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Home Improvement Guide 2007
Get ready
Before starting any home improvement project, research and planning is the key to successful results.
Hot topic: Make sure HVAC keeps its cool
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Choosing a qualified contractor
When replacing or upgrading your HVAC system, it's important to use a qualified professional. Here are some tips that can help you pick the right pro:

Picking an HVAC pro:
1.Check with your local municipality regarding any necessary licenses, certifications and insurance coverage required in your area. Contractors should be able to prove that they satisfy these requirements.
2.Consult with friends and neighbors and ask them to recommend contractors they have used with positive results.
3.Get a written estimate and/or proposal detailing the work involved and the cost before the contractor begins.
4.Ask about their warranties and service availability. These systems have a knack for breaking down at the worst possible times, and you want someone who will be available for emergency repairs.
5.Don't decide based on price alone. The cheapest workers aren't always the best.

Choosing a heat source
If you do need to replace your current heating system, this may be a good time to reevaluate your type of heating source and consider whether you should switch. Here are some factors to consider:

Evaluate your heating source:
1.Cost: The average gas or oil furnace costs $1,500 and up. Consider not only the cost of the system itself, but also the ongoing cost of operation and the cost of the required fuel.
2.Personal preference: Some people just like the "feel" of coal heat, while others swear by electric. This really just depends on your own individual tastes.
3.Convenience: Natural gas or electric are often seen as the most convenient. They are constantly "at the ready" (assuming you've paid your bill, of course). Unlike oil and coal, there is no need to wait for a delivery, or worry about running out.
4.Ventilation: All heating sources need some kind of ventilation. Some draw the necessary air from inside the home, while others require a vent to the outdoors.

Tip: When it comes to heating and cooling systems, bigger isn't necessarily better. While a system that is too small won't quite get the job done, a system that is too big can also cause problems by running inefficiently and costing you more than necessary.

-- Posted: April 4, 2007
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