Although it is unlikely that you’ll install your own air conditioning system, you need to have at least a working knowledge of terminology and components if you want to be an informed homeowner and take a hand in ensuring that the work you’re having done will meet your needs and that it’s all up to code after you finish working with the air conditioning contractor. Of course, there’s only so much you can do and then a building inspector will have to sign off. But with a relatively small amount of research you can learn enough to ask the right questions and spot major issues with your HVAC installation. And you may find all kinds of mistakes when it comes to the equipment, materials, and layout involved in adding central heating and air to your structure. Here are just a few common mistakes to keep an eye out for so that you won’t have major problems (and attendant expense) down the line.
- Wrong size unit. The first mistake many people make is assuming that a larger system will keep your home cooler in the summer or deliver heat faster in the winter. In truth, installing an oversized furnace or AC unit will only decrease efficiency and increase costs. And it could cause a host of other unforeseen problems, as well. So make sure that you get equipment that is recommended for your square footage. These ratings are devised for a reason and it behooves you to pay heed – bigger isn’t always better, so don’t let a salesperson talk you into units that are wrong for your space.
- Improper ductwork. There are a couple of different types of ductwork, and each has benefits and drawbacks, as well as specific uses. For example, fiberglass duct board is great for climates that experience extreme temperatures. Since it is insulated, it won’t experience the same heat loss as sheet metal in the winter, nor will it have the same issues with condensation, rust, and/or mold during the hot summer months. But it’s definitely more expensive, so if you enjoy moderate climes you might not want to waste the money. And flexible ducts are preferred for tight spaces with lots of twists and turns, but they’re not as durable as other options. You might have to do some research to find the ducts that are right for your home, and you’ll likely find that some combination of materials may be used depending on your climate and the area of the home in which the ducts are located.
- Poorly-placed ducts. Many unfinished attics offer the space needed to install the main lines of the ducting system, but the attic is also the hottest part of your home in the summer and the coldest in the winter, making it a poor candidate for the placement of ductwork. While you may have little choice in where your ducts are placed due to space limitations, you should ask for alternative options to ensure the best possible placement from the get-go.
- Poor ventilation. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, but a lot of people forget about the “V” in that equation. Ideally, your home is properly sealed so that you might preserve the interior climate rather than paying to heat or cool the outside thanks to leaks around doors, windows, and so on. That said, you still need proper ventilation to ensure that fresh air is brought in and stale air is vented out. Unless you relish the idea of dust, moisture and odor problems, and the potential for the build-up of harmful gases in your home, ventilation is a necessary component of the HVAC installation process.
- Upgrading only one component. When your furnace fails after years of use, you might think that all you need for increased furnace efficiency is a brand new, high-efficiency unit. But unless you install a digital, programmable thermostat to go with it and switch out the ducts (that were likely installed incorrectly in the first place, or that have deteriorated over time), chances are that you’re not going to enjoy optimum performance. And considering how much you’re spending on new equipment, you want to do all you can to make sure you get your money’s worth.