Investing a little time in finding a contractor for A/C installation is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your new system performs well in our hot, humid summers. If not sized and installed correctly, your system could perform at a full SEER number lower than its potential.
Follow these steps in finding a skilled contractor and you’ll enjoy lower system operating costs and better performance.
- Identify the best companies — Ask friends, family and co-workers to recommend a contractor for A/C installation. If you don’t get any good leads this way, check with the Better Business Bureau for local contractors with strong reputations.
- Check the basics — After you’ve identified three to five companies that look promising, make sure that the basics are covered. Are they licensed, insured and bonded? Note how long the company has been in business.
- Look for additional qualifications — To find a contractor for A/C installation who’s committed to providing above-average services, look for a NATE-certified contractor. North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification is offered by a nationwide, non-profit organization that sets quality standards that the entire HVAC industry recognizes. They provide rigorous training and exams that allow technicians to become specialists in a number of areas, including air conditioner installation.
NATE certification is voluntary, so only truly dedicated contractors take this extra step. Research shows NATE-certified technicians receive 12.9 percent fewer callbacks than non-certified technicians and typically have more years of experience as well.
- Contact references — A trustworthy HVAC company should be able to provide at least three references from former customers. Contact the references and find out whether their installation job was finished on time and within budget. Also ask if they were satisfied with the work and equipment performance enough to recommend the contractor to others.
- Request written estimates — Once you’ve found at least three prospective companies, schedule in-home HVAC installation estimates. Avoid any contractor who wants to provide an estimate without seeing your home. Be wary of unusually low estimates, which could indicate a willingness to cut corners, such as by estimating your required equipment size instead of calculating it correctly. Conversely, if the estimate seems high, ask why. The contractor may have noticed something others missed, such as a flaw in your duct design.
- Read the contract carefully — Your contract should specify all equipment to be installed and outline the work to be done, including equipment and labor costs. It should also clearly state the payment terms. Avoid any contractor who wants a pre-payment of more than 10 percent of the total. Guarantees and warranties should be included in the contract and clearly state their coverage terms and validity dates.
- Insist on thorough preparation — Correctly installing an air conditioner involves more than placing the equipment and hooking up the electrical and refrigerant lines. Your contractor should follow the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s Manual D to perform cooling load calculations. These calculations determine the appropriate size for your air conditioner. Ask your contractor to go over the manufacturer’s performance data with you so you can understand why that size was selected.
Your ductwork should also be checked to ensure that it’s the optimal size and layout, and produces minimal air leakage. Your contractor can conduct tests for duct air leakage and perform air sealing or other improvements as needed, followed by retesting. Air leakage should be less than 10 percent.
- Expect a system test — Once your system is installed, your contractor should thoroughly test it for correct and efficient operation. This includes measuring the airflow over the coil as well as through the ducts and into each room, verifying the correct refrigerant level and testing the thermostat.
- Get the paperwork — Your contractor should provide you with the owner’s manual and manufacturer’s warranty that comes with the system. You should also receive documentation that provides detailed information on the recommended maintenance procedures. If you haven’t received a copy of the contractor’s warranty, ask for one.
The efficiency and performance of your air conditioning system depends on correct installation. If you’re investing in a new air conditioner, get the most out of it by choosing a contractor who understands what correct installation entails. To connect with a reliable contractor for A/C installation and help with other home comfort issues, contact the pros at Byrd Heating and Air Conditioning. We’re proud to serve homeowners in and around Savannah and Garden City.