What to Know Before Buying a New HVAC System

Whether you’re a new homeowner buying your first HVAC system or a seasoned homeowner, there are many important things to know before installing a new HVAC system. When choosing a new furnace, heat pump, and/or air conditioning system, it’s important to hire a professional with years of experience and good reviews.

In addition to engineering modifications to existing mechanical systems, your HVAC contractor will be able to help you select the best system for your home, taking into account the size and characteristic of your home, as well as comfort and budget concerns.

If you are installing a brand-new HVAC system or wondering if it makes more sense to repair or replace, read the information we have online and speak with one of our experts before making a decision.

1. Heating Size, Capacity, and Type

One of the first things you should check is the heating and cooling capacity of your new HVAC system. Ask the HVAC technician about the reviews of the system and whether they meet the minimum requirements and are properly sized.

Heating system capacity is measured by BTU (British Thermal Unit), which is equal to the amount of heat needed to raise a pound of water by 1-degree F. While input capacity measures the amount of gas burned (not taking into account losses due to combustion), output capacity is how much usable heat is generated. When looking at BTU ratings, make sure you know whether it is input or output. Newer units have smaller input BTU rating since they are more efficient at generating more heat and thus more BTU output. Generally, the higher the BTU rating, the greater the heating capacity.

Additionally, cubic feet per minute (CFM), how many cubic feet of air can pass by a fixed point per minute, is essential for choosing the right capacity for your HVAC system.

Luckily, choosing the right size, capacity, and type of HVAC system is left up to your HVAC contractor. Complicated measurements are used, such as ACCA’s Manual J requirements for properly sizing a unit. Too big and you’ll waste a lot of money and energy; too small, and you’ll overwork your system without ever feeling completely comfortable.

If your HVAC contractor tries to size your new HVAC system based on square footage alone, they are doing it wrong. Make sure your HVAC technician fully inspects the home prior to sizing a new system. They should never simply replace the existing system with a similarly sized one.

2. Cooling Size, Capacity, and Type

Check the capacity of your new air conditioner before purchase so that you can choose the best air conditioner for your home. Instead of British Thermal Unit (BTU), air conditioners’ cooling capacity is measured by Ton.

1 Ton is equal to about 12,000 British Thermal Unit Per Hour (BTUh). Learn why air conditioner capacity is measured in tons here.

As with your heating systems, it’s important to choose cooling capacity based on the size and needs of your home. By consulting with a licensed and experienced technician, you can choose an air conditioner to provide the right amount of cooling in all areas of your home.

3. Energy Efficiency


Heaters and air conditioners consume a significant amount of energy. In fact, around half of our home’s energy use goes toward heating and cooling our home (U.S. Dept. of Energy).

Therefore, it’s important to check the energy consumption of your new HVAC system before purchase. This will help you to save energy and money across your home.

A furnace’s heating efficiency is measured by its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). The higher the AFUE number, the more efficient the furnace.

An air conditioner, on the other hand, uses Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) to measure its energy efficiency. The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the air conditioner.

Heat pumps use a rating very similar to SEER, called the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF). This number measures the heating portion of the heat pump. Again, the higher the HSPF number, the more efficient the unit.

In order for your new HVAC system to reach the optimum efficiency printed on its Energy Guide Label, a professional contractor will need to properly install it. The energy efficiency ratings mean very little if the unit is improperly installed. Learn more about the various ratings for different HVAC systems.

4. Check Noise Levels

Make sure your new HVAC system isn’t creating unnecessary disturbances around your house. Although the HVAC industry has made great strides to reduce HVAC operating sound, check the noise levels of the system before you make a decision. Ask the manufacturer and your installer about noise levels, measured in decibels (db). Look for systems that are under 60 db.

5. Maintenance and Indoor Air Quality

The maintenance of the heaters and air conditioners is crucial for them to work properly for a long period of time. Before you install a new HVAC system, keep in mind that you will need to regularly maintain the unit to keep your manufacturer’s warranties in effect. Neglecting regular maintenance will void almost all system warranties. Consider signing up for an HVAC maintenance plan. And don’t forget to change your air filter every 30-60 days!

Additionally, if indoor air quality (IAQ) is a problem in your home, ask your technician about effective ways to improve the air quality. Various IAQ solutions are available, such as thicker air filters, air purification systems, humidification control, and ventilation products. Discuss your IAQ concerns with your contractor before any work begins.

How Much Does a New HVAC System Cost?

The best way to find out how much a new heating and/or cooling system will cost is to call a professional HVAC company. They will be able to send a technician to your home and provide an estimate. We recommend obtaining several estimates and inquire about installation guidelines, certifications, warranties, insurance, and more.

Your new HVAC unit requires engineering and working with components of the older system, such as ductwork, wiring, ventilation, and controls. It’s important to hire an experienced HVAC company to make sure everything works in concert.

While it would be impossible to give you an estimate without inspecting your home and current system, you can expect to pay somewhere between $2,500 and $14,000, however this is contingent on many factors. Learn more about HVAC costs.

By taking all of this into account, you will be extremely happy with your new HVAC system and the comfort it provides.

Contact Service Champions to help pick the right heating and cooling unit for your California home. We also offer annual maintenance plans and full-service maintenance and repairs.

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