Don't start by looking at the unit. Start by looking at the contractor.
A good contractor will not sell you junk equipment.
The best equipment not installed properly will never work properly.
Get and check references from any contractor. Make sure they do a
formal load calculation and check not only for the total cooling required,
but also the ductwork required. Make sure they have workman's comp paid
Let them pick the brand of equipment that they know is good and familiar
All the experts here say that having a good installer is more important
than which brand you use. I think that might be true because a good
installer will know what the better brands are; on the other hand, if
his company doesn't carry a certain brand that is good, he will be
unlikely to recommend it.
The question then is how do you know who is a good installer? I am not
convinced that references provided by the installer are of much value;
he is unlikely to include any complaining customers in his reference
list. Also, if a neighbor or relative says an installer was good, that
may be of some value, but you have to realize that they dealt with the
installer, in all probability, just once, and haven't dealt with any others.
I think BBB complaint lists are useful, but you should also check out
how many installations have been done. If two installers have,
respectively, 3 and 1 complains on file, the second looks better; but if
the first has done a thousand installations, and the second only 1, its
a different picture.
I think a good indicator is how long the installer has been in business.
A poor installer will not last long, at least under the same name. I
know you may miss a good one who is just starting out, but you will be
Second, after finding a few that are established, have them come out and
do estimates. Bear in mind that the best talker may be all talk and
little performance, so make a list of just what should be done to
produce the estimate, and select between those who do everything on your
list. A few years ago, before this forum existed, I had my sturdy old
furnace replaced with a high efficiency furnace and whole house air. I
didn't realize that the installer should have toured the house and made
a calculation to determine the proper size. Luckily, the new furnace
and air worked, but next time (especially since I added ducting into my
finished (unfinished to the tax department) attic, I will take the
advice of the experts here and ask to see the calculation.
Another thing I would ask them is where are they going to put the
outside unit. Mine they put in the herb garden, and I would rather have
had it elsewhere.
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