How do you decide what to choose when you need a new ac system? What are the best brands? Which have the lowest operating costs. It is actually more important to have the right buying process, instead of worrying so much about getting the right brand.
Surprisingly, the government model is actually the best way to buy a system. You want to set up a bidding process where you get 4-6 heating and air conditioning companies to quote on the job. The Better Business Bureau is a great place to look for suitable companies. They should have at least 10 years experience.
Any half-way decent company will give you a free estimate. Let them know they will be bidding against other companies. Make sure you do not tell them what the other companies bid amounts are. You can explain that you are going to award the job to the highest value bidder – which means the most for the least. If they are intent on selling you a particular system, have them explain why it is the best.
The truth is that the well known name systems out there are somewhat comparable in quality. No new ac system will run forever, though. Plan on future maintenance by getting a system that has standardized parts. If it has specialized parts, it is going to be more difficult and more costly to repair. Also, your future repairman may have limited experience with specialized parts. You want him working with the same thing he is used to every day.
Carrier and Bryant are thought to be top of the line. Well designed, Bryant units are reliable and simple for most technicians. You can expect top quality workmanship. Carrier, too, is a wonderful system. Unfortunately, it typically carries a premium price. This may be reduced with the bidding system in place. If you really want a Carrier, then ask all the companies to quote Carrier.
The ICP Group (United Technologies) makes Carrier units. These same people also make ComfortMaker, Day&Night, Bryant and Payne. You can expect Paine to be the lowest priced unit. It is considered a builders grade. All of the systems from this manufacturer are more or less reliable, though make sure that the unit you buy has standard parts which can make a big difference down the road.
Amana has taken over the production of Goodman Air Conditioners. Because of a less than perfect record in the past, Goodman has a great price and now there units are very solid. You might also consider Lennox, Tempstar and York which are all quality brands
Your real concern, however, should be who will install new ac system and how will they do it. Even the top-of-the-line unit will not operate properly if it is not installed correctly. Once you have narrowed your bidders down to 2, make sure you find out how qualified the actual installers are. What is their training? What is their experience? For the money you are about to spend, it is more than fair for you to ask these questions.
Units must be installed correctly. It is easy and convenient to cut corners. A few shortcuts will cost you dearly in the long run, so make sure you are comfortable with the people who will actually do the work.
You can expect to pay around $5000 for a system to heat and cool a typical American 3 bedroom home. A real money-saving secret is to allow the use of a “scratch and dent” unit – as long as the complete warranty will still be valid. Let the contractors who are bidding know that you would be OK with this.
So here is the plan: Get qualified bidders, tell them the specifics of what you would accept, get their quotes and narrow down to 2 for the final decision. Make your final decision based on the quality of the installers. You will be on your way to having a great unit installed at the right price.