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Old 09-06-2008, 08:37 AM   #1
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air conditioning

My air conditioner has been limping this year and it's time I replace it . I'm having three estimates done but what is reasonable for a 2,500 sq. ft. house and what brands do you recommend ?
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Old 09-06-2008, 08:53 AM   #2
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I have a Trane that works as well as it did 19 years ago when they installed it. It gets a good work out in the summer because I like it cool in the house.
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Old 09-06-2008, 09:05 AM   #3
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My first house had a Heil in it. I lived there 12 years and had very little maintenance costs. When I sold the house, the unit was 20 years old and still going strong. About a year ago I ran into the guy that bought my house and he said the unit was still running fine. That would make it about 30 years old.

Heating and Cooling Brands: Heil
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Old 09-06-2008, 09:37 AM   #4
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Our AC unit is a 10 year old Trane and we had to have some major repairs (new condenser coil) at the 7 year point. Lucky for me it was still under warranty or the bill would have been ~$2,500. When it comes time to replace, I don't think I'll go with Trane again.

Don't have any idea on replacement cost.
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Old 09-06-2008, 09:43 AM   #5
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We just got a quote for a Trane to replace a worn out unit for an 1800 sf house. It was going to be $3500-$5000 depending on the model. Our's is still limping, so we're going to hold out until it dies. It's a second home, so nobody is depending on it.
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Old 09-06-2008, 09:59 AM   #6
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Just as buying a car - its helpful to know the cost of the hardware... Being a DIY person my source is AIR CONDITIONER CENTRAL UNITS . If your unit is there you'd be in a better position to negotiate the install /warranty service fee.
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:08 AM   #7
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After jumping through these hoops last year, I have some simple advice:

- Pretty much all the units for sale these days are about the same as far as performance and quality. For a given efficiency rate, choose the cheapest you can get...which is usually a Goodman.
- There has been so much consolidation in the industry that there are only about a half dozen companies making the top 15 brands. For example, carrier, bryant and payne are all made by the same company. American standard and trane are made by the same company and identical except for some cosmetic packaging. Goodman used to make amana, some whirlpool and maytag units but I think they spun those off.
- Dont get sucked into paying a lot extra for more efficiency with fancy cost savings charts. The difference in actual electric usage between a 16 seer air conditioner and a 13 seer isnt that much. If its a $300-500 difference, its worth it. If its $2000, its not.
- Given that you live in FL, consider a heat pump instead of a traditional furnace/air conditioner. Heat pumps both heat AND cool, and a higher efficiency heat pump can be a good investment in a climate that doesnt have severe winters.

To simplify it as much as I can, buy a Goodman, make sure the installer is factory authorized, and make sure their quote includes a transferable ten year factory parts and labor warranty. Every manufacturer sells the latter but the installers all try to sell you some kind of hybrid warranty where the installer does the labor and there is some level of parts warranty that may or may not be transferrable.

You'll pay less, if theres a problem with the install its on the manufacturer to make it right because they authorized the installer, and if anything goes wrong down the road or you come to dislike the company you paid to install it, you can transfer the warranty to another service provider. Everyone services Goodman, parts are readily available, and about the only difference between the Goodman product and everything else is that its a builders product with no marketing and advertising.

Lastly, your house size only has a little bit to do with the sizing of the unit. How high your ceilings are, how much insulation in the walls and attic, and how many windows you have and what type they are have more to do with the unit size needs than square footage. Your contractor can do what is called a "manual J" calculation with all this information plugged into a piece of software to tell you exactly what you need. Too big is not good, your unit will cycle more and be inefficient. Too small is not good since the unit may not adequately cool.

Chances are the unit thats already installed in your house is the right size, providing its doing the job and giving you the right level of comfort.
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:20 AM   #8
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Quote:
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Just as buying a car - its helpful to know the cost of the hardware... Being a DIY person my source is AIR CONDITIONER CENTRAL UNITS . If your unit is there you'd be in a better position to negotiate the install /warranty service fee.
It is helpful to know the cost of the hardware, but if you buy your own and ask a guy to install it, you're only going to get hacks. The vast majority of HVAC contractors HATE people who want to buy their own equipment and they wont take the job.

Further, most of the major HVAC manufacturers will only warranty equipment sold through and installed by an authorized installer. "Internet sales" or through parts companies are not warrantied.

Go to HVAC-Talk: Heating, Air & Refrigeration Discussion - Powered by vBulletin (the main site for hvac contractors), go to the 'residential' sub forum, and ask them about installing equipment you bought yourself. Its like asking if you should buy a variable annuity full of beaver cheese around here.
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:28 AM   #9
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Oh, and prices vary wildly by region. What costs $6500 in california might cost $4500 in ohio. So only local pricing will be a good comparator.

BTW, if you go to hvac-talk and ask if anyone works out of your area and would like to help you with a new unit, your chances of getting someone that doesnt suck is much better. Those guys post pictures of their jobs and then everyone else gives them a hard time about every little detail.
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:28 AM   #10
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Thanks everybody !
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:32 AM   #11
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Oh, and this thread covered my trials and tribulations...skip ahead a bit past where my furnace was flaky to the war-and-peace posts on trying to buy and have a competent install done.

Air conditioning question
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:35 AM   #12
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It cost me $3300 in 2002 for a 12SEER, 3T Trane system. No maintenance issues so far.
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:40 AM   #13
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A great place to go for HVAC information, saved my bacon more than once:

HVAC-Talk: Heating, Air & Refrigeration Discussion - Powered by vBulletin
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:48 AM   #14
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I was going to mention that CFB had posted a lot of information about AC somewhere earlier on the board (one great example of why this board is amazing and how much I've learned so much from it, financial and otherwise). We replaced our 20-year-old Trane furnace and air two years ago in Chicago area for around $5,000 I think, with more Trane (before CFB posted his info on AC). Amazing how much more efficient they are (and we didn't even go with the most expensive super-efficient models)--you should see a nice drop in your utility bills, Moemg!
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Old 09-06-2008, 12:00 PM   #15
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mazing how much more efficient they are (and we didn't even go with the most expensive super-efficient models)--you should see a nice drop in your utility bills, Moemg!
Any drop at all in my electric bill will make it well worth it to me !
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Old 09-06-2008, 12:01 PM   #16
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We have a 10 year old Amana unit which provides great income for the repairman since it regularly breaks.
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Old 09-06-2008, 12:07 PM   #17
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We went from an old 70% furnace with an old 9 seer air conditioner to an 80% furnace and a 16 seer air conditioner. The old units were probably not even doing 70 and 9 anymore.

The gas usage adjusted for seasonality was actually slightly higher with the new 80% furnace. I'm guessing thats because its a two-stage unit and was running longer in the first stage than the old furnace in its only stage, and we were losing heat in the duct works. But it was much more comfortable...the old furnace used to blast us with very hot air and then go off for a long time...the new one blows mildly warm air and runs a long time so it feels comfy.

We stucco'd the house, added R-4 foam under the stucco, and replaced all the windows with low-e argon filled. Between that and the new 16 seer a/c unit our electric bill from july/august was about 25% lower than july/august last year, adjusted for weather.

Eh, about $80 a month during the peak months. Thats a long payback.
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Old 09-06-2008, 01:56 PM   #18
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Well I had my estimates . The highest was from the company that services my present air conditioner . The second was from a large local company with a nice salesguy that was not too pushy and answered all my questions . The last and slightly cheaper was from two reeking with smoke looked like they hung out at the bar a lot guys . Which one do you think I picked ? Correct #2 . The price seems right . The warranty is good and it has been in business a long time . So thanks for your suggestions . I gained a little air conditioning knowledge .
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Old 09-06-2008, 02:03 PM   #19
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What brand unit did you go with?
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Old 09-06-2008, 02:24 PM   #20
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The last and slightly cheaper was from two reeking with smoke looked like they hung out at the bar a lot guys .
I had a Sears furnace guy stub out a cigarette on top of the humidifier housing that he just installed. He left the butt there. I complained to Sears. They said sorry, there was nothing they could do as he was a "local contractor." That was in 1980 and the last thing I ever purchased from Sears. How is Sears doing today? Obviously, my boycott has brought them to their knees.

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