New or Replacement Commercial HVAC Equipment
Installations: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
We’ve all been there, puzzling over quotes from several contractors, trying to decide who to trust with your equipment, your building, your money. If you’ve ever made the mistake of evaluating exclusively on price, chances are, you’ve also learned the infinite wisdom of the saying, “you get what you pay for.”
Evaluate Criteria In Addition to Price
We know, of course, that price is always a major factor in decision-making, but consider the price of choosing a bad contractor just because he was the cheapest…
More than once we have been in the bizarre position of losing an install bid due to price, only to be called back after the job was done to fix the mistakes of the lower-bid contractor! That means these unfortunate folks not only paid for a bad install, they paid again to make it right. Sometimes mistakes or poor installs cannot easily be undone, for example, if the equipment was not sized correctly or is located poorly. In those situations, it’s a no-win choice of significant extra cost, or living with a brand-new system that will not work properly.
That isn’t to say that the low-bid can never be the right bid. But price should never be your ONLY criteria.
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Develop a Relationship with Your Contractor
The best way to find a Massachusetts or Rhode Island HVAC contractor is to develop a relationship with one you can trust by starting small – with a service and maintenance relationship. A quality contractor will not only give you great service and reliable maintenance, they’ll give you honest feedback about the condition of your equipment and tell you what you can do to get the most out of it. When it comes time to consider upgrades or replacements, you’ve already got a contractor you can trust to do what’s right for you.
Evaluate General Business Practices
If you don’t have time to establish a relationship with a contractor before your install project, we recommend starting with the basics: qualifications, experience, training, licenses, lack of pending litigation… etc. Visit their website to get a feel for how they do business. Also check third-party sources, such as:
- Dunn & Bradstreet (link to www.dnb.com)
- Better Business Bureau (link to www.bbb.com)
- MA Division of Professional Licensure (link to www.mass.gov/dpl)
- RI Dept of Labor and Training (link to: www.dlt.state.ri.us/profregs)
Talk to Existing Customers
After the basics, it comes down to intangibles like honesty, reputation and trustworthiness. The best way to find out about these intangibles is to talk to the contractor’s current customers. Advance Air opened its doors in 1986. Many of the customers who started with us in 1986 are still our customers today. Visit our Customer Page to see what some of our customers had to say about us, or give us a try and find out firsthand.
Call Us Today For Your FREE Estimate At 508.763.3738
Following directions is not a sign of weakness! Proper install techniques and start-up parameters can be manufacturer-specific, even unit-specific.
Selecting the right equipment for the space. A unit that is too big or too small will be inefficient, won’t give you the comfort that you want, and may even damage itself. Sizing equipment requires math and science, but also some art. Every space and every application is different. The same size space used for warehouse space vs. production space would have very different needs.
- Check all equipment before installation. Check for correct voltages, double-check measurements, and triple-check for any shipping damage.
- Always, always follow the manufacturer’s installation directions. This is not a sign of weakness guys! Installation is very manufacturer-specific and even unit-specific. General rules of thumb cannot be applied across the board to all installs.
- Make sure existing ductwork, piping and peripheral systems are appropriate for new equipment. A fabulous new unit attached to leaky or too small ductwork simply won’t work as intended.
- Make sure all safety devices and controls are compatible and installed properly. These must all be tested after install to be sure that all are functioning properly with the new unit.
- Start-up and test unit operations. To make sure the unit is running as intended, it must be properly tested – not just started to see if AC blows cold and heat blows hot. Gauges and/or electronic testers are the only way to make sure that the unit is operating within norms for temperatures and pressures, correct efficiencies, etc.
Though these six steps seem obvious, they are often overlooked or sometimes skipped to save time and increase profit margins. Without these simple steps, your install could turn bad.
How to Spot a Bad HVAC Install
A few years ago, there was a commercial that said buying a mattress is tricky because it’s a blind item – you can’t see inside so you have to trust who you’re buying it from to give you what you really need.
The same is true of your HVAC system.
Most HVAC units look very much the same – a metal box with fans, motors and piping – so how do you know that your contractor picked the right unit for you? Did he install it according to the manufacturer’s specifications? Was it installed to your contract requirements? Unless you’ve got some training, a willingness to traipse around rooftops, and a good set of hand tools and gauges, you’re just going to have to trust your contractor.
Whether or not you have the skills or desire to be an HVAC pro, there are some simple things you can look for if you suspect that your contractor didn’t do the quality installation that you expected.
Symptoms of a Bad HVAC Install:
- Loud whistling or howling noise in ducts.
- Rattling or vibration noise.
- Hot or Cold Spots in areas of building.
- Water Leaks.
- Bad Smells: smoke, combustion gases, stale air, etc.
- Sloppy Piping: odd angles, crooked lines, gunk-y pipe junctions.
- Significant Refrigerant Loss.
- Units installed too close together or too close to a wall or building.
- Crooked unit – not installed on level.
Consequences of Bad HVAC Installs:
- Equipment will not run at peak efficiency, wasting energy, causing additional wear and leaving you uncomfortable or inconsistent room temps.
- Equipment or piping may sustain damage from not being secured correctly.
- This can cause water or refrigerant leaks, compressor failure, etc.
- Unchecked water leaks can cause damage to walls, floors and ceilings, as well as mold or bacteria growth and sick building syndrome.
- Improper flue or exhaust pipe connections can result in carbon monoxide fumes entering occupied spaces.
- Insufficient fresh air can cause stale air smells and respiratory discomfort.
- Improperly sealed or insulated ductwork will cause heat or cooling loss to attic or other unused spaces.
- Bad piping jobs can cause refrigerant or water leaks or compressor failure, if debris blocks flow in the piping.
- Emergency service and repair costs will be higher than normal.
- Inferior equipment and installs may cost less upfront, but well-made equipment lasts longer, requires fewer repairs and is more energy-efficient.
- You’ll wish you had hired Advance Air to do your install. We’re not always the least expensive contractor, but you’ll always be happy with our work!
If you have any of the above symptoms, call us right away for an evaluation of your system. A few fixes now could save you a lot of money in compressor replacements, or worse, later.
Some Real-Life Examples of Bad HVAC Installs:
Why Shouldn’t Price Be Your Deciding Factor on Installations?
Sometimes it’s hard to see past the dollar signs, but would you hire the cheapest day care provider, site-unseen, just because they were the cheapest? How about the cheapest brain surgeon? So what if he graduated last in his class and doesn’t have the most up-to-date equipment, it’s only your brain!
Quality plays a major role in pricing, and for good reason.
- Research and development costs and higher quality raw materials increase the price of HVAC equipment. Because of those higher costs, the equipment will be more energy efficient, last longer and be more reliable than cheaper equipment.
- Labor costs vary by skill level. Hiring, retaining and continually training employees is expensive. But the alternative is cheaper, less skilled, less educated labor installing your expensive HVAC equipment. The highest efficiency equipment, if installed improperly, will be less efficient than standard efficiency equipment.
- Good, honest business practices have a lower profit margin than shady ones. Cutting corners and playing games with change-orders after the fact gets upfront prices down, but costs more in the long run.
In order to make sure that you get what you want, you have to establish a quality threshold, only then can you let price be your guide.
Advance Air is not the cheapest contractor in town – and we’re not ashamed to admit it. We have value that the cheapest contractor doesn’t have.
We hire and continually train high caliber employees. We price your project honestly upfront and follow through on our commitments. We stand behind our installations and make sure our customers are fully satisfied. Anything less wouldn’t be acceptable to us or our customers. Even with this high level of service, we are priced lower than our similarly skilled competition because of the way we manage our business and our comparatively low overhead costs.