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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Middle of Nowhere, TX
    Posts
    51

    Need help for this major decision

    I have gotten 3 estimates for replacing a 27-year-old HVAC split system gas/electric. I have pretty much narrowed my decision down to one company, who was the only one to do a Manual J. He also took photos of my attic and ductwork in most areas, to show me where the vapor barrier over the insulation on one section has disintegrated. He says he will re-wrap that section.

    Company is family owned and operated, in business 40 years here.

    Before I make a final decision on this company, I would like to get some information from experts who are impartial, so I appreciate your patience with me!

    Here are my MANY questions:



    1. The return air grille is located in a hallway at floor level, directly across the hall (roughly 3 feet) from the gas hot water heater closet. Is this a code violation, and/or is it dangerous?



    2. The return air grille opens to an unfinished crawlspace under the furnace/furnace closet. There is no ducting from the grille opening to the bottom of the furnace.

    Is the only disadvantage of this going to be the air leakage from the walls/attic (hot or cold air competing with A/C or Furnace)?

    How much of an effect does that leakage have on the efficiency of the furnace?

    Is this an issue that can/should be accounted for when doing a heat gain/loss analysis?




    3. How is it determined in the duct size is adequate? If my old system was a 4 ton, and the tech recommends 3.5 ton, is it a given that the current ductwork is sufficient?




    4. There was an addition added onto the back of the master bedroom. The window on the back of the MBR was turned into a door, leading into the addition.

    When I was first under contract on the house, the inspector told me that the previous owners had attempted to connect ductwork from the MBR (which had been the termination point of that leg of ductwork) into the addition. He said that the attempt had obviously been aborted due to the lack of attic room in the addition. He said that the original duct work was not re-sealed. His written report says: "Back room (addition) duct not connected to source. Improper duct material, and venting into attic."


    However, the HVAC contractor I'm considering, told me that the statement on the written report is "misleading", and that it is not "venting into the attic". He said he was unable to get a photo of that area, because it was so dark his camera would not focus (or something to that effect).

    I am wondering about the discrepancy between what the home inspector said about "venting into the attic", and what this contractor says. I also wonder why the HVAC contractor could not have taken up an LCD torch or some other source of additional lighting, in order to be able to get a photo of that area.

    I do know enough about the structure of the roof, that the area at that point in the MBR is a very tight squeeze.

    I would appreciate any comments about this. Should I call the home inspector about this?





    5. I am putting a bunch of questions under this number 5 section, because they are all realted.

    I am unsure about the interactions between a VS blower, and either single-stage or 2-stage furnace and/or compressor.


    Is the VS blower controllable at the thermostat? In other words, can I choose which blower speed I want at any given time?


    Will I be able to run "fan only" when I want to, and can I run it at either speed?


    Is it practical or logical to have a VS blower, but only a single-stage compressor and single-stage furnace? How does the lower speed on the blower affect the safety of the operation of the furnace?


    If heating comfort is my primary concern (I am very cold-natured, and in summer, I run the A/C much less often than I run the furnace in winter), then would the 2-stage furnace be right for me?


    Is there any relationship between a VS blower and coil capacity? Doesn't slower blower speed result in less heat and humidity removal?

    I guess I should mention that I am in West Texas, where the humidity is considered low. It is certainly not as dry as in Arizona, but it is WAY dryer than Austin or Houston. 2007 was an exception to the rule, with record rainfall and record cool summer temps. But last summer was back to typical hot, dry summer weather, with high fire dangers and 10-plus days of over 100 degrees. So, admitting that we cannot know what climate changes will occur, it is considered arid.

    All these questions lead me to wonder if perhaps the ONLY benefit of a variable speed blower would be the ability to run the "fan-only", on low speed, during mild weather. The contractor says that he runs his fan on low all the time. I don't understand that.




    6. When looking at the American Standard Website, I see that they only make one indoor coil. Am I to assume that the one coil would be appropriate, regardless of which system were chosen? I am asking this because I had read that the customer should have the contractor prove that the coil is the right size for the system???




    7. Does the condensate pump function both during heating and during cooling? I ask this, because the only time I have ever been aware of the functioning of my CURRENT condensate pump, is in the summer. It is rather noisy. I would hear it kick on after a cooling cycle, and see the water coming out of the condensate drain outside the window. If it ever functions in the winter, it certainly doesn't do it after a heating cycle, so it's sound must be being drowned out by the noise from the furnace??? Any insight on that?



    8. Should the outdoor unit have a "lean-to" (top only, open sides) type cover to protect from leaves and bird droppings? If not, why not? If so, how high above the unit should it be?


    9. Should the outdoor unit be covered with a tarp in the winter (if there is no lean-to cover)?





    I apologize for the many questions and the length of this post. But this is a major expense and will take a huge bite out of my meager savings. I feel I must make an educated decision with this much money involved.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Toledo, Ohio, United States
    Posts
    12,911
    Twilli says only Beenthere has the time to answer so many questions.

    Coleman
    No Heat No Cool You need Action Fast

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Middle of Nowhere, TX
    Posts
    51
    Well, I am curious as to why you thought it was valuable to post that info? And why is Beenthere "the only one" who has time to answer "so many questions"?

    I'm also curious to know if you think my questions are unreasonable???

    This is BIG money we are talking about; at least, it is for me.


    I sincerely hope that Beenthere , or someone, is willing to take the time for me; at his/their convenience, of course. I certainly don't expect anyone to drop everything for me.

    I got the impression that some of the contractors I have spoken to, did not want to take the time to answer my questions, and also seemed none too pleased that I was attempting to be an educated consumer.

    But one can only learn by both study AND by asking questions of people who have the knowledge. That's what I am trying to do.

  4. #4

    Not a pro but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express

    Quote Originally Posted by Vickie View Post
    Well, I am curious as to why you thought it was valuable to post that info? And why is Beenthere "the only one" who has time to answer "so many questions"?

    I'm also curious to know if you think my questions are unreasonable???

    This is BIG money we are talking about; at least, it is for me.


    I sincerely hope that Beenthere , or someone, is willing to take the time for me; at his/their convenience, of course. I certainly don't expect anyone to drop everything for me.

    I got the impression that some of the contractors I have spoken to, did not want to take the time to answer my questions, and also seemed none too pleased that I was attempting to be an educated consumer.

    But one can only learn by both study AND by asking questions of people who have the knowledge. That's what I am trying to do.
    We cover our outdoor unit when we had straight heat/AC now w/a HP obv thats a big no no.

    We have a new VS blower and love and it really can't be controlled from the Tstat I guessin' its hardwired. Blower speeds can be adjusted by the pros, though.
    You can run the fan on VS blowers, we do and its a gentle, almost imprecitible breeze.
    VS is very nice when temps are moderate and cuts back on noise

    OTW, to your other queries-the experts will need to handle them.

    We've installed an Amana 18 SEER HP w/VS blower and luv it. 9.5 HSPF rating so it does a good and efficient job of heating

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
    Posts
    68,123
    1. The return air grille is located in a hallway at floor level, directly across the hall (roughly 3 feet) from the gas hot water heater closet. Is this a code violation, and/or is it dangerous?

    Is the door to the water heater closet louvered, or solid.

    2. The return air grille opens to an unfinished crawlspace under the furnace/furnace closet. There is no ducting from the grille opening to the bottom of the furnace.

    Is the only disadvantage of this going to be the air leakage from the walls/attic (hot or cold air competing with A/C or Furnace)?

    How much of an effect does that leakage have on the efficiency of the furnace?

    Is this an issue that can/should be accounted for when doing a heat gain/loss analysis?

    Guessing your crawlspace is sealed. It should be allowed for in the load calc.

    3. How is it determined in the duct size is adequate? If my old system was a 4 ton, and the tech recommends 3.5 ton, is it a given that the current ductwork is sufficient?

    Duct should be measured, and it static pressure checked at current air flow volume.

    4. There was an addition added onto the back of the master bedroom. The window on the back of the MBR was turned into a door, leading into the addition.

    When I was first under contract on the house, the inspector told me that the previous owners had attempted to connect ductwork from the MBR (which had been the termination point of that leg of ductwork) into the addition. He said that the attempt had obviously been aborted due to the lack of attic room in the addition. He said that the original duct work was not re-sealed. His written report says: "Back room (addition) duct not connected to source. Improper duct material, and venting into attic."


    However, the HVAC contractor I'm considering, told me that the statement on the written report is "misleading", and that it is not "venting into the attic". He said he was unable to get a photo of that area, because it was so dark his camera would not focus (or something to that effect).

    I am wondering about the discrepancy between what the home inspector said about "venting into the attic", and what this contractor says. I also wonder why the HVAC contractor could not have taken up an LCD torch or some other source of additional lighting, in order to be able to get a photo of that area.

    I do know enough about the structure of the roof, that the area at that point in the MBR is a very tight squeeze.

    I would appreciate any comments about this. Should I call the home inspector about this?

    One of them is mistaken. Call the inspector, and see what he says.

    5. I am putting a bunch of questions under this number 5 section, because they are all realted.

    I am unsure about the interactions between a VS blower, and either single-stage or 2-stage furnace and/or compressor.


    Is the VS blower controllable at the thermostat? In other words, can I choose which blower speed I want at any given time?

    Depends on brand, and which thermostat you get.

    Will I be able to run "fan only" when I want to, and can I run it at either speed?

    Depends on brand, and which thermostat you get.

    Is it practical or logical to have a VS blower, but only a single-stage compressor and single-stage furnace? How does the lower speed on the blower affect the safety of the operation of the furnace?

    VS furnace will be 2a 2 stage furnace.


    If heating comfort is my primary concern (I am very cold-natured, and in summer, I run the A/C much less often than I run the furnace in winter), then would the 2-stage furnace be right for me?

    Yes.

    Is there any relationship between a VS blower and coil capacity? Doesn't slower blower speed result in less heat and humidity removal?

    Vs blower doesn't effect coil match up/size.
    Removes less sensible heat, but removes more laten(moisture).


    I guess I should mention that I am in West Texas, where the humidity is considered low. It is certainly not as dry as in Arizona, but it is WAY dryer than Austin or Houston. 2007 was an exception to the rule, with record rainfall and record cool summer temps. But last summer was back to typical hot, dry summer weather, with high fire dangers and 10-plus days of over 100 degrees. So, admitting that we cannot know what climate changes will occur, it is considered arid.

    All these questions lead me to wonder if perhaps the ONLY benefit of a variable speed blower would be the ability to run the "fan-only", on low speed, during mild weather. The contractor says that he runs his fan on low all the time. I don't understand that.

    A furnace with a VS blower is 2 stage. So it will help to make your rooms evenly warmed in heating.
    And recuce humidity in the summer during the milder temps.


    6. When looking at the American Standard Website, I see that they only make one indoor coil. Am I to assume that the one coil would be appropriate, regardless of which system were chosen? I am asking this because I had read that the customer should have the contractor prove that the coil is the right size for the system???

    They have more then one coil.

    7. Does the condensate pump function both during heating and during cooling? I ask this, because the only time I have ever been aware of the functioning of my CURRENT condensate pump, is in the summer. It is rather noisy. I would hear it kick on after a cooling cycle, and see the water coming out of the condensate drain outside the window. If it ever functions in the winter, it certainly doesn't do it after a heating cycle, so it's sound must be being drowned out by the noise from the furnace??? Any insight on that?

    If your furnace is a 90%, then the condensate pump will be used in both summer and winter.

    8. Should the outdoor unit have a "lean-to" (top only, open sides) type cover to protect from leaves and bird droppings? If not, why not? If so, how high above the unit should it be?

    NO!

    9. Should the outdoor unit be covered with a tarp in the winter (if there is no lean-to cover)?

    No.
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Middle of Nowhere, TX
    Posts
    51


    Bless you, beenthere!!!!




    Is the door to the water heater closet louvered, or solid.



    The door to the gas water heater closet is solid, but there is a 2.25" gap at the bottom of the door. Again, the return grille is at floor level, only 3 feet away from that gap at the bottom of the water heater closet door.






    Guessing your crawlspace is sealed. It should be allowed for in the load calc.


    I have been told that when the house was built, it was back when the return air was provided through louvres in the furnace closet door, and that when the new furnace was installed in 1982, the louvred door was sealed, and the bottom of the furnace closet was opened up to the crawl space, and the new return air opening was made in the hallway into the crawl space. The crawl space is sealed EXCEPT for the wall into which the return air opening was cut. I hope that my description makes sense.

    I cannot tell by looking at the print-out page (from the load calc report) for the hallway, if he accounted for the crawl space?






    Duct should be measured, and it static pressure checked at current air flow volume

    Should he also have done static pressure checks at the furnace, at the recommended places?






    As for the rest of your answers, THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!! You have been so much help. Your answers about thermostats helped me to know what questions to ask the contractor now.


    And your answer about the coil prompted me to look on the American Standard site again, and realize that, just like when looking at the listings for the Freedom 80 line, you have to expand the link for "specifications" to see the different models.



    I am so grateful to you for your time and help!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Middle of Nowhere, TX
    Posts
    51
    Oh, and AvanteGarde, thank you for your reply about the cover, and about the VS blower!

    Do you have a 2-stage furnace as well?





    And, beenthere, I forgot to ask if you think, given my situation, that a 2-stage compressor would be right for me, as well....enough to be worth the extra expense?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    SE Michigan
    Posts
    17,963
    Quote Originally Posted by twilli3967 View Post
    Twilli says only Beenthere has the time to answer so many questions.

    Coleman
    LMAO!
    Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.

    Theodore Roosevelt

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
    Posts
    68,123
    Twilli's fingers get tired after 7 letter.
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    How many times must one fix something before it is fixed?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
    Posts
    68,123
    I'd want a combustion air intake installed in the water heater closet then.
    It can be made in the attic. And then seal the under cut of the door.

    Yes, he should have taken it. He still can before they change out the furnace.
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  11. #11

    Yes

    Quote Originally Posted by Vickie View Post
    Oh, and AvanteGarde, thank you for your reply about the cover, and about the VS blower!

    Do you have a 2-stage furnace as well?





    And, beenthere, I forgot to ask if you think, given my situation, that a 2-stage compressor would be right for me, as well....enough to be worth the extra expense?
    yes it is 2 stage-love it

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