Installing a whole new central air conditioning system requires more interaction with the contractor—or several contractors if you are asking for bids. So there are more precautions to take.
Share information by phone first. You can easily go over information such as the dimensions of the rooms in your home, whether or not you have existing ductwork, and the system you want over the phone or during a virtual meeting. Ask for bids based on this information. (To see which central AC brands are the most reliable, check Consumer Reports’ central air conditioning reliability ratings.)
Minimize contact with high-touch surfaces. Once you’ve decided on a contractor, he'll need to enter your home to assess the kind of system you need. Do as much prep work as you can to minimize his contact with high-touch surfaces. For example, open the doors to all the rooms in your house that the contractor needs to see. Clear any furniture or other objects out of the way. And weather permitting, keep the windows open to improve airflow.
Maintain social distancing during the assessment. Your contractor will basically need free range in your home in order to gather information to make heat loss/gain calculations as outlined in the Residential Load Calculation Manual, aka Manual J, which is the industry standard for HVAC installations.
“Based on the customer’s interest level, they may accompany the contractor while they survey the home for a new system,” says Davis. Be sure to maintain social distancing, though. For instance, stand just outside of a room the contractor is in. Save your questions to the end and discuss them with the contractor outside, if possible.
Steer clear during installation. When the actual installation takes place, depending on how big your home is and how complex the system—for example, if you need new ductwork—the job may take several days. Anytime the contractor is there, sequester yourself in a room away from the action or sit outdoors.
Conduct a safe walk-though. Once the work is complete, it's time for a walk-through with the contractor. “It will be necessary to review how to use the new thermostat and what maintenance items the customer needs to perform, if any,” says Davis. Do so at a safe distance. Wipe down the thermostat and other surfaces the contractor touched after he leaves. And, of course, keep washing your hands.
For more information on the most reliable central air conditioner brands, as well as how to choose the best contractor and right system for your home, see our central air conditioning buying guide.