Be Cool and Avoid Disaster: Six Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a New AC or Furnace

If your air conditioner or furnace just died, you’re facing some quick and tough decisions. Now is the time to take a deep breath and not rush to an uninformed decision.  The top mistakes people make when purchasing a new heating or cooling system are:

  1. Ignoring SEER – The higher the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating the more efficient the unit, which translates to less money spent each month heating or cooling your home. A 13 SEER rating is the minimum; 15 SEER is good; above 16 is high efficiency. A high efficiency system can cut your energy bills in half when compared to an old 8 SEER unit and also provides many comfort benefits.
  2. Missing rebate opportunities – Many states and manufacturers offer rebates to help offset the costs of some systems, particularly those that are higher efficiency.  In fact, some states offer as much as $1500 in rebates. Talk to your contractor or visit www.dsireusa.org to learn more.
  3. Only getting one estimate – Prices and options will vary, as will service contracts, installation costs, and permits.  Shop around and compare apples to apples.
  4. Going for the lowest price – A low price does not always equal the best value. A higher efficiency system might cost an extra $800 up front, but could save you $300 per year in energy costs. Over the life of the system, typically 12-15 years, you would be saving significant dollars by paying a little more for the higher efficiency system.
  5. Not considering maintenance contracts – Maintenance is necessary to keep your system functioning in optimal conditions over the life of the unit.  Over time dirt, debris, and other foreign substances can cause build up in your system, erode electrical connections and cause other damage that is expensive to replace.  In addition, the buildup can cause a 14 SEER unit to perform like a 10 SEER one, making your system work harder and your utility bills higher. Ensuring your system is clean and maintained annually can extend the life of your system and help you avoid expensive and preventable repairs in the future.
  6. Not paying attention to refrigerant – R-22, which might be referred to by a brand name like Freon®, has been restricted from use in all new units produced after 2009. As an ozone-depleting gas, new R-22 refrigerant should not be used in  new systems.  If you’re buying a new system make sure it uses R-410A or a similar approved refrigerant. In some cases repairs can be made to existing systems using the R-22 refrigerant that is already in your old system or it can be repaired and recharged with “re-claimed” and recycled R-22 refrigerant from other old systems.

Buying a new air conditioner or furnace is a big decision.  Take the time to make it a good one.  Have you recently replaced your system?  Tell us what you learned before your purchase!

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62 thoughts on “Be Cool and Avoid Disaster: Six Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a New AC or Furnace

  1. I do like that you bring up how important it is to consider maintenance when choosing a new AC or heater. After all, you will want to make sure that the new system you buy can get repairs when you need it. It might even help to ask if the people doing the installation can also handle maintenance. https://www.magnoliaplumbing.com/gaithersburg-md-heating

  2. Hello,
    I live in southern New Jersey, I purchased a home that is one level, about 2000 sq. ft.. The original furnace( 70’s) is still in place and works, the condenser was stolen before I purchased the home, as it was vacant for awhile. I need a new furnace and condenser, the problem is that the two quotes that i received put the cost to replace the system at 10k. I think this is too much for my home. Considering the size of the home, and that the duct system doesn’t need replacement. I would like an energy efficient system, but without even giving me the brand information, the written quotes are $10,000. I would like an expert opinion, that is unbiased, are these quotes accurate?

  3. I do like that you caution people against only getting one estimate. After all, when you’re choosing your air conditioner you want to make sure that you are choosing a good one. Because of that you should see what multiple different HVAC contractors have to offer you before you choose one. https://www.aircontrols.com/heating-n-air-conditioning

  4. We will be getting estimates for a new heat pump this fall. We have endured the summer using our evaporative cooler because we were told AC prices would be cheaper in the fall. I’m not sure if this is true or not. Also, I will have nothing to compare it to in order to evaluate if the pricing is better. Just wondering what others think about his.

    • Hi Mary, I wrote this post on this site a while ago but I think it still addresses your questions about buying in the fall. If the link doesn’t work just try the search tool.

      http://www.ac-heatingconnect.com/homeowners/five-good-reasons-replace-old-hvac-system-fall/
      In general, it is a question of supply and demand – in the “shoulder seasons” of fall and spring before the peak heating and cooling seasons, the HVAC contractors are generally more available and might want to keep their trucks rolling so you might get a better price or at least get them out quickly – rather than waiting until the middle of the season when you are dealing with a failure situation. Hope this helps. Thanks for visiting our site!

  5. WE have two ACs in our home – 5 ton and 3 ton. All major parts are 30 years old, except for one condenser, and that’s 15 years old. Both units require replacement of the evaporator coils (bad coincidence). At first we were told that we should go ahead and replace the condensers also so that our system would run more efficiently but not to replace the furnaces yet, because they can last many more years. Then, we are told that we should go ahead and replace the furnaces also so that all items are running better and avoid the $2,000 cost of furnace replacements which could be at any time.
    1. Do you think we should replace with whole new systems? We really don’t want to spend the $ if we don’t have to.
    2. Is it really A LOT cheaper to replace these systems in the cooler months, say September or October?

    • Most HVAC systems in the US are replaced after about 14-16 years depending on run time so at 30 years old it might be time to replace and upgrade to new equipment. One other thought would be to upgrade to an all new, AC-heat pump but have them keep your old furnace to use only on the coldest days and nights when the heat pump is not as efficient. If you have the room for both and a contractor can install it that way it might be worth saving your old furnace. There are a lot of articles and posts on this site about heat pumps and this “dual fuel” approach of having both a furnace and a heat pump. Hope this helps.

  6. Greetings,
    I have a 92 gas furnace and and swamp cooler same age. The first est. I got for just a 16 seer air conditioner was over 10,000. Seems high to me considering installation should not be too difficult. Second est coming up soon. What would be a fair ext for a complete replacement of a gas furnace and air conditioner set. My home is about 1600 sq feet. Thank you advance for any advice.

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