Beyond the Brand: The Who’s and How’s of Home Heating

04Nov13

Remember the old Kung-fu movies from the ‘80’s? The camera work was awful, the acting corny, the plot was barely there, and the dubbed voices over lips that didn’t match up inspired many a comedic skit over the years. I don’t remember much about those stories other than there seemed to be a number of fights that broke out simply on the premise that one character’s Kung-fu was better than another’s.

It is interesting to watch the battle of the brands when it comes to HVAC equipment. Bryant, Carrier, Trane, Lennox, Goodman, York, Amana, Rheem, Coleman… (there are plenty more). They all seem to have something that makes them better than the other guy. But is there really a better brand? The short answer; some brands are better than others.  You can find low end brands or high end products and every variation in-between.

As you’re getting estimates for your heating system, assuming you’re dealing with an honest company,  you can usually tell the quality by the price. I could name quality brands based on my years of experience as a service technician, but the cheaper products will generally cost less and the better models and brands will generally cost more. If equipment was the only consideration it would be simple, but not as simple as say, buying a car.

When you’re buying a car, the dealer doesn’t have to rebuild the vehicle to match specific driving habits and the operating demands of your area. That’s typically done at the factory. When replacing HVAC equipment; boilers, furnaces, heat pumps, A/C, ductless heat pumps, and so on, the devil is in the installation. In order to optimize efficiency and performance, not only does the right equipment have to be selected, but it needs to be installed correctly for the system environment.  This is much more involved than simply driving a new car home off the lot.

If you just focus on the equipment itself, then you’re missing the other half of what makes a quality HVAC system. It takes a skilled professional to install the equipment to manufacturer’s specifications, local codes, and best industry practices. When choosing the equipment, there are other considerations: What are your needs and how long will you be in the home? Is resale value an issue? Do you care about the environment? Are lower energy costs important to you? Is air-conditioning something you would like? Are you concerned about your indoor air environment? What is your budget? Is financing a factor?

For example, in a rental home air-conditioning may not be a consideration depending on the location of the home, but fewer breakdowns and resale value might be. Each of these questions are addressed in different ways with different options by all the different manufactures and HVAC companies. This will determine the price point of the equipment you are looking for. Like a Honda versus a Kia, there are pros and cons that go with each brand and model within the brand.

That’s where a good HVAC consultant can offer guidance, explaining the pros and cons of their equipment to help you select the best fit. The second thing a good HVAC consultant should do is make sure they are selecting equipment that will work in your existing environment, with the existing system, and meet or exceed your future needs (maybe you want to add a heat pump later, or a better Indoor Air Quality system).

Finally, it comes down to the quality of the installation. Who will install that equipment the right way without cutting corners? It’s one thing to select the box that will heat your home, but now you need to select the company with an installer that won’t cut corners, and will stand behind their product and installation. Today’s equipment is much more efficient, quieter, and better able to control your comfort than in times past. Those pluses are quickly nullified by a quick and cheap install job.  Just like selecting quality equipment, a poor installation versus a good quality installation can often be discerned with pricing, but don’t let price alone be your guide.

So how do you know when you’ve found a “quality installation” company?  Here are a few clues:

  •      They’re thorough when helping you select the right equipment for your home.
  •      They will have a good rating with the Better Business Bureau and good reviews on the Internet.
  •      They’ll be licensed, bonded, have qualified technicians, and be above board with permitting.
  •    They’ll be willing to compare and explain the service you will receive, resulting in a better installation of the HVAC system you’ve invested in, when chosen wisely.

The type of installation you choose regardless of the brand will determine if the equipment will work to its designed efficiency, offering fewer break downs, longer equipment life, and better overall comfort.

Equipment manufacturers may duke it out to determine the “baddest brand on the block,” but It’s not just the equipment alone, or a good company with good installation practices that matters. Ultimately, pairing the equipment that fits your needs, with the environment of your home, and the right company and installation is the answer.  Together they will optimize the health of your HVAC equipment.

Bruce Davis Jr.

General Manager

Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating, Inc.

 

Bruce is a second generation plumber and HVAC technician. He earned his Commercial Plumbing License and later became N.A.T.E. Certified and E.P.A. Refrigerant Certified for HVAC service and repair for commercial and residential HVAC appliances. Bruce has years of experience as an HVAC Technician, Boiler Technician, and Plumber. He is now General Manager for the company he has been with his entire career and oversees the Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning business for Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating, Inc.                                                         

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