I want the recording to show that I was against replacing our heating and air conditioning. For once, my husband wanted to spend some money on home improvement that I didn’t have.
I come from school, if it ain’t broken don’t fix it. DC comes from school where we don’t have to wait for it to be a problem. I also prefer to buy home improvement items that you can see, not ones that you want to hide.
I keep blaming the HVAC company. (We’ll call it Company # 1.) When a service person from Company # 1 came out last year to find out why our system wasn’t cooling, he noticed a slow refrigerant leak. He also took photos of the inside of our 18 year old unit, which looked like a mushroom pizza. He did this to scare me.
“What are all of these spots?” I asked.
“Corrosion, mold,” he said casually.
If we wanted cool air (yes), we had a choice of spending $ 500 on topping up the refrigerant, or $ 13,000 (coughing, sputtering, chopping) on a new system, or we could get a No. Buy 1 for $ 200 and save half the cost of refrigerant replacement and two free maintenance calls in the coming year, plus a discount on future purchases. Influenced by the immediate savings, we bought the membership and replaced the refrigerant.
Then the calls came. Company no. 1 always wanted to plan a service call. I kept putting it off. Eventually they reached my husband (who now works from home thanks to COVID) who succumbed.
“Why?” I asked. “You fell into their trap!”
“We have already paid for it.”
“They only troll for business!”
A career in journalism has made me a bitter skeptic.
“They do their job,” he said.
His sensitivity can be annoying.
And what did you think happened? They recommended that we replace our old, crumbling, rusty, corroded unit. And guess who took the bait?
“But it’s not broken!” I argued.
“But it will be,” he said.
“Why don’t we wait until it stops working?”
“Because I don’t want it to go down during a heatwave with service companies booked for weeks and listening to how much you fuss about the house being so hot.”
DC received an estimate from Company # 1 that was not on my good side.
“At least get another estimate,” I said.
DC called Company # 2, which had a better system for the same price. Despite our member discount, Company # 1 failed to meet or exceed the offer, which gave me a little satisfaction that I can’t fully explain.
The new system was introduced last week. The air in the house feels the same.
To better be able to forego vacation for the rest of my life to pay for new machines, I spoke to Kellie Lindenmoyer, stove product manager for American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning who kept me cool, and answered these homeowner-related questions:
Q. How often do HVAC systems need to be replaced?
ON Systems typically last 15 to 20 years, especially if they are regularly serviced. How often you use the system has an impact. For example, a system in a holiday home that you use three months a year does not need to be replaced as often.
Q. How do you know if you need to repair or replace?
ON If your system is in this 15-20 year range and has recurring problems, it is probably time. Talk to a service professional about your options. Replacing will cost more, but will be better in the long run as you save on repairs and potentially see lower energy costs as well. Some use the $ 5,000 rule. Multiply the age of your device in years (e.g. 18) by your estimated repair cost ($ 300). If your total is more than $ 5,000 (our example is $ 5,400), consider replacing your system.
Q. How Much Can a Homeowner Expect to Pay for a New System?
ON Depending on the equipment and location, estimates for a residential system including installation are between $ 4,600 and $ 14,000.
Q. What benefits can you expect when you choose a new device?
ON Peace of mind. If you replace your system before it stops working, you won’t freeze in February because your system broke during the night, and you won’t break a sweat waiting for a service call in August.
Lower energy costs. Thanks to regulatory changes, today’s systems are more energy efficient. How much you save on your electricity bill will depend on the insulation of your home, how you use it, and the number of SEERS your new system has. The higher the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rate), the greater the savings (and the more expensive the device is). Most states have a minimum of SEER.
Cleaner indoor air. Compared to older systems, today’s systems are better at removing allergens and pet fur from the air. Some systems purify the air better than others. So if you have pets, allergies, or asthma, ask your dealer about indoor air quality.
Better resale value. A new HVAC system will also help if you are looking to sell your home. Having a new system is one less thing a buyer can pay you for.
Q. What’s wrong with the discontinued refrigerant?
ON Newer systems are also more environmentally friendly. Last year the Environmental Protection Agency banned the manufacture or import of the refrigerant known as R-22 or Freon in the US or because of its harmful effects on the ozone layer. Devices older than 10 years use R-22. Newer units use a refrigerant called R-410A. As R-22 gets scarcer, it gets more expensive. Check the label on the compressor to see which one is used by your system. If it says R-22 (or HCFC-22) and it’s going well, leave it. But if the system leaks or breaks, you should probably get a new one. Yes it hurts.
Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books including Downsizing The Family Home – What To Save, What To Let Go, “Downsizing The Mixed House – When Two Households Become One” and, in June, “What To Do” With Everything what you own to leave the legacy you want. “You can reach her at marnijameson.com.