LESLIE: Heading out to New York where Ruth wants to talk air conditioning. What can we do for you today?
RUTH: It’s getting summer and it’s getting hot here, so I’m getting central air-conditioner estimates.
TOM: Oh, congratulations. This is the first time you’ve ever had central air?
RUTH: Yes, it is.
TOM: You are going to love it.
RUTH: Well, this is the question. I have three different estimates.
RUTH: And my square footage is 1,331.
RUTH: One said 3 tons, one said 3½ tons and one said 4 tons. What is the right amount of tonnage?
TOM: Yeah, I’d throw out the 4-ton guy. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. Because, generally, it’s 600 to 800 square feet per ton. So you’re kind of in that 2- to 2 ½-ton range, depending on how efficient your house is.
Did any of these guys do a heat-loss analysis and figure out how many BTUs they need to make up with this A/C or are they just kind of making an educated guess?
RUTH: Nobody did a heat-loss analysis. I didn’t know that should be done.
TOM: It’s not only a question of square footage, it’s a question of how much glass do you have facing south. How much insulation do you have in your attic? How weathertight or draft-proof are your windows and doors? All of this plays in because, of course, the leakier the house is and the worse it’s insulated, that means the more A/C power you need, basically, the more BTUs you need to cool.
So, how old is your house?
RUTH: My house is about 50 years old.
TOM: I’m thinking around two-and-a-half is probably about the right size. The thing is, see, if you go too big, like that 4-ton unit, what’s going to happen is it will shor- cycle. So it’ll run, it’ll get the house really cold really fast and then it’ll shut off. And by doing that over and over again, it never runs long enough to sort of dehumidify that air in the house. And so it gets kind of cold and damp-feeling, which is very uncomfortable. You want it to kind of run steadily over a good period of time and then shut off and rest and then come back on again, in kind of a nice cycle. So that 2½-ton area is probably the right area.
Now, beyond that, I would just look at the reliability of the contractor. Find out who they’re working for in the area. Get some names. Find out who they’ve installed A/C systems for and many even in older houses. And don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. A lot of people ask for references. Very few people actually call those references. But if you call them and say, “Hey, you don’t know me but so-and-so gave me your name as a reference. I’m having an A/C system – thinking about having an A/C system installed in my house by them. Really curious as to what your experience was. If you wouldn’t mind, please call me back and share that. I would appreciate it.”
And 9 out of 10 times, people will respond to a call like that. It’s not like you’re a telemarketer, Ruth, you know?
RUTH: Right. No, these were all free – were references. That was the puzzlement.
TOM: Well, OK. They were references but that means that somebody used them and told you to call them. I would ask for more than the person that just told you to call them. You want average. You want three or four names of people they work with that you can call, not just one. Just because they were referred by one person doesn’t mean they’re great. So, three or four names would be great. And don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and make those calls.
RUTH: OK. So I should ask the person themselves, “Could I have references of people you worked for?” Is that what you’re saying?
TOM: That’s correct. Ask the contractor for references of people that they’ve worked for. Check and see if they’re part of the HomeAdvisor network, because you can go right onto HomeAdvisor.com and …
RUTH: Yes, I have actually got them from HomeAdvisor.
TOM: Oh, well, that’s terrific. So on HomeAdvisor, you can also learn even more because there’s usually quite a few references. So that’s a really good thing to have.
RUTH: Yes, I did. I checked that out, too.
TOM: Alright, Ruth. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.