Well. Consumer Reports is a very good organization sends out an
annual survey to its subscribers asking for reasonably detailed
information about their experience with home appliances, vehicles,
etc. They then report the results of the survey in a future issue.
Problem is, replying to all or any of the survey is optional. That
means CR is more likely to hear from two types of respondent: those
who've had trouble with a device (satisfied customers usually don't
bother); and the types who take meticulous care of their
possessions, and like to note and brag about how those items perform.
Unhappy customers will weight the responses against a particular
model or brand.
The meticulous types will weight the responses in favor of the model
and brands they've taken good care of.
See where the bias in each case can factor in? Lemons (happens to
every model) will get disproportionately reported, and a lot of the
bias behind the high-performing models is that they've been owned by
people who performed the necessary maintenance and were proud to
report on how well the device held up.
That's the most common criticism of CR's owner survey reports that
put foreign cars ahead of domestic vehicles. The argument is that
originally, foreign car owners were the types willing to purchase a
vehicle that would require them to get more involved in the
maintenance since local shops weren't familiar with them. The owners
were proud of maintaining the vehicles and were happy to report how
well they performed. Then the selection bias kicked in: people began
hearing that foreign cars were better, so more people began buying
them. Those who bought them were more likely to maintain them, and
so the bias continued.
In that respect the car brand debate mirrors the a/c brand debate:
some brands have superior or inferior characteristics, but a lot of
how well and how long the product will perform depends on how the
end user maintains it. And in the case of a/c, how the installer
selects and installs it. That, by the way, is Consumer Report's main
point: the brand plays some role, but they do say the primary factor
is choosing the right hvac contractor.
Also, ConsumerSearch, a consumer-oriented website unrelated to CR,
says this about a/c brands:
"We found more criticism and complaints about Goodman (makers of the
Goodman, Janitrol and Amana brands) than any other brand. In spite
of that, most contractors maintain that the problem is not with
Goodman products, which are sometimes less expensive, but with
faulty installation. These pros say that other manufacturers, such
as Trane and Bryant, establish stringent requirements for
technicians who install their equipment, while Goodman will let
anyone install one of their air conditioners. When these pros repair
Goodman units, they often find that the problem is not defective or
short-lived parts. If you buy a Goodman air conditioner from a
skilled contractor, they say it will be as reliable as any other brand."
I had a very good local hvac contractor install an Amana furnace for
me several years ago, and it's been trouble free. This contractor
recently came out and fixed my Carrier a/c, and it didn't take him
more than fifteen minutes to correctly diagnose and fix the problem.
Some folks might find the $160 I paid to be a lot of money for a
short service call. I say it's worth paying a competent pro to get
it done right the first time.
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