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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    27

    Need advice on new AC system

    Hello all,

    Our home AC has been unsatisfactory for about 5 years now. It is not uncommon to have 80 degrees in the house on a typical 92 degree day with the unit running all day long. Anyway, this year we have decided to get a new unit. I have had a heat calc professionally done and have gotten 3 professional estimates. They all agree that our AC is undersized, not to mention, it is 12 years old.

    My questions:
    Each guy is pushing his companies equipment, Carrier, Amana, Trane. Are the big names really better? Amana guy told me that there are only two manufacturers of compressors anyway, so no matter what name is on the case, it’s the same inside. True?

    Refrigerant - Carrier is pushing R410, other guys say R22 will be around for the next 10-15 years and by then I will need a new system anyway. R410 is higher pressure making leaks more prevalent, more expensive, and fairly new so there are still some kinks in the systems. True?

    Dual fuel - We have a split unit w/ gas heat. Gas furnace is in great shape and capable of handling the bigger AC unit. Some guys are pushing heat pump/gas in a dual fuel setup to supposedly save me money in winter. I'm in Chattanooga TN where our winters aren't very cold anyway. Do I just replace AC or do I want to get into all of this fuel pump, dual fuel stuff?

    The decision is made to get a new unit, I’m just getting confused by each guy telling me that the other guys stuff is not as good as his, refrigerant, heat pump, etc. Anyway, thanks for any advice you guys can give me.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN, USA
    Posts
    34,314
    For the most part, units are similar in quality IF you are comparing like units. Most brands have high end and builder low end. The high end are quieter, better built, usually have compressor protection, better warranties. I suggest avoiding anybody's low end unit.

    Everyone has their own opinion of what refrigerant to go with. If you don't have a leak, it doesn't matter since you don't have to add to it anyway. R22 will be made til 2020 though could get pricey. There's at least 1 good alternative that works just like it available. R410a does have the drawbacks but is proven and what it appears all units will have as of 2010.

    In your area, definitely consider dual fuel for heating bill savings. You would rarely need the gas to fire, the heat pump will heat you much cheaper.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Office and warehouse in both Crystal River & New Port Richey ,FL
    Posts
    18,836
    Check here;

    www.410a.com

    for info. on R410a

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    27
    Thanks guys. Your input is much appreciated.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Tampa, Florida
    Posts
    1,634
    Amana, Trane, Carrier, Lennox... it's all equally bad. For the most part, there really are only 2 compressor companies out there, Bristol & Copeland and you'll find that some manufacturers use compressors from both companies in their products. Compressors have become quite reliable, to the point that most of the failures I've seen are due to install workmanship issues. They're still a mechanical device and are still prone to failure.

    You said that your system is undersized... Your ductwork is probably also undersized. Plan on modifying it if you expect to get reasonable performance gains from the system.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    27
    Quote Originally Posted by tpa-fl View Post
    You said that your system is undersized... Your ductwork is probably also undersized. Plan on modifying it if you expect to get reasonable performance gains from the system.
    Already been addressed, but thanks for the tip. New ductwork will be installed by whomever I choose for the system. I have been reading a few of the other posts. It seems that Amana "G" series are junk?

    It also seems that the consensus is to go with scroll compressors and variable speed furnace. Correct? What about 2-stage compressors? I am trying to make sure I am comparing apples to apples in my estimates.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2000
    Location
    Waco, Texas, USA
    Posts
    6,153
    "And remember my sentimental friend......that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others" - Wizard of Oz.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN, USA
    Posts
    34,314
    I wouldn't call Goodman aka Amana Distinctions JUNK. You get what you pay for. And they are a decent value for the money with a good warranty. But then aren't an A model Amana nor priced like one. As I said, I suggest avoiding any builder line if you can afford it. Compare 13 SEER units

    G model
    stamped top with fan hanging from it
    recip compressor 3 ton and under

    A model
    special heavy duty top designed for sound deadening
    2 speed fan motor
    all Copeland scroll compressors with sound cover
    Copeland Comfort Alert diagnostics module
    Pressure protection switches feeding the diagnostics module

    Both will cool just fine and should last similarly if installed & maintained right. Is the Amana worth it? I think so but your budget has to make that decision.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Tampa, Florida
    Posts
    1,634
    Quote Originally Posted by kenny71 View Post
    Already been addressed, but thanks for the tip. New ductwork will be installed by whomever I choose for the system. I have been reading a few of the other posts. It seems that Amana "G" series are junk?

    It also seems that the consensus is to go with scroll compressors and variable speed furnace. Correct? What about 2-stage compressors? I am trying to make sure I am comparing apples to apples in my estimates.
    Just keep in mind that each "feature" you add is going to add to the cost of the system. If you've not shopped for 2-stage + variable speed, you might be in for sticker shock. That said, 2-stage CAN be less expensive than single stage around this time of year if you catch the deals/rebates just right. I'm in the process of replacing my own system and it ended up being $120 more for the 2-stage heat pump vs. single-stage. You bet I put up the extra $120.

    When comparing estimates, make sure you're comparing apples & apples. Try to get the dealer to put down model #'s on the contract...and if need be, stop by the messages boards here to verify they are what you discussed. I had a contractor try to pull a fast one several years back on a different project. We talked about variable speed, 2-stage, etc. When the proposal came in, he had just listed model #'s and the price was indeed what we had discussed...BUT the model #'s were the absolute lowest builder-grade junk made. I contacted them a couple of times about it, but they never responded. I won't say which, as it has been several years since this happened, and one of their employees does post in here.

    From a homeowner's standpoint, I can see where you'd probably view the process much like buying a used car. Everyone claims they're selling you the best, but you really don't have any idea of what you're buying and the price on even the exact same items varies wildly from one contractor to the next.

    Also, don't let price affect your decision as to which contractor to use. For my changeout, I received quotes varying from $5k-15k. That's quite a spread. Even when dealing with what was supposed to be the same equipment, I found a $5k spread between dealers. For fun, I even took quotes from a few places which were notoriously bad/hacks. A couple of the hacks came in at the low-end of the price spectrum, but one of the hacks was a few hundred higher than the contractor I ultimately chose who has an impeccable reputation.

    Also, if you're looking into the more advanced technologies (variable-speed, multiple stages, zoning, etc.), make sure the dealer has installed a few of them first. You don't want to be their guinea pig! It wouldn't hurt to learn about some of the systems from here, then ask the dealers questions to see if they really do have experience. One of the hack dealers told me that the Carrier Infinity / Bryant Evolution control system couldn't handle a single-stage heat pump. Not true, suspicion that they'd never installed one of these confirmed.

    Quality of the installation is the most important factor in your system performing well and lasting a long time.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Kingsport, Tennessee
    Posts
    649

    Decisions

    Get your propective contractors to give you operating costs estimates for the dual fuel system against a straight heat pump system. In Chattanooga, you may find that it is not worth the difference in cost. Reputable contractors should be able to provide this information to you. Also, in Chattanooga, you may find that anything higher than a 14 Seer unit is not economically feasible. I still like a variable speed indoor unit for its quietness & energy efficiency. R410 is the current choice to replace R22, plus it is better for our enviroment. R410 systems are quiet reliable. Trane is a workhorse brand with a reliablility history second to none. Carrier is a good brand, known for over engineered with a slightly less reliability record than Trane. Amana is owned by Goodman which is a formidible heating & air conditioning manufacturer. Goodman/Amana has eaten much of the market share of Carrier & Trane in the past 15 years. The better Amana units come with tremendous warranties. All these brands offer R410 units. The quality of the installation is the most imortant aspect, however. Also, if you are like me, the price is important too. If installations are equal, look at Seer, HSPF, warranty, & price to make a decision. Its your money. Hope this helps a fellow Tennessean out!
    Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    27
    Quote Originally Posted by mr big View Post
    Trane is a workhorse brand with a reliablility history second to none. Carrier is a good brand, known for over engineered with a slightly less reliability record than Trane.
    I always assumed that Carrier was the flagship of AC units, but I have read some bad things (prone to leaks, over-engineered), Any ideas why?

    Stupid question - what exactly does a 2-stage compressor do for me. What is the benefit?

    There is one company that I am leaning toward. It is the Carrier guy, but that is not why I like them. He went through the house very thoroughly, brought his laptop, did my calc, pointed out un-caulked ducts/registers, located and explained any additional problems, drug tested employees, 17 years of experience. This guy was probably just a salesman, but he really seemed to know what he was doing.

    Adversely, I had one guy ask about my problem, ask square footage, he walked around a little, then off the top of his head he threw out a price. Either he is also very good.....or not.

    Thanks everyone.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Southeastern Pa
    Posts
    18,828
    Quote Originally Posted by kenny71 View Post
    Hello all,

    Our home AC has been unsatisfactory for about 5 years now. It is not uncommon to have 80 degrees in the house on a typical 92 degree day with the unit running all day long. Anyway, this year we have decided to get a new unit. I have had a heat calc professionally done and have gotten 3 professional estimates. They all agree that our AC is undersized, not to mention, it is 12 years old.

    My questions:
    Each guy is pushing his companies equipment, Carrier, Amana, Trane. Are the big names really better? Amana guy told me that there are only two manufacturers of compressors anyway, so no matter what name is on the case, it’s the same inside. True?

    Refrigerant - Carrier is pushing R410, other guys say R22 will be around for the next 10-15 years and by then I will need a new system anyway. R410 is higher pressure making leaks more prevalent, more expensive, and fairly new so there are still some kinks in the systems. True?

    Dual fuel - We have a split unit w/ gas heat. Gas furnace is in great shape and capable of handling the bigger AC unit. Some guys are pushing heat pump/gas in a dual fuel setup to supposedly save me money in winter. I'm in Chattanooga TN where our winters aren't very cold anyway. Do I just replace AC or do I want to get into all of this fuel pump, dual fuel stuff?

    The decision is made to get a new unit, I’m just getting confused by each guy telling me that the other guys stuff is not as good as his, refrigerant, heat pump, etc. Anyway, thanks for any advice you guys can give me.
    Well, Kenny there has been some debate about the reasoning for a replacement refrigerant (a mix of zeal and hypothesis, with a dash of big government) and quality of brands. Whatever you choose, correct installation is very important.

    While a compressor manufactured by a company might appear in more than one brand of unit, the compressor does not "make" the system. Certainly, the quality of design of a compressor is important, but the design of other components, the quality with which they are manufactured, the skill with which they are assembled, and finally, the skill and care of the contractor in installing all of those components will affect your cost as well as your satisfaction.

    Someone posted a website called 410a.com. You need to realize that this is a website provided by the main proponent of R410A, and it is not an impartial or unbiased site. It's intent is to "promote" R410A to the public.

    ALL of the increased costs of R410A WILL be passed along to an unsuspecting public when there is no other new machine that can be purchased. Right now, you still have a choice of they type of machine you will buy, and that is entirely up to you. If you listen to the fear mongers, you might be afraid that R22 will not be available for much longer. That is patently false, because all existing units that are removed from service will have their R22 recovered and it will be available to the stream of recycled refrigerant in order to service existing machines. There will also be newly manufactured R22 available for servicing of existing machines after new R22 machines are no longer being sold.

    Now, if you feel that a new R410A machine satisfies your needs better than a similar R22 machine will, then you should feel free to buy one.

    Some considerations for either kind of unit include:

    Correct sizing assessment for new unit

    Design and installation of ductwork

    Correct installation of new parts, and or corrections of existing problems, if any

    Total cost (unit cost and installation, along with ancillary labor)

    Warranty

    Energy use

    Effectiveness for purpose

    Quality of brand

    Features of model

    As for the question of heat pump usage, your public electric utility can often provide guidance on costs of running heat pumps, since even HPs without an electric backup still use energy to run the compressor. Ask about how often your outside temps go below the "balance point" of typical heat pumps, and consider your gas costs for running your furnace.

    Gas costs are directly affected by the efficiency of your gas furnace, and so if your furnace is older, you may not be getting a lot of efficiency. The insulation in your home is another factor. As you move south across the US, insulation factors go down because it rarely gets as cold in the south as it does in the northern central states.

    If you know what you spent on gas on average over the past five or ten years, and you know the cubic feet cost on average, you can get an idea of how many BTU's, based on the efficiency of your gas furnace, were needed to heat your home. Then, you can decide if a heat pump can meet that standard, based on typical outside temps.
    [Avatar photo from a Florida training accident. Everyone walked away.]
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  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Phoenix, AZ
    Posts
    574
    LOL - while the 410a.com website is a website designed to promote 410a, Timebuilder is the designated person to counter that support!

    You asked what a 2-stage compressor will do for you. It will allow your A/C to control humidity better (I think). But you need to pair it with a variable speed air handler to get this benefit (I think). Basically, the system slows down, uses less power, cycles less frequently, and the air flowing over the [cold] indoor coil passes over the coil more slowly, allowing more moisture to condense and go down your condensate line, rather than being pumped out into your rooms. In "green grass" climates where humidity is a problem, this system design is apparently a godsend. You can be comfortable at a higher thermostat setting because of the lowered humidity, which saves you $$$ on cooling.

    And now my disclaimer about not being a Pro - basically I'm (trying to) regurgitate what I've learned here.

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