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  1. #1

    Mismatched SEER ratings: old air handler & new condenser

    The condenser unit on my 20 year old split system has died. The air handler unit inside is still working, but was installed foolishly and I'll have to tear into drywall/studs to remove/replace the air handler unit when it finally poops out (don't ask about the poor judgement at the time of the original install, please). So I'd like to avoid replacing the air handler until necessary. Well, my main HVAC guy is a side-work guy who prefers new installs to repairs, and he's been told at the supply house that current higher-SEER condensers can't be matched to old, lower-SEER air handlers. But is that really true? Can I hook a new condenser (of appropriate tonnage) up to an existing 20 year old air handler/coil with considerably lower SEER rating?

    I figure the supply house is covering it's rear end and saying that mismatching will void warranties, etc., and they also have a vested interest in selling both halves of a new split system. Is that so?

    Will I be forced to to replace the compressor or fan motor at any price (and with scavanged antique parts) to keep the old condenser working so as to keep the match with the air handler inside the house?

    Thanks for any feedback.

    Jack

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
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    NW IL.
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    Matching systems is really important. Check the following attached pdf articles.
    One is from the Department of Energy. Hope these articles answers your questions as to why equipment needs to be matched. If this install would require major renovation another option may be a ductless air conditioner.
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    Aircraft Mechanical Accessories Technician. The Air Force changed the job title to Air Craft Environmental Systems Technician. But I've decided I'll always be a Mech Acc.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
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    66,755
    Plus, if the compressor goes ou in the new condenser. The warranty is void, and you end up having to pay for a compressor that should have been free.
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Virginia
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    4,512
    it is necessary at this timeto replace the air handler

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Ohio
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    2,875
    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Friedman View Post
    Well, my main HVAC guy is a side-work guy who prefers new installs to repairs, and he's been told at the supply house that current higher-SEER condensers can't be matched to old, lower-SEER air handlers.
    Jack....please don't take too much offense to this but if your "guy" has to be told this by a supply house...look for another guy. "Side work" is the death of this industry because everyone thinks they can do what we do. Fact is, it takes years of training, education and experience to do what we do and to do it correctly. We see this crappy work all the time. Have you checked out the "Wall of Shame" yet? Many of those jobs are "side work". I would recommend calling some QUALITY companies in your area and obtaining some bids on your new equipment. Remember, you don't buy equipment, you buy the company installing it. Also, many homeowners will have a few bids then bring the results on here for us to comment on. It can be a useful tool for your searches...just remember to follow the rules and not post pricing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Friedman View Post
    I figure the supply house is covering it's rear end and saying that mismatching will void warranties, etc., and they also have a vested interest in selling both halves of a new split system. Is that so?
    You are right.....and so are the supply houses. Would you like to spend money on a new outdoor unit only to find out that when your compressor fails in two years it won't be covered under warranty? There is no other industry in the world where this quote holds more true.... "you get what you pay for" Good luck with your situation...keep us posted on your progress.
    I need a new signature.....

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Massachusetts
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    6,826
    Jack, buying an AC system is like buying a car. But there is one HUGE difference. When you buy a car, it's all put together and you can drive it right out of the lot. But buying an AC/HP system is like walking into a warehouse full of automobile parts from all different manufacturers and then the car has to be built. If you had to buy a car that way, I assume you'd be very careful about the mechanic you hire to build the car from all the parts in the warehouse? It's the same for the AC/HP system. You've got to be very careful about the mechanic you as to build your system.

    The operational money you'll save over the life of a properly sized and installed system will pay for the new air handler and the carpentry work that needs to be done. Look at it this way; you're going to be paying for the new air handler one way or the other. Either up front or every month when you get your overly large electric bill. Either way, you're paying. But if you put in the matched system, properly sized and installed, the cost is fixed and you break even at some point with the electric savings. If you short change the job, you'll just keep paying the electric company until somebody, someday, rips it all out and does it right!
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    If YOU want change, YOU have to first change.

    If you are waiting for the 'other guy' to change first, just remember, you're the 'other guy's' other guy. To continue to expect real change when you keep acting the same way as always, is folly. Won't happen. Real change will only happen when a majority of the people change the way they vote!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    RTP North Carolina
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    81
    The correct course of action in this case is to replace both the condensor and evap coil/ airhandler at the same time. Mismatching will lower the seer, viod your warranty, and the system will run at dimished capacity, with early compressor failure pretty much a given. Another thing to keep in mind is inspectors (its getting inspected right?) are being trained to recognize mismatched equipment and may not pass the install because of this.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
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    You mean inspectors carry a list of 50 to 1,000 possible AHRI rated matches with them.
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Naples, Fl
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    889
    Quote Originally Posted by beenthere View Post
    You mean inspectors carry a list of 50 to 1,000 possible AHRI rated matches with them.
    some are requireing the ari cert sheet and others know york isn't rated on trane

    yeah it surpises me too

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
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    6,285
    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Friedman View Post
    The condenser unit on my 20 year old split system has died. The air handler unit inside is still working, but was installed foolishly and I'll have to tear into drywall/studs to remove/replace the air handler unit when it finally poops out (don't ask about the poor judgement at the time of the original install, please). So I'd like to avoid replacing the air handler until necessary. Well, my main HVAC guy is a side-work guy who prefers new installs to repairs, and he's been told at the supply house that current higher-SEER condensers can't be matched to old, lower-SEER air handlers. But is that really true? Can I hook a new condenser (of appropriate tonnage) up to an existing 20 year old air handler/coil with considerably lower SEER rating?

    I figure the supply house is covering it's rear end and saying that mismatching will void warranties, etc., and they also have a vested interest in selling both halves of a new split system. Is that so?

    Will I be forced to to replace the compressor or fan motor at any price (and with scavanged antique parts) to keep the old condenser working so as to keep the match with the air handler inside the house?

    Thanks for any feedback.

    Jack
    Had a regional manager (not mine) call me Friday. Apparently a 1 year ago a tech without the proper knowledge installed a HP on an old air handler. When the regional called she was asking a lot of strange info for someone in that position to be asking so I basically asked her what's the problem. She says well one of our other guys is having problems finding a compressor for a dead unit. Before getting all involved I asked for the techs number so I could speak to him directly. He assured me it was dead...I still asked twice just in case. Anyways he assured me. So I get to looking for the compressor. Guess what no one has it....the unit was so new and under warranty there was no need for parts houses to carry the compressor. It has to come straight from the mfg. Oddly enough it takes three weeks to get it supposedly. After figuring out they were either going to have to wait the time or get another unit I left the situation alone.

    I wonder if they saved any money...

  11. #11

    Thanks for the feedback!

    Thank you all for the feedback. Of course I KNEW the coil & air handler should be changed out too. I wasn't trying to save money in that way. But here's the story if you're bored enough to read it:

    When the air handler was originally installed on the second floor of my house, the whole house had been gutted and I'd never redone a house like that before. In an effort to both save space & find a location for the air handler that would be central to 2 bedrooms & a bathroom, the unit was placed such that access to the unit is ONLY through a square of removable drywall that hangs over a stairway where a ladder is necessary to reach it. This was no problem during the install, cause the back wall (facing the bathroom) was not yet in place. Later, I permanentaly installed a 1-piece acrylic shower stall in the bathroom, blocking access to the air handler. Well, it did allow 2 bedrooms & the bathroom to be somewhat bigger, but it was stupid to not have the air handler unit arranged such that there was access through a door into one of the bedrooms.

    The lucky part was that the unit has functioned without problem for over 20 years. The unlucky part is that I moved out of that house to please my ex-wife, and have been renting it out ever since. If I were still living there, the inconvenience & mess of ripping into walls as necessary wouldn't be so upsetting, but I have good tenants for whom that level of chaos/mess over 3, 5, or 7 days (rehanging & finishing drywall, you know) would be intolerable. That's why I was hoping to nurse things along till their lease is up, & they're out of the house, etc.

    As it happens, a few hours ago a tech was able to get the original condenser working again (unit was so old it had oil ports; oiling the fan motor did the trick), but I know WELL that I've only put off the day of reckoning by a day, a month, or a year (maybe). All I'm hoping is to be able to put all the new equipment in either between tenants, or at least during the temperate fall season, when it's less of an emergency.

    Thanks again for taking the time to respond, I sure appreciate it.

    Jack

  12. #12
    Metal:

    No offense taken, but to clarify, my "side work guy" truly IS a highly qualified tech who, in fact, works for a major regional HVAC company, but he is a bit better versed in commercial and as an older guy seems to like hardpiping ducts as much as anything else (he was actually in charge of the company fab shop till it was phased out). So although he can do all kinds of repairs, including on residential, he prefers nice, clean installs. He's been a wonderful friend and has saved me many thousands of bucks, but he's not cocky and doesn't hesitate to make inquiries at the supply house or consult other techs at his company. So understand that this fellow is not a jackleg.

    In the same way, the fellow who got my condenser running again a few hours ago (a different guy, as my usual guy was putting kitchen in his daughter's house today) was ALSO doing "side work" but he too has a dayjob in HVAC (running HVAC crews made up of convicts at a nearby prison!?!?!?!?). So when I use a guy doing "side work" I mean I'm using one of the guys who already work in the trade, but without having to pay for company owners, front office girls, etc.

    Still, I competely understand the point you make, and I agree with it.

    Thanks for taking the time to repond.

    Jack

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Naples, Fl
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    889
    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Friedman View Post
    Metal:

    No offense taken, but to clarify, my "side work guy" truly IS a highly qualified tech who, in fact, works for a major regional HVAC company, but he is a bit better versed in commercial and as an older guy seems to like hardpiping ducts as much as anything else (he was actually in charge of the company fab shop till it was phased out). So although he can do all kinds of repairs, including on residential, he prefers nice, clean installs. He's been a wonderful friend and has saved me many thousands of bucks, but he's not cocky and doesn't hesitate to make inquiries at the supply house or consult other techs at his company. So understand that this fellow is not a jackleg.

    In the same way, the fellow who got my condenser running again a few hours ago (a different guy, as my usual guy was putting kitchen in his daughter's house today) was ALSO doing "side work" but he too has a dayjob in HVAC (running HVAC crews made up of convicts at a nearby prison!?!?!?!?). So when I use a guy doing "side work" I mean I'm using one of the guys who already work in the trade, but without having to pay for company owners, front office girls, etc.

    Still, I competely understand the point you make, and I agree with it.

    Thanks for taking the time to repond.

    Jack
    That's called cheating. They should both lose their jobs.

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