Completing a full HVAC upgrade is an effective way to improve energy efficiency in both commercial and residential settings. With heating and cooling systems accounting for approximately 25 percent of a building’s energy use, an overhaul can significantly reduce utility costs and lower carbon dioxide emissions.
While it is possible to replace air conditioning and heating systems one part at a time, most energy solutions professionals advise against it. Looking at the larger picture is often more cost-effective in the long term and provides maximum returns on the investment. For example, the replacement of a residential air conditioning unit can certainly be achieved independently of other components, but without a proper fit and efficient ventilation to go along with it, the equipment’s life span may be reduced, and the homeowner is unable to cash in on the maximum financial benefit a full HVAC upgrade can offer.
HVAC components work in tandem and a complete system overhaul is often the preferred way to achieve superior energy efficiency. Proper insulation and air duct sealing further reduce a building’s heating and cooling load and helps the HVAC system reach top performance levels that translate into utility cost savings.
Performing an HVAC upgrade is an involved process that can take as little as two days or several days, depending on project size, possible complications, and contractor availability. Commercial work, especially at large facilities, usually takes longer than residential upgrades. In either case, contractors will need admittance to both the interior and exterior of the building to access air conditioning and heating units, as well as air ducts and filters.
The acquisition and installation cost associated with an HVAC upgrade fluctuates widely. Residential upgrades are less expensive than their commercial counterparts. Some of the factors that determine price include:
• Heating and cooling equipment purchase: Size, type and manufacturer/brand all figure into the acquisition cost of a furnace, boiler, air conditioning unit or chiller.
• Labor: The cost of labor is perhaps the biggest variable as hourly rates are established by the individual contractor. Some charge less per hour than others. Labor cost also depends on the complexity of the project and time needed to complete the work.
• Duct work: If new duct work is necessary, or existing duct work must be sealed or replaced, the cost of the project increases.
• Asbestos: In very old homes or facilities where asbestos insulation is present, the price can skyrocket. Because inhalation of asbestos fibers can result in devastating health problems, its removal alone can cost thousands of dollars.
• Local economy: The project may be priced differently in New York City than in Coffeeville, Alabama.
Generally speaking, clients should prepare to budget anywhere from $4,000 for a small residential job, to tens of thousands for major commercial work. To help offset the initial cost, business and homeowners are encouraged to take advantage of government incentives or tax breaks that may be available in their state. In many cases, financing is also available to ease the financial burden. Commercial and residential clients curious to know how much an HVAC upgrade could save them in energy cost over the next 20 years can visit the HVACOPCOST website for a calculating tool.