If your heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system is over ten years old or if you suspect that your utility bills are higher than they should be, it may be time to upgrade your HVAC equipment. Furthermore if you move into an older home with old windows and dated HVAC appliances, you definitely need to invest in energy-efficient equipment so your home does not become a drain on your finances. Before you hire an HVAC contractor to perform upgrades or buy equipment for a DIY project, make sure to complete the following tasks.
Schedule an Energy Assessment
Prior to making plans to modify your HVAC system, schedule an energy assessment of your home. This can provide an HVAC installer with valuable information about why your energy bills are so high. You can ask your utility company if they provide energy assessments or hire a certified energy auditor from a private firm.
A comprehensive audit of your house will detect areas of your home where you are losing energy and how to make your home more energy efficient. The energy auditor will also inspect your HVAC appliances, perform a thermographic scan, examine ductwork and check the condition of insulation.
Review Municipal Codes
Even though your HVAC system is on private property, it must comply with municipal codes meant to protect your health and safety. Contact your local government to obtain a copy of HVAC building codes.
While the regulations may not be the most enjoyable reading material, it is in your best interest to know the legal standards for HVAC systems especially if you plan to complete any upgrades and repairs on your own. Typical municipal codes cover:
- Heating and cooling equipment
- Ductwork and ventilation
- Thermostats and controls
- Pilot lights
- Equipment certification and energy efficiency ratings
In addition, you may have to apply for a building permit in order to make major modifications to your HVAC system. If you are performing a DIY upgrade that seems minor, such as installing a small air conditioner window unit, be on the safe side and contact your city government to avoid violating any codes and paying a fine.
Obtain an Estimate
The information you obtain from an energy assessment will be valuable in helping you choose a contractor to upgrade your HVAC system. After an initial consultation, the estimates you receive should provide you with a detailed list of all materials and include the size and capacity of recommended equipment. An estimate should also include a breakdown of labor costs.
While you may be able to receive an estimate over the phone or online, you should schedule an onsite evaluation to obtain a more accurate breakdown of installation costs. You want to avoid purchasing oversize equipment that may cost more to install and operate.
Your utility company and state government may provide financial incentives for you to upgrade your HVAC equipment. Furthermore, the federal Energy Star program provides a list of equipment and upgrades that qualify for rebates and tax credits.
While these incentives can help to lower the costs of the HVAC upgrade, you may still need to obtain financial assistance. There are other options for financing including:
- A home equity line of credit from your mortgage holder
- Secured loans from local housing organizations and government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- A personal loan from your bank or credit union
Some HVAC installation firms and manufacturers also offer financing for customers with no down payment.
When selecting the right financing option you should compare offers based on factors such as monthly payments, annual fees, prepayment penalties and interest rates. For more information, contact a company like Redlands Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning.