Why do some A/C companies cost more?
The question is short, but the answer will take some unpacking…
First, we need to discuss what isn’t relevant, the brand name. Air
conditioning systems are similar to todays automobile or TV manufactures in
regards to reliability. There was once a time when one or two automakers or TV
makers were more reliable than the rest, but that’s no longer the case. Any major
car or electronics manufacturer today produces a reliable product that performs
as promised. Randomly we come across a lemon (from any manufacturer), but
the vast majority are great. The same is true for air conditioners, ALL of them are
good. Every. Single. One.
A handful of manufactures produce the dozens of brand names out there.
Over the last decade the number of “brand names” has exploded because of
programs called PRIVATE LABEL PROGRAMS. These programs are used by
contractors to obtain their own brand of system for a few reasons. One reason
deals with rebates from the manufacturer (these go to the contractor) and
another is because the installing company can control the reputation of the
“brand” by doing a good job on the installation.
What do you mean? How can a company control the reputation by doing a
good job? Don’t you just hook up the new one and turn it on? —— NO!
Getting a new air conditioning system is not like getting a new TV or any
other appliance. When you buy a new TV you bring it home, plug it in, then smile
at the beautiful 4K Ultra HD screensaver of a flowing river or snowy mountain
peak. The scariest part of the whole day is safely getting it in the car then into the
house. The a/c is a whole different ordeal…
The process starts with the person that comes out to help you buy the new
unit. This person plays an important role in the success of your new system. Not
only will they educate you on new equipment, but they also must understand
what will be required for the system to work correctly and pass inspection. Here
in Tampa Bay the law requires a mechanical permit and sometimes an electrical
permit when the a/c is replaced.
Air conditioning units are advancing just like most technology. Energy
efficiency is improving, features like HEPA filtration and humidity control are
available, and there are systems that provide temperature balancing airflow. You
read that right! Some systems can help eliminate annoying hot and cold spots.
Pretty cool (pun intended).
In order for all of those sweet new upgrades to work there are numerous
variables to factor in, here are just a few:
What is the correct size system for your home? Have there been changes to the
home that need to be accounted for?
Are the refrigerant lines the right size? Do they need replaced because the
refrigerant in the old unit is different than what the new unit uses?
Since new units use different types of blower motors, does your ductwork need to
be modified or replaced? Are the filters in the home the right size to move the
correct amount of air?
If the ductwork is sized correctly (the vast majority of the time your ductwork will
need some attention), is it leaky or has any of it collapsed?
Is there an existing mold or mildew problem inside the ductwork?
The above list could go on for pages, and it does, in the installation manuals 🙂
So, you’ve asked good questions and picked the company you think will do
the best job. Ahh, glad that’s over…well its not! Now your newest purchase will
need to be professionally installed. A professional air conditioning installation will
require a team of people that can lift extremely heavy objects, solder/weld, wire
high and low voltage electrical, work on plumbing and drains, work with wood
and framing, fit in your attic, have passed local and national testing, be able to
troubleshoot the never-ending onslaught of new challenges, have the integrity to
do beautiful work even in places you will never inspect (like the attic), and are
willing to work a half day (this is a joke, because to us a half day is 12 hours!).
I’m sure you can imagine finding teams of men and women that are both able
and willing to all of this is hard! So, when we do come across these unicorns-of-
the-human-race they need to be drug tested and background checked.
Remember, your installation crew will be in your home at least one full day and,
depending on the scope of your project, sometimes many days.
Okay, let’s get back on track. You’re getting a new air conditioning system
installed and we’re discussing why some companies cost more than others. We
now know the a/c brand is mostly irrelevant (we will put an entire article together
on this someday). We know there are a number of variables that will contribute to
how much work is needed for the new unit to perform correctly; and we know a
great installation crew could basically work a second job as a rocket scientist.
Seriously though, Hot 2 Cold has a mechanical engineer on staff to design and oversee their new air conditioning and ductwork installations. Boom!
Now the day has come. Here is an extremely brief sequence of how the
work/day should go:
You got a phone call from the company and they're on the way.
Upon arrival they introduce themselves and confirm the work-scope.
After you show them around they lay down canvas drop clothes to protect your
floors and walls. We also like the drop clothes so we don’t have to put on our
bootie shoe covers a million kajillion times.
Home protection is in place and we start removing the old equipment…albeit
Everything old and gross is cleaned up and the spaces are prepped for the shiny
new machinery. This step is a huge one and the next few sentences will do it no
justice. Prepping the spaces could be as simple inside as sweeping the
mechanical closet or as complex as enlarging the attic entrance and moving
ceiling rafters. Outside can also be as quick as rinsing off the foundation where
the old unit was or as laborious as removing bushes, laying gravel, and installing
a hurricane slab.
Now the “invisible” work is done and the units are sitting in their final resting
The refrigerant lines must be flushed or replaced. When they are soldered to the
new system nitrogen must be trickled through the lines. (Look this up, its called a
A vacuum must be pulled to make sure the new welds are solid and nothing got
in the copper lines. New insulation is almost always required on the copper lines.
The electrical is fixed, or replaced, and connected to the new unit.
The ductwork is connected to the system. These connections should be sealed
air tight with mastic.
Now it's almost time to try and start this bad boy and deal with the hiccups that
come along with doing so.
The airflow needs to be adjusted.
The refrigerant charge needs to be adjusted.
The work spaces need cleaned and cosmetic repairs (like drywall 🙁 or door
frames) will be scheduled.
A return visit is often needed to be sure nothing is overlooked and to perform the
In a perfect world Hot 2 Cold won’t visit your home, for a whole year. This
appointment will be to perform your first planned maintenance.