NYC Metro Area’s HVACR Blog

Commercial Air Conditioning, Commercial HVAC, Preventive Maintenance Agreements

HVAC Questions to Ask a Service Provider (and Answers You Should Hear)

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Last Updated on January 15, 2020


hvac questions

Do you trust your contractor to honestly answer your HVAC questions?

When you’re considering hiring a new HVAC service provider to install a new unit, do preventative maintenance, or fix broken equipment, we know you have questions. Over the years, we have figured out the HVAC questions people are thinking but feel uncomfortable asking. That may be because you don’t think you’ll get an truthful answer from a provider who just wants to sell you services.

So today we’re going to give you the honest answers those tough HVAC questions. Arista is the largest HVAC service provider in the NYC metro area, and we’ve been doing this for more than 60 years, so we have a lot of data to inform what we’re telling you. And go ahead… ask your provider these questions and see if you get the same answer.

Reliable answers to the top 5 HVAC questions you’re wondering about

1. How long can I expect my new air conditioner to last?

Most light commercial systems are built to last 15 to 20 years. However, there are a number of conditions that can shorten this life expectancy. When outdoor and rooftop units are exposed to smog and salt air, as they are in NYC, corrosion and buildup of debris can cause damage to parts. The same goes for exposure to corrosive chemicals as often happens in manufacturing plants.

Neglect is probably the most common cause of an air conditioner’s early demise. Your system needs to be regularly cleaned and maintained in order to get the maximum life expectancy. That means at least twice per year (once before start-up in the spring and once after system shut-down in the fall) you need to call in a certified HVAC professional to thoroughly clean and tune up your air conditioner. Having a yearly maintenance contract means you’ll get reminders, and the best price.

Learn more about the conditions that shorten the life of your air conditioner: How Long Should an Air Conditioner Last?

2. Does spending the money on regular maintenance really pay off?

As I mentioned, Arista maintains and repairs many thousands of HVAC systems every year (sometimes every month in the busy season!) so this answer is based on a great deal of experience. I can promise you, our customers with preventative maintenance contracts, whose equipment is well cared for, experience few breakdowns and costly repairs than those who neglect cleaning, tuneups, and replacing worn parts. Besides saving money on repairs, preventative maintenance also helps your equipment last longer.

And, it can even help you save money on energy bills. When debris and deposits build up on the air conditioner’s coils, fan blades and other parts, the metal corrodes, leading to refrigerant leaks and eventually, system failure. It also creates a drain on the system, forcing it to run constantly in order to keep the space cool and using more electricity in the process. Cleaning the unit regularly ensures that it runs at optimal efficiency and keeps the parts in good condition so they last longer.

Learn more about how regular maintenance saves you money: Air Conditioning Maintenance Doesn’t Cost. It Pays.

3. Can’t I have my maintenance staff do HVAC cleaning?

In some cases you can. Especially if your air conditioner is under heavy load, having your cleaning crew periodically dust the coils and remove debris around the unit is a great idea. Make sure they don’t use water around the electrical components!

However, you still need to have the system cleaned at least twice a year by a professional. We use special chemical cleaners to remove scale and buildup, and we clean parts that are dangerous for untrained maintenance staff to handle, such as the fan blade. We keep drain lines clear and empty drip pans to prevent mold growth. Certified HVAC techs check electrical connections, refrigerant charge, and also inspect the entire system for worn parts and any signs of impending trouble. You don’t want your cleaning staff handling these tasks.

4. My air conditioning unit has broken down again! Is it worth repairing or am I better off replacing it?

The answer depends on a number of factors:

  • How old is the unit? If it’s more than 10 years old, and especially if it has a history of problems, it may be more cost-effective to replace it.
  • Has it been well maintained? If the unit has been regularly cleaned and tuned up, and the parts are in good condition, it’s much more likely that you can keep it going longer.
  • What’s broken? If the problem is the compressor or leaky coils, it’s probably too expensive to repair it. On the other hand, if it’s an electrical problem, it may be a simple and inexpensive fix.
  • Does the unit use the old R22 refrigerant (Freon) that’s now phased out by the EPA? If so, you may need to replace it soon anyway.
Repair-vs-Replace CTA

5. My electric bill skyrockets every summer when the air conditioner is running. How can I reduce this expense?

There are many ways to substantially improve the energy efficiency of your air conditioner, including changing the filters, keeping up with preventative maintenance such as cleaning the coils and fan blades, and using a programmable thermostat. You can also save more than you might expect simply by adjusting the temperature by just a few degrees, especially during times when building occupation is reduced.

You can save even more by replacing an older system with a new ENERGY STAR model. A new unit uses so much less electricity that it can pay for itself in energy savings in a surprisingly short period of time. You can calculate how much you’ll save if you know the SEER rating of your current system. If the SEER rating is 8 to 10 (considered efficient 10 to 15 years ago), a new model with a SEER of 18 can save you as much as 50% on your energy bills.

For more tips, check out this article: Top 11 Ways to Get Better HVAC Energy Efficiency

The new way to find a trustworthy HVAC service provider

How exactly do you know you can trust your HVAC service provider? It’s pretty difficult to know that before you work with someone for a while. Well, what if you didn’t have to rely on trust? What if your service provider could provide evidence by showing you exactly what they are doing during maintenance and repair visits?

Here at Arista, we have been doing exactly that by recording video of our service calls, which we share with customers after the visit. Doing that makes it easy for customers to understand the issues we’re explaining to them, and easy for larger commercial customers to keep up with the work being done at multiple locations. Our customers love it.

Sound interesting? Read this to learn more: The Evidence-Based Approach to Choosing an HVAC Company