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Not all 16 SEER A/C Units are Made Equal

May 21, 2014 | Blog

It seems there is a trend in the HVAC industry to provide very vague information to customers looking for bids on their air conditioning systems. Lack of information on some level is meant to protect the contractor, but it also points to the possible problem that many technicians don’t know enough about the equipment that they sell. If the technician doesn’t know enough, then the consumer is surely confused and undereducated.

Thus, business owners become inundated with the all-too-common complaint: Why is your price so much different than your competitor’s? This is a question HVAC companies are tired of answering, and consumers are tired of asking it. But we can prevent it completely by simply acknowledging that not all AC units with the same SEER rating are the same.

Why Are Prices so Different?

There is a reason that HVAC system prices can be so diverse: not everyone is on the same page. When a consumer looks for an HVAC system and must compare warranties, brands, contractor quality and more, it can seem daunting. Those who work in the industry understand that a quality system means spending more money on a brand and model of AC that won’t let you down. What consumers want, however, is to have their system replaced quickly at a fair price, especially if they were only expecting to pay for repairs.

With so many variables in the process, it’s the contractor’s job as the subject expert to educate their customers on why prices in the industry are so diverse and help them pick the best option for their needs, even if that means more work. If the technicians selling units aren’t educated enough on the various options to do this, both contractor and customer are let down.

Basic Estimate Differences to Look For

A lot goes into determining the estimate for a new AC system, but often the bid looks a bit like this:

16 SEER + [insert major brand] + [insert size] for [insert price]

When the customer compares these vague quotes from different contractors for what seems like virtually the same thing and the prices vary dramatically, it’s confusing. That’s why customers should ask about the following information if their technician doesn’t supply it.


There are cheaper brands out there, but they’re less reliable more often than not, using lower-quality materials. A considerably cheaper bid for a brand you’ve never heard of is a red flag.


Always have your contractor provide their warranty information. Sometimes, the cheapest bid comes with no warranty to protect you in the event of a major repair. The price will reflect this.


Does the company pull permits with the local city? Do they stand by their work? What have their past customers said? If a contractor’s reputation is spotty or you can’t find reviews on BBB, Google reviews, Yelp or other websites, you may be paying for low-quality work.


A contractor with proper licensing will charge more for their services because they can guarantee the quality of their work. Lowball quotes often come from companies with no licensing or licensing that isn’t up to date. In Texas, the HVAC contractor’s license number must be listed on all bids and proposals. If it’s not there, don’t use their services.

Model of Equipment

There are units available that reach 16 SEER and are extremely cheap. This often involves purchasing the lowest price 14.5 SEER Condensing unit and upgrading it with a two-speed furnace in the attic. While this can get you to 16 SEER, keep in mind that this is a “no-frills” 16 SEER.  By this I mean it is typically a builder’s grade unit with no additional warranty or features. This can leave you unprotected if the unit fails.

The cost to the contractor can be vastly different from one 16 SEER to another 16 SEER system, even within the same brand.  There are 16 SEER complete systems where, just in equipment alone, the price to the contractor is $1,000 difference. This can often reflect a $1,500 – $2,000 difference in retail price to the unknowing consumer. To the customer who isn’t told about these price differences, it looks like the contractor is scamming them with an expensive unit when, in reality, they are providing the customer with higher-quality equipment.

A technician’s job is to make the difference clear, and customers should always ask questions if confused. It doesn’t cost anything and can go along way toward purchasing the right HVAC system.

Mission AC understands how confusing the buying process can be, which is why we strive to make sure you know exactly what your options are with our units. Contact us today to get an estimate.


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