Your income tax refund is burning a hole in your pocket so you’ve decided to start shopping for a new television set – probably one of those new high definition models. Like many of us today, you may have begun your research online. Then, you might visit some of the local merchants before deciding on a particular brand and specific model that you like. Then you’ll compare to find which store has that model for the lowest price.

This approach when shopping for a television or other appliances is very common. Since you are comparing identical products, does it really matter where you make the purchase? After the sale service, warranties, and return policies could certainly affect your decision, but if those were all the same you would likely buy the television from the store with the lowest price.

For an appliance purchase, where the installation only requires plugging it into a wall receptacle in order for it to begin working, this is a suitable method. However, if the product that you are buying requires an installation by someone with technical knowledge, different shopping techniques should be utilized.

Such is the case when buying heating and air conditioning systems. Selecting a contractor solely based on the lowest price may not result in the expected outcome. Although there are certainly significant differences between various brands and models, the most important thing to know about any heating and air conditioning purchase is the quality of the installation.

Any properly sized air conditioning and heating system will perform in the same manner if installed using the same installation criteria. Oh, some brands may last longer than others, some will require fewer repairs, and certain models will cost less to operate. However, if the installations were done identically (even using a basic brand) there would be no noticeable difference in the operation of the system.

So, how can any homeowner be certain that every company will do the installation properly? Well, first throw out the notion that every contractor does the same quality of work, and uses the same materials. Next, discard the belief that the lowest price is a good indicator on which to base your decision. Then get enough information so you will know what questions to ask that will help you find out what you will actually be getting for your money.

In other words – become a smart shopper.

None of us like to pay more for something than we think we should, and we all like to get a bargain, but your primary concerns should be comfort, longevity, reliability, utility costs, parts availability, and future serviceability from the company who did the installation. Then, factor in the price.

If there is a specific subject related to air conditioning or heating that you would like to learn about, please let me know.

Jim Berry was a heating and air conditioning service technician prior to becoming a Sales Consultant for Kahn Air Conditioning. Kahn hosts free monthly workshops to help homeowners learn more about heating and cooling systems. For questions regarding heating or air conditioning, send an e-mail to Jim at

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