Quality HVAC Equipment Installation Equals Energy Savings

Quality HVAC Installation is Important for Energy Efficiency

Is it true that Quality HVAC Equipment Installation Equals Energy Savings when upgrading older equipment?

The average homeowner will buy from the lowest bidder and fully trust the HVAC contractor 100% to finish the work. Some homeowners will do their homework while many will not. While most of the HVAC contractors will do the right thing and give the homeowner what they pay for, there are absolutely some unscrupulous contractors that will take advantage of the homeowner all without the homeowners knowledge. There are some home improvement contractors who know absolutely nothing about HVAC do HVAC work and they failed miserably.

Regardless there is a responsibility upon all parties involved to do the right thing. The homeowner should research all the best opportunities. They need to seek out the best contractor and the best HVAC equipment for the money being spent. The HVAC contractor has a responsibility to correctly install the equipment for a competitive price for the customer. The contractor should also offer some sort of guarantee on their work. This guarantee should be for a specified period of time to prove they stand behind their work.

Quality HVAC Equipment Installation Equals Energy Savings

The system is newly installed by the contractor. The city inspections department passed the job. Passed with only a few notes to fix a few things to bring it up to code. Minor issues that were probably overlooked in the rush to move on to the next job. The system meets minimum requirements for code and installation. It is what the homeowner paid for and for the most part it works and everyone is happy.  No one looked at air flow for the duct systems and the air handler. It was a quick change out completed in a few days. No one looked at the duct work except the duct work close to the air handler. Much of that would fall under the Mechanical Code.

The insulation on the duct work was falling off. It got wet from a plumbing leak that was repaired a few years before. The moisture on the duct work, from the duct work sweating, creates moisture issues with mold and mildew. That along with rusting and corrosion created other problems. The new unit which was rated at 16 SEER for the air conditioner and 96% AFUE for the furnace. The systems will never achieve those efficiency ratings because of the duct work and a few other issues.

Quality HVAC Equipment Installation Equals Energy Savings

The HVAC contractor in question was fairly busy and had a good reputation for good work. The job was completed as promised. The customer got what they paid for however no load calculation was performed. Instead, the contractor cut corners and simply replaced the old equipment with new equipment. New equipment of the same size which is common with some HVAC contractors to save time. The time was not taken to figure out that the garage had been converted into a den. That put extra load on the house. The homeowner hired a contractor. The contractor (who was not an HVAC contractor) simply added a few more ducts to the new den and tapped into the main duct trunk.

Additionally, because no load calculation was done no one noticed the return duct was too small. This could have been easily fixed at the change out if a thorough job had been done. A thorough job would include a load calculation for the home.

Quality HVAC Equipment Installation Equals Energy Savings - Lowest Bid Conundrum

The homeowner took the lowest bidder. They ignored paying a little more to get a quality installation. The same old problems will continue for years and the new system will never achieve the level of rated efficiency. The proper amount of air flow never reaches the spaces that need to be conditioned because the return duct is too small and the duct work leaks. The homeowner may have noticed a slight change in the utility bill. The older systems where not as efficient as the new system so there is a slight savings from the old system. However, the savings is not realized if the time and resources had been taken to make sure everything was properly done. The homeowner would have seen a significant savings if it had been done properly.

Quality HVAC Equipment Installation Equals Energy Savings - Job Done Right

Doing the job right would have cost the homeowner a little more. However, the system would have paid for itself sooner. Additionally, the homeowner would have realized more comfort for a lesser cost.  It boils down to responsibility as mentioned above. Both the HVAC contractor and the homeowner has a responsibility to make sure these things are completed and that the system operates and functions to get the best efficiency and provide the best comfort for the homeowner that the new HVAC system can deliver.

Quality HVAC Equipment Installation Equals Energy Savings - The Other Contractor

If you hire a contractor to add an addition to your home or make an improvement that will require duct work, ventilation, new or improved piping for a boiler loop, or a duct work change for a forced air system it will be in your best interests to hire an HVAC contractor, in addition to the other contractor, to complete the HVAC work. Everything from a range hood in a kitchen to bathroom vent fans to boiler piping and duct work has been ruined or caused major problems because the contractor really did not know what they were doing.

Example of Issues 1:

A room addition where the contractor made the room addition including electrical and HVAC duct work plus added a new piping loop for baseboard heat from a boiler. The duct work was done well except it added much more load on the system so in the summer the air conditioner would struggle to maintain temperatures in the home and the additional space. Where the air conditioner was sized properly for the old space it was not able to handle the load for the additional space of the new addition. Increase your electric bills by over $100 per month minimum in the summer months because the air conditioning will run all the time now and on really hot days it will not be able to keep up.

Add that to the cost of the addition except this is a cost that keeps taking from you for months to come until the problem is rectified. Solution - in this case the air conditioner had to be replaced and new duct work had to be installed. The non-HVAC contractor who did a decent job on the duct work for the new addition simply attached that duct work to the old duct work which was sized for 3 tons. The new addition required a 4-ton system so new duct work had to be installed to accommodate the new 4-ton air conditioner. That cost nearly 10K $ (late 90’s $). Now, after all, that the homeowner learned they didn’t get such a great deal they thought they were getting for the cheapo addition.

Example of Issues 2:

Quality HVAC Equipment Installation Equals Energy Savings - As with the air conditioning this particular customer had a boiler that they used for heating in the winter. Baseboard heating was used through and a hot water boiler was installed in the mudroom near the entrance from the detached garage. The addition contractor did a good job of running the baseboards but again they made the boiler system undersized because they added way to much load to the boiler than it was sized for, as was the case with the air conditioner.

This is the chief culprit in what prompted the homeowner to call an HVAC contractor long after the addition contractor had finished and collected the final payment. Their gas bills for heating went from an average of 200$ per month over the winter months to nearly 700$ per month in the winter. What’s worse was the new additional space was barely getting any hot water through the baseboards. A look at the piping arrangement found that while the addition contractor had done a great job installing the baseboards they messed up the connection at the near boiler piping.

Load Calculations Tell-Tell

A load calculation was done and it was found the boiler was undersized as was the air conditioning. A new boiler and the cost to repair the manifold piping in the near boiler piping loop cost over 15K$ (late 90’s).

So you see from this one single example how much a contractor can end up costing you because that contractor failed to get the professional opinion of another contractor. This same scenario can be used for plumbing and electrical in addition to other trades. It is true when they say Buyer Beware.

Quality HVAC Equipment Installation Equals Energy Savings - Conclusion

The bottom line is that with as little more effort and resources the whole system can be installed correctly. With a little more effort the system can be gone over to make sure problems like the installation on the duct work and the moisture and the corrosion along with the duct work mold and mildew.

Let’s say the homeowner has a heat pump and the monthly electric bill is $250.00. After new system is installed as illustrated above the monthly electric drops to $200 a month. Now let us say the customer spent another (ballpark $1,000.00) and the HVAC system was installed correctly. That the duct work and return duct issue were resolved from the start. The unit would likely get the rated efficiency on the units label. Additionally, the system would run less. In that case, it is likely the electric bill would easily drop to $150 easily with no problems.

That is a savings of $100 per month. That makes the extra thousand dollars spent paid for within the first year. The entire system would pay for itself through savings within the first five years of operation. It is unlikely the system would pay for itself within 10 years as illustrated above without the extra effort. There is nothing like doing it right the first time!

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Quality HVAC Equipment Installation Equals Energy Savings