I just wish I'd found this site before I signed the contract. I don't know what to do, or even what question to ask first, so I'll try to just jump in.

I had a very old unit which I had recharged about 10 years ago, when I first bought my house, then I just didn't bother with it. I live near New York City, so most normal people think air conditioning is needed here, but the heat doesn't bother me except when it's over 90, and that's only a few days a year. However, this past winter I got a rash, and finally reached the conclusion that the air quality in my house had something to do with it - although I've become sensitive to bad air anywhere and now avoid going to movie theaters for that reason.

The way I picked my contractor was I asked my favorite plumber and the local environmental organization for recommendations, and when they both recommended the same company, which is local and has been in business since 1938, I decided that was the company I should use. I did check for the BBB history, which was clean, as well as do some google searches for problems with the law which didn't turn up anything. The claims on the company's website about all NATE certified mechanics and affiliation with all major air conditioning and heating professional associations sounded good to me, but I didn't check them.

I signed a contract which included 3 options, and I took all three.

The basic option was for removal of old equipment, installation of a Carrier Variable Speed Infinity air handler hung from the attic rafters (the old unit was causing a crack in the bedroom ceiling), installation of a Carrier Infinity 5 Ton Condensing Unit (we had verbally agreed on a 2100 SEER - my idea, don't ask, which the contractor honored although I'm noticing now it wasn't in the contract), and the installation of all necessary insulated sheetmetal and flexible duct work. No, he didn't do a manual J calculation on my home to arrive at the 5 ton condensing unit, although in his defense about 20% of the homes in my neighborhood have the same floor plan and the contractor does a lot of work here. He did show me his NATE certification, and he may have done manual J calculations on enough of these homes that now he can eyeball them.

Add on #1 was an Aprilaire Air Cleaner.

Add on #2 was removal and installation of new sheetmetal ductwork with connection to the existing supply diffuser locations with new diffusers.

Trying to keep this short, here are my questions:

Is this much flex ducting acceptable given that I requested Add on #2? I think none of the flex runs are over 15 feet (though a couple probably come very close to 15 feet). However, this is certainly not what I had thought I would be getting when I asked for the new sheetmetal option.

Does this look like an acceptable installation (images are attached)?

Would I be notified if a building permit was obtained, or does that happen behind the scenes? Since I thought I was dealing with a reputable contractor, I assumed that he was doing everything on the up and up, but now I have my doubts. Who should I ask?

I became suspicious when they said they were through removing the old fiberglass insulated ductwork, and I poked my head up in the attic and saw there was a lot of ductwork still left up there. It's a long story, and I can go into more detail, but it was at this point I started doing my homework and discovered this website, as well as finding out that the contractor really wasn't a member of the professional organizations that he claimed.

The contractor had verbally agreed that pink fiberglass insulation would not be used in the system (because of my allergies), which he kind of observed. Although the flex (thermaflex) ducts have fiberglass, it isn't in the airstream, and the sheet metal used in the main trunk has some sort of foil covered bubble wrap type insulation on it rather than fiberglass.

When the installation was practically complete (just a little drywall damage touch up was left), the contractor presented me with an invoice for more than the contract amount, saying that the non-fiberglass insulation had been more expensive than he had anticipated. I asked for a break-down of charges, which he provided (sort of). I confronted him with the fact his website made false claims about his professional association memberships. He said he didn't know what was on the website; that a relative had done it for him, and that he'd correct it right away. I also told him that the contract had called for sheetmetal, and he had used flex. While I was confronting him, he turned as white as a sheet and was obviously very upset, fumbling through his wallet to show me his NATE certification.

I'm now able to spend a good 12 hours per day inside my house, which I wasn't able to do since January because of my allergies, and the system cools the house.

I have yet to make a final payment. Advice from my children is that I'm being taken by the contractor. They say I should pay less than what the contract calls for, not more. This whole thing is making me even crazier than I was to begin with, so I haven't yet decided what I should do. I know there are two sides to every story (I'm an independent contractor who does website development myself) and I can only tell my side. I called one of the contractors whom I should have asked for a 2nd bid in the first place, but he's busy with people's real emergencies and wouldn't have time to look at my installation until after the summer.

So, any advice as to how I should go about deciding what to do would be much appreciated.