Answers to Your Most Common HVAC Questions

Common HVAC questions and answers

If you have a central heating and cooling system in your home, the following three questions have likely crossed your mind.

  1. How much is this going to cost me?
  2. Should I repair or replace my HVAC equipment?
  3. How can I save money on my utility bills?

An air conditioner, heat pump or a gas furnace should be considered a quality of life investment for your home and family. Just imagine how different your life would be without the benefits of modern conveniences. So naturally, you will have some questions when the heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) expert arrives at your home.


How much is this going to cost me?


The thought of unknown and unplanned HVAC costs can be a stressful. Service call rates, labor fees, replacement parts and entire systems have a wide range of costs, making it difficult to budget for your HVAC technician’s arrival. To add to that, every home set up and homeowner expectations are different. While costs are specific to your local HVAC dealer and customized to your system needs, charges can be broken down into the following three categories:

  • System Maintenance: Many HVAC technicians offer a flat rate for heating and cooling system maintenance. However, your maintenance costs may depend on the HVAC company you choose, the number of cooling and heating units in your home, and your location.  

    If you have a maintenance service contract, your maintenance visit may be set at a pre-determined, discounted rate. You can find maintenance plans for as little as $100, but you should compare companies, coverages and included services to determine which plan is right for you.1

    While you may want to forgo routine HVAC maintenance to save a few dollars, preventive maintenance on your heating and cooling system may prevent minor issues from turning into expensive, major problems over time and could maximize the lifecycle of your heating or cooling unit.2 According to the experts, the cost of HVAC maintenance is worth the money.3 

  • Repair: The cost to repair your heating or cooling system has lots of potential variables. The final cost may include the service call fee, the labor required to make the repair, and the specific replacement parts required for your system. If you request a service call outside regular working hours, labor fees may be more expensive than during normal business hours. The cost for HVAC repairs can vary just as much as car repairs — ranging from less than $100 to a few thousand dollars depending on the work required.

    If you are looking at a costly repair, you should consider getting multiple quotes. You want to get the job done right without being overcharged so be sure to hire the right HVAC dealer! Hiring the wrong company may lead to many long-term consequences including multiple follow up repairs, lackluster energy efficiency, increased utility bills, and compromised indoor comfort.

  • Replacement: There are multiple considerations that go into the cost of installing a new energy efficient heating or cooling system in your home. The following are just a few of the factors that may impact the price of your new heating or cooling system.
  • Your home: You home’s square footage and construction impact the size and required capacity of your heating and cooling system. Typically, larger capacity or tonnage units are more expensive than smaller capacity or tonnage units.
  • Complexity of installation: The more complex the installation, the more it may cost for labor and additional parts.
  • Location, location, location: Every location has cost-of-living variables, supply/demand characteristics, and site-specific regulations. Your home’s location may impact the cost of housing-related products, including new heating and cooling equipment.
  • System features: Some high-efficiency features may cost more upfront, but they are designed and engineered to impact the overall efficiency of the system for years and years.
  • Additional parts: For a new unit to be installed in your home according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, the set-up or configuration modifications may require additional parts.


Should I repair or replace my HVAC equipment?


Despite efforts to prolong the life of your heating or cooling equipment, there may come a time when it is better to replace it rather than repair it. Every repair-replace scenario is unique to the unit and the expectations of the homeowner. A professional licensed HVAC technician may provide you with a repair estimate, as well as supply equipment-specific reasons to consider a replacement unit. Below are a few factors that may help you to determine if it’s time to replace your old heating or cooling system.

  • Lifespan of equipment: Discuss the typical lifespan of your heating or cooling equipment with your HVAC technician.  Lifespans vary and may depend on usage, maintenance, installation and system set-up.
  • Continuous or costly repairs: How expensive does a repair need to be before it’s worth it to upgrade to a new system? As the homeowner, you need to make that determination.
  • Lackluster energy efficiency and operational cost: If your HVAC equipment has a low-efficiency rating, it may be cost-effective to replace it with a more energy-efficient model. The long-term utility bill savings of purchasing a higher efficiency system may outweigh the price of a series of costly repairs.
  • Indoor comfort level:  Advanced features, such as improved motor and compressor technologies, as well as smart home automation and communication may provide homeowners with more precise temperature control, noise reduction and energy efficiency when compared to their current model.
  • Length of home ownership:  You should evaluate how long you plan to live in your current home. Typically, the longer you plan to live in your house, the longer you have to recover the cost of a new high-efficiency heating or cooling system unit.


How can I save money on my utility bills?


The more electricity or fuel your household uses, the higher your utility bill will be. One way to reduce the amount of energy that your home uses is to increase the energy-efficiency of your heating and cooling system. Today’s HVAC systems are designed to offer a range of energy-efficient features that may help you save on your utility bill. 

  • Gas Furnace:  A gas furnace can offer an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) as high as 98.5%, meaning nearly all the energy purchased is used for heating your home. The minimum efficiency standard for furnaces using natural gas is currently 80%  AFUE.
  • Heat pump in heating mode: Some heat pumps offer Heating Season Performance Factor (HSPF) of 9 or higher, which may provide significant energy efficiency and savings on monthly heating bills when compared to a lower HSPF model operating under the same conditions. The minimum efficiency standard for split system heat pumps is currently 8.2 HSPF. 
  • Air conditioner or heat pump in cooling mode: It’s increasingly common to see residential HVAC cooling equipment being installed with up to 18 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The minimum efficiency standard for split system air conditioners is currently 13 SEER in northern states and 14 SEER in southern states. The minimum efficiency standard for split system heat pumps is 14 SEER.

High-efficient HVAC equipment with innovative technology is only one piece of the puzzle. If other key energy-efficient solutions are ignored, your energy bills may still be higher than you would like. Additional factors that can influence heating and cooling efficiency performance includes, but are not limited to:

  • Routine air filter replacements
  • Local climate
  • Thermostat or control system settings
  • Ductwork
  • Installation and maintenance schedule
  • Insulation and construction methods
  • Windows and doors
  • Programmable thermostats


If you are curious how your indoor heating and cooling equipment may be affecting your monthly utility bill or want to learn ways to improve efficiency, talk to your local professional licensed HVAC dealer.

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1 Consumer Checkbook. Are HVAC Services Contracts Worth It? November 2016. 22 August 2017.
2 Maintaining your Air Conditioner. n.d.
3 Energy Star. Maintenance Checklist. n.d. 22 August 2017.