Air Conditioner Buyers: Are you a lowest cost or a lowest total cost buyer?

As we move further into air conditioning season we receive many calls from people looking to have a new air conditioner installed. We usually try to determine what kind of buyer we are talking to. Although most people think they’re a lowest cost buyer, once they answer a few questions they usually admit that what they are interested in is lowest total cost. The difference between the two is that the first one only includes what it costs to have the unit installed while the lowest total cost includes maintenance costs, efficiency and how long the unit will last.

The difference between the lowest installation cost solution and the lowest total cost solution is usually around $500. While there is no doubt this money can come in handy in the short term, what people don’t realize is that by choosing the lowest installation cost, they are also choosing higher costs for the rest of the air conditioner’s life. The actual difference can be easily over $2000!

First, some brands are made more reliable than others. While everyone understands that, what is not quite as clear as how much choosing one brand can cost you over the life of the air conditioner. The difference between the most reliable brand (American Standard) and the most popular brands in this area (Lennox and Carrier)is around 3 repairs in its lifetime, while the difference between the best and the least reliable is 9! At $200 per service call this represents a savings of $600 to $1800 over its life.

Second, take a close look at the warranty. Some units are sold with 10 year parts and labour, while others are just sold with 10 year parts. At $120 (labour only) per service call, it only takes 5 hours of service over the air conditioner’s life to cover the difference!

Third, be sure you look at efficiency. While extremely efficient units (high SEER ratings) can be quite expensive for the short cooling season we have in SW Ontario, keep in mind that air conditioning uses electricity to operate – so its not a great idea to only look at minimum efficiency units. Remember, we have been told repeatedly that hydro rates are going up – the more efficient your unit is the smaller your hydro bill. Going from 13 to 14.5 SEER can save you more than $70 per year. Since most people stay in their homes an average of 7 years, this equates to another $500!

Finally, we know what a pain buying a new air conditioner can be – so buy one that will last (and maintain it so it does). We’ve seen a properly maintained unit easily last 15 – 20 years (with $45 annual tune – ups) vs a neglected unit that might only get 5-7 years (at peak efficiency). Save yourself the additional $2500 outlay; buy a reliable unit with a 10 year parts and labour warranty, maintain it properly and end up with over $2000 in your jeans!

By Peter Wagner

If you have any questions, concerns or require additional information please feel free to contact us at any of the sources provided., 519.772.2010, Twitter @HoggMechanical, Facebook Hogg Heating & Air Conditioning

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