Barb Checket-Hanks

Christmas came early to my house. Early in November, my husband and I had our regular HVAC contractor, Jerry, install a new furnace and air conditioner.

It all started with the air conditioner, which died a timely death (it was about 20 years old) this past summer. It didn’t take much for Jerry to convince us that it would be an ideal opportunity to replace the furnace too. It was even older than the air conditioner.

I won’t disclose what brand we installed. I’ll only point out that there was financing involved, and that’s too broad of a hint to be really useful to anyone who wants to know.

What we really were interested in “buying,” if that’s the appropriate word, was our contractor’s experience. If Jerry is comfortable installing it, that’s the brand we want.


The whole thing took about half a day, taking the old system out and installing the new. Now that it’s done, I’m surprised that we waited so long to have it done. We really put up with a lot of unnecessary discomfort and higher utility bills.

OK, time will tell whether the bills go down. But considering that the new unit can operate most of the time at low stage, and the old unit was probably operating at 50 percent AFUE, we’ve got a good chance of really saving money this winter.

The experience made me conscious of the intangibles of the replacement process. From the consumer’s point of view, it’s not entirely about money. The financing is easy enough to get, especially if you know it’s an eventuality and you’ve been saving up for the down payment.

I think there is a type of consumer, like me, who appreciates old mechanical things. I cried the day I traded in my old station wagon, even as rusted up as it was. I like to keep old things running. (Maybe that’s why my Dad decided to make me the executor of his living will. Love ya, Dad!) To be more specific, I like to see if other people can keep my old things running. There is a certain amount of loyalty involved, and the sheer challenge.

If any of you watchKing of the Hill, perhaps you remember the episode in which Hank Hill finally has to buy a new pickup truck. Some of us just get emotionally attached to mechanical things.


Now we’ve got the shiny new furnace and the R-410A a/c system with the shiny new coils, and the anti-theft guard to protect the condensing unit from would-be copper thieves. We’ve got the air filter that only needs to be changed once a year. We already had a humidifier, but even that has been improved in its drainage.

I’ve always admired Jerry’s sheet metal work, and he didn’t disappoint this time. It’s a neat job.

With the weather here dropping into the upper 30s at night, we’ve already used the heating system. My husband and I have noticed a couple of things.

First, of course, it’s quiet. The thing quietly ramps up, instead of making a big clunking noise before blasting out hot air. The air that comes out now isn’t hot, but it seems to us that the house is more uniformly comfortable.

That’s a hard concept to grasp without experiencing it. It’s even harder to explain. The best I could say is, it’s like being outside on a pleasantly warm day, instead of warming yourself by a fire. There is a true consistency of temperature … or it’s my imagination.


Publication date:12/10/2007