Over 87% of US homes use air conditioners. More and more of these homeowners are upgrading their air conditioning to take advantage of improved energy efficiency with recent technologies. While most try to save a few dollars on installation fees by attempting to install these new units by themselves or hiring a handyman nearby, it ends up costing more in the long run.
Hazards and consequences of such poor installations include exposure to toxic refrigerants like freon, electric shocks, leaky ducts, low airflow, and ultimately increased energy cost. Nine air conditioning mechanics and installers died from exposure to harmful refrigerants in 2018, and also in 2019. Leaky ducts reduce the efficiency of your air conditioning by up to 30 percent. Proper installation can reduce your cooling usage by 42% and save you up to $210 per unit of air conditioning.
To avoid these potential risks and costs, the Department of Energy recommends you hire a qualified AC installation contractor near you. Note that the following questions will help you determine the best contractor for your installation.
A contractor must obtain a state-level specialized license to practice as a residential AC installer in 35 states in the United States. Licensing requirements vary across these states. Typically, contractors are required to possess up to three years of verifiable education for the profession, pass at least two exams, and pay a licensing fee. The fee ranges between $45 to $1,078 depending on the state.
New York, Indiana, Kansas, and Illinois are among states that do not require a state-level license for AC installation contractors. However, AC installers in these states are required to hold a local AC installer license or a home improvement contractor license. Cities, including Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Richmond, Indiana mandate AC installers working in the area to obtain a local-level HVAC license.
You may also verify a contractor's license by referring to the consumer protection office in your state. Alternatively, visit the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA) online portal for licensing information.
Installation of Air Conditioning facilities involves operations that may lead to accidents, injuries, and even loss of life. In 2019, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded about 31 fatal injuries and 6,500 nonfatal injuries involving air conditioning. Some of these nonfatal injuries include electric shock, injuries from lifting heavy equipment, muscle strains, exposure to toxic chemicals, and burns.
As such, certified AC installation contractors need to hold a General Liability Insurance and a worker compensation insurance. These insurance plans typically cover the expenses that may arise from personal injury, property damage, and bodily injury during the course of the project. Hence, hiring an insured AC Installation contractor near you will shield you from financial liability if any of the above should occur.
In the same manner, it is more profitable and secure to work with an AC Installation contractor who is actively bonded. A surety bond helps to ensure that the contractor fulfills his part of the contract. In the event of any default by the contractor, the surety bond company intervenes to ensure the project is finished as agreed.
Ensure to request a copy of your AC installer’s insurance and bond certificates, and crosscheck that they are up to date by contacting the issuing organization. The requirements of a surety bond vary from state to state or from one locality to another. Contact your local consumer protection agency to determine the bond requirements for any AC installation contractor near you.
There are four specific types of air conditioners, which include the central a/c, room a/c, ductless mini-split a/c, and evaporative cooler. The central and evaporative cooler lasts up to 20 years while the room and the ductless a/c has between 10-15 years life span.
The Central A/C system uses a network of ductwork and registers. It provides the evenest cooling throughout the house. While it is quite expensive to install, it is quiet, convenient, and more efficient to operate than the rest. During installation, the contractor must ensure the ductwork is properly sealed and connected without sags or excessive bends.
Room A/C is the most common cooling system, it provides spot cooling either as a window unit or a portable air conditioner. The size and portability make for an affordable option to provide cooling to select spaces. Though installation is simple, improper installation can result in significant air leakage-as much as 10 percent. The installer must ensure to fix rigid form panels in between the window frame and unit and secure them with duct tape. Using duct tape instead of the accordion panels reduces air leakage.
Ductless, Mini-Split A/C are highly efficient for all climate zones and provide both cooling and heating. Hence, they present an affordable alternative to installing ductwork in the home. Typically, mounted on a room wall, this type of A/C is easy to install thereby avoiding the energy loss associated with ductwork. During installation, the contractor must find a clean place to keep the compressor to prevent overheating.
Evaporative Cooler is a cost-effective cooling option for people living in an arid climate. Also called a swamp cooler, it cools outdoor air using evaporated water and circulates it throughout the house. In addition to cooling the air, evaporative coolers add moisture. Generally, the cost of installation is about half of a central air conditioner and uses about a quarter of its energy. Note, a swamp cooler requires more frequent maintenance and is only suitable for areas with low humidity.
Although some contractors near you may be proficient in the installation of all four types, it is common to find contractors who are specialists in the installation of only a particular type. As such, you need to ask this question to avoid making a wrong hire.
Depending on the scope of the air conditioning project, it may be necessary for a contractor near you to involve other coworkers, apprentices, and subcontractors. This is common practice with complex jobs like the installation of central air conditioners or multiple units. At times, this additional personnel may not be properly licensed, insured, or bonded. If this happens, you may suffer financial liabilities. Moreso, the number of persons working on a project might influence the amount charged by the contractor. Therefore, it is necessary to find out from the contractor who exactly is going to handle the project and the number of assistants that will be required.
By law, a warranty should be made available for the customer’s examination prior to the completion of a purchase. A warranty is a guarantee given by a manufacturer or contractor on the condition of the product sold, promising to repair or replace the item if it fails to function as originally described or intended.
Typically, you should be able to obtain two types of warranties upon your AC installation, a manufacturer warranty, and an installation warranty. A manufacturer warranty is provided by the firm that makes your AC unit. You will get a standard manufacturer warranty if you register your unit upon purchase within an allotted time. Otherwise, you may have to put up with a base warranty in case of an equipment failure. Generally, AC manufacturers offer limited warranty terms that last between 5 to 10 years. However, it is not impossible to get a limited lifetime warranty for your AC compressor from some manufacturers.
Certified and reputable AC system installers near you may provide you up to 12 months’ warranty to cover defects in the installation process. Note that faulty installation is not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. Most manufacturer warranty claims are denied due to faulty installation. Because AC repair costs are expensive, therefore you are advised to:
- Hire only a certified AC installation contractor who is ready to provide an installation warranty
- Go for AC units with the longest terms manufacturer warranty
- Ensure you obtain all your warranties in writing.
Permits are issued by states or municipalities for home improvement projects that must comply with local standards for land use, zoning, and construction. Over 1 million of these permits are issued annually across the United States. In most states of the federation, all installations that affect or tamper with the structure of a building require a permit. This includes air conditioner installations. The goal is to ensure the safety of the building and its residents. Your chosen contractor will be willing to help you secure the required permits prior to the installation. Failure to get a permit before installing an air conditioner unit in your home may lead to any of the following:
- The contractor's loss of operational license
- You and the contractor may be held liable for defaulting on the state's regulations
- You may be asked to uninstall the air conditioning unit.
- You and the contractor may suffer penalties for contravening the local building code.
Before you hire an AC Installation contractor near you, it is expedient to examine the contractor's work history. By doing so, you will be able to figure out the credibility, competence, and expertise level of the contractor, and whether it matches the intended installation requirements. One effective way of achieving this is by requesting references from the contractor. The references have to be from previously executed projects which are related to the project in view.
Find out whether the contractor is willing to provide references on demand. You may also contact the referenced clients for verification as the case may be. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that a client may request up to three references from a potential contractor before a deal is finalized.
Some of the most common problems arising from faulty AC installation include:
- Refrigerant leakage
- Inappropriate sizing
- Electrical control failure
- Drainage problems
- Poor humidity circulation
- Sensor problems
- Poor space management
To prevent, manage or repair these AC installation issues, endeavor to use the services of a professional AC Installation contractor nearby.
Generally, the installation of a central AC system costs between $3,800 and $7,500. While the average installation cost of a unit of ductless AC is $1,800. This cost is an average of $300 to install a unit of window AC.
Classified by the square footage of the space to cover, below are the average costs of installing a central air conditioner:
The best AC units come with high energy efficiency capabilities or SEER ratings. These kinds of ACs save you a lot of money on your heating and cooling energy costs. Generally, ACs with higher SEER ratings command higher installation costs. The SEER ratings range between 13 SEER to the maximum rating of 24 SEER. The average cost of an AC unit and its installation based on SEER rating
Several factors affect the installation cost of AC and the most basic factors include the actual cost of the AC unit, the type of AC to be installed, your home or room square footage, and your chosen SEER rating. Other hidden factors influencing the cost of air conditioning installation include the cost of obtaining a permit (for municipalities where such is required), building department inspection expenses, and the charges for bringing any currently paired systems up to code. Plumbing, electrical work, the cost of removing an existing AC, and the charges for modifying the surface for installation may also be inclusive. For old homes with asbestos or lead paint, there may be an added cost of testing or replacing the material. Due to proximity, it is recommended to hire contractors near you to limit other costs relating to transportation and logistics.
According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics (BLS), there are about 376,800 AC mechanics and installers working in the US as of 2019. Technicians entering the industry only require a postsecondary nondegree award and long-term apprenticeship to become a professional at their job. Such post-secondary education may be from a technical school or community college where they learn air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration for a six-month to two-year period. As such it's common to see air conditioner technicians who are also skilled at installing refrigeration and heating appliances.
Apprenticeship programs with a certified AC installer typically run between 3 - 5 years. Furthermore, some AC installers and technicians hold the EPA certification as mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for all technicians who buy, handle, or work with refrigerants.
Handymen are known for their involvement in different kinds of minor repair or installation tasks. A handyman is not specialized and may not possess the license or certification required to practice in your locality as an AC installation contractor. It is better to hire a professional and qualified AC contractor near you who is certified to complete your job according to industry standards and the requirements of your local building codes. Note, if you live in areas where an AC technician must be licensed, you may be penalized for contracting a handyman for your AC installation or repair.
The most important post-installation expense for AC is the cost of regular maintenance. The generally accepted practice is to maintain your air conditioner at least once a year. The AC's filters, coils, and fins require regular maintenance for your unit to function efficiently throughout its life-span. Air conditioners that are not maintained see a steady decline in performance against an accelerating energy usage. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends you hire a certified AC technician to service your unit. Such trained technicians are conversant with the specific maintenance checklist required to service any kind or brand of air conditioners. Note frequent maintenance of your AC unit keeps other post-installation costs at the minimum. These other post-installation expenses include the cost of energy used and the cost of replacing faulty units.
Your homeowner insurance would not cover the cost of installing a new AC unit. However, this insurance policy will cover damages done to your air conditioner by lightning, fire, a power surge, or any other covered perils. Where your AC is replaced as a result of a covered peril, the cost of installation may be inclusive of the compensation payable by your homeowner insurance provider. It is recommended that you read the terms and conditions of your insurance policy to determine the type of perils and the consequent expenses covered by your provider.
AC installation contractors are embracing digital payment technologies to reduce the hassles clients go through when making payments. Some of these digital payments include credit/debit cards, bank transfers, ACH payments (also known as eCheck), and eWallets. Widely acceptable eWallet options are Apple Pay, Masterpass, Visa Checkout, Paypal, and Android Pay. You may use any of these payment options if your contractor accepts them. Instead of making assumptions, it is advised that you discuss the available digital payment options with the contractor before hiring.