What is a “QUALITY” Installation Contractor?

If you are reading this, then you’re probably thinking about replacing your air conditioning system.  And if that is true, then you’re on the right path.  Your new air conditioning system is not going to be cheap, no matter whom you choose to install it.  The good news is, if you plan on staying in your home, this should be the only time you ever have to go through this process- a quality installation with proper maintenance should last 20-30 years.  Also, a quality installation can result in a 50% reduction in your utility bill!  The bad news- an improper installation could end up costing you tons of money in repairs down the road and result in your new equipment lasting half or even a quarter of the time that it should!  And even a “high efficiency” unit, installed improperly can actually result in an INCREASE of your utility bills.  This is why it is important to do your research and make sure you are getting a QUALITY installation.

The best news right now is that some utility companies, like Southern California Edison, are offering up to $2500 in CASH rebates for having your new air conditioning installed by an SCE Approved Quality Installation Contractor.  There aren’t many out there, but Alps is proud to be on that list!

Now you’re probably asking, “Ok, but what does it really mean to be a Quality Installation Contractor?”  Making sure they are licensed, bonded, insured and carry workers comp is only the beginning.  A quality contractor is easy to spot, once you know what you are looking for.  They are professional and courteous.  If you get a high pressure salesman at your door home, that is an immediate red flag.  A quality contractor is NATE certified and truly understands all of the complexities of an HVAC system.  They will take the time to explain ALL of your options and answer all of your questions.  There are differences in equipment as well as efficiency levels.  And different individual circumstances call for different systems.  Here are some of the most important factors that a quality installation contractor will cover.  For even more info, the ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America) provides a great guide/checklist to finding a quality contractor that can be downloaded for free right from our website.

Proper Sizing of Equipment:

One of the most important factors in replacing your system is proper sizing.  Installing the right size equipment for the home is essential to getting the best performance and comfort. Many homeowners believe that bigger is always better when buying new heating and cooling equipment. In reality, a system that’s too large will not keep your home comfortable because of frequent ‘on/off’ cycling. Incorrect sizing can also put stress on system components and shorten the equipment’s life. With an ENERGY STAR Quality Installation, your contractor will make sure that you get a system that is the right size for your home.  And that doesn’t mean just replacing with the same size as before.  Units are made differently now.  Even if the unit was sized properly when the home was built, today’s equipment cools differently.  The heat load of your home may have changed as well (ie new windows or better insulation).

Sealing Ducts:

To help ensure that your new system delivers the heated or cooled air to all the rooms of your home, contractors using ENERGY STAR Quality Installation guidelines will evaluate your duct system to identify leaks, and then seal them using mastic, metal-backed tape, or an aerosol-based sealant. In some instances, your contractor may advise you that it is necessary to replace or add ducts.

Ensuring Proper Refrigerant Charge:

Incorrect refrigerant level can lower efficiency by 5 – 20 percent and can ultimately cause premature component failure, resulting in costly repairs. Many contractors would rather open up the valves on the unit, feel the air, and walk away rather than take the time to test and charge the system properly with more refrigerant if necessary.  With an ENERGY STAR Quality Installation, your contractor will verify that the refrigerant level in the system is correct.  Alps comfort technicians have been certified by the California Energy Commission for refrigerant charge verification.

When purchasing heating and cooling equipment, choosing energy-efficient products is a step in the right direction. However, asking the right questions of your contractor and making sure your equipment is properly sized and installed are even more important in order to ensure that your new system performs at optimal efficiency for years to come.