OK - here's the story.
20 year old 4 ton heat pump (label gives '86 as the manufacturing date), split system with horizontal air handler in the attic, flex ducting. Location is 120 miles east of Dallas, TX or 60 miles west of Shreveport, LA. This puts us in the hot summer, pretty high (but not quite Houston) humidity and winters with a fair number of sub-30 nights (high teens are not unheard of, but generally fewer than 5 days/yr). There is no natural gas in our subdivision (who thought to check that?), so a furnace is not an option - and don't have a fireplace.
Had the A/C company (not the original installer, but one I've used for the last three years) come out for a tune-up. The system was cooling, but didn't seem to be doing all that well - and had needed a couple of pounds of freon last year. Service man looked at the filers, chemically cleaned the external unit, tightened the power terminals, amp'ed the compressor and fan exterior fan motor. His only check in the attic was on the drip pan line. Checked the system pressures - found them to be low and added about two more pounds of freon. He also spotted that the contactor contactors were badly pitted and replaced them; no argument from me - they were very rough and worn almost down to the copper that the contacts were welded to.
After offering him a bottle of water : ) we got to talking about a possible replacement unit. His recommendation was an American Standard 18 SEER, DC variable speed air handler, AprilAire 2200 filter and a programmable thermostat. He read the price of the system off a photocopied sheet, said that there would be a $250 adder for the AprilAire and a $250 "copper fee" due to price increases. He also mentioned that American Standard had announced a 8% price increase that would take effect in August.
Now for the questions (though feel free to make any comment you think might be useful : )
Are there any missing items on the tune-up / check-out that would give you concerns about the quality of service?
Is this "price by chart" method common or is it a warning flag that I might be heading toward a "one size fits none" installation?
Are there any American Standard dealers out there that can comment about a scheduled price increase or was that just a bit of marketing pressure to move me along in the process?
No mention of a load calculation was made and the assumption seemed to be that a 4 ton gets replaced by a 4 ton. Given 20 years of apparently statisfactory operating history, is this necessarily a bad thing?
The system he was suggesting is a recip two compressor R-22 system. He spoke negatively about scroll compressors and minimized the issue of R-22 production ending in three years. I've read a bit about the refrigerant issues here and am personally leaning toward a R-410a system. But, I've not read much about the relative merits of scroll versus recip compressors or how multi-staging is done with scrolls (two separate compressors like the recips in the one he was plugging or is there a different mode of operation for a single scroll compressor that gives a "second stage" effect).
Well, I'm sure there will be more issues y'all will need to help me with, but that's about it for a starter. I'm planning to check with the power company to see if they can give me a couple of years of electric bills. Hopefully, picking the average of the lowest two or three will give me close to our base KWH use and then anything above that is the opportunity for a more efficient heat pump to reduce. Maybe that will give me the basis for deciding what installed price / SEER combination makes sense. Anyone got a favorite escallation rate for power cost that they like - or a good crystal ball, considering what's happening in the mid-East this week?
Looking forward to lots of good info...
Some have a fixed price, others account for every screw in a quote. Like my tightwad boss. Copper is through the roof, and yes A-S announced a big price rise as did Rheem and some others.
The idea of 4 ton for 4 ton isn't right. The right way is to do a heat gain/loss just to see. Also inspect the ducts to be sure solid and sufficiently sized.
The Hertiage 18 is a great heat pump system. Everyone can debate recip vs scroll. Personally I prefer scroll but do like the 50%/100% staging of the 2 compressors vs 67%/100% of the new scroll. R410a is the future but wouldn't bother me a bit to put in a R22 system now. What refrigerant is in a system is only a concern if it leaks out. I would hope a new premium system wouldn't leak! I also would suggest on any system, the 10 year extended warranty so you don't have expensive repairs down the road. Unlike retail, most HVAC dealers aren't using these warranties as a big profit item so they usually sold affordably.
Certainly before doing anything, get referrals from neighbors form another dealer or 2 and get bids from them just to compare.
The preprinted price is common in many shops,not a problem.
If the 4 ton is doing a good job,and keeping the indoor humidty low,it's probably sized right.Now if you have made upgrades to insulation,widows,etc., a load needs to be done.
What baldie says is true ,a load should be done everytime,but I don't think many shops do it everytime.Plus they can make it say 4 tons ,very easily.
I really appreciated seeing the prices posted on the furnaces in the showroom. In this way, I did not feel like my price was based on the appearance of my house or how I was dressed or what kind of car I have when I visited the HVAC contractor.
That's a good point about showroom flat-rate pricing, but since my quote was at the house it wasn't something I had thought of.
I guess my primary concern is since my installation may be a bit more difficult (attic air handler) that with a fixed price quote there may be a tendancy to drop back to cheaper auxillary equipment (thermostat, air filter, maybe even the air handler) or less attention to details (new drip pan, no checks on duct leaks) to keep the cost to the shop about the same as one that is simpler.
Did your showroom prices include details on the aux equipment and other related services or was it more of "this outside unit installed for $xxxx" ?
Thanks for the comments!