According to private industry meetings with multiple HVAC manufacturers, about 85-90% of residential HVAC (heating, ventilation, and cooling) replacements are emergencies. This strongly correlates with our boots on the ground experience.
Failures usually happen on a hot or cold day when the stressed out system finally fails.
This makes sense because buying a new furnace or air conditioner is one of the least sexy ways to spend money, yet it’s one of the most expensive purchases we make behind our homes and our cars. It’s also a big missed opportunity as we’ll see in a minute.
Naturally, when hit with a large unexpected expense, we seek to minimize it. Remember that 85-90% figure? Statistics are hard to come by, but about 85-90% of residential HVAC systems are basic or mid efficiency units.
VCHP = Variable Capacity Heat Pump
The Bonneville Power Administration in the Pacific Northwest laboriously tracked residential HVAC equipment sales and found that only 13-15% of HVAC purchases were variable capacity equipment.
Could those two 85-90% numbers be related? We sure think so.
An Expensive Missed Opportunity
Buying basic equipment is a major missed opportunity, because better systems can provide remarkably better comfort and indoor air quality. In the HVAC 2.0 Contractor Network, we consistently hear from clients how amazing their house feels now vs with the old HVAC system.
One of my clients commented to me that “you put invisible radiators all over my home!” She couldn’t believe how much more comfortable her home was after switching from an oversized single speed furnace to a variable capacity heat pump with a good installation. We call the system we installed for her "Nearly Perfect HVAC." There are more things you can do still but it's nearly perfect, and typically far beyond client expectations.
If you’re buying a new HVAC system, getting these benefits doesn’t cost what the great system does, it only costs the difference between the basic and the great system.
If you choose poorly and buy a basic system, only to be disappointed by the results, the only way to upgrade is to replace the system again, throwing out the recently bought system.
That may sound hyperbolic, but we see it quite frequently in the HVAC 2.0 Contractor Network, and it’s painful for all involved. We’d much rather help clients make better decisions up front.
Car HVAC vs Home HVAC
So what gets better? The easiest way to understand the opportunity is to think about the heating and cooling system in our cars, which is pretty amazing, they tackle 5 of the 6 Functions of HVAC:
Getting These Isn’t That Hard
There are many home HVAC systems that can provide those capabilities, it’s simply a matter of choosing the right equipment and install for your home and situation.
3 of the 6 functions are directly related to what system you choose, the other 3 are related to the install itself. Here’s a look at what it takes to get the 6 functions.
A hybrid is a furnace plus a heat pump rather than a furnace plus an air conditioner. They give you more and lower stages of heat to provide better comfort. A heat pump is what we jokingly call a "bisexual air conditioner" - it can cool and heat, it goes both ways.
Check out the various equipment and install options below, you can pick and choose what’s important to you, but now you'll have a better idea of how to get your home HVAC to be as awesome as it is in your car!
Middle of the Road Buys a Lot!
Note that going with midrange equipment, a better filter and a fresh air duct get you most of the benefits for marginally more than a basic system.
We call the top of the line system Nearly Perfect HVAC - we find it does an excellent job providing good comfort and air quality. Not always perfect as the house may need some insulation and air sealing work, or another piece of equipment may be needed for perfection, but enough so that our clients almost invariably say "I can't believe this is the same house!"
If you’re facing an emergency install, ask your HVAC installer about these items, or if you’re lucky enough to have one near you, your HVAC 2.0 contractor will help you with these as a matter of course.
I hope this has been helpful to you, and please don't miss the opportunity to make your home much more comfortable and healthy!
Nate Adams is fiercely determined to get feedback on every project to learn more about what works and what doesn't. This blog shows that learning process.