Homeowners Beware When Choosing a Heating and Cooling Contractor

| by Ken Summers
Homeowners Beware When Choosing a Heating and Cooling Contractor

Homeowners should be very careful before choosing a heating and cooling contractor for their home. There are huge differences in quality and professionalism throughout the industry. The "best" contractors will typically be members of one or more professional contractor associations. You should be looking for contractors who are well-educated and certified in some particular areas:

Heating and Cooling - Service & Installation

While this may seem obvious, not all service and installation contractors are created equal. There are organizations that provide certification programs for technicians. One of which is The Building Performance Institute (BPI). BPI offers many types of certifications and is the nation's premier credentialing, quality assurance and standards setting organization for home performance professionals.

When considering which contractor to call, looking for companies with BPI certified professionals is a smart and safe approach. BPI certifications ensure that you are dealing with high quality, well trained heating and cooling professionals.

According to BPI's website,"For many homeowners and tenants, energy bills account for far too much of the monthly budget. These homes suffer from performance problems ranging from inflated energy consumption to poor thermal comfort to indoor air quality problems. These are problems that regular contractors or even the best DIY homeowner cannot solve. BPI GoldStar Contractors conduct a comprehensive energy audit to find problems, then prescribe and prioritize improvements that make your home’s system function at its best. Our goal is to help improve the comfort, health, safety, durability and energy efficiency of America’s existing homes."
Another organization dedicated to the education and training of heating and cooling contractors is the Comfort Institute. Comfort Institute is an organization of contractors who are committed to going "beyond the box" in the area of building science. Almost all members are also BPI certified. If you select a Comfort Institute Member, you are selecting a contractor who has been trained by the most experienced experts in the industry in the area of home performance.

Duct Performance & Home Performance

The two additional areas your contractor should be well educated in are duct performance and home performance. This is where the Comfort Institute Members and GoldStar BPI contractors excel and the rest of the contractors get left behind. Your comfort, indoor air quality and system efficiency will suffer if all three areas are not addressed.

This is commonly referred two as the "three-legged stool approach." The three legs are:

  1. The furnace and air conditioning
  2. The duct system
  3. The house itself

Earlier this year, the federal government’s ENERGY STAR program was revamped to embrace this whole-system approach to HVAC efficiency. For years, residential ENERGY STAR ratings were given primarily for products that met specific efficiency guidelines. Problem is, that unless that equipment is installed properly and is connected to a properly functioning duct system, it won’t provide nearly the efficiency that is promised on the outside of the box.

To address this concern, ENERGY STAR recently announced its Energy Verified HVAC Installation (ESVI) program. Now, for a home to be ENERGY STAR certified, that ENERGY STAR-rated furnace or air conditioner must be installed properly and verified to be offering real efficiency. That means your HVAC professional will need to be up on the latest “best practices” and work with an independent third-party verification group that will give final approval for ENERGY STAR certification.

To find a qualified ESVI-ready professional, visit the ESVI section of the ENERGY STAR website and click on the “Find A Local Program” button for more information.

Another option for ensuring your HVAC professional is qualified in the whole-system approach to efficiency, is to look to see if they are a Comfort Institute member. Comfort Institute has been training HVAC pros for more than a decade in the whole-system approach to efficiency and has been one of the industry’s strongest advocates for this effective approach to installation and system maintenance.

Finding a contractor that can sell you a new furnace or air conditioner is easy. Ensuring that he can install and maintain that system for maximum comfort and energy efficiency requires an entirely higher level of skill and mechanical understanding. The extra effort you may need to take to find the right professional will go along way in ensuring you home is as comfortable, healthy and energy efficient as possible.

This blog was developed by Aeroseal. All posts, sponsored and un-sponsored have been reviewed and approved by the Sustainable Community Media Editorial Team to ensure quality, relevance/usefulness and objectivity.

Topics: Heating & Cooling, Indoor Air Quality, Ventilation

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