After repairing their venerable air conditioner for the past two summers, my in-laws’ unit finally sputtered and died for the last time a few weeks ago. The system lasted a surprising 23 years. Now, my in-laws have only been living in the house for the past eight years, so the previous owners did a fantastic job keeping the system maintained, and, while my in-laws kept up the practice, the system finally gave out.

After having three contractors out to their home, and gaining three different quotes and recommendations on equipment, my in-laws decided to go with Thornton and Grooms, located in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and one of The NEWS’ 2013 Best Contractors to Work For. My father-in-law was impressed with the 78-year history of the company and liked the fact it was local. It didn’t hurt that Thornton and Grooms also quoted the best price. Not to mention, my father-in-law wanted to stick with the same brand as the original 23-year-old unit. Within two weeks (Michigan weather was pretty mild during this time), the shiny new unit was in my in-laws’ backyard and my ecstatic father-in-law proceeded to tell me about all the rebates he was getting on his 16-SEER unit over the Fourth of July weekend.

My in-laws, like many homeowners, chose to repair instead of replace until they no longer had that option. The main reasons were cost issues and that the system worked just fine after undergoing repairs.

Both of these reasons are pretty popular among homeowners. In fact, they are both listed in the 2015 Residential Air Conditioning Consumer Research Summary Report, which was recently conducted by Emerson Climate Technologies Inc.


In the aforementioned survey, Emerson asked approximately 1,500 U.S. homeowners to list the most important features they consider when purchasing air conditioning and heating systems and what factors might be preventing someone from buying a new HVAC system if they own an older, more problem-prone system.

The No. 1 reason for not purchasing a new system was, “The current system works fine and no major problems had been encountered.” Immediately following that response was “no current need to buy a new system,” “cost issues/can’t afford a new system,” and “the current system is maintained regularly.” Additional reasons included plans to move, have a newer system, waiting until it breaks, and thinking of buying in the future or preparing for a purchase.

Contractors should already be familiar with most of this list, and good contractors will be prepared to listen to decision makers’ considerations before logically discussing and addressing each concern.

For example, let’s look at, “The current system works fine and no major problems have been encountered.” A homeowner can tell you he has no problems with his system, but does that mean no problems exist or just that the homeowner is not aware of any problems? Just because the system is running doesn’t mean it’s running efficiently. Most homeowners are familiar with the necessity of car maintenance. A car will run fine for a little while without an oil change, but the engine will eventually fail without proper service and maintenance. And, without proper upkeep, a car will fail to reach optimal gas mileage. Changing your oil performs a variety of vital functions that not only keep your car running, but also determines how efficiently it does its job. The same can be said about air conditioning systems — preventive maintenance, such as replacing air filters and cleaning coils and ducts, keeps the system running efficiently.

Talk to homeowners about their heating and cooling bills, as well. Give them a way to track their energy usage and to compare and contrast their annual expenses. Seeing the problem in black and white will help convince them to explore replacement alternatives. Would they rather spend a few bucks on regular maintenance or a few thousand bucks on a premature system replacement? Encourage them to make the right decision.

Publication date: 7/27/2015 

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