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What to Expect When Purchasing an AC Unit from Big Box Stores: Pros and Cons

9 min Read
Costco AC | Costco Air Conditioners | King of Prussia, PA
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By: Jarod Meyer, Content Manager

With so many HVAC installation companies out there, you may be asking yourself “Does it make sense to consider big box stores like Costco and BJ’s for AC purchases?” 

These stores are usually synonymous with vast selections, financially savvy finds, and bulk purchases, but does their enjoyable customer experience translate to home improvement purchases?  

Costco and BJ’s offer incredible deals on everything ranging from clothes and furniture to electronic gadgets and, of course, groceries; making for an almost guaranteed enjoyable trip that’s chock full of curious window shopping and stocking up on the essentials.  

These stores rank near the top of the list of places that get your dollar the furthest.  


A few weeks ago, I explored the air conditioner purchase and service department to see how the big box store customer experience translates to HVAC equipment installation.  

As an employee of a local HVAC service provider, it may seem like I’d want to find all the flaws and shortcomings of the big box store AC purchase process. I understand that someone reading this might think that I’d want to paint the picture negatively for places like Costco and BJ’s to deter homeowners from buying their air conditioners at big box stores.  

But after spending some time speaking with people at these companies and understanding their processes, I found that, like any HVAC company, there are advantages and disadvantages to working with big box stores. 

My goal is to help you find the right HVAC service provider for your home by providing insights, research, and considerations that can help you become informed and confident in your decision.  

With that in mind, this article will share my personal experience shopping for AC equipment at a big box store so that you can begin your process with as much information as possible. 



Types of AC Equipment and Their Pricing at Costco and BJ’s 

Air Conditioning Installation Company | Best HVAC Company | King of Prussia, PA


Big Box Store Pro: Range of Quality Cooling Equipment Available 

Big box stores usually partner with a specific HVAC manufacturer and make only those products available; Costco partners with Lennox and BJ’s partners with Trane. 

Both Lennox and Trane are leaders in home heating and cooling equipment and make available all of their AC systems through their partnerships with Costco and BJ’s, respectively. This means that there’s likely a Lennox or Trane brand AC you’ll find that fits the unique needs of your home.  

These catalogs are full of single-stage, two-stage, and variable-speed systems with SEER ratings ranging from 13 – 28, making available both high-efficiency and affordable options. If you’re looking for a specific model, odds are Costco or BJ’s will have it.  

I highly recommend doing your own research on AC system types and models, however, you’ll be paired with a third-party installation company directly from Costco or BJ’s that can help make this decision with you. During an in-home consultation with this installation company, you should ask any questions about choosing the right air conditioning equipment for your home. Big box stores also have a selection of portable air conditioners, window units, and mini splits. 


Big Box Store Pro: Membership Incentives Can Make the Purchase More Affordable 

You’ll need to speak with the local service provider that you’re paired with to discover actual installation prices, however one of the perks of making a purchase at Costco is that you’ll automatically qualify for a 10% off Shop Card for any home improvement purchase that many Lennox products qualify for. BJ’s also offers 5% off purchases with their One+ MasterCard available to be used on all purchases. 

These discounts can make your AC installation more affordable, but be sure to explore discounts offered by specialized companies as well, as they can match or exceed these listed above. 



Understanding Your AC Installation Partner at Big Box Stores 

Costco AC | Costco Air Conditioners | King of Prussia, PA


Big Box Store Con: No Choice in Your Installation Company 

After speaking on the phone with Costco or BJ’s, you’ll be paired with a locally licensed and insured HVAC company to handle your AC installation. System purchases are bundled with installation services as one package, meaning you won’t be able to purchase a system from them and then hire your own contractor. 

This step can make it challenging to evaluate the company prior to work being done, which is an important step in your AC replacement process. This is the time spent asking questions about the details of your job and getting to know the expertise level of the company.  

A couple of oversights on an air conditioner installation can cause years of sub-optimal performance and efficiency, so developing trust with your service provider is key. 

If you explore a big box store for HVAC systems, it’s a good idea to be as thorough with your questions as you need to be confident in the quality of the work you’ll be getting. Checking online reviews for the company you’re matched with is also a good idea, as it can give you some insights into how they’ve handled past work. 

While some benefits come with purchasing an AC system from a big box store, going this route removes your ability to choose who will provide your installation service.  

With regards to AC installations, you’ll want to be sure that you’re confident in the workmanship you’ll be receiving as it can both positively and negatively affect the performance of your new system. 


Big Box Store Con: Uncertain Support After Installation 

Your big box store essentially boils down to a middleman throughout the purchase and installation process, focused on connecting you with their partner HVAC company local to your area.  

A potentially big part of any air conditioner replacement is the level of post-installation support available. It’s not unheard of for homeowners to need a crew to return to their house and shore up work or answer lingering questions. 

Big box stores are limited in their ability to help with this, as they’re not directly focused on installation services. While stores like Costco and BJ’s have some influence on the experience you’re given, it’s extremely limited and you’re largely in the hands of a company that you weren’t given a say in choosing in the first place. 

Things like warranties and guarantees are also a roll of the dice between Costco or BJ’s and the service company. When your customer experience isn’t 100% in anyone’s hands, it opens the door for gaps in your satisfaction and support after installation. 


How Long Does It Take to Get a New AC Unit Installed?  

Air Conditioning Installation Company | Best HVAC Company | Phoenixville, PA

You can go straight to the big box store’s website to start the purchase process as you may or may not find someone in the store who can help you. Customer service lines are usually readily available. 

A quick phone call will get your information to the installation company that’ll handle your new system. From there, you’re essentially out of the store’s hands from a scheduling and logistics standpoint. You may have to wait up to two business days to be contacted depending on the availability of your service company (I was contacted within 3 hours). 

After that, it’s tough to give a precise timeline between you and your new air conditioner installation as this can vary based on the size of the company and the time of year.  

If you’re in an emergency and don’t have AC during a heat wave, don’t hesitate to let anyone you’re speaking to know. While it’s not guaranteed, you may be able to be prioritized and receive your installation sooner. 


AC Purchases from Big Box Stores: Recommended or Not? 

Costco AC | Costco Air Conditioners | King of Prussia, PA


As someone who works alongside HVAC professionals, including installation technicians, my viewpoint is that big box stores offer an inherently different buying experience that has its own pros and cons to weigh. 

Membership discounts are great offerings that make the investment more affordable, and, while brand isn’t always the most important consideration, Lennox and Trane are two of the top residential HVAC manufacturers. 

You’ll get matched with a local service provider, bypassing the step where you evaluate a handful of different options. The only problem is that this can be a vital step.  

Partner companies of big box stores are all licensed and insured, however there are so many of these companies out there that it can be a roll of the dice when you don’t have a say in the one you move forward with 

And not having a say in the people that’ll be installing your equipment could be a mistake down the road. For better or worse, the quality of your new AC installation will set up its performance and efficiency. 

The best piece of advice I can give is to be vigilant with the installation company that you’re paired with. The HVAC industry, and all contractor-based industries, is filled with a wide range of experience and training levels among technicians that’ll directly impact how your new system will operate, so do whatever you need to do to be confident with your decision. 

My final thought on AC purchases through big box stores is this: as part of your effort to explore all of your options, they’re worth evaluating like you would any other specialized HVAC service provider 

Some homeowners may appreciate being paired directly with an installation company, however, as I’ve mentioned in a few previous articles, be sure to critically evaluate any installation company that comes to your home for a consultation.  

For more information on choosing the right AC unit, read our detailed guide on AC installations or contact our team at Mattioni by calling 610-400-8510 for personalized advice. 



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