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Summer 2014

How you can save money by going with a higher–efficiency AC unit

As you begin to tune up your AC unit to get it ready for the summer heat, you may consider upgrading. The cost–effectiveness and energy efficiency of your total cooling system depends upon a lot of factors: ductwork, insulation, the layout of your home and property, including even such things as which part of your house endures the sun’s rays the longest. But, your savings in large part comes down to how efficient your air conditioning unit is.

The SEER rating is a number given to every manufactured AC system available on the market. The higher the rating, the higher the efficiency. Upgrading to an AC unit with a high SEER rating may save you money in the long run.

One of the most high–efficiency units on the market today is known as the ductless mini split air conditioner. As its name suggests, it uses no ductwork. Like central systems that use forced air through ductwork, mini splits have two primary parts: an outdoor compressor/condenser and the individual units that act as an indoor air handler. They are connected by a conduit that is installed behind the walls. They are not only known for their high–efficiency, but also for their small size and flexibility. By controlling your cooling through the use of zones, you can customize your living spaces; each zone has its own thermostat. They are also often easier to install than other conventional systems because they generally require only a 3–inch hole for the conduit. This can be especially useful when retrofitting older systems, or deciding about whether or not to install ductwork.

But even if you’d like to stick to conventional central air, there are many upgrade options. You can, for example, choose to replace only the outdoor compressor; although you should keep in mind that your system needs to be matched by an AC professional. Proper sizing and installation are also key aspects of upgrading to a high–efficiency system.

Whatever your reason of upgrading: whether to save money, help reduce your carbon footprint, or because you want better performance, your local professional technician can help you make the right decision. 

Unlicensed Contractors, and Why You Should Avoid Them

An unlicensed contractor is someone who performs work without state certification. It can be dangerous and costly. Choosing a licensed contractor can keep give you the peace of mind that the work will be performed with quality in mind. After all, the licensed contractor seeks to further his good reputation. Happy customers means good business.

Every state has a different set of requirements for contractor eligibility, but they all share a few key components. Reviewing these will give you a sense of the legal process that licensed contractors must undergo to perform state–certified home improvement services.

  • At least 18 years old with a high school diploma or equivalent education
  • U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • Other occupational license documentations must be shared
  • Explanation of citations, violations or liens resulting from construction work

Additionally, many states require that applicants take a written examination in their field of practice. Applicants may have to prove that they are financially viable to properly operate a business, they have on–the–job experience, and may also be asked to supply letters of reference from previous employers, customers, and bankers.

If you’re unsure about your contractor, take heed of the following signs:

  • Door–to–door solicitation with lofty claims of service.
  • Feeling rushed: if you sense that your contractor is being aggressive or pushy.
  • Some states make it a requirement that all certified contractors need to publish their license number on their vehicles, estimates and advertising. If your state requires this and you don’t see it, that may be a sign of evasion.
  • If your contractor asks for the total fee upfront or a large percentage in advance.

If you suspect that your contractor is not exactly telling you the truth about his licensing, ask to see a physical copy, and feel free to contact your state licensing board to look up any available background information. The board is not only there to provide reference, but also to help you resolve disputes and conflicts between you and your contractor—if you negotiate with an unlicensed contractor, you are on your own.