An HVAC technician uses his phone to scan barcodes of parts in a price book.
Trade Talk

OEM vs. ARP: The great debate about HVAC parts

Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and aftermarket repair parts (ARP) can be found in many different product categories for HVAC. Choosing the right equipment for any job is often a question of choosing between these types of parts.

Understand the benefits and common applications to help you make more informed choices with and for your customer.

OEM HVAC parts or ARP?

Wes Gosney, a national product category manager in North Carolina, believes in utilizing both OEM and ARP, depending on the situation.

“It is a right decision to use an OEM part when an aftermarket part is unavailable, the original system is under warranty, and if the OEM part is available in a reasonable time period,” Gosney said.

That reasonable time frame has been tested in recent years with supply chain shortages and delays. For example, Gosney suggests that with 10- to 12-week delays due to shortages for OEM parts, the customer’s health and safety are always top of mind. “It’s best to use an aftermarket part even if the original is under warranty,” he explained.

Another reason OEM is often preferred by HVAC contractors is due to its precise specifications and manufacturing.

“I prefer OEM over aftermarket parts,” said Marcus Myles, an operations manager in HVAC. “Manufacturers make their parts for specific reasons. For example, with an 810 RPM motor, the closest aftermarket motor you can get will have 825 or 850 RPM. Those extra rotations will affect everything when it comes to refrigeration.”

Cameron Lucas, an HVAC contracting business owner in Florida, takes a practical approach to deciding between OEM and ARP.

“It depends on what types of systems are in [the customer’s] house,” he explained. “With small-ticket items, like standard contactors and capacitors, aftermarket parts are usually in the van, and there’s no wait time for the customer.”

A contractor from southern California also takes a more practical approach, especially when keeping the customer’s cost-saving needs in mind. “I use ARP when the customer wants to save on cost, the ARP is in stock, and the OEM is coming from the factory,” he explained.

Determining quality of ARP and OEM parts

It’s no surprise that these same professionals often determine the quality of parts by brand, and each has their go-to brands for each job.

“If we’re talking about Genteq 1/2 HP X-13 motors, aftermarket parts are identical to what the manufacturer sells for double the price,” Lucas said. “If they’re not better, it’s the exact same product just without the brand name.”

“I can find Copeland compressors anywhere, and I trust them,” Myles said. “I barely use aftermarket compressors because they’re shady, in my opinion.”

For the southern California contractor, determining quality boils down to how well it works for the customer.

“When it’s a new brand, sometimes we just have to take a chance,” he explained. “If the part works and we don’t have a callback, we use that brand again.”

Extended warranty periods for HVAC parts

One major benefit to a customer choosing OEM vs. ARP is the warranty period issued on the product. With ARP, those warranties can be up to a few months, whereas OEM issues a one-year warranty period.

“My business is my customer. I always give them the option,” Myles said. “I tell them the positives and negatives to both OEM and ARP. The OEM will cost more, but I can give them a warranty on those parts.”

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