What’s the best way to set up a consultation or an appointment with a HVAC technician during the COVID-19 pandemic?
To set up a safe consultation or appointment with an HVAC technician during the COVID-19 pandemic, start by comparing technicians in your area in an online search. Message or call technicians to ask whether they can perform a consultation over the phone or even over a video call. This way, they can assess the problem without increasing the risk of virus transmission by visiting your house.
If it turns out the service is essential, you’ll need to follow CDC guidelines as well as local government guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety.
Currently, governments on both the federal and local levels are updating guidelines on what qualifies as an essential service. To see whether an HVAC technician is considered an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic, check your city or state’s government website.
For federal guidelines, check CISA’s Identifying Critical Infrastructure During COVID-19 page, which identifies 16 critical infrastructure sectors during the crisis. But note that not all jurisdictions follow CISA’s definitions of critical infrastructure.
If you decide to hire a technician for an HVAC repair or installation project, practice current social distancing guidelines. This may require remaining outside while the technician works or ensuring the technician can work in a sectioned-off area or outbuilding.
Comply with social distancing guidelines while the technician is performing work. Do not make physical contact with technicians, maintain at least 6 feet of distance between you at all times, sanitize all involved spaces and surface and pay using a digital platform instead of cash or a check.
The use of digital payment platforms -- like Google Pay, PayPal, Zelle, Venmo and Square Cash -- is common among air conditioning technicians. Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic is improving the adoption of these platforms as a means of helping social distancing.
As you compare local air conditioning technicians online, contact them to see if they’ll accept digital payments. Also, discuss strategies for completing the job while complying with safety guidelines for reducing the risk of exposure.
Because most HVAC systems are located in the home, it’s likely that an HVAC technician would need to enter yours when working on the projects. However, there might be exceptions. Some HVAC systems are located in garages or in areas of the house that are sectioned off. During the consultation, ask your technician if they'll need to enter your home.
When you contact local technicians, ask if they’ll perform a video call in place of a traditional consultation. Be sure to send all materials like photos and documents digitally, and comply with all relevant guidelines.
Because HVAC technicians need to be physically present to do their work, they have not conventionally offered remote or virtual services. However, with the importance of social distancing due to COVID-19, the need for remote capabilities is greater than ever. If you come across a profile that states the HVAC technician or AC professional is offering remote services, message the pro to find out what those services include.
Consult with your technician to see if the technician will be able to perform a video call consultation. You can find local technicians near you by searching online.
The number of years an HVAC system lasts depend on the type and brand of components that make up your system. The lifespan of an air conditioner averages between 15 and 20 years. The life expectancy of a tankless water heater is approximately 20 years, while a storage water heater is closer to 10-15 years. Ducts may need replacing within 10-15 years. Your equipment will have a longer life if you have regular tuneups and maintenance to keep everything in good working order. If you’re having repair problems and your HVAC system is over 10 years old, it’s a good time to consider the costs and benefits of repairing vs. replacing. Energystar.gov provides the following tips to help you decide whether to repair or replace:
- Your HVAC system needs frequent repairs and your energy bills are increasing.
- Your cooling or heating equipment is less efficient.
- Rooms in your home are too hot or too cold.
- Your heat pump or air conditioner is more than 10 years old.
- Replacing your system with an Energy Star-certified unit could save up to 20 percent on your heating and cooling bills.
- Your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old.
- You may choose to replace your system with an Energy Star-certified furnace (which is 15 percent more efficient than a conventional furnace) or an Energy Star-certified boiler (which is 5 percent more efficient).
- Your home has humidity problems.
- Your home has excessive dust.
- Leaky ducts can pull particles and air from attics, crawl spaces and basements and distribute them throughout your house. Sealing your ducts may be a solution.
- Your heating or cooling system is noisy.
- You could have an undersized duct system or a problem with the indoor coil of your cooling equipment.
- Your score on the Home Energy Yardstick is below five.
- That means your home energy use is above average and you're probably paying too much for your utilities.
Heating typically constitutes 42 percent of a homeowner’s utility bill, according to Energy.gov. If your heating bills are through the roof, it might be time to compare what you’re spending on utility bills to the cost of a new furnace. A new furnace can cost between $1,000 and $2,700 for standard big-box forced-air furnaces, and more than $10,000 for advanced technology or high-end brands.
With a new furnace you could lower your total energy bill by 30 percent while also reducing your carbon footprint. To achieve these savings, Energy.gov recommends combining proper equipment maintenance, insulation, air sealing, strategic thermostat settings, and — of course — energy-efficient HVAC equipment. The furnace cost you’re facing may seem large upfront, but should save you money in the long term with improved home heating at a lower cost. Furnace cost is dictated by brand, efficiency, technology and the British thermal units (BTUs) needed to heat your home. AFUE is another important acronym. It’s short for annual fuel utilization efficiency, and it represents what percentage of the fuel becomes heat for the home. Energy.gov explains that an AFUE of 90 percent means 90 percent of the energy in the fuel is used to heat the home, and the other 10 percent escapes.
The national average for furnace replacement is between $1,800 and $2,500. The cost can range dramatically higher depending on the model of furnace you select, any repair work you require, your location and the cost of installation. Furnace installation costs can be more than the furnace itself due to the cost of doing business and the expertise needed to install the HVAC equipment. Installing a new furnace generally requires technical know-how and the proper tools and licensing. It’s best to hire a pro and budget for furnace installation rather than risk potentially unsafe DIY installation. This will ensure your home’s safety. Check to see if your HVAC contractor has the proper licensing to do the job. If you need duct repair or replacement, expect to pay more for your furnace installation costs. The price for duct repair could be an hourly rate ranging on average anywhere from $85 to $150 per hour, with additional costs for parts.
If you’re purchasing from a big-box store, you can expect to pay approximately $120-$1,000 for a window unit. Window units are appealing for their quick setup and relatively low cost, but they can use more energy over time than central air and only cool the room in which they’re installed. The price will vary depending on the type of air conditioner you buy and its cooling capacity. Window units, which require minimal installation, are one of the most affordable options on the market. Portable air conditioners don’t have the cooling power of a window unit, but they do have the perk of being transportable from room to room. Expect to pay between $225 and $800 for a portable air conditioner, on average. The cost of an air conditioning system with coils, condenser and line (not including installation or ductwork) can range from approximately $2,000 to $4,000 or more. If you don’t have (and don’t want to put in) ducts, a ductless mini-split air conditioner is a good option, although pricey up front. Pricing can range from $650 to $4,250 per unit on average; you’ll need one unit for each room in which you want temperature control.