What Goes Into an HVAC Installation Estimate?

The cost of replacing commercial or residential AC and heating systems can vary depending on a number of factors. Homeowners due for a replacement can get a rough idea of how much the new equipment will set them back by checking prices for their old units. However, getting an upgrade often means mixing and matching different brands and types of equipment, which could render your initial estimate practically useless. Additionally, if you’re considering redoing the entire duct network, you can expect the final total to be much higher.

Understanding the things that can affect your HVAC estimate can help you make better decisions when replacing your heating and cooling units. Familiarizing yourself with the common technical terms often found in detailed estimates and quotes is also beneficial for getting the most out of your HVAC installation or replacement.Here our heating and cooling experts at Above Air Inc. show you the ins and outs of HVAC estimates and give you a leg up on your HVAC replacement project.

Estimates vs. Quotes

In a recent survey by remodeling magazine Modernize, over 63% of homeowners who are planning to replace their HVAC system compare quotes from three or four different  contractors before settling on one. This is an essential step in helping you get the most value out of your brand-new AC or heater. However, not all quotes and estimates are created equal. In fact, in some cases you might not be receiving a quote at all. Some companies will provide estimates, quotes or even bids to help you understand just how much the whole replacement will set you back.

An estimate is perhaps the most straightforward out of all three types of pre-installation documents. Estimates are a rough projection made by the contractor of all the costs involved in installing a new HVAC system in your home. Estimates are determined by historical costs as well as experience, but this may not be the total that’s finalized when the installation is complete. The final costs are usually within 10% to 15% of the initial estimate, depending on the scale of the job.

On the other hand, bids and quotes are more accurate itemized listings of everything that will go into your HVAC replacement. This includes the price for all the units and materials that will be used in the installation. They’ll also outline how much labor will cost for the whole project. Unlike estimates, quotes and bids become a contract once they’re signed. As such, you’re much less likely to see additional charges once your brand-new HVAC system is in place.

How HVAC Quotes Vary

When replacing a residential or commercial AC system, it’s not unreasonable to assume that your new unit will be around the same size as the old one. However, this shouldn’t be used as a definitive way to determine how much your HVAC installation quote will be. Homeowners might also assume that the cost for replacement units, as long as they’re not making any major upgrades, should remain within the same range as the original price. However, like any home improvements, HVAC installation technologies, labor costs and unit prices can change yearly. This means it’s important to get updated quotes when your heating and air conditioning units are due for a replacement.

Some unscrupulous HVAC companies might try to entice potential customers by offering bids and quotes that are substantially lower than industry standards. This is a common tactic employed by scammers and should be taken as a red flag.

Factors Affecting HVAC Costs

There are many things contractors consider when writing up an estimate for an HVAC replacement project. The top five biggest factors that determine quote totals are your location and climate, the condition of your ductwork, the condition of the home where the units will be installed, the features and energy efficiency ratings of your new HVAC equipment and the individual pricing of different brands by their manufacturers.

Your Climate & Location

The climate where your home is located will determine whether your replacement equipment will focus on cooling or give more emphasis to heating. Either scenario will affect your choice of equipment, which in turn helps determine the cost of your installation.

Ductwork Replacement

Homes with an existing centralized air conditioning system will already have ducts and vents in place. These help channel cool or warm air throughout your house, facilitating temperature changes between rooms. When replacing your HVAC equipment, it’s sometimes necessary to make repairs to your ducts or, for older homes, to perform a complete overhaul of the entire network. This will carry additional costs on top of the price of your new heating and cooling units.

HVAC Performance & Your Home

The condition of your home also plays a role in determining HVAC installation costs. Larger homes will require high-capacity units to cool the house sufficiently. Homes with existing energy-efficient features such as a well-ventilated attic,  sealed windows and doors, siding with high R-values and proper insulation will also affect how much cooling you’ll need.

The Type of HVAC Unit

When it comes to heating and cooling, you’re likely to get what you pay for. High-end HVAC units usually come with a plethora of features and energy-saving benefits that more than make up for their cost. Experts recommend actually investing in these types of equipment, as the savings you can achieve in terms of energy consumption typically outweigh the increase in pricing.

Hidden Costs of HVAC Replacement

Estimates sometimes don’t fully reflect what the actual cost of your units and their installation will be. The most common fees and charges you’ll see tacked on to your estimate are usually brought about by unforeseen challenges that arise during the installation. It’s best to bring this up during your initial consultation with your contractor so you can better prepare for the project.

  • Depending on the local codes and regulations, installing HVAC equipment might require special permits and other important building documentation. These will often have a cost associated with them, which your contractor will include in the final pricing of the replacement.
  • Older homes might have dangerous areas that must be addressed before any work can be done. These typically include asbestos or lead paint, so the area must be tested and any affected materials removed prior to installation. Subsequently, this will also present some additional costs for you.
  • Any work that requires modifications to your existing electrical or plumbing system, or remodeling certain parts of your home to accommodate your new HVAC unit, will also result in additional costs.

Lower Bids for HVAC Installation

Some HVAC repair and replacement companies will often sacrifice certain parts of a project to present you with a much lower cost. This could mean that they forego proper insurance, which can leave you liable in the event of accidents or injury. Temptingly-low offers can also be a sign that a contractor is desperate to close a deal. These people should be avoided as much as possible.

At Above Air Inc., our professionals can help you find the best HVAC solution for your next replacement project. Give us a call at (954) 341-0816 (for Broward) or (561) 488-0832 (for Palm Beach) to schedule an assessment and get started on upgrading your heating and cooling system. You can also fill out our contact form to request a free estimate on new HVAC installations today.