Home Equipment Replacements Questions & Answers
When you think it might be time to replace your heating, cooling, or hot water system, you’ll likely have quite a few questions. Asking the right questions before you make the investment—especially when it comes to energy efficiency—will help you get the best return on investment and make sure your new system delivers on comfort. Below are some of the most important questions to ask.
Energy Efficiency: Top Things to Ask a Contractor
1. What training and certifications do you require of your staff?
Choosing the right contractor to install a new system is very important. Improper installation can reduce a system’s efficiency by up to 30 percent. This can increase energy bills and possibly shorten the equipment’s life span. Prospective contractors should be able to show that their company is licensed and insured to install and repair heating and cooling equipment. Use ENERGY STAR’s® top tips for hiring a heating and cooling contractor.
Find out whether the contractors or subcontractors hold any designations from professional associations specific to heating and cooling systems and energy efficiency. These could include designations from North American Technician Excellence (NATE) and the Building Performance Institute (BPI). Contractors may also hold certifications from heating system manufacturers.
2. Do you have project references for energy-efficient equipment installations?
Prospective contractors should be able to provide you with examples of quality installation of energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment work. Ask for the name and contact information of past customers. Before you call these references, make sure you have a prepared list of specific questions to ask. For example, “If you were to take on another project, would you hire the contractor again?”
3. How do you ensure the equipment is properly sized for my home?
Installing the right size equipment for your home is key to getting the best performance and comfort. For example, a system that is too large might cycle on and off too often, impacting the performance and comfort. Incorrect sizing can also put stress on the system and shorten its life span. Contractors should consider the home’s air sealing and insulation conditions when recommending the equipment size. Ask the contractors how they ensure that you get a system that is the right size for your home.
4. Do I need to upgrade ductwork when replacing my heating or cooling system?
Make sure that your contractor is considering any big air leaks in your home and ductwork, and that the duct system is designed to work correctly with your new equipment before making an investment. These issues can prevent equipment from working properly or as efficiently as possible. For example, sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent. Ask your contractor to help you determine and prioritize which insulation and sealing upgrades will help you get the best return on investment from a new system.
5. Are there any clean options for heating and cooling my home?
Clean heating and cooling technologies, such as heat pumps, are one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to heat and cool your home. Heat pumps work by drawing heat from the outdoor air and moving it indoors to heat, or moving heat from indoor air outdoors to cool your home. Heat pumps are a safer, more efficient choice for your home with no burning of fossil fuels, no need for fuel storage tanks, and no potential for carbon monoxide emissions.
6. How much will it cost to replace the heating, cooling, or hot water system? Are there any rebates or incentives available? What loan or financing options are available to me?
The cost of replacing your system will depend on the type of equipment. Although clean heating and cooling technologies such as heat pumps have a higher price point, they are more efficient, cleaner, and safer than conventional oil, propane, or electric resistance systems. Ask your contractor what system will be best for your home and drive the best return on investment. Also check that the system is ENERGY STAR certified, as these models are more efficient and will cost less to operate than others.
Ask your contractor if there are loan or financing options available to help pay for the new system. For example, you may be eligible for an energy efficiency loan or an on-bill recovery or smart energy loan through NYSERDA. There are also many incentives and rebates available across New York State for purchasing and installing high-efficiency heating, cooling, and hot water equipment. Some incentives and financing programs require that you receive a professional home energy audit first.
If purchasing a heat pump, you may also be eligible to receive a federal tax credit and financial incentives through New York State or your utility.
7. What regular maintenance should I do to keep this equipment at peak performance?
To keep your systems working properly, routine maintenance is important. Ask your contractor to help you set up a schedule to keep your system operating at its best. This can range from changing air filters frequently to having a professional perform an annual equipment maintenance checkup. Contractors may offer annual service plans and remote monitoring services to help keep your system operating at top performance.