Insider Information for Buying Your New Heating and Air Conditioning System, Part I

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Last updated: 
May 3, 2011

Insider Information / Trade Secrets:

In the first of this two part piece we’re going to talk strictly about residential single family homes and what to look for when you need or want to replace your current heating and cooling system.

 Get Multiple Bids

Buying New Heating and Air Conditioning SystemTo jump right in, I’ll take you with me inside an elite residential replacement sales class I attended  a few years ago. The purpose in this particular segment of the class was to give salesman ( aka comfort consultants) comebacks to homeowners’ objections to buying a new air conditioning system from them.  In this hypothetical role playing scenario the  homeowners objection to buying tonight was that they wanted to get "other" bids to be sure they were getting a good deal. Sound reasonable? Not to a commisioned salesman. Comfort consultants are trained to do a one call close, or in other words get the signed sales contract on the spot. They don't want to call you back in a few days, they want you in thier rearview mirror. Time is money, they want to be on a new lead in two days not the same one.

Back to the Classroom

The sales trainers comeback was this: “Mr. homeowner I think we can both agree that if you get three bids the only thing you’ll get is three different prices, you won’t know anymore then than you know right now, and you’ll be out all that time and I appreciate how valuable your time is so tell me what I need to do to earn your business tonight?”   The truth of this statement is, yes you will get three different prices, but the fallacy is saying you won’t learn anything. The fact is you will learn all you need to know by “interviewing” contractors as they are trying to sell you.  Get five bids if that’s what you need to feel comfortable.

 Go With One of The Big Three Manufacturers

Lennox, Carrier, Trane or American Standard. (Am.Std. and Trane are the same company.) There are other other big name hvac manufacturers that make good equipment but we have had the best luck with the above named companies.    There are sales schools that teach hvac salesman to sell their company not a specific brand of equipment. The sales trainers claim the majority of homeowners have no idea what brand of equipment they have so sell them whatever YOU want. I say that’s a bunch of rubbish!  The comfort consultants reason for being is to educate the homeowner with their knowledge of the industry. That at least should be your perspective, isn’t that why they’re in your home in the first place because you as a homeowner are not an air conditioning professional, it’s not your occupation, so you call a professional to look out for your best interests so you can make an educated decision on which brand, model and size system to purchase, not so a salesman can get a couple of extra commission points for selling you old inventory that’s been sitting in his companies warehouse.  Every salesman will claim his company sells the best equipment, or let’s say he should claim. If by chance you find yourself sitting across the kitchen table from a salesman who confesses his company sells anything but the best, he may well be telling the truth. Conversation over, I’d pass on this outfit.

 Don’t Buy a Contractor's Private Label Equipment

Some contractors may even pitch you their own “private label equipment”. Watch out for these rascals.  What this means is they’ve negotiated with a hungry, aggressive, generally lower end air conditioning manufacturer to buy a large number of units and in exchange have their own personalized nameplate attached for a fee. A few slick hvac companies and contractor consulting groups have promoted and practice this strategy.  Our advice again is stick with the name brands and don’t get fooled by this ruse which is merely another trick to keep homeowners from shopping apples to apples.  This is NOT high end equipment.

Don’t Buy Something You Don’t Understand

Thermostats: Make sure you feel completely comfortable with its operation. Again look for names you know.  Honeywell makes some of the best on the market today. They're easy to install, program and operate.  They also make thermostats for some  hvac equipment manufacturers who in turn put their name on them. How's that for validation?

AirFilters / Cleaners: On the filter side ask the salesman if you will be able to purchase the filters from the big box stores or online. What you don’t want is a one off filter that you’ll have a hard time finding ( if at all) or be locked into buying from your installing contractor every time you need an air filter.  Get the model number to the filter in writing on the sales contract and Google it.

U.V. or Ultra Violet Germicidal Lights: These lights have been built in literally hundreds of designs and configurations over the years most require the bulbs to be replaced annually. Here lies the problem, as these companies and designs come and go the replacement bulbs become obsolete, if you can’t replace the bulbs the unit can’t do its job and is junk. The only light I would buy would be one specifically made by or for the equipment manufacturer you’re buying.  For example you purchase a Lennox system use their light.

Keep it simple and ask questions until you understand exactly what it is your buying.

That’s it for now but stay tuned for part two where we discuss heat gain/loss calculations as well as using contractor supplied references to your advantage and finally what to look for and expect on the day of installation. Stay cool out there…or warm depending where and when you read this.

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