If your furnace needs to be repaired, you’ll want to find a qualified heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) repair technician. Each state has its own licensing requirements; some require all HVAC technicians to have an HVAC license, while others only require someone operating an HVAC service and installation company with employees to hold a contractor’s license. For example, in Alabama, the Alabama Board of Heating Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Contractors regulates licensing, while in Kansas there is no state regulatory body and HVAC licensing can vary by region. For simple furnace repairs like changing out a filter, a trusted handyman can probably handle the job, but a trained professional should be hired for tasks like replacing a gas valve, installing a new inducer fan motor or other critical furnace repair jobs that involve dealing with gas leaks or other dangerous conditions. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.
How often you should clean your air ducts depends on your situation. If you or someone in the home has asthma or is acutely allergic to certain airborne materials or pollen, regular duct cleaning may be helpful. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have an official position on the necessity of air duct cleaning unless the ducts have been contaminated by rodents, insects or mold, or you are aware of particles blowing out through the vents. The EPA recommends you have your air ducts cleaned on an as-needed basis. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) suggests having air ducts cleaned every three to five years.
Be cautious with companies that offer “whole house air duct cleaning,” urges the NADCA. The company may be using unscrupulous tactics to upsell you once they get started. Before any work begins, always clarify in writing what the job entails and what the cost will be. To protect yourself against fraud, read customer reviews and verify that your HVAC cleaning service has applicable licenses and certifications.
The letters in HVAC stand for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. An HVAC system enables you to regulate your home or building’s internal temperature (thermal control) for comfortable living and working. You can bring heat levels down in the summer and up in the winter, keeping your home or office livable year-round. HVAC systems can also help with humidity levels and regulate indoor air quality in a home or office. There are many types of HVAC systems and technologies available.
Many homes have a forced-air HVAC system. Both the heating and the central air conditioning units share a ductwork system where they either push in or pull out warm or cooled air. There are also heating and cooling systems that don’t require ductwork — such as ductless mini-splits — but work on the same principles of heat exchange. The national average to hire an HVAC specialist is $2,920-$3,670, with costs varying depending on the work you need done and the equipment you are installing.
Air duct cleaning is done by heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals. The pros use industrial-strength, truck-mounted vacuums and powerful brushes and hoses to clean inside the metal ducts that make up your forced air heating and cooling system. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends duct cleaning if there is “substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface ducts, ducts that are infested with vermin such as rodents or insects, or ducts that are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.”
You should also have air ducts cleaned after recent water contamination or water damage to prevent mold; after renovations or remodeling to ensure debris and dust didn’t settle in the vents and ducts; if you are having problems with allergies or asthma; or when you are moving into a newly purchased home, especially if the previous owners smoked or had pets. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends getting your air ducts cleaned every three to five years, or every two to three years in regions where homeowners use their air conditioning and heater for many months of the year, while the EPA suggests homeowners have duct cleaning done as needed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If your AC system is in need of replacement, the national average air conditioner installation costs range from $2,930 to $3,670. Costs can vary greatly depending on whether you are replacing a wall or window unit or a central air system. A central air system is connected to ductwork that runs throughout your house and pumps cooled air into your various rooms via vents and registers. A central air conditioning system is far more costly than wall or window units. Selecting a central AC system that has a high seasonal energy-efficiency ratio (SEER) will likely lower both your carbon footprint and your utility bill. The type of AC system you select, where you live in the country, and the regional costs of HVAC work, duct removal and replacement, and ductwork repairs that are needed are some of the main factors that affect the cost of new air conditioner installation. Here are some examples of average costs for installing forced-air systems.
- Install Lennox 16 SEER single-stage AC unit: $5,743
- Removing and disposing of the old furnace, moving and reconnecting the water heater, and installing a 3.5-ton gas furnace. The job took 18 hours of labor.
- Installation of a new 14 SEER single-range cooling system: $4,000-$6,000
- Installation of a new 16 SEER two-range cooling system: $6,000-$8,000
- Installation of a new 20 SEER variable capacity cooling system: $8,000-$12,000
If you’re concerned about dust, allergens or mold, it may be time to have your air ducts cleaned. The national average cost for air duct cleaning ranges from $190 to $250. Air duct cleaning costs will vary based on a number of factors such as your location in the country, the age and condition of your air ducts, the number of linear feet to be cleaned, and any repairs your ducts may need. HVAC cleaning companies should clearly outline what is included in their services and at what rate, so always make sure you understand and have a written agreement before work begins. Here are some examples of average air duct cleaning costs:
- Tiered pricing for different levels of service:
- Standard cleaning: $100, which may include truck-mounted industrial vacuums, high-pressure air wands and air snakes to clean all supply and return vents, branch lines, and main trunk lines.
- Advanced cleaning: $200, which may include standard cleaning services, plus rotobrush or viper clean sweep in the main trunk lines.
- Ultimate cleaning: $400, which may include advanced cleaning, plus insertion of a viper microline into all vents to force debris down the branch lines and into the main trunk lines, to be handled by the viper clean sweep. Typically, all ductwork surface is contacted, before-and-after photos are provided, and the furnace is cleaned.
- A flat rate for unlimited vents: $289.
- Additional fees for larger houses: $20 for each additional 500 square feet over 2,500.