Most residential HVAC systems need to be replaced about every 15 to 20 years. Of course, some systems perform remarkably well for a few years beyond that time period.

However, it’s worth considering that technology can change a lot in a decade or two. The HVAC system that was the most efficient and powerful available 20 years ago is like a Stone Age relic today. That means that if it’s been many years since you updated your heating and air conditioning, now is probably a good time to start looking for a replacement.

The trouble is that you may be mystified as to what to look for in a modern HVAC system. What are the improvements that you need to be aware of? How do you know if you’re getting a system that has the right capacity for the size of your home?

Use these FAQs from Delaware Heating and Air to get your search started in the right direction.

1. How Important Is the New System’s Capacity?

The size of the HVAC components that you choose will determine not only the overall comfort level of your home but also how energy efficient it is. It’s critical that the system you choose has a capacity that accurately reflects your home’s size and configuration.

If you were to buy a system that was too powerful, it probably won’t run as frequently as it needs to. This means that you’ll experience poor humidity and temperature control.

However, it’s just as bad to go with a unit that is too small. In this case, the HVAC system will be engaged in a constant struggle to keep the rooms in your house at the correct temperature. The system will have to run without stopping, 24 hours a day. That’s definitely not an efficient way to operate.

Clearly, when it comes to choosing a new HVAC system, size is a crucial consideration. That’s why it’s sensible to have an HVAC professional perform a Manual J load calculation before you make a purchase. Using dozens of factors, this calculation accurately determines the appropriate capacity that your home requires in an HVAC system. This ensures the best energy efficiency, keeps your family more comfortable and saves you money.

2. Do I Have to Replace All of My HVAC Equipment at Once?

In general, experts advise homeowners to do a complete system replacement at the same time. You do have the option of only replacing one component that has broken down or just isn’t performing well any longer. However, replacing only one component typically is less cost-effective and efficient than taking care of the whole project at once. That’s because the various components all work in concert to heat and cool your home. If a new component is forced to work with older components, it’s probably not going to operate at maximum efficiency.

Of course, when one of those older components goes out in a year or two, you’ll be back in the same boat and have to repeat the process all over again.

3. Does My Ductwork Need to be Replaced?

If you are thinking about having your HVAC system updated, then the technician who comes to your house will definitely want to take a look at your existing ductwork. It is possible that no additional or replacement ductwork will be needed. However, the technician’s inspection may uncover issues with the ductwork such as ductwork that is:

  • Too small
  • Too long
  • Improperly sealed
  • Inadequately insulated
  • Kinked
  • Constricted

This means that it probably makes sense to have at least some of the ductwork repaired or replaced at the time that the system is updated. If none of these issues is uncovered in the initial estimate, the technician still may recommend having the existing ductwork cleaned to ensure maximum efficiency with the new system.

4. What Type of HVAC System is Right for My Home?

You have many selections from which to choose, and the unit that you opt for ultimately may depend on a variety of factors such as the size of your home, the type of structure and whether or not you live in a single-family dwelling.

The basic HVAC choices are:

  • Split air conditioners: This relatively simple system features an indoor unit and an outdoor unit that are connected via coolant lines.
  • Packaged systems: Both of the necessary units are installed outdoors in the same cabinet, saving space and representing an affordable option.
  • Variable speed furnace: These systems run for long time periods, adjusting the speed of operations based on demand, to diminish energy waste.
  • Heat pumps: These units are air conditioners that have a reverse function to provide heat in the winter. In places with extreme winters, these must be paired with a gas furnace. Elsewhere, the heat pump is all that’s needed, making it a cost-effective solution.

5. How Important is the Thermostat?

These days, you have more options than ever before when it comes to controlling your HVAC unit. Many homeowners are now going with smart or programmable thermostats that have plenty of options yet are incredibly easy and convenient to control. That’s because these thermostats let you set a schedule for each day of the week so that you waste less energy when your family isn’t at home.

For instance, if you know that everyone is at work and school between 7:30 am and 4:00 pm Monday through Friday, you can program your thermostat so that your HVAC system works less during those hours. You can set a different schedule for hours during which you know the family is at home and schedule yet another temperature for the hours when you’ll be sleeping.

Tech-savvy people will love the ability to control their smart thermostat from anywhere in the world via an app that can be installed on a cell phone or tablet. If you forget to make adjustments to the temperature settings when you are going to be out of town, it’s no problem. You can make the changes whenever and wherever it’s convenient.

Some smart thermostats even produce energy usage reports so that you can get a clearer picture of your family’s energy consumption. It’s a great tool for finding ways to make your home more energy efficient.

6. How much will a new HVAC system cost?

This is difficult to predict because so many factors are involved. These factors may include not only how big your house is and the capacity of the system but also the type of HVAC system that you choose and whether or not ductwork needs to be added or repaired.

With a relatively significant project like having an HVAC system replaced, it’s wise to get at least three written estimates. Be sure that you get a complete cost breakdown from each contractor so that you understand how much you’re paying for things like labor, the system itself and extra charges for things like thermostats. This will make it easier to compare the estimates.

Before proceeding, check with your local or state utility company to determine whether or not they offer incentives or rebates for replacing an outdated HVAC system. Rebates additionally may be available through manufacturers that make HVAC components.

7. Which Season is the Best for Replacing an HVAC System?

If your old HVAC system quits on you, then any time can be the perfect time to search for a replacement. Unfortunately, things rarely move as quickly as you would like them to when you are left without a functional HVAC system in the heat of summer or the coldest days of the winter.

Ideally, you’ll look into replacing your HVAC system before it’s a dire necessity. If possible, it is sensible to look for a new system just as summer turns into fall because that’s a good time to pick up some bargains. Many new HVAC systems will be offered at special pricing in the fall, and contractors may offer some nice deals as well as they try to keep busy outside of the peak seasons.

If fall doesn’t work out for you, then spring is the second best choice. Once again, it’s not a peak season, and it’s definitely nice to have a new air conditioner in place before summer arrives.

Talk to Delaware Heating and Air

Has it been several years, or even a couple of decades, since you got a new HVAC system? Now is the perfect time to start considering an upgrade. Don’t wait until your system fails and leaves you high and dry in the summer heat or winter’s freezing temperatures.

Take action now by speaking with one of the HVAC experts at Delaware Heating and Air. Whether you need to have your entire system replaced or are just hoping that some competent repair work can keep your system going for another year, we’re ready to provide you with the help and guidance that you need.