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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

What is the most common type of heating system?

The most common type of home heating system is a forced-air heating and cooling system. This type of heater involves a furnace, which is commonly powered by natural gas, forcing air through a series of ducts that distribute the hot air through different rooms in a house. Furnaces can run on other types of fuel, including electricity, propane and oil. This type of heating system is quite popular because it doubles as a path for air conditioning in the summer.

What is the most efficient heating system for a house?

Geothermal heating tends to be the most efficient way to heat a house when compared to traditional HVAC systems, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Geothermal heat pumps (also called ground-source heat pumps) transfer energy to and from the ground to supply heat, cool air and hot water.

Note that one of the most important ways to boost efficiency, save electricity and lower your heating bills is to make sure your house is weather-tight and well-insulated.

How much does it cost to install a heating system?

The cost of a heating system depends largely on the type and size of the heating system. For example:

To find out how much your new heating system will cost, contact heating and air companies near you and ask for free cost estimates.

How do I know if my heater is broken?

The first way to tell whether your heater is broken is to feel the vents โ€” if cool air is coming out, thereโ€™s a problem. However, it could be a tripped circuit, loss of power or a different problem. For example, if you hear loud or unusual noises, this could also be a sign of breakage, as most modern heaters are fairly quiet. Finally, look at your power bills. If thereโ€™s an unusual spike in prices, your heater could be working improperly and running inefficiently.

Reach out to a heating and air specialist near you to repair your heating system.

What do you do if your heat isn't working?

Start by checking your thermostat and making sure itโ€™s on heat mode. If the display is out, change the batteries. You should also check your circuit breaker to see if the circuit has tripped. And check to see if there are any issues with your filters or furnace. 

When in doubt, contact a heating and air specialist near you to diagnose and fix the problem.

How long does it take to install a new heating system?

A new heating system generally takes a few days to install. Jobs that require new ductwork will take more time. And switching to a different type of heat fuel โ€” propane, natural gas, oil or electricity โ€” may require longer installation times as well, as they could require routing piping, regulators and other adjustments to your home.

When should you replace a heating system?

The better care you take of your heating system, the longer it will last. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors estimates the following lifespans for heating systems:

  • Heat exchanger: 10-15 years
  • Heat pump: 10-15 years
  • Furnace: 15-25 years
  • Electric radiant heater: 40 years

If your heating system is broken, hire a contractor or a repair service to take a look at it. They can help you determine if it makes financial sense to replace your system or spend money on repairs. The good news is that replacing your old furnace will give you the opportunity to take advantage of newer, more efficient furnaces that can save you money on heating bills from the first cycle. 

How often should a heating system be serviced?

Many experts say a heating system should be serviced at least once per year. Specifically, the best course of action is to service a heating system in the fall before colder weather arrives. And, you should get your air conditioner serviced in the spring before the weather heats up. 

Itโ€™s especially important to hire a professional to perform repairs whenever you hear strange sounds, such as clanking, knocking or banging.

How does a central heating system work in a house?

A central heating system consists of a boiler, heat pump or furnace. The furnace contains several parts, including burners that deliver and burn fuel, a blower, heat exchangers, a blower and a flue. The furnace will push air through the heat exchanger. Then, it will pump the warmed air through your air ducts to distribute heat throughout your home.

In the summertime, a central heating system can also provide air conditioning to cool and dehumidify your home.

What is a dual fuel heating system?

Dual fuel systems combine two types of heat fuels โ€” typically gas and electric, the latter in the form of a heat pump โ€” to boost heating performance and efficiency. These systems work with your furnace to deliver both hot and cold air.  A major advantage lies in the power of a heat pump, which provides cool air in the summer and heat in the winter.

Reviews for Ashburn heating contractors
Joe S.
Rob came by and looked into our heat-differential problem. 1. He sees many new construction projects with this problem, including two on just the day before his visit to our home. 2. He lamented that builders aren't doing better on design. 3. He suggested the mini-split solution; it needs HOA approval. 4. Additional vents, registers, etc won't help much. 5. The fix to run dampers in the ceiling is a very expensive project. 6. We agreed to revisit this issue, after asking the Builder to fix it. Rob and the Owner are thorough professionals. At no point in my conversation with the Owner or during Rob's visit did I feel pressured to go a certain route. I appreciated that. Rob said this is distinguished HVAC contractors who serve builders from those, like him, who must face customers every day and so are accountable for their work, not just meet the low bar of municipal inspections. I hope your business succeeds beyond your expectations, that it grows and that folks like Rob (who have served the nation) thrive.
TemperaturePro Northern VirginiaTemperaturePro Northern Virginia
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What you need to know about heating contractors.

What is a heat contractor?

A heating contractor repairs and replaces HVAC systems, heaters, air conditioners and related equipment, such as thermostats, heat pumps and ductwork. Some HVAC contractors may be licensed to perform energy audits and seal ducts, as well. 

What does a heating and cooling company do?

A heating and cooling company installs, maintains and repairs climate control systems in home and commercial properties. Technicians come to the property to troubleshoot, repair or replace HVAC equipment and provide estimates. 

Some technicians specialize in certain systems. For example, an AC contractor works with air conditioning systems. They may remove or repair faulty systems. They are also air conditioning system installation professionals. 

When you call a heating company to get help with your HVAC system, they'll set up an appointment to come to your business or home and evaluate our setup. After looking at your heater or air conditioner, they'll recommend a course of action that may include making repairs or replacing the unit. 

You can choose to have them make the repairs right away (if they have the right parts on hand) โ€” or you may want to wait to get several opinions before moving forward with repairs.

How do I choose a heating contractor?

Choosing the best professional to handle your heating system starts with research. Use Thumbtack to find heating contractors in your area. Read reviews from customers, and get several estimates before making a decision about which contractor to hire. 

Also, search for a local heating contractor who is licensed to work on HVAC systems. If the contractor youโ€™re considering has references, you can ask to speak to them about their experience. 

What should I look for when hiring an HVAC contractor?

Look for an HVAC contractor who is licensed and insured to perform the type of work you need. Contact a few contractors and have the model of your current system on hand so you can confirm that they have relevant experience solving your specific problem. You should also ask the HVAC contractor if they work with models that are rated high for energy efficiency. 

Before you hire an HVAC contractor, allow them to inspect your current system. Get a written estimate that includes the date when they can start on the project โ€” as well as warranty information. 

How much is a contractor for an AC unit?

Depending on the nature of your AC issue, you can expect to pay a flat rate of $50-$140 for AC service. If you want an AC contractor to install a new unit, expect to pay anywhere from $925-$9,680. Ultimately, installing or replacing your AC unit will depend on the size and model of air conditioner you choose. 

Before you hire an AC contractor, get multiple written price estimates, and confirm that the contractor can complete the work inside a timeframe that works for you.

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