How Much Will a New Central Air Conditioning System Cost in 2019?

In the spring of 2019, a lot of people will begin wondering, “how much does a new central air conditioning system cost?”

Every January a nice letter crosses my desk from the manufacturers of all the HVAC systems we use.  They let me know the cost of their equipment will be rising again in 2019.  The cost of systems has been rising by a few hundred dollars every year.  This is a reliable fact and there is no chance of those prices going down for obvious reasons.

When it comes to replacing your air conditioning system, people seem to be driven by one of three things:  low prices, good value, or top-of-the-line gear.  When it comes to the overall price range for a new air conditioning system you should factor in a few things.

It’s a lot like buying a new car.  Some people will get the most basic thing that will get them to work, or they’ll seek out the nicer but middle-of-the-road car they’re proud to own, and it’s very reliable.  Others will look for the latest and newest smart car on the market.  In much the same way, the price for a new central air conditioning system in 2019 will run anywhere from $7,000 to $25,000.  When you bought your new car, you probably got some upgrades.  The seat warmers and self-park feature were a must!  You can get a similar variety of upgrades when choosing your new air conditioning system too, and it doesn’t have to be anything overly lavish, either.

Efficiency Ratings

In 2019, your first consideration when purchasing a new HVAC system should be the efficiency rating.   Finding a company that will give you three or four options, not just one, for your new air conditioner, is important.  You’re limiting yourself if you don’t.

In 2019 you should be seeing options from 14 SEER all the way up to 25 SEER. This SEER rating is like miles per gallon on your car.  That’s a great way to think about it, actually.  The higher the SEER rating, the better and more efficient the equipment will be.  If you chose the 14 SEER or the 25 SEER, you can expect either system to last about 15-25 years.  “Anything after 20 years,” I tell people, “and you’re on borrowed time.”  And that’s fine too because 20 years from now, you’ll probably want that next generation of central air conditioning systems for your home.

A 14 SEER system is going to cost you anywhere between $5,000 and $16,000 in California, depending on where you live and which contractor you choose.  But a lot of that has to do with the type of installation you choose for your new central air conditioning system.  Some people are DIY’ers who thrive on the challenge of replacing their home appliances themselves.  Changing an HVAC system is hard work, but it can be done.

Upgrades

The most popular upgrades after choosing your efficiency are:

  • Dividing your home into two or more “zones”
  • Smart thermostats
  • Wireless thermostats
  • Contactor containment (SureSwitch contactors)
  • Compressor start assist kits
  • Condensate flood switches
  • Air quality products
  • Virtual assistants / smart speakers (Amazon’s Alexa)
  • Insulation blown into attics
  • Whole house fans
  • Surge protectors for furnaces or air conditioners
  • Thicker air filters
  • Ductless mini-splits
  • Compressor sound blankets
  • New higher insulated ductwork

If you ask most people why they get upgrades on their newly purchased vehicle, they’ll say it’s about getting what they want the first time, so they don’t have any regrets down the road.  There’s a lot to be said for that when the time comes to buy a new central air conditioning system.

I suggest finding a contractor that not only offers you the new air conditioning system but many of these upgrades as well.  It’s not uncommon for a company to actually throw in the upgrades in their price.

An upgrade like a compressor start kit will add years of life to your system without you even knowing it.  This device cuts down the start-up time of a compressor, which increases the lifespan of your AC system by years! Wouldn’t you rather just have that on your system from the start rather than having a technician sell you that part later on down the road?  Of course, some upgrades are too costly to be “thrown in for free,” but little things like that add a lot of value to the cost of a new air conditioning system.

DIY

Some people thrive on the chance to replace their own appliances.  There’s nothing wrong with that!  Installing HVAC is not rocket science, but there are some licenses and certifications required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to safely handle the refrigerant that goes into a new HVAC system.  Some people will buy their system online for as low as $2,000 – $12,000.  Apparently, you can now buy systems and have them delivered to your door.  The purchaser installs the system according to the installation manual, and when it comes to the refrigerant lines, they’ll have a technician come in do the rest.   One word of warning:  manufacturers do not like to warranty their products when an unlicensed technician installs them.

Price-Only Shoppers – The Most Basic Systems

Some people who can’t or don’t want to install their own system will reach out to a contractor, or some guy on JohnsList where they’ll pay someone to install the system.  I know of HVAC contractors and other handymen in California who can get a basic 14 SEER system into your house for as low as $7,000, maybe even lower.  Have you ever heard that another company with more employees and a bigger shop will sell a similar system for $16,000?  In 2019 that can happen.

Value-Driven Customers Usually Pick in the Middle

When you have three or four options, the middle options will be where most buyers make their purchase.  They’re looking for something good for their home, but maybe not the absolute best on the market technology-wise.  These “middle options” were the top options years ago.  The technology has been perfected and mainstreamed into quality homes everywhere.  You will find these air conditioning systems in the price range of $10,000 to $20,000, depending on which contractor you choose.

Best of the Best

Elite customers are looking for the latest in technology and will tolerate the bumps in the road that can come with such technology.  They prefer systems that are whisper quiet and run at ultra-low amps, making their electric bills much lower!  The technology in 2019 that continues to make a splash is the inverter technology of compressors offered in new air conditioners.  Someday these will be mainstream, but for now, they come at the premium price of $15,000 to $25,000, depending on the contractor.

Depending on Your Contractor

Will they be there when it counts, down the road?  That’s a big question when it comes to the warranties on your new air conditioning system.  Those warranties won’t matter if they aren’t around to make it right for you.  These companies charge too little to keep a legitimate company going for long.

It’s a game we as contractors are always having to play to earn your business.  If we price too high you won’t take us seriously; if we price too low it only entices the price shoppers.  When you hear me say a 16 SEER system could be between $10,000 and $20,000, it’s best to find a contractor whose price lands in the middle of those two.  Your best value will land in this range.  That’s why it’s important to get different quotes when you get your new air conditioning system.  You’ll learn that the price for the same 16 SEER system will be somewhere between that 10 and 20-thousand-dollar mark.

Good luck with your upcoming purchase decision.  There are some really great products you can add to your system to enhance its value for many years.  Choose your contractor wisely; someone who is going to be there down the road; someone who has good reviews online.  It really is all about customer service.  HVAC companies should be trying to take care of you not only for the day of the install but after the install.  Maintenance and preventive cleanings are very important.

Thanks so much and we’ll see you on the next blog!

Which Inverter is the Best for my New Solar System?

What’s So Great About Microinverters?

Hello, solar enthusiasts! Have you been wondering which inverter is the best to use on your new solar project? If so then this article is for you!

What are Inverters?

You know, solar panels get all the glory, but it’s the inverters that do all the work in the solar energy system. Central string inverters that came with solar systems of the past — let’s say up until 2018 – managed the conversion of DC to AC voltage for the entire solar system. That meant if one panel went down because of shading or a mechanical issue, the entire system would stop producing.

Then microinverters were developed out of Fremont, California by a company called Enphase®. These people were working on the central string inverters for a big company until they decided to go out on their own.  They created an inverter that would convert the DC energy produced by the panel into usable AC voltage for your home. Nobody else is doing this, and the central string inverter companies were thrown for a big loop because these new inverters are also warrantied for 25 years instead of 10.

But undeniably, the best thing about Enphase® is their inverters are double insulated for proper grounding and small enough to be placed at each individual panel. Because each panel has its own inverter, if one panel goes down because of shading or a mechanical issue, all your other panels will still continue producing clean energy for you.

New, But Are They Safe?

These microinverters are UL Listed, relating to voltage and frequency, synchronization, disturbances, faults, and reconnect time. This UL Listing ensures that your grid direct system meets IEEE 1547.1-2005 which specifies the type, production, and commissioning tests that must be performed on these microinverters. On our permits, we must show that these microinverters comply with the Rapid Shutdown requirements of NEC 2014, Section 690.12. This applies to PV conductors over 10 feet from the PV array and requires that the conductors power down to 30 volts and 240 volt-amperes within 10 seconds of rapid shutdown initiation. Enphase® products do it in less than six, making your house safer during power outages.

Revolutionary

To me it’s so interesting how one company can change the composition of an entire field the way Enphase® has done with solar. The old DC inverter companies are now trying to play catch up. The way they’re duplicating Enphase® technology is by creating “DC optimizers” at each panel, which act just like a microinverter in the way that allows the rest of your solar system to work even if one or two panels go down. You’ll still have a main inverter down on the side of the house, but you’ll also have DC optimizers at each panel, mimicking Enphase’s® technology. They had to!

My territory manager, who gets me my solar parts and equipment in Sacramento, tells me his top 3 grossing solar companies all use Enphase® microinverters. DC inverters are getting dropped quickly as outdated technology. Happens all the time.

Which Inverter Does Fox Family Install?

Fox Family installs Enphase® microinverters because they are the best technology for today’s quality driven customer. You can watch our latest video on this topic, here.  The price comes out the same on the jobs, too. The industry did a good job of pricing them similarly. We also use Quickmount® PV flashings and racking. I’ll leave a link to Enphase® and Quickmount® PV in the space below if you’d like to learn more. Both companies are engineered right here in California. They are produced in China, but there isn’t one inverter company manufacturing their own inverters here in the US, unfortunately.

What’s So Great About Microinverters?

Okay, just to geek out a little bit, I wanted to point out a couple of things I really like about Enphase® microinverters. Most importantly, since they are located right at each panel, the maximum power point (MPP) of each module is tracked and sent to your monitoring app on your phone. Enphase®’s is called Enlighten. I’ll have a video out soon about Enlighten and the cool features it has, like monitoring your production. Shading only affects those modules it’s shading rather than the whole system.

Solar panels can be installed at different angles and azimuth orientations, unlike central string inverters which require all the modules in each source circuit to be at the same tilt and orientation. We’re not running high voltage DC circuits through your attic or across your rooftop. We’re running AC voltage instead.

You know how your central string inverter is probably going to go out after 10 years? If one microinverter went down before the 25 year warranty had expired, the rest of the system would keep producing.  This would lower your down time, and lower your production time. ☹

Want to See Us In Action?

If you’d like to see Fox Family installing one of our recent projects, please visit our YouTube channel and see us in action installing solar.

Thanks so much for checking us out here at Fox Family. We want you to feel good about the products we use. We only choose the products we would use on our own houses. In fact, our house is getting solar done this week.  It will be nice to finally have my own solar system running!  You can read more about Fox Family solar installations here.

We’ll see you on the next blog!

Learn more about Enphase

Learn more about QMPV

Don’t miss our blog post related to this topic:

What is a Wi-Fi Thermostat?

choosing a smart thermostat

Wi-Fi Thermostats Hit the Market in Sacramento

One of the coolest things to hit the HVAC market are Wi-Fi thermostats.  As you can imagine, these are not your normal thermostats, but at the same time, they act much like the thermostats you are already used to.  You know, like the white box the new home builders hung on your wall?  Smart thermostats, or Wi-Fi thermostats, use a wireless internet connection in your home to speak with your new Wi-Fi thermostat.  Any tablet, phone, or other smart device can link right up to a smart thermostat, too, making it very usable for everyone in the family.  A lot of these Wi-Fi thermostats have a learning feature on them that recognizes your daily routine.

Choosing a “smart thermostat” is not that hard.  You can find them in the big box hardware stores, on Amazon and other electronics retail outlets online, or at the brick and mortar stores.  Fox Family Heating, Air and Solar sells these thermostats as well if you need professional installation of your new Wi-Fi thermostat.

Choosing a Model

I tell people to find one that you like to look at first.  I personally love the look of the Honeywell 9000 Wi-Fi thermostat.  It’s got a vivid color display, with big numbers so you can see them clearly.  It also shows you the indoor temperature and humidity levels in the home as well as outside, using your local internet weather station.  Consumer Reports rated it the easiest to understand and use when out and about.

In a recent storm, we lost power.  Of course, the thermostat shut down too, right?  Later, when the lights came back on, the thermostat picked right back where it left off when the power went out.  That’s really convenient to not have to reprogram everything in the thermostat in situations like that.

Smart Technology

My favorite thing about a smart or Wi-Fi thermostat is that you can use it with your smart phone from wherever you are in the world, as long as there is a Wi-Fi or phone signal around.  When you’re in bed and it’s too chilly, grab your phone and adjust the temperature if you want to.  If you are leaving work and your home is 80° inside during the summer, just grab your phone and set it to 75° so it will be nice and cool for you when you get home.  That’s so convenient, isn’t it? — programming the schedule so the thermostat knows your routine, as you like it, not the thermostat’s understanding of your schedule.  For practical reasons, still, I like to be able to set up the days of the week and let it know what time I wake up, go to work, come home from work, and when I go to bed.

There are several other models on the market that also utilize wireless technology.  Some of my favorite Wi-Fi thermostats, based on aesthetics and operation, are:

  1. Honeywell 9000 Wi-Fi
  2. Honeywell IAQ Wi-Fi
  3. Ecobee 3 Lite
  4. Nest Thermostat
  5. Emerson Sensi

White Rogers, Lux, Braeburn, and Aprilaire are other suggestions for top name brand Wi-Fi thermostats.

Cost Savings: What to Expect

A lot of people think they will save a lot of money using their new Wi-Fi thermostat, but it realistically won’t save that much money.  I say this because so many people who have regular thermostats already use the programmed schedule on it.   Smart thermostats will cost more money than regular thermostats just because the technology is a little more advanced.  I would say today, in 2019, you can find a Wi-Fi thermostat for anywhere from $100 to $250.  Nest and Honeywell make up those more expensive ones, whereas lesser know names like Emerson Sensi and Lux Wi-Fi thermostats can sell it at a lower price.  Lower price is great of course, but I truly believe the display on the Honeywell 9000 has the best screen of them all, AND you can change the colors on the backscreen to match the color of your home’s interior or get crazy and light it up with fluorescent colors!  Totally fun!

Installation

Now that you know what a Wi-Fi thermostat is, maybe go out to the big box stores and check a few of them out.  Now, installing those thermostats is another topic.  But I will say this about installing these.  The majority of the problems that come with the installation of the new thermostat involve the common wire not being hooked up to the control board at the furnace and running to the C terminal on the base of the Wi-Fi thermostat, where it mounts on the wall.  Check out my video on YouTube where we discuss this common wire situation.

Professional Installation Services

I hope you get your Wi-Fi thermostat soon!  If you need any help installing yours in the Sacramento area or you can’t figure out the common wire issue, give us a call and we’ll help finish installing it for you.  Our phone number at Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar is 916-877-1577.  Thanks so much for reading this today and as always, stay here for more excellent HVAC and solar content.

 

Don’t miss our video related to this topic:

My Thoughts on the Honeywell 9000 Thermostat