Mother Nature remains unbeatable. Of course, this means winter is on the way and cold, chilly temperatures will follow throughout New England. Naturally, as homeowners, we worry about our home heat (or HVAC system) problems as cold temperatures rapidly approach. Fortunately, heating experts share HVAC warning signs, along with tips to find reputable HVAC repair contractors in your area.
HVAC Repair Warning Signs
First and foremost, when worrying about home heating, then look out for warning signs forecasting potential HVAC problems.
Homeowners understand the routine maintenance and monitoring helps catch potential problems before becoming huge issues. For example, certain HVAC problems may mean repair. Conversely, some HVAC warning signs signal probable replacement. As a result, look out for some of these flags. For any issues, contact a reputable heating company before your home heating becomes an issue this winter.
Increase in Energy Bills
Typically, homeowners maintain an understanding of their seasonal energy costs. As a result, if you notice a change in energy costs in the middle of the winter when you haven’t changed the temperature in your home for months, then you may have a potential HVAC problem. If you notice a change, especially if the bill is higher than usual, you contact your trusted HVAC tech to check on your heating system.
Replace Clogged Filters
Always remember to check and routinely replace your HVAC (or furnace filters). For example, if you turn on the heat, but your house does not become warmer, then the likely culprit is your filters. Why? Clogged filters hinder proper air flow, which is a primary cause of inefficient HVAC systems. Check your filters monthly and plan on routine replacement.
Inconsistent Home Temperatures
A functional home heating system maintains your desired temperature. Therefore, if you notice a change, or feel like your system has been sluggish, call and schedule a professional HVAC repair contractor for a home inspection because your HVAC system likely requires repair (or possible replacement).
Properly working HVAC systems should never have water leaking from it. For example, HVAC systems contain parts that keep any occurring condensation from leaking or dripping. These potential leaks act more like condensation, though dripping does occur. Therefore, if you see water collecting near vents, under the unit, or from any exhaust ports, turn off the unit for a small inspection because there is a good chance those parts need repair.
Strange Odors and/or Noises
As with many things in life, if there is a strange smell or noise coming from your HVAC system, it probably needs repair. For example, certain smells mean different things, such as rotten eggs potentially signaling a possible natural gas leak. (Do not do anything except turn your HVAC system off and notify the gas company. Never try to meddle with gas.) Additionally, if you hear loud scraping sounds (like nails on a chalkboard), you may be looking at a broken blower wheel in the motor shaft. Also, loud thumps, humming, and rattling all indicate potential HVAC problems. Therefore, in any of these situations, turn off your system and call a HVAC repair contractor for help.
Discover any Electrical Issues
All HVAC systems contain electrical components (including gas or oil powered units). Typically, any electrical issues relate to the ignition system. For example, if your unit clicks a lot before it ignites or continues to click without igniting, this is a problem with the electrical igniter. If any electrical issues arise, then the system works inefficiently and likely wastes fuel.
Inspect for Worn Parts
As HVAC units age, then part become worn. For example, belts and motors wear down, which reduces the efficiency of your HVAC system. As a result, if your HVAC system does not operate like normal, then call a professional technician for an annual inspection. Although the upfront cost might seem high, and efficiently running HVAC system saves money in the long term.
Heating Repair or Replacement Guidance
During the fall, homeowners typically schedule their furnace and heating system for an annual inspection. However, if your trusted HVAC technician identifies any substantial issues with your heating system, you must decide between repairing or replacing it.
Yes, homeowners face a difficult decision when heating and cooling issues arise. In addition to cost, homeowners must factor home comfort, health and safety concerns, along with environmental impact on making the repair vs replace HVAC decision.
HVAC Repair Cost Considerations
Costs remain a primary concern during the repair vs replace HVAC evaluation. Many homeowners rely on monthly energy bills while assessing the cost-effectiveness of their HVAC system. However, homeowners should also note repair and maintenance costs as well. For example, repair costs add up over time and ultimately will not be worth making in an older unit.
Unfortunately, homeowners face multiple factors during the repair vs replace HVAC decision. Generally, the industry and Consumer Reports promote the 50% rule. The 50% rule provides a process that yields repairing the HVAC unit.
- Is the repair cost less than 50% of the HVAC system value? If yes, then repair may be the better option.
- Have you had significant repair or maintenance costs since installing your HVAC system? If no, then repair may be the better option.
Reasons for HVAC Repair
First, what is the general condition of your HVAC system?
If the system performs well and repair calls remain rare, then repair likely works. As noted, HVAC systems generally last around 10-15 years (with differences between A/C units and furnaces), so the age of the unit matters. Additionally, repair typically makes the most financial sense for a newer system. In the industry, new generally means less than 5 years old. For example, is the repair simple? Does the potential repair increase home efficiency and reduce the existing energy load? If so, then repair is likely the best option.
Reasons for HVAC Replacement
The age of your HVAC unit remains a primary factor in the repair vs replace decision.
For example, new HVAC systems offer substantial energy savings due to higher SEER and AFUE requirements. Also, during your annual winter tune-up, ensure the HVAC technician inspects the your home ductwork. If you have any duct problems, then you may have more issues at the root of the possible HVAC concerns. Additionally, ask the HVAC technician for a return on investment (ROI) and lifetime cost analysis that a replacement offers. For instance, the amount of time you plan to remain in your house makes a difference on the potential ROI you may receive.
Additional HVAC Repair Factors
In addition to general cost, a few other factors help homeowners make the HVAC repair vs replacement decision. For example, federal or local tax incentives help reduce the overall cost of an upgrade. Conversely, expected time in your home helps offset the payback period.
Additionally, look for the ENERGY STAR label for your best options when considering an HVAC repair vs. replacement. New units typically include a warranty, which helps with repair costs should an issue arise.
Possible Federal and State Tax Incentives
Homeowners should realize that many states offer tax credits available for improving heating and cooling efficiency. For example, browse through SolvIt’s tax incentives, on both the local and national level. These benefits help homeowners save as much as 30% of the cost on a new, high efficiency system. Additionally, as part of the Connecticut Housing Investment Fund Inc. customers of Connecticut Light and Power Company (CL&P) and United Illuminating Company (UI) may apply for financing for eligible energy efficiency upgrades through the Home Energy Solutions Program.
Eligible homes include single- and two-family homes and condos as well as vacation (second) homes. The program offers loan amounts up to $25,000 for energy efficient upgrades. Eligible upgrades include items, such as:
- water heaters.
- heat pumps.
- air conditioners.
- caulking or weather-stripping.
- air and duct sealing.
For more information refer to the program’s website.
Expected Time in Your Home
Homeowners that opt for a replacement should consider the expected time in their home. For example, review the ROI provided by your HVAC technician. Do you plan to live in your home within the payback period? If not, then repair might make more financial sense. Additionally, speak with a local real estate professional. Consider that if your home fails the 50% rule, but you plan to move prior to reaping the benefits within the payback period, then determine how a new system impacts the overall value of your home. If new HVAC systems add value, then you may decide that replacement is worth the cost.
Tips to a Find HVAC Repair Contractors
Naturally, if anyone experiences any of these warning signs, they likely want a reputable (and local) HVAC repair contractor. For example, asking the right questions during the due diligence phase makes a huge difference.
But how does a homeowner find a quality heating contractor?
Most people start with asking family, friends or co-workers in the area. Recommendations and word of mouth work in all industries, including HVAC. Additionally, online reputations make a difference. Although no company is perfect, review platforms provide a measuring stick.
- How many reviews did customers leave?
- What is the overall feeling?
- Is the company accountable to upset customers?
As a result, many industry experts share their best tips to find and hire the best HVAC companies and contractors.
Reliable HVAC repair contractors maintain professional standards.
“Reliable contractors are professional. Their people are prompt and courteous. How a company treats you now reflects how they will treat you if there is a problem. They should have an office or shop facility, and they should not be ashamed to have you visit them. An office or shop is an indication that the company has been in business and intends to remain in business.”
– via American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and How to Choose a Contractor: Choosing Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors (Twitter: @ACEEEdc).
Work with HVAC contractors that properly and accurately inspect and review your home.
“In fact, you should be wary of the contractor willing to give you a quote over the phone. To provide the most precise estimate, a technician will need to physically see what your system looks like and what the work will potentially entail. Consequently, you should look for someone who is willing to take the time to inspect your home and give you a more accurate assessment.”
Check the BBB or similar sites for malicious complaints.
“Next you’ll want to hit up the Better Business Bureau. Search for the local Bureau and check to see if there are any outstanding complaints against the contractor. While you’re at it, check your local Chamber of Commerce and Department of Consumer Affairs…. Ideally you’ll find no complaints lodged against the contractor you want to hire.”
Request specific details about the installation and expected work because reputable techs share information.
“Are the technicians NATE (North American Technician Excellence) certified? Will they perform detailed load calculations, and duct design/installation?”
– via Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation and Five Questions to Ask when Replacing Your HVAC System (Twitter: @SurryYadkinEMC).
Ensure any HVAC repair contractor maintains liability insurance.
“State insurance requirements vary depending on the contractor’s incorporation status and type of license. If there is no insurance requirement, you may wish to ensure that the contractor has voluntarily acquired liability insurance. If the contractor has liability insurance, they should be able to provide you with a copy of their insurance certificate.”
– via Concord Municipal Light Plant and Tips for Hiring an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) Contractor (Twitter: @CMLPmedia).
Confirm the service hours because you need 24/7 coverage.
“A quality ‘HVAC Expertise’ contractor will have technical assistance available around the clock, every day of the year, including holidays, to solve heating and air conditioning emergencies. Often times, the technician will be able to help the customer determine if the problem actually warrants a potentially expensive service call.”
Understand what questions to ask any HVAC repair contractor.
“Start by calling and asking the following: How long have they been in business in your area? Which manufacturers do they do installs for? (They should work with at least two different companies.) Verification of trade licenses. Verification of insurance. (Make sure the contractor carries general liability insurance and workers’ compensation. If the contractor is not insured, the homeowner may be liable for accidents that occur on the property.) Verification they are properly registered with the state and local authorities. References of former customers you could actually talk to.”
– via Better Business Bureau and Choosing a HVAC Contractor (Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning) (Twitter: @bbb_us).
Always choose an HVAC company that keeps safety and customer service a priority.
“We built our reputation and business on reliability, convenience, and the best warranties in the industry. Our team strives to provide 100% customer satisfaction built on respect for you and your home. Most importantly, we only hire the best heating technicians by utilizing stringent hiring practices and conducting thorough background checks on all of our technicians. We employ these hiring practices for our customer’s safety and peace of mind. Our technicians are licensed, bonded, and insured. SolvIt technicians are equipped to repair, maintain, and install all major appliances. We provide service on your schedule with upfront pricing.”
SolvIt Offers Reliable HVAC Repair Contractors
Home heating and cooling remains one of the most important (and expensive) components of any home. As a result, homeowners face a difficult decision when the system starts flashing some warning signs.
However, working with quality and experienced heating companies makes a big difference. As BPI notes, a qualified contractors solves your problems!
“A qualified home performance contractor will help you solve problems in your home such as comfort, indoor air quality, moisture, and combustion safety, and will help you reduce your energy bills. [He also will] use technologically advanced tools to diagnose your home before makings suggestions for improvements.”