.
Air Conditioner Replacement and Air Conditioning Repair in Austin
No one wants to think about having to replace your air conditioner but it will be a reality someday. The best way to deal with that reality is to know exactly what kinds of questions you should ask and which kinds of answers let you know you’re dealing with someone who will do right by your house and yourself.
There’s a lot that goes into replacing your air conditioner so you should settle for nothing less than a quality and professional contractor. AC Express is an HVAC contractor that has been operating in and around Austin for over a decade. Our service area includes everywhere from Cedar Park and Georgetown to Lakeway and Taylor. We do air conditioner and heater repair in Austin and we do it well. Our Austin AC repair and installation services are sure to satisfy and get you the Austin heating and air conditioning you need. So if you ever find yourself in need of AC repair in Austin, call today!