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Avoid Hvac Headaches

It’s one of the biggest investments a homeowner will make: installing a new HVAC system. But hiring the right company requires a lot more research than asking your friends who they used.

“You have no idea if the person coming to your house is even remotely qualified to do a good job,” warns Brian Sloboda, senior program manager at NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network. CRN says to do lots of research before investing in a new HVAC system.

“It is not a secret in the HVAC industry that there are times when you buy a very nice brand new, highly efficient heat pump or air conditioner, and by the time the person is finished installing it, you’re left with something that might actually be less efficient than the thing you just replaced.”

Say what? How can that happen?

“The ductwork in your house may not be functioning. There are instances where ductwork is lying on the ground and not actually connected when the person leaves. There are other cases where the ductwork is not designed properly, so you may need to reconfigure some of the ductwork,” Sloboda cites as common examples.

Other problems: The refrigerant could be undercharged or overcharged. Or you could be sold a system that’s oversized for your house, leaving it humid inside.

Mistakes like these are commonplace, Sloboda says, because there “really are no standards that HVAC installers have to meet to get their job.”

However, some industry groups have come up with their own quality installation programs, including the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)—which CRN has met with—and North American Technician Excellence (NATE), which was formed by several HVAC industry stakeholders.

CRN and its strategic partner E Source have been looking into quality installation programs, which Sloboda says teach proper design and installation, as well as how to instruct consumers on correct use “so that the system works the way the manufacturer intended.”

Sloboda said consumers should ask their utility if it has a preferred contractor program, consisting of companies that the electric cooperative or other utility has vetted. If not, check the ACCA or NATE Web sites for accredited companies.

But that’s just for starters. Sloboda says that when you call a contractor, “You really should insist that the person who actually comes to your house and does the work is the person with the certification.” Not everyone working for an accredited company is necessarily certified.

“When they come to your house, ask questions,” Sloboda advises. A good one to lead off with: How long have you been doing this? “If they say, ‘This is only my second job,’ you may want to ask the HVAC contractor to send somebody out with the person.”

So what about asking friends or neighbors who they used?

“They have no clue if the person did proper duct analysis or charging of the system. No one knows. You can’t tell by looking at it. You can’t really tell by looking at your energy bill,” Sloboda says. “You have to hook electronics up to the system to see how it’s performing, and you can’t do that as a regular homeowner.”

Source: Electric Co-op Today


Read the Kentucky Living October 2014 feature that goes along with this Web exclusive, 2014 Energy Guide or click here to view the PDF.

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