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the heat is on (or, will be on)
Old 07-12-2013, 07:14 PM   #1
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the heat is on (or, will be on)

It's time to get a new heating/air conditioning unit. So, I called Costco and they hooked me up with a guy who deals with these things.

Anyhow, he sells Lennox and suggested we put in an "elite" 80% AFUE, but later suggested an "elite" a 95% AFUE, but for an increased price (Does $800 sound about right? I know he said something would cost and extra $800--maybe it was a power blower). Now, as you can tell, I have no idea what I am talking about and might be mixing up some of the heating/air conditioning jargon and facts. This all comes to about $11, 600 before taxes and rebates.

The house is 2,800 square feet.

We are signing the contact tomorrow at Costco.

Anyhow, I'm wondering if upgrading to the 95% AFUE makes sense and if the power blower makes sense for us to buy.
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Old 07-12-2013, 07:15 PM   #2
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$11,600 sounds high to me. For that much money, I'd get a second (and third) quote before signing any paperwork.
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Old 07-12-2013, 07:30 PM   #3
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I should say that figure includes (as far I can figure) the upgrades. Although, it still may be high. One guy came out earlier last week and quoted $10,000, but I wasn't comfortable with him--and he wasn't selling a name-brand unit.
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Old 07-12-2013, 08:13 PM   #4
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There is a sizing calculator here AC4 Life - How to Size Your System

From this, you need ~ a 5 ton unit

That seems very high to me, did parents house last year, new AC unit ~5 tons I think was around $5500 installed but it wasn't a high end fancy unit.
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Old 07-12-2013, 08:17 PM   #5
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Definitely get at least 3 quotes. When I did mine, they were all over the place for the same basic system.
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Old 07-12-2013, 11:36 PM   #6
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Not anywhere near enough information.

-ERD50
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Old 07-13-2013, 12:04 AM   #7
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+1 on additional quotes and more education.

The AFUE figure refers to the efficiency of the furnace, not the A/C unit. I wouldn't think furnace efficiency would be an important consideration in Los Angeles.

The A/C unit's efficiency is reflected in it's SEER rating.
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Old 07-14-2013, 12:14 PM   #8
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We met the Lennox guy at the local Costco. And, we signed the contract.
The whole thing (out the door, so to speak, came to $11,605). That includes an extra $800 for a power blower). It includes taxes and everything else (such a a touch screen thermostat and putting in a "return system" as we do not have one now. We will have a 95% AFUE (I probably did not word that correctly). The SEER rating is 15.0 (Thank you Htown Harry for helping me out with the AFUE and SEER rating information).

Of that $800 mentioned above, we will get $400 in rebates and tax credits. We get 2% back for using Costco's Executive Amex card and we will be eligible for some other tax credits as well.

I did get a total of two quotes: the first guy came in at $10,000. He was recommended, but was just a bit too cool and casual and wanted to use a secondary brand of furnace/air conditioning unit.

So, I next talked to the Costco guy--very professional and had everything printed out.

Since I don't know anything about HVAC (I didn't even know what that stood for until last week) and decided to go with the guy who had brought something I could read and maybe understand better.

I decided not to get another quote because what if that quote came in at $7500? I would be uncomfortable/worried/suspicious about saving so much money.
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Old 07-14-2013, 01:01 PM   #9
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.........
I decided not to get another quote because what if that quote came in at $7500? I would be uncomfortable/worried/suspicious about saving so much money.
Great idea. That is why I quit wearing two watches. I never knew what time it really was.
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Old 07-14-2013, 01:29 PM   #10
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Great idea. That is why I quit wearing two watches. I never knew what time it really was.
HA!!!
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Old 07-14-2013, 02:04 PM   #11
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When we needed a new HVAC system about 8 years ago, I got four estimates. Three were in roughly the ballpark, with high, medium and low figures.

The fourth one was a large local outfit that is heavily advertised and they were the only one that wanted to put in a Lennox unit.

Unfortunately, their estimate was roughly three times the average of the other three estimates. I quickly decided they were primarily trying to pay for all their TV, print and billboard advertising.

We got one of the other three to install a no-name system and have been extremely satisfied with it. I have no doubt you'll be satisfied with your installation, but I can't help feeling you probably overpaid for it.
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Old 07-14-2013, 02:51 PM   #12
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The workmanship, integrity and reputation of the installer is much more important than the brand of equipment selected.
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Old 07-14-2013, 03:15 PM   #13
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The workmanship, integrity and reputation of the installer is much more important than the brand of equipment selected.
+1

I had a new system installed a couple of years ago and all the research I did said exactly this. The lack of a quality installation job will negatively impact the long-term performance of a system as much or more than the brand you purchase. Plus most of the "no name" units are manufactured on the same assembly line as the brands who pay big bucks for advertising. American Standard is manufactured by Trane, Ducane by Lennox, etc.
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Old 07-14-2013, 04:18 PM   #14
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+1

I had a new system installed a couple of years ago and all the research I did said exactly this. The lack of a quality installation job will negatively impact the long-term performance of a system as much or more than the brand you purchase. Plus most of the "no name" units are manufactured on the same assembly line as the brands who pay big bucks for advertising. American Standard is manufactured by Trane, Ducane by Lennox, etc.
+2 After the installers left, I redid a lot of their work. They busted a hole in my brick veneer siding for the furnace PVC pipes with a sledge hammer and filled the voids with flue goo instead of mortar. The drain lines all had negative slopes and they combined the AC drain with the humidifier drain and the furnace condensate drain, which I separated. The drain ends had no elbows to direct the drip downward and water was leaking on the floor. And they wired the humidifier to run continuously. Plus they lined the chimney for the water heater, but did not secure the aluminum liner to the chimney cap vent.

Other than that, perfect.
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Old 07-14-2013, 07:04 PM   #15
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About 10 years ago, I needed to replace the central AC/heat pump. Got quotes from two different contractors.

The first proposed a 4-ton unit, a fancy one that had dual speeds. The idea was that the unit would switch to the higher speed only as needed, meaning hot outside temperature. This improves efficiency, resulting in lower electric cost.

The second one proposed a 5-ton unit of a conventional design, but was a commercial quality unit. I guess it was meant for office buildings and such, and it came with life-time warranty.

Note that the original AC was a 4-ton, but I had had a 2-room addition to the house, and the 2nd guy correctly said that a larger unit might serve me better. The SEER of the first unit was a bit better than the second, if memory serves.

My memory is fuzzy, but the price of the fancy one was around $7.5K, and the bigger but simpler one was perhaps $4.5K. Both were with labor. So, I went with the cheaper one. This was 10 years ago.

About 2 weeks after the unit was installed, the weather was getting hot, and the new AC got its true test. I went home from work, into a hotter home than it ever was. Something was very wrong. The unit also ran a lot more, despite its larger capacity.

I observed that while the unit was running, if I opened the door, hot air rushed into the home. Uh Oh! Downstairs was hot, while upstairs was cool. Uh Oh!

So, I climbed up to the attic to inspect. The moment I stuck my head into that attic space, I knew what the problem was. It was COOL up there! The coolest place in the house!

I was home the day the unit was installed, but stayed out of their way. The owner was involved originally in the installation but left early, and let his workers finish up the job. This was supposedly a simple drop-in replacement, so how tough could it be?

It turned out that the 5-ton unit had huge 18" diameter inlet and outlet, which needed to be necked down to the existing duct work. The guy's workers did a shoddy job there, and I had a tremendous leak of cold air into the attic.

And as all that cold air was getting blown out to the attic, the house interior was getting evacuated. Hence outside hot air was getting sucked into the house to replace the air that got pumped out. Good grief!

Anyway, I did call the owner to let him know what happened, but only after patching up the work with some duct tape that I had on hand. I did make him come out to fix some other stuff that I found though.

Now, if the leak had not been so massive, I would not know and would always wonder why the new unit did not live up to its SEER rating.

One more reason I have been a hand-on DIY'er and do most things myself, even though I have more money now to pay for hire. Good help is hard to find, and you always need to check after them.
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Old 07-14-2013, 07:25 PM   #16
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Any AC installation must be preceeded by a heat load calculation. Good installers will do that. Without these calculations they use "rule of thumb" which will almost always result in an oversized unit. Bigger is not better in AC work.

Insist on the the heat load calculations and get the paper copy of it with the proposal, before signing any contracts.
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Old 07-14-2013, 08:26 PM   #17
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Any AC installation must be preceeded by a heat load calculation. Good installers will do that. Without these calculations they use "rule of thumb" which will almost always result in an oversized unit. Bigger is not better in AC work.

Insist on the the heat load calculations and get the paper copy of it with the proposal, before signing any contracts.
True, but I tried getting a manual J calculation from any of the 4 bidders and was unsuccessful, even with me providing all the necessary input data. I finally did my own with an on-line calculator. Maybe it is different in other parts of the country.
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Old 07-14-2013, 09:22 PM   #18
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Any AC installation must be preceded by a heat load calculation...
... particularly for a new installation. Here's in the SW where central air comes standard with a new home, the builder does all that. For replacement, people just drop in one of the same capacity.

In my case, ever since I added the 2-room addition I noticed that the existing 4-ton unit ran almost non-stop on a 120F day. The new bigger 5-ton unit worked out just right.

And then, one may need some reserve capacity. If I happen to host a big party for 20+ people on a hot day, let's see...

If memory serves, each person's body heat is about 100W. For 20, that's 2kW or 6840 BTU/hr. Roughly 1/2 ton of additional AC cooling is required, and that's before people start to drink and start to get agitated. Add in the heat from cooking, and it's no wonder my AC was working hard.
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Old 07-14-2013, 09:27 PM   #19
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Anyway, I do not know the specific of redduck's installation, but considering that a fancy unit would have cost me $7.5K 10 years ago for a drop-in replacement, and redduck needs some duct work, and his area may be one of higher labor cost, his quoted price may be quite in range.
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Old 07-14-2013, 11:57 PM   #20
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.

We got one of the other three to install a no-name system and have been extremely satisfied with it. I have no doubt you'll be satisfied with your installation, but I can't help feeling you probably overpaid for it.
Oh, I'm sure I could have gotten a better price and maybe even I overpaid for it, but from what I understand, Costco does keep a lid on the prices re: what their independent contractors can charge. So, I know that I'm not getting the best price, but a fairly decent price. And from what both my son and daughter have told me (they both at one time worked for companies that contracted with Costco, Costco makes sure their customers get fair deals. And, if there is a problem, the contractor answers to Costco (and sort of to me).

I don't mind paying a bit more. I see it as paying for insurance and peace of mind. It's one of several reasons that I keep working. If I can alleviate stress/worry by throwing some money at a problem, I'm all for it.

The situation here is, I don't have an understanding or a feel for this kind of stuff. So, I'm willing to spend a few extra hundred/thousand dollars and play it safe. It's the right way for me. Actually, I do wish I could enjoy and get energized from these sorts of projects, but I don't.
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