5 Tips for Installing an HVAC System

by | BiggerPockets.com

Hot summers like this remind me why it’s so important to have a good relationship with an HVAC contractor. Once our temperatures start hitting 90 degrees on a consistent basis, our phone starts ringing with A/C issues from our tenants. Luckily, we figured out years ago that having a great relationship with an HVAC contractor was paramount to running a successful real estate business.

This topic is fresh on my mind because I just purchased a property from a seller who agreed to have an A/C unit installed at the property at the time of closing. While I should have paid closer attention to the make and model of the A/C unit, I was buying the property from somebody I knew and assumed the A/C unit would be new and installed properly. Much to my chagrin, the A/C unit that they had installed was a 10 year old unit that had been pieced together and which was installed incorrectly.  While I am sure they had not intended to pay for an A/C unit in such bad condition, the bottom line is both of us ended up getting taken by a dirty HVAC contractor.

It turns out this is more common than you would think. In fact, the Today Show on NBC recently aired a segment that highlighted just how unethical this industry has become.  NBC’s correspondent, Jeff Rosen,  called on 6 different contractors to come out to a particular house and give an estimate to repair the A/C unit.  Amazingly, all 6 of these contractors tried to charge the homeowner for unnecessary repairs.

Having purchased  well over one hundred HVAC systems over the years, I’ve learned a little about setting  ourselves up for success with our  properties.

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Here are 5 tips to help make your HVAC install a smooth one

1.) Use Reputable Contractors – based on everything I’ve mentioned above and years of experience, I cannot stress this enough. Take the time to find a contractor with a good reputation and one who stands by their work. It’s really not worth saving a few bucks to go with the fly-by-night contractor. This will almost always end up costing more in the end.

2.) Don’t Install Used Units – I don’t know what it is about real estate investors, but they are notorious for installing used units. While a used unit may be enticing because of the price, they almost always end up creating more problems and expense in the end. I did this a few times when I was first starting out in real estate and it simply wasn’t worth it.

3.)Install Properly sized units – If there is some debate on the size of the unit that should be installed, err on the side of a larger HVAC system  rather than a smaller one. An undersized unit will definitely create headaches for you down the road. The last thing you want to hear in the middle of the summer is a tenant complaining about the fact that the house won’t cool below 75 degrees.

4.) Use Proper Insulation – You can have a great contractor install a properly sized system in your property but still have problems if the house is not insulated.  When installed properly, insulation can help your unit reach the desired temperature and save on utility bills.

5. Install an A/C cage – I realize some investor would disagree with me on this, but I’ve seen A/C units get stolen in all types of areas. From high-end neighborhoods to inner-city rentals, just about any property is susceptible to this crime. Our cages are installed for $200 dollars and are worth every penny.

HVAC systems are one of the biggest expenses when it comes to rehabbing. It is important that investors form good relationships and make good decisions when it comes to this aspect of a renovation. A good HVAV installation has the potential to be worry free for years to come, but a bad installation can cause all sorts of unnecessary problems.  Don’t underestimate the importance of doing it right the first time!

About Author

Ken Corsini

Ken Corsini G+ is the host of the Deal Farm Podcast (on iTunes) and has 10 years of full-time real estate investing experience. His company, Georgia Residential Partners buys and sells an average of 100 deals per year and has helped hundreds of investors around the country make great investments in the Atlanta market. Ken has a business degree from the University of Georgia and a Master Degree in Building Construction from Georgia Tech. He currently resides in Woodstock, Georgia with his wife and 3 children.


  1. Great post! I totally agree with #2, I only install newly purchased A/C units. This effectively gets rid of possible headaches from used units and also takes care of #1 (I purchase the A/C unit from only from stores who have reliable people/contractors will also install it for me) and #3.

    I also totally agree with #5. I thought installing A/C cages is a practice only done here in the Philippines and I’m surprised to learn it’s also being done there in the US!

  2. This post is timely, as we have recently decided to start installing AC units on our rentals. Here in CO many houses have swamp coolers, but few rentals have AC. AC has starting to become a standard for homes out here, rather than a luxury.


  3. Hello, again. Like you, the company also advised me to install home insulation. There are different types of insulations such as: owens corning, loose fill, rolls, batt, blanket, rigid board and spray fill. This definitely will help to improve the temperature and reduce the costs.

  4. Thank you for your tips. Having a good contractor is really important because in times when your equipment breaks down, your contractor will be the one who will do the repair for you, unless, of course, you know how to do the repair yourself. As for me, I do have a good hvac contractor and whenever there’s something wrong with my system, I call them right away. Anyway, about #3, do unit sizes really matter? How do I know if my equipment’s size is just right for me or not?

  5. Jerry Kaidor on

    Agree 1000%. When we bought our 52 units in Fresno, CA ( which sees weeks of triple-digit
    temps in the summer ) we used the contractor that the seller had been using. Turns out he was using us as a side job and stealing from his boss. I fired him because I don’t deal with thieves. Then we hired a local plumbing company that ran full-page ads in the yellow pages. They didn’t know what they were doing, and I fired them.

    Then we found the finest, most honorable AC contractor in Fresno. And I have been with him ever since. We’re running about 10 grand a year in AC repairs, and worth every penny. I am proud to tell prospective tenants that “every single apartment without exception has working central AC”. In Fresno, those are magic words indeed. I have lost tenants who went to single family houses ( the bane of an apartment owners existence out there ) and then CAME BACK because we have AC.

    I recently completed an interesting AC project of my own. I bought a foreclosed house ( for myself, to live in ), and it had been stripped of appliances. The two central AC’s had been removed also. I hit the books and got the EPA license, and became a licensed AC technician. This enabled me to buy the R-22 refrigerant. I bought AC units on the Internet – local supply shops will not sell to people who are not licensed AC contractors – they don’t want to piss off their regular clientele – quite a good-old-boy system they got going there.

    I got an owner-builder permit from the local authorities, installed everything, vacuumed it out, filled it up, and now I feel a little surge of pride whenever I choose “cool” and cold air comes out of the vents :).

  6. Jerry Kaidor on

    WRT unit size: It’s complicated. It depends on the local climate. It also depends on the construction. A new sealed house, built to the latest insulation codes, will require less tonnage than an old one. Living in a temperate climate near the SF bay, and having a fairly new house, I get by with considerably less tonnage than an old house in Fresno.

  7. I didn’t even know that it was possible to buy a use unit but I can definitely see why that is something that you should stay away from. We are looking to hire an HVAC contractor to help us install a new system so we definitely want something new and that will last a long time. Is there a specific brand that you would suggest?

  8. My brother is trying to get a new HVAC system and needs someone to help install it. Thanks for the advice about using a reputable contractor and not a cheaper one. I’ll have to let my brother know so that he can get his commercial HVAC system installed properly.

  9. I think I need to find myself a contractor. We just bought an HVAC system and I was planning to install it myself. After I thought I had done so it didn\’t work. I want to get a professional over to my house to give it a try. I also forgot to use insulation, which could\’ve been the problem.

  10. My sister and her husband live in an older home and are so excited to finally be installing an air conditioner. They are not sure how to go about the installation process so I am glad to know that it is wise to use reputable contractors. I like what was said about how one should take the time to find someone who has a good reputation and who can stand by their work. I will start helping my sister with the search.

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