If you own your home, chances are pretty good that your heating or cooling system will eventually require replacement. When the time comes to buy a new air conditioner or furnace, you must become an informed consumer in order to avoid making serious purchasing mistakes that may haunt you for a decade or longer. Here are some of the most common errors to keep in mind.

Picking a Unit With a Low SEER Rating

SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, a figure now commonly used to help you determine the efficiency of any new air conditioner or furnace. Units with a SEER rating of 12 or lower will cost you substantially more in monthly utility costs than units with high ratings. The best units, with a SEER rating of 17 or higher, can potentially cut your AC or furnace bill in half when compared to an older, highly inefficient model.

Focusing Your Search on Low-Cost Units

You might think that a low-cost air conditioner or furnace is the best option for saving money. However, a more efficient unit that costs you a few hundred dollars extra at purchase time can actually save you money in utility expenses for years to come. Over the expected 12- to 15-year lifespan of your furnace or AC, the utility savings you receive may significantly exceed the amount you thought you saved by buying a cheaper, less efficient model.

Not Checking for Cost-Lowering Rebates

In some U.S. states, you can receive a government rebate for the purchase of a high-efficiency furnace or air conditioner. Individual manufacturers also sometimes have rebate programs. If you don’t take these price-cutting programs into consideration, you may needlessly add more than $1,000 to the final cost of your new heating or cooling unit.

Not Verifying the Size of Unit You Need

Many people who buy new furnaces or air conditioners never attempt to find out the size of unit that works best for the square footage and layout of their homes. Unfortunately, this lack of size verification can lead to the purchase of a seriously overpowered or underpowered unit. In turn, a unit not matched to your specific household needs can break down far earlier than expected, drive up your monthly utility bill and/or leave you unable to maintain a reliably comfortable indoor environment.

Picking a Disreputable or Unreliable Contractor

Not all heating and cooling contractors are the same. While many providers work hard to provide you with reliable, efficient installation services, others are more committed to making money than meeting your needs. Before choosing your contractor, take the time to check the company’s record of service complaints. Also make sure that you receive a written contract that clarifies all installation details. Instead of going with the first reputable option available, you also might want to consider comparing prices among several well-respected providers.

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