new AC systemIs it time to replace your home’s AC system?  It’s a big decision, and choosing the wrong unit or the wrong AC contractor to do the job can have costly consequences. Here are some things to consider when shopping for a new unit.

Get more than one estimate

One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when shopping for a new heating and AC system is not getting multiple quotes.  Different companies carry different brands and offer different warranties and levels of customer service after the sale.  Although getting multiple quotes can be time consuming, it’s time well spent.

Consider the SEER of the AC System

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and is an indication of the relative amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output.

Systems with higher SEER ratings typically cost more to purchase than those with lower SEER ratings, but they use less energy, which can translate into significantly lower monthly utility costs.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “Even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save 20% to 40% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.”  For example, a system with a SEER rating of 16 is considered a high efficiency unit, and can reduce your monthly energy costs by as much as half compared to an older unit with a SEER rating of 8.

Take advantage of special offers and rebates

While it’s true that some unscrupulous heating and air conditioning companies engage in deceptive advertising tactics, you can find legitimate special offers and rebates on new air conditioning and heating systems – especially during the fall and spring.

You should also investigate manufacturer, as well as state and local rebate programs that can reduce the initial purchase price by hundreds of dollars depending on the specific unit.  Ask your heating and AC contractor, or check the Department of Energy’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency website for available rebates in your area.

Don’t automatically go with the lowest bidder

Replacing your home’s AC unit is an expensive proposition, and there’s nothing wrong with going with the lowest quote, provided you’re doing a true apples-to-apples comparison with the competitor’s bids.

Keep in mind that you’re making a long-term investment, so spending a little more to get a better warranty makes sense.  You should also consider things like the company’s reputation for customer service and how long the company has been in business.

In addition to testimonials on the company’s website, you should check their rating with the Better Business Bureau.  Local review sites can also be helpful.  Keep in mind that any company that’s been in business for any amount of time will have a dissatisfied customer or two, and the way they respond to negative comments on review sites can tell you a lot about their commitment to customer service.

Don’t skimp on maintenance for you new AC system

Today’s AC systems are designed to deliver years of trouble-free service and comfort provided they are properly maintained. In fact, most manufacturers require routine maintenance as a prerequisite for honoring their warranties. So be sure to ask about maintenance contracts when getting competitive quotes, and consider them when making your final purchase decision.

Do you have other tips you’d like to share?  Please post a comment below.