Improper Install of a 2011 System. What can i do?
We purchased a 3000 sq ft home in Georgia in Feb. 2012 with 3 heat pump systems. One 4 Ton installed in Mar 2011, one 2 ton installed in 2002, and one 1.5 Ton installed in 1992. Before we purchased the house, we had it inspected and the HVAC all passed. We also had the original installer come look at the 2011 system to tell us why the outdoor unit is so noisy and were told it was because the unit was an entry level (builder's grade) unit. We also asked the owners if all permits needed to any work on the house were done and we were told yes (in writing), except for one small deck project. But no permit was taken out for the 2011 replacement despite being required in our town. We had two breakdowns of the 2011 system since we've owned it and both were covered by our home warranty. The first time the repair was just done and the second time was a different company who was the one alerting us to the improper install issues.
Long story short, what we have learned is that when the old 4 ton system was replaced in 2011 for the previous owners, the contractors connected the new 4 ton unit with only 2.5 to 3 ton worth of ductwork. (Evidently when the 2 ton was installed in 2002 for a small addition, they took some of the ductwork off the 4 ton and put it towards the 2 ton.) Needless to say this is the main cause of the system breakdowns. In addition we have learned there were many code violations during the install by this highly reputable firm. The original contractors came out to fix the system once before we bought the house. They were also here three times for us to try to help us figure out why the unit was so noisy. All they ever told us was that it was an entry level Carrier unit and therefore loud and put in a quiet start board and a sound blanket. While we know this is actually true, three different people from that company out here evaluating the system and not one told us of the other issues.
Unknowingly, we compounded the problem in July 2011 by foaming our attic with open cell foam.
So, here's where we are. A Manual J was done on the house and since we had the house foamed, we only need one 4 ton unit to do the entire house now. If we hadn't foamed the attic, the installer should have put in a 2.5 ton unit rather than the 4 ton.
Did the installers have an obligation to assess the needs of the house before just randoming replacing a 4 ton for a 4 ton? And if not, shouldn't they have noticed during their installation that they were connecting only 3 ton worth of ductwork to the 4 ton airhandler? There are also many other violations including no disconnect switch installed in the attic and the condensate line is not properly angled nor insulated. The ductwork is 'cramped', the runs are too long without being sized down, and the weld connecting a pipe to the air handler didn't 'take' leaving a big air gap on the side of the handler. They didn't get a permit as required and didnt have it inspected.
We have talked to four HVAC companies, including the original one and all suggest a new 4 ton unit (well one says a new 3 Ton and a 1.5 Ton), partly because the current one runs at 80db when properly running (and it's right outside our bedroom wall) and partly because of the damage possibly done to the unit due to the insufficient ductwork. The outdoor unit goes into 'self preservation mode' and turns itself off with this god awful sound when the pressure builds too high. Who knows WHAT is being done to the compressor during those runs. We were told the indoor unit could possibly be reused (but not recommended) but that all the ductwork should be replaced due to moisture buildup in the ducts as a result of all this.
We contacted the company and they are willing to put in a new, high end 4 ton unit, as the Manual J now recommends for the whole house, along with a new airhandler and ductwork and would give us a 'good deal'. What they gave us is the SAME discount that they are advertising in our local paper for that unit. This to me just proves they are a bit too slick and I have no confidence in this company. I don't want them installing anything.
Do we have any recourse with the original installer? Can we get them to give us the original install money plus the $$$ we paid them for a sound blanket in June 2012 plus the $$$$ we had to pay out of pocket to the company we hired for the last repair (who informed us of the incorrect install in about 5 minutes)? This installing company really does have a stellar reputation and we can't understand why.
Do we need to hire a lawyer or just write them a letter outlining the issues they improperly did?