Houston Heating, Cooling, and Electrical

When Is The Best Time To Buy A New AC Unit?

The best time to buy an air conditioner is during the “offseason,” or when the HVAC market is least active. In most cases, this means the spring or fall, when temperatures are milder.

Why isn’t the winter the best time to buy an air conditioner? In the winter, HVAC contractors are busy installing and maintaining furnaces, so there are many opportunities for contractors to package their furnace and AC services. If a contractor is already at the property servicing the furnace, why not try to sell the homeowner on a new air conditioner?

That’s how many HVAC contractors operate in the winter, but in the spring and fall, there aren’t as many people calling for help with their air conditioner or furnace. In other words, this is the time to act if you’re in the market for a new AC. With less work to go around, contractors are often more willing to negotiate lower prices or other terms.

How can I get the best price on a new air conditioner?

Price shouldn’t be the only consideration when selecting an HVAC system. The air conditioner is the most complex piece of machinery in most homes, and a poor installation can reduce its operating life by years. Choosing a cut-rate contractor may result in recurring issues with system efficiency or performance, and those issues are often more expensive to deal with than opting for a reputable contractor to begin with. It’s something to consider. Experienced HVAC contractors are rarely the cheapest option, but they are the most cost-effective option in the long run.

That said, a reputable HVAC contractor won’t change their prices too much between peak season and offseason, but there’s usually a little wiggle room to get a better deal. It often comes down to smart negotiating, and if homeowners ask the right questions, they often get the answer they want.

For example, there may be HVAC system components that you don’t need, like a new thermostat. Consider asking the contractor what the thermostat would cost to install, and then ask if the cost of the thermostat can be removed from the job. It doesn’t hurt to make the request, and during the slow season, it’s one that contractors are more willing to consider.

Consider a Service Agreement for the New Air Conditioner

The most important factor in extending your AC’s life is maintenance. Regular maintenance will catch minor issues before they become major issues, and this will often save homeowners money over time. Leaks, mechanical problems, electrical issues and airflow resistance will cause energy bills to skyrocket and wear the air conditioner out sooner. With a service agreement, homeowners don’t have to worry about how their system is performing and if it’s in good shape.

This is especially important prior to the summer, when Houston air conditioners run around the clock. With a preseason checkup, your air conditioner will be ready for the elements.

An Important Consideration Before Buying a New Air Conditioner

HVAC systems are sized according to their tonnage, which does not refer to their weight. Tonnage refers to the air conditioner’s ability to cool, ranging from 1.5 tons to 5 tons. For every additional ton, an air conditioner can cool an additional 12,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units). The science behind BTUs and air conditioning is complex but something that licensed contractors understand. The higher the number, the more cooling power the HVAC system is capable of producing.

Problems arise with buying a system that is either too small or too large. Here’s why:

  • If your air conditioner is too small – If the air conditioner is underpowered, it may struggle to keep up with the thermostat. A system that is just a bit undersized may keep the home cool, but it will have to work harder to do so, and that means higher energy bills. If the system is more than one size too small, it will have trouble keeping heat from infiltrating the home.
  • If your air conditioner is too large – A common misconception is that bigger is better when it comes to air conditioners. The problem is, an oversized system will rapidly cycle on and off, as it will cool the home extremely fast and then switch off, only to let heat back in. HVAC systems spend most of their energy cycling on and off, so an oversized system will have an oversized effect on your energy consumption.

The goal is to find that perfect medium, and a reputable contractor can help with this. Using what is known as a manual-J load calculation, the contractor determines exactly what the home’s cooling needs are. The manual-J is a complex process that takes into account everything, including the amount of heat given off by the people living in the home. Things like windows, skylights, lighting technology, amount and type of insulation, ducting and heat transfer between walls are all considered. By tallying them together, an HVAC contractor can precisely determine what tonnage you should look for in a new air conditioner.

Shopping smart is more than getting a good price on your air conditioner—it’s also about getting the most from your new AC. Pick a mild month to do your air conditioner shopping, and even if it costs a little more, consider the value a service agreement brings. If you pick the right time to buy and work with a reputable HVAC contractor to handle the install, you can get excellent value on your system now, and reap the benefits from the unit for many years.


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Phone: 281-355-9100
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