Whether you are building a new home or in the market to replace an existing HVAC system, it’s always good to go into the process armed with the knowledge of installation costs and other features. We have advice from our resident HVAC expert, Keith Hill, manager of technical support at Minnesota Air, to help you learn about all the factors that can influence your HVAC installation cost.
Quality Of Equipment
When you first think of an HVAC system, it’s important to remember that although you may want to compare it the way you do other appliances, an HVAC system is made up of multiple components that work together, and you, with the help of a pro to tell you what will work best, get to pick each piece along the way. It’s not a one-size-fits-all choice to make. It comes down to what kind of system your climate, house size, health needs, energy efficiency preference, and pocket book need.
“The furnace and air conditioner are both primary components of a larger system with a distribution system (ductwork, registers, and grilles), an electrical control system (thermostat, humidistat, and other controls), venting system for the furnace (chimney, B-vent or PVC piping), and other ancillary but necessary components,” says Keith. “Then there are the optional accessories like humidifiers, air cleaners, UV lamps, dehumidifiers, etc., and the associated components and controls to the system."
Keith reminds homeowners that all of those above-mentioned components are available in good, better, and best options. So the price point can vary by quality, brand, and efficiency. With all of that in mind, you can see why it’s not as easy to compare as it is when you are in the market for a new refrigerator or dishwasher.
“Even within one category, say high-efficiency furnaces, there are options such as staged or modulating heat, high performance, and variable speed airflow, and warranty options,” he says.
Do You Need To Replace Ductwork?
Another factor in your HVAC installation cost is whether you need to replace the ductwork, vents, or grilles of your system – or, as Keith calls it – the distribution system.
“Installing new equipment into existing ductwork requires some alterations, some more extensive than others. If your system is installed in a closet or a “tight” mechanical room, it may limit your options and drive the labor cost up,” he says.
For example, Keith says that if you are upgrading from a 60-80 percent efficient furnace with metal venting (aka. chimney) to a 90+ furnace with PVC venting, there will be costs associated with the new vent system and possibly with the existing metal vent. The metal vent may need to be modified if you continue to use it for a water heater.
“High-efficiency furnaces cannot be ‘common vented’ with water heaters, and if the existing metal vent is too big, it may not work properly with just the water heater,” he says. “In many instances, the existing vent or chimney will need to be lined with a smaller pipe to insure proper operation – it’s a code mandate that your HVAC Pro will handle.”
Add-On Options: Do You Want All The Bells And Whistles?
Next, add-ons that we briefly mentioned above can really improve the comfort options on your whole HVAC system, but also tack on more costs to the installation. These add-ons are things like humidifiers/dehumidifiers, air cleaners, UV lamps, etc. They can make sure your whole house has the right balance of moisture, clean the tiniest pollutants and particles in your air, and sterilize your duct system parts. But, they are optional, so you need to weigh all the costs when deciding if you want to buy them or not.
“A humidifier requires electrical, water supply piping, and duct connections which may add 2 or 3 hours to the installation. Air cleaners can add from a half-hour for a basic media type filter upgrade to 2 hours for an electronic air cleaner with additional time for both ductwork and electrical hookups,” says Keith. “UV lamps are one of the quicker add-ons with usually only 45 minutes to one hour for installation.”
However, he says that if you have built a new home “with a clean slate,” getting all the upgrades is usually less costly because the contractor has an unfinished, open area to work in and accessories that need ductwork or modifications go much quicker.
Last, but certainly not least, is the cost associated with the labor behind installing the system. We’ve mentioned the time it takes to install some options, but you also should know that in most cases you get what you pay for. Don’t always go for whoever gives you the lowest bid. Is the company reputable? Do they have a long history of satisfied customers? Are they certified and insured to do the work? There are lots of factors you need to remember when hiring a company or contractor to get the job done. (Here is a quick cheat sheet with the things you need to know when hiring a pro.)
Once you’re armed with all the factors that can change the price of your HVAC installation, you’ll be more confident in knowing what you need, what you want, and what you can do without. And, if you still have questions, know that you can always call the experts at StayComfy Heating and Air Conditioning to lend you a helping hand.