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When someone gets local quote through our website, we invite them to take our annual Survey. In the last year, 951 people did, and we are grateful. Thank you! The questions, answers, data and conclusions are found below.
The PickHVAC Survey focuses on things consumers and contractors want to know about: Brand reliability, what consumers want from their HVAC system, how to find a reliable contractor, how much HVAC components and systems cost and other highly researched topics.
Here are the seven questions and results. Each is followed by Key Conclusions where we summarize how the data might affect you and your HVAC purchase decision.
1. What is the most important feature customers consider when purchasing an HVAC system?
By more than a 2 to 1 margin over any other feature, System Reliability is the most important consideration!
This should surprise nobody. We all want to know that when we need heat or air conditioning for our home, it will work as expected, no hassles and no untimely breakdowns during a nasty stretch of weather.
Note that Reputable Brand rates just 7%. If it works, consumers don’t care what brand it is. Brand loyalty is way down in the last 20 years as more information has become readily available and consumers are researching ratings and reviews for themselves rather than relying on brand name.
Some brands are more reliable – There is a link between brand and quality/reliability of course. Sister brands American Standard and Trane continue to lead annual surveys about Predicted Reliability and Customer Satisfaction, according to Consumer Reports. Bryant and identical brand Carrier are near the top too.
Lennox has turned things around. For years, the brand, while well-known, wasn’t highly rated. There were two reasons – quality that was below average and replacement parts that were expensive and often delayed by supply-chain issues. Lennox is back on the list in both Reliability and Customer Satisfaction categories, having solved the problems that plagued the brand and left consumers dissatisfied.
Armstrong and Ducane are surprises. These two brands being on the lists that might surprise many. Both are manufactured by Lennox using many of the same components. However, both have a more limited range of products than Lennox.
HVAC systems are becoming more efficient, and efficient systems are more in demand from consumers. Fifteen years ago, or even ten, Efficiency would not have received 17% of the vote – equal to cost.
Comfort is appreciated – If comfort is a high priority for you, then we recommend choosing a system with 2-stage heating and cooling. Furnaces, heat pumps and air conditioners all come in 1-stage, 2-stage and variable capacity models. It’s a “Goldilocks” situation, if you will. 1-stage systems are too simplistic, with on/off operation but no stages. They create temperature imbalance.
On the other end, variable capacity units, that run like cruise control to keep temperature perfectly balanced, are too expensive.
Two-stage systems hit the “just right” sweet spot of good climate control and reasonable cost.
2. Do you prefer to purchase an HVAC unit manufactured in America, even if it costs more than units manufactured overseas?
There has been a growing demand, year over year, for goods produced or at least assembled here in the United States.
The reasons for the higher demand are complex and extend beyond product quality to the current political atmosphere and the desire to spare American jobs.
In terms of quality, there is a perceived gap between US-made and imported goods. However, especially in mini split/ductless systems, imported brands like Daikin, Mitsubishi, Gree and Fujitsu are highly rated by consumers.
In the standard split system HVAC market, most brands are assembled in the US using mostly domestic and some imported parts. Goodman, as one of many examples, states that its products are Designed, Engineered and Assembled in the USA.
Reliability vs origin? That would be an interesting question. Our suspicion is that Reliability would be valued more highly. What do you think?
In conclusion, you can be sure you are generally buying American when you purchase standard split system components. This is true even of Daikin, the global HVAC giant based in Japan. Daikin bought Goodman/Amana in 2012 but hasn’t changed production. It simply added a Daikin line – the same units as Goodman but with a Daikin nameplate. Daikin, Amana and Goodman are mostly manufactured in the great state of Texas.
3. What's the age range of the customers?
It would likely take a demographics pro to sort out this one, but there are a few conclusions that can be safely drawn.
The graph is inversely proportional to the % of US adults who use the internet, by age, according to this graph from Pew Research.
Fewer younger consumers are researching HVAC information, though they use the internet in higher percentages. That much is clear when you combine Pew’s research with Pick HVAC research.
We think our data confirms the reason: Consumers 50+ are more likely to own their own home or homes. When you own the home, rather than the landlord or parents, then you’re likely to be the one to do the research on replacement components or complete system.
4. What brand did consumers purchase?
Trane, Carrier and Goodman are the top-selling brands according to research from all reputable sources.
Why? There are different reasons.
Trane and Carrier are two of the most reliable brands on the market, according to our research, Consumer Report and others with the data.
These two brands also have marketing budgets that top the industry. Note that while American Standard is identical to Trane, and Bryant is identical to Carrier, they don’t sell as well. Marketing and the reputation it has helped to build probably accounts for this.
Goodman takes third place because it is the low-cost leader with outstanding warranties.
Lennox’s position is interesting. It has a marketing budget and brand name recognition on par with Trane and Carrier, but market share is significantly less.
It appears that the Lennox reputation for poorer quality and parts hassles is still costing it market share. The poor reputation lingers, though the problems that caused it have been largely solved.
Finally, the Other category at 28.2% might surprise some readers. Are there enough brands to make up 28.2%, yet each brand accounts for less than 2%?
Yes. Most of these less-than-2% brands have an identical counterpart on the list:
- Carrier/Bryant – Payne sells a smaller lineup of products, but it is a Carrier brand. It’s in the Other category.
- Goodman/Amana – Daikin owns both brands, and Daikin split system equipment is available. But it isn’t selling well. Daikin does better in the mini split HVAC system market.
- York – Luxaire, Coleman and Champion are all identical to York, and all are Johnson Controls bran5ds. But like Payne and Daikin, sales aren’t robust.
- Heil – This brand is owned by International Comfort Products (ICP), a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation, or UTC. Until early 2020, UTC owned Carrier/Bryant. ICP makes a handful of identical brands to Heil including Tempstar, Arcoaire, Keeprite and Comfortmaker. Some of these brands are sold regionally.
- Lennox – Armstrong Air does well in consumer ratings, as does Ducane and AirEase. All are Lennox brands with slow sales but good value.
- Nortek Global – This large HVAC manufacturer makes several brands that fall below the 2% threshold in sales. These include Maytag, Gibson, Nu-tone, Broan and Frigidaire.
5. What was the customer's installation or replacement cost in 2019?
Most consumers bought one component vs buying a complete HVAC system.
It’s rare that components installed together wear out at the same time.
Over time, many homeowners end up with a fairly new furnace, for example, when the AC goes out. Or vice versa. It might not be necessary or economically feasible to replace both components.
When both components, such as a furnace + AC combination or heat pump + air handler, are getting older and one quits, we recommend replacing them both.
Replacing your entire system together, even if not all the components have failed, ensures a couple things:
- The new components are designed to work together to optimize efficiency and indoor climate control
- The components will both be more efficient than what they replace, so you’ll begin to recoup the expense immediately
- All components will be under warranty
Here’s a breakdown of what the sales categories generally mean:
- Under $3000: One component was installed or replaced.
- $3000-$5000: One midrange component, perhaps with a thermostat or other accessory, or two entry-level components were installed/replaced.
- $5000-$7000: The homeowner bought one midrange or top-tier component and thermostat or two entry-level or small midrange components or complete systems with a thermostat.
- $7000-$9000: One top-tier component, perhaps with an accessory such as a thermostat or media filter or two midrange components or complete system was installed or replaced.
- $9000+: These sales are either one large, efficient top-tier component or, in more cases, a complete midrange HVAC system.
6. Have consumers heard of mini-split or ductless system?
The take-away from this question is that consumer education is something we can help our readers with.
Here are two examples:
Our Mini Split AC/Heat Pump Reviews and Prices Guide answers the question, “What is a Mini-split AC or Heat Pump?”
Our Best HVAC System Types Guide has a full section on mini split systems.
These guides are quick reads and give clear explanations that will help you understand what a mini split system is and how it differs from a standard split system. There’s more than just that ductless systems don’t need ductwork!
We recommend considering a ductless system if you’re building a home, putting on an addition or converting space like an attic or garage that isn’t currently heated or cooled. Mini split systems are very efficient and don’t require the expense of having ductwork installed.
7. What platform did customers use when checking reviews of local contractors?
About three quarters of readers understand the value of hearing from a broad range of consumer reviews and ratings before deciding on a contractor.
About a quarter of readers followed one or more of these in deciding a contractor, rather than using information on sites offering reviews.
Their approach included one or more of these:
- Contacting contractors they’ve had success using in the past (Good)
- Following recommendations of friends and family (Good)
- Making contact based on advertising – Radio, TV, print, trucks, signs around town (Not so good, since the contractor has complete control of the message)
- Calling random contractors from the phone book (Not a good option)
Even if you initially hear about a “good” contractor from a friend, it’s still wise to look at reviews. Checking Google ratings and other sources tells you what a broader base of consumers have to say.
There is a wealth of information here on all of the topics discussed. Use the many links to other PickHVAC pages or use the Search box to find what we’ve had to say about the topics you’re most interested in researching.
Thank you for your visit. If your time here has been useful, please share this page with others to help them in their HVAC research. There’s a lot to know, and we’ve made discovering it simple with page after page of useful information, reviews, pricing and more!
We already launched our 2020 Residential HVAC survey. If you've replaced or installed HVAC system during the past 12 months, we invite you join it to help us sharing more useful facts and statistics in the future.