Ain’t no drama like HVAC drama

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Hey, do you have any of these pamphlets in English? Maybe with definitions?

If there is one thing that I have no clue about, it’s HVAC anything. I have general knowledge about many things and the rest I research but I found the HVAC world a bit overwhelming. Still, I did due diligence and got a few quotes to see how they compared. How did they compare? All over the place.

While researching brands I discovered that the going advice for HVAC was to choose a good contractor and focus less on the brand. As this article points out, most of the brands are similar or are even made by the same manufacturer. Concentrating on the quality of the installation is where consumers should put their confidence.

Of course, every company has their high-end brands and low-end brands so focusing on comparable systems should be the goal. I had contractors quote on a range of options and even for similar quality and size. Below is a chart of the amounts and costs. I also added a trust factor in because I think the amount of time a person spent explaining things to me was important (1 = most trustworthy). Where the prices don’t match, the contractor inserted a cost for something others did not, so the total price may be different. For what it’s worth, all furnaces were all 2-stage (duel) variable speed motor, but the Rheem model was the only top-of-the-line model that was quoted, the others were mid-to-low models. All warrantees are similar and all prices are pre-tax.

The Bryant dealer was in the lead until I had to figure out a way to get the lawnmower over the air conditioner by the side of our house once it was installed. He offered to install a bracket for $125, which, given what they charged for everything else, seemed to be nickel and diming us. When I pointed out that he was one of the highest bidders, he tried to convince me to give him all my quotes from competitors so he could try and get a better deal from the owner. Sorry, not only is that poor form, if you couldn’t give me a better deal at the outset why should I trust you now?

The Goodman dealer came in lowest on price but couldn’t have put less effort into securing our business if he tried. I set up an appointment for 11am. I ran out at 10am to grab run some errands knowing I’d be back before the appointment. At 10:15 he showed up at the house, scribbled some stuff on paper for the low-end models of everything (not even breaking down costs) and then dashed back out again. He also tried to convince my husband to put the air conditioner at the front of the house despite the fact that it is completely against the bylaws. He was the only one I sent an email to the very day telling him that we weren’t going to use his company.

The Trane dealer was good. He walked us through what we needed, explained why we should go for a smaller air conditioner despite the lower rebate and also quoted us (on our request) on a smaller (but more expensive) unit that would fit better at the side of the house. The only issue was that he had some complicated deals going on with a major hardware chain so it was tough to sort through the options. His hot water tank was also $1000 more than the others. I asked him about it and he wondered why considering almost all of the tanks were comparable. In the end, the confusion over the payment options and the interchangeability of the units (“this one is the same company but painted X colour for megalo-corp’s customers”) was just too complicated.

The Rheem dealer came out ahead for a few reasons. 1) He was recommended by a neighbour, 2) when I asked him how much it would be to put the air conditioner up on brackets he told us he would include it in the price, 3) he offered us a free NEST thermostat (which lit Mr. Tucker up like a Christmas tree), 4) he had the lowest price next to the company I did not trust at all. I also got a good feeling about him, and since it is his own small business it felt like he really cared about the quality of the job. He told us that he could put things wherever we wanted as long as it was up to code.

So there you have it, the long, challenging drama of replacing an entire oil system with gas. If you have done this lately and notice that your numbers are different, that’s normal. Even if you are only a couple of cities away in the same country everything I have read indicates that prices vary widely from city-to-city. The important thing to remember is to a> trust your installer, b> shop around for price, c> sleep at night with your decision.