HVAC Repair Company Costs: The Benefits of Flat-Rate versus Hourly Pricing

Posted on: February 8, 2019

When considering which company to go with for your HVAC repair or installation, you will come across differences in billing. Some companies charge a flat-rate for service, and others charge hourly rates, based on their time on the job and the materials used.

There are some key differences that you should understand about these pricing models before you make a decision that you might regret. Read on to see how flat-rate pricing stacks up against hourly.

Do you need HVAC installation, maintenance, repair, or replacement services in or around Richmond, VA?

Simply call (804) 364-9040 or contact Short Pump Heating & Air online for a FREE estimate, top-notch service, and excellent results!

What is the Difference Between Flat-Rate and Hourly Pricing for HVAC Service?

Flat-rate pricing is just that: the customer is given a price up front that includes parts, labor, and sales tax, as well as any other materials needed to get the job finished.

On the other hand, hourly pricing usually involves an hourly rate plus parts and material costs. With this model, the customer is not told upfront how much the work will cost. They are agreeing to pay based on the length of time the job takes.

Taken at face value, it’s easy to see why some customers might want to see an hourly estimate, so they understand where their money is going and what to expect in terms of cost. But let’s dig a little deeper…

A Closer Look at Fixed-Rate Pricing for HVAC Services

On the consumer end, a fixed-rate price performs one glorious function: it takes away any speculation about the final price tag, and lets the customer relax and know exactly what to expect.

On the provider end, it gives an incentive to work efficiently and get the repair finished in a timely manner. In terms of human psychology, it takes care of one of the most fundamental human desires: we all want to know what to expect. When expectations match the outcomes, everyone is satisfied.

A Closer Look at Hourly Pricing for HVAC Services

In contrast to fixed-rate pricing, hourly pricing does the exact opposite: it creates uncertainty about how much the final price tag will be and can lead to unreasonable expectations.

For the provider, billing by the hour can actually provide an incentive to take longer on a job or send a slower technician. After all, the more hours on the job, the higher the billing costs will be.

As anyone who has ever had an HVAC system installed or repaired can agree, the less time the job takes, the better. The interruption to the flow of day-to-day life is already a hassle, but add in the stress of not knowing how much a job is going to cost, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for disaster. Unrealistic expectations can lead to a lot of frustration when the clock is ticking and the price tag is climbing with every extra hour.

With hourly pricing, a customer could end up paying a different price for the exact same job, depending on the skills and experience of the service technician. We do not think this is fair for the customer or for the HVAC company.

Another aspect of flat-rate versus hourly is customer protection. Sometimes unforeseen issues arise during a job. What was quoted as a 4-hour job can suddenly stretch into a 6-hour job when unexpected issues occur. That’s a 50% increase. When you’ve budgeted for the originally estimated hours/hourly rate, the financial hit can hurt. With a flat-rate pricing structure, that isn’t an issue. The HVAC company will take the loss and will be working hard to get the job done as efficiently as possible.

Flat-Rate Pricing for HVAC Service is Best for You and the HVAC Contractor

At Short Pump Heating & Air, we believe that flat-rate pricing is the most transparent and fair pricing structure for everyone involved, both the customer and the HVAC contractor. When your air conditioner or heat goes out, it usually happens when you least expect it and when you need it most. The last thing you should be worried about is mysterious pricing leaving you in the dark, especially when you’re already sweating or shivering!

For fair and efficient service with no surprises, you can expect satisfaction with flat-rate pricing over hourly pricing.

Short Pump Heating & Air is able to provide flat rate pricing on 99% of our service, repair, and installation work. Give us a call at (804) 364-9040 or contact us online if you have any HVAC service needs or system questions. We would love the opportunity to become your heating and air conditioning provider!

We look forward to hearing from you, and we invite you to check out our great reviews to see why we are the top choice for HVAC service in and around Richmond, VA!

What Is the Cost of a New Heat Pump Installed?

Posted on: January 15, 2019

A common question we are always asked is “How much does a new heat pump cost?” This article is referring to the cost of both a new heat pump and air handler. This is considered a “complete system”. Typically when an older heat pump needs replacing, the heat pump and air handler both need to be replaced at the same time.

The cost of a new heat pump depends on several factors. We have included a summary of three of the main cost factors…

The first factor to consider is the size (also known as capacity or BTU) of the required heat pump system. The sizing is referred to as “tonnage”. Sizing of a residential heat pump system ranges from 1.5 ton to 5 ton. The larger the space needed to be heated and cooled, the larger the heat pump that is required. The larger the tonnage, the higher the cost.

The second factor that has a major impact on price is the SEER and HSPF ratings. The SEER and HSPF rating are the cooling and heating efficiency of the heat pump system. It is the cost to operate which would be reflected on the electric bill. The SEER of today’s new heat pumps range from 14 SEER to 20+SEER. The higher the SEER and HSPF, the lower the cost to operate the heat pump. Also, the higher the SEER and HSPF, the higher the upfront cost of the system.

The third factor is the difficulty of the installation. How many duct work modifications are needed to properly install the new heat pump into the existing duct system? How much space is there to work? Is the air handler in an attic or crawlspace? What additional installation materials are needed/required?

The lower end of the heat pump installation cost would be a 14 SEER, 1.5 ton heat pump. This cost is typically between $4,500-$5,500 installed.

The higher end of heat pump installations would be a 20 SEER, 5 ton heat pump. This type of system would be over $10,000.

All other sizes and models should fall in between these prices.

Short Pump Heating and Air is a leader in the Richmond, VA area for new heat pumps and all HVAC system installations. Give us a call if you have any questions regarding your HVAC systems. We would be happy to schedule a free estimate to get you exact pricing and options on a new HVAC system installation.

It’s That Time of Year

Posted on: November 26, 2018

Schedule Your Heat Pump or Furnace Maintenance Before You Need Heating Repairs

With winter just around the corner, it’s time to start preparing your heat pump and furnace units for the cold weather. By starting your preparation early, you’ll help keep your systems running efficiently all winter long. Your heat pump and furnace are two of the most important parts of your home. Without proper maintenance, your home may not stay warm, you might waste energy and drive up energy costs, or harmful emissions could enter your home causing safety hazards.

Maintenance doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money, but it can help you save time and money in the future. Here are the top heat pump and furnace maintenance tips to keep your home warm this winter.

Heat Pump Maintenance

A heat pump is an energy-efficient way to heat your home in milder climates. Rather than generating heat by burning fuel, a heat pump uses electricity to move heat energy from one area to another. Even in winter, the cold air has heat energy that a heat pump can transfer into your home. A heat pump can work effectively in temperatures as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature drops further, the heat pump’s electrical backup heater kicks in.
To keep your heat pump working efficiently, there are some simple maintenance steps that you should take now to prepare for winter.

Clean or replace your heat pump air filters.

  • Keep the heat pump clear of debris, as debris can block the coils and fan and can potentially damage the unit.
  • Ensure proper airflow around the heat pump by clearing the area around the pump and trimming trees and bushes if necessary.
  • Have your heat pump inspected by the team at Short Pump Heating and Air.

Your heat pump provides energy-efficient heat to your home, so to save on costs and keep your family comfortable this winter, set aside some time to complete these steps and schedule a service call with our team.

Furnace Maintenance

A furnace is another common and effective heating system that uses natural gas, propane, or electricity. Air is heated in one area and then dispersed throughout your home through your ductwork and vents. The combustion process quickly generates heat, and the heat exchanger transfers the heat to the airflow in your home’s duct system.

Your furnace keeps your home warm even during extreme temperatures, so here are some ways to keep your furnace running efficiently this winter.

Ensure all exhaust pipes and drainage tubes are securely fastened.

  • Test the area and smell for gas. If it smells like rotten eggs, the furnace has a gas leak, and you should contact a professional.
  • Dust the internal components of your furnace and clean the flame sensor.
  • Change your filter at least every three months.
  • Schedule a full inspection with the team at Short Pump Heating and Air.

Spending a few minutes on regular maintenance can help your furnace perform better during the winter. It’s always a good idea to have the team at Short Pump Heating and Air inspect your furnace or heat pump system before you turn it on for the winter season.

Partner with Short Pump Heating and Air

The best way to prepare your home’s HVAC systems for winter is to partner with the heating experts at Short Pump Heating and Air. By scheduling a routine inspection, you’ll keep your family safe and warm this winter. Contact us today to set up your heat pump or furnace inspection service.

How Do Heat Pumps Actually Work?

Posted on: November 19, 2018

When it comes to HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, there are a lot of options to choose from. Many homes have gas furnaces, which are a great source of heat, but can be less efficient than heat pumps in milder winter temperatures. The most efficient heat source in milder weather would be a heat pump system.

In the Richmond area, a heat pump system is a great HVAC option for efficient heating and also heating performance. What makes this system so efficient is its ability to pump heat in either direction to provide both heating and air conditioning to your home.

How? Instead of burning fuel to create heat (can be inefficient and expensive) in milder climates, a heat pump uses the behavior of heat itself to move heat from one place to another. So, what exactly does that mean, you ask? In a nutshell, the key to understanding this is basic physics– heat always wants to move to a location with a lower temperature (just like we dream of heading to a beach house in Maine during the dog days of summer). But seriously- imagine how a hot cup of coffee always cools down when left on a counter, and how the countertop beneath the hot cup is warmed up as the coffee cools down. This is an example of heat transfer, and a rough parallel to how a heat pump works.

How air source heat pump works
A heat pump is a closed-loop system made up of two parts: an outside compressor and an indoor fan unit (air handler). Refrigerant is the almost-magical element that connects these two parts, through a series of coils and pipes. Heat pump technology takes advantage of the fact that refrigerant fluid has a very low boiling point (below zero) that is also affected by pressure. Remember- heat always wants to move to a location with a lower temperature. Raising the pressure can greatly increase heat in the fluid, allowing it to transfer that heat into less-hot air (like on a hot summer day) through the condenser coil. Meanwhile, lowering the pressure can change the liquid to gas, which causes it to cool very quickly. Blow air over this cooled coil and voila–we have air conditioning! If you’ve ever used a can of compressed air to clean your keyboard or a tank of propane to grill, you’ve probably noticed the canister or tank gets cold when the gas is being released. This is the same mechanism that heat-pumps use to provide air conditioning!

Because of its low boiling point and ability to be easily manipulated with pressure, the refrigerant in a heat pump is able to draw heat from the air outside in cold weather- because even when it feels cold, there is still heat energy in the air. Heated refrigerant moves through copper pipes to the indoor fan unit where it is exchanged- the heat from the pipes transfers into the cooler air of the house, and the re-chilled refrigerant cycles back to the unit outdoors to collect heat from the air once again. In the summer this cycle is reversed, with the indoor unit’s pipes absorbing heat from inside the house, and releasing that heat to the outdoors.

While this mechanism works effortlessly at higher temperatures, the colder the outdoor temperatures are, the harder the heat pump needs to work to transfer heat to indoors. It’s hard to squeeze heat out of the air when it’s close to freezing. Fortunately, Richmond Virginia’s winter climate is right in the optimal range for heat pumps to operate very efficiently. Most heat pumps have an auxiliary heater that turns on when the heat pump struggles to maintain temperature. When temperatures drop below 35 degrees, gas heat is generally more efficient, but there are systems available that can automatically alternate between a furnace and a heat pump in winter depending on which one is more efficient- based on the temperature outdoors.

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