Tag Archives: hvac

What Are You Paying For When Hiring A Professional HVACR Contractor

When you walk into a store and buy something, you know that it is marked up to cover the cost and shipping of the goods, so the store covers its costs. But there are many other factors that go into that mark up, such as employee salaries and benefits and overhead expenses.  As consumers, we have become accustomed to these mark ups and don’t think twice about them.

The same mark up principle applies for professional HVACR contractors when they are setting prices for their services. Not only does a contractor need to cover the cost of the repair, tune-up, or installation; they need to make sure that they are covering all of the costs of doing business and make sure they are making a profit, so they can stay in business and continue providing you with outstanding service.

What Costs Do Professional HVACR Contractors Consider When Setting Prices?

The Cost Of The Service

Every service has a cost to be performed. Depending on the service that cost will vary. At a store this would be the cost of goods.

Employee Salaries & Benefits

Contractors have to take into consideration how much they pay all of their employees, plus the costs of benefits such as insurance premiums, uniforms, and tools.

Licensing, Bonding, & Insurance

Not all states require contractor licenses, but where they do, contractors must pay for the license, and ensure they have all the necessary training, policies, and on-going procedures in place to meet the requirements. Besides licenses, contractors should also have liability insurance and be bonded.

Training & Certifications

Trane Logo 114You wouldn’t want someone who wasn’t trained working on your air conditioner or heater, would you? Professional contractors spend time and money each year sending their employees to training and to get them certified to make sure they are up-to date on the latest equipment, techniques, standards, codes, and requirements to get the job done right and safely the first time. The heating and cooling industry is a rapidly-changing technology industry; good contractors know their technicians must receive continuous education to stay on top of their game and provide you with excellent service.

Fuel & Vehicle MaintenanceIMG_2455-001

Vehicles are one of the most important assets of a contracting business, it’s how they get to you, so they must keep their fleets in good working order. That means oil changes, vehicle tune-ups, new tires, state required inspections, and insurance. They also have to consider the price of gas.

Overhead Costs

These costs include the building the contractor’s business is located in, utilities, and taxes just to name a few.

Government Regulations

Just like all businesses, contractors must comply with many government regulations.

This includes requirements from the DOE, EPA, and OSHA.

How Can Some Contractors Offer Cheap or Free Tune Ups?

Yes, some contractors out there offer low cost tune-ups and repairs. But, buyer beware, when a contractor is consistently offering low-cost services, they are likely cutting corners. What corners are they cutting?

Training & Certifications

Many low-cost contractors are only concerned with getting a job and moving on to the next one, so they don’t invest in education for their employees. Do you really want an untrained technician working on your system? You should always ask contractors to describe their training programs.

Licensing, Bonding, & Insurance

Many low-cost contractors are operating illegally without proper government licensing.

They also often don’t have liability insurance, which could mean additional costs at your expense, and a possible legal battle, if something goes wrong.

Professional Service

DealerOwnerFilterIf a contractor is only concerned with being the lowest initial bidder, he or she is probably only looking to make as much money off of you as possible and then move on. The low-bid contractor may be more likely to require unnecessary repairs, so that he or she can increase the price you pay once the job starts. Since the low-cost contractor is probably not interested in a long-term business relationship, he or she has less incentive to provide quality, professional service at a reasonable price.

Your home’s indoor environment plays a major role in your family’s health, safety, and quality of life. As with most things, you get what you pay for. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. By working with a professional heating and cooling contractor, you will receive overall better service and you will be able to build a relationship with a contractor that you can trust to take care of you, your family, and your home.

Bigger Is Not Always Better With HVAC Systems

Determining the correct size of residential heating and cooling equipment is key to achieving comfortable interior conditions – temperature and humidity – and saving on initial and operating costs. The size of cooling systems is particularly critical for optimal energy efficiency and comfort. When equipment is oversized, initial costs are higher, efficiency is reduced, energy costs increase and comfort may be compromised. One Florida study showed a typical 9 percent usage for units that were oversized by 50 percent or more.

Correctly sized equipment is especially important in humid climates, where short cycling of air conditioning equipment can lead to poor humidity control. Similar to an automobile in stop-and-go-traffic, the overall efficiency of an air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump is reduced by excessive cycling. More starts and stops accelerate wear and tear on the equipment.

Oversized systems also use more fan power for the blower and often exhibit more duct leakage due to high operating duct pressure. Finally, oversized air conditioners and heat pumps greatly aggravate the summer utility peak demand on hot days, In the Florida study cited above, a 13 percent higher summer peak electrical demand was correlated to oversized units.

Use The Best Guide

Beware of casual sizing estimates based on home floor area or contractor “experience.” The residential equipment sizing procedures recommended for use in the United States are found in Manual J, produced buy the Air Conditioning Contractors Association of America (ACCA). Computer programs are available to simplify the load calculations specified by Manual J. Once the heating and cooling loads are known, we can then select compatible equipment.

Unfortunately, ACCA approved sizing methods are often not used and oversizing is very common. In one large-scale survey, nearly 40 percent of contractors indicated that they purposefully over-sized equipment, citing reasons such as “to reduce call backs”, “to allow for future expansion”, or “customers demanded it”. Those contractors who claimed to size in accordance with Manual J were heavily out-numbered by those who did not.

Sizing And Efficiency Go Hand In Hand

Manual J procedures determine the design and heating and cooling loads based on the amount of wall, ceiling, window and floor area, their insulation value, and the building envelope and duct leakage. Building orientation, roof surface color and occupancy can also make a difference. The sizing calculations for new construction should take into account the various efficiency measures incorporated in the home. As a home’s efficiency is improved, the recommended size of the HVAC system should be reduced.

How To Determine “Just The Right Size”

  • Insist that documented sizing calculations be performed on your home using the ACCA Manual J procedure. ACCA methods have sufficient built-in safety factors to accommodate most air conditioning needs. Therefore, it is important to follow all instructions in Manual J using precise area measurements and other specific data.
  • Be aware that exaggerating temperatures for indoor heating and cooling set points can have large impacts on required equipment sizing. Generally, Manual J recommends 75 degrees for cooling and 70 degrees for heating.
  • Select a programmable thermostat so that your home can be conditioned before you arrive, thus avoiding the temptation to over-size equipment for rapid cool-downs or warm-ups. This will improve sizing-related performance and potentially save energy associated with more reliable thermostats.
  • Select variable speed air handlers to gain important advantages for both hot, humid and hot, dry climates. In humid climates, many variable speed systems “ramp up” blowers slowly, providing energy savings and improved dehumidification.

Excerpted From The Department of Energy