Texas residents are no strangers to triple-digit temperatures during the summer months and
understand the importance of keeping cool during heatwaves. However, when the heat
arrives in force, many residents learn their current air conditioning systems cannot keep up
with demand. When indoor temperatures reach unbearable levels, consumers turn to
reputable HVAC contractors to help service their system or install a new one. Similarly to
hiring any other contractor to work on your home, Better Business Bureau (BBB) reminds
consumers to research a chosen company before providing payment or signing a contract.
Purchasing and installing a new HVAC system
HVAC systems are one of the most significant energy consumers in a typical home, making
it important to ensure they work as efficiently as possible. Although the average HVAC
system should last 10-25 years, many must be replaced sooner if they have been
overworked by insufficient insulation and unsealed air leaks. Like other major household
appliances, the cost of an HVAC system includes three elements – the purchase price, the
cost of repairs and maintenance, and the cost to operate it.
Before purchasing a new unit, conduct an energy audit to help you detect energy waste,
gauge the efficiency of your current system, and determine if conditioned air is moving
correctly. Many utility companies offer free or low-cost energy audits, but you can hire a
specialist to do a more comprehensive audit. Hiring a specialist will most likely cost more
money, but their experience is often invaluable when purchasing new systems.
Take steps to weatherize your home to keep cold air in and hot air out, or vice versa in the
winter. Check the caulking, weather stripping around doors and windows, and wall and
ceiling insulation. Weatherizing your home may be all you need to help your air conditioning
unit maintain a cool temperature indoors and will help reduce energy demands. An
adequately weatherized home may also enable you to install a smaller, less expensive
system to achieve the same results.
Consider energy efficiency from the start of your decision-making process. All air
conditioning units must meet minimum energy efficiency standards set by the Department
of Energy, but many products exceed the standard resulting in less energy used to operate
and run the system. Check if your energy provider offers a cash rebate or tax break for
buying and using energy-efficient products and consider it when comparing the operating
costs of different systems.
After installing your new system, the contractor should provide at least one call-back service
free of charge to check it is operating correctly. Double-check that this service is included in
the written agreement. Many contractors also offer service contracts which often contain a
limited number of service calls per year and emergency repair service. If you decide to
participate in a service contract, be sure that it describes what parts and services are
provided. Compare the service contract with the manufacturer's warranty so you aren't
simply duplicating the coverage you already have.
HVAC maintenance and repair tips
Keeping your system well-maintained will prolong its life and save you money. Spring or
early summer is the best time for servicing cooling systems, while summer or fall are the
ideal times for servicing your furnace. You can also do routine maintenance by replacing
disposable filters or cleaning permanent ones. Before calling an HVAC contractor, check your
system’s model and spend the time to understand the license and insurance requirements
for contractors. Find more information about licensing requirements and verify your
contractor has a valid license, as recognized by the Texas Department of Licensing and
Regulation, by searching the contractor’s name or license number at TDLR.Texas.gov.
Contractors that do not readily provide this information should be treated with caution.
If you need repairs, be sure to get multiple written estimates for the job. BBB recommends
obtaining an estimate from a minimum of three contractors before settling on a final
decision to help understand the standard price for the project and have an informed
discussion with a chosen contractor. Estimates should include a complete description of
additional work required to install or repair a system, including installing ducts, registers,
electric wiring, and any other work needed.
Find a trusted HVAC contractor near you at BBB.org and review more home maintenance
tips at BBB.org/HomeHQ.