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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Dothan, Al
    Posts
    3,453
    I have been reading the questions & answers for awhile, and I have seen a lot of you recommending high ( +13 seer )
    efficiency systems.
    My question is: Are they really worth the money spent over the lifetime if the system

    I read an article in one of the trade newspapers about a year & a half ago that indicated that any system over 12 seer was not worth the money spent, in other words, you would not recover the extra money spent on installation
    in the savings that you get.

    There was one post I just seen where an owner was trying to decide between contractors to install a 3 ton system w/ ductwork - prices range 8000 - 9000 dollars for high seer.
    my complete installation for a ten seer would be less than 4000.00 - How long would it take for an owner to recoup 4000.00 in their utility bills ???

    My main concern for high eff. systems is the repair costs.
    considiering the life-time of the system, I can't help but believe that a 13 or higher seer which costs much more in
    installation costs, would also costs much more in repair costs, and would not last as long as a 12 or under seer ?

    Does anyone have information proving that a 13+ system will actually save the onwer money over the life of the system, and what savings can be achieved , and proof that the high eff. systems will lasts as long ????

    I have dealt with one 13+ system where in less than ive years, the variable-speed blower drive went out & cost the owner $640.00 in repairs ( that a lower seer system wouldn't have had ) - Where did the energy eff. savings go ???

    I teach Hvac at tech school, so I am very interested in learning as much as I can about this, so I can keep my students informed

    By the way, if you want to learn Hvac, try teaching it.
    Thought I knew alot, but have learned so much since teaching

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Ft.Worth,Tx
    Posts
    4,581

    Talking

    contact acca-ntx.org
    ari.org
    Or have a energy audit done on your home to find out the real savings of 10.0 vs 13.0 S.E.E.R........

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Kingsport, Tennessee
    Posts
    649

    10 Seer Vs 13 Seer

    Your savings would depend on your particular climate, your electric rates, & the heat gain of your structure. Keep in mind that the HSPF rating is usually considerably higher in the 13 Seer Heat Pump systems also, so the savings in heating can be dramatic in certain climates. There are areas where the savings for just cooling is not there if cooling is only used a few times of year. You are correct that if your high efficiency system is not reliable, you can lose much of your savings. Thats a risk we all take when buying mechanical equipment.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN, USA
    Posts
    33,398
    Has to do with length of cooling season and cost of juice. In our area, typical savings for higher SEER is $4 per ton per SEER point. So a 3 ton 12 SEER would save $24 a year over a 3 ton 10 SEER. Figuring that the 12 SEER could cost $400 more than a 10 SEER, that's a 17 year break-even at today's electric rates. Terrible investment from an economic standpoint. Putting that $400 into insulation or some other way of reducing energy costs would pay back dramatically faster.

    We have low juice rates and a moderate cooling season.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    North Richland Hills, Texas
    Posts
    14,914
    Ideally, there would be no difference in the installation cost of an ultra high efficiency system and a 10 SEER system other than the increased cost of the equipment.

    In the real world, there is usually a dramatic difference in the price and installation quality. Not just from contractor to contractor, but even with the same contractor offering multiple options of systems.

    With installations being equal, at least in my area, a 13 SEER cooling sytem, or heat pump, generally has a payback on the difference in cost from a 10 SEER system of under 5 years.
    With the the current rebate structure from the company that maintains the Texas electrical grid, it can be argued that 18+ SEER 2 stage, varriable speed systems have a reasonable expectation of a payback in utility savings in my area.

    I do agree that the ultra high efficiency 2 stage systems with varriable speed blowers generally don't "pay for themselves", However, they do a MUCH better job of heating and cooling homes comforterably. Comfort is the most important thing to me, energy savings are the icing on the cake.

    Somewhere along the line, the government and a lot of the HVAC industry forgot that these are COMFORT systems...
    If more government is the answer, then it's a really stupid question.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Dothan, Al
    Posts
    3,453

    Unit efficiencies

    1st - Baldloonie - I agree with you

    2nd - Mark - thank you for your response ( yours too bald ) However, around here the difference in my cost for a 12 seer ( say 3 ton hp ) would be 400-500 dollars over a 10 seer unit. A thirteen seer would cost even more.

    And what about repairs on the higher eff. units ??
    aren't the repairs ( in general ) more costly ??

    And what is your experience with longevity - do you have any 13 seer systems that have been installed more than 10 years without major ( over $300.00 ) repairs ???

    One last question, Mark, How does a high eff. system deliver more comfort ??

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Jacksonville, FL.
    Posts
    4,313

    The answer to your question, Born....

    ... is already a moot point. In less than a year the new standard will be 13SEER, so to even question whether money is saved doesn't matter anymore.

    The question you SHOULD be asking is, "Is it worth buying 18SEER over a 13SEER?". And the answer to that, IMHO, is no, especially in the salty climate of the coast. There's no way anyone would recoup their money in energy costs savings in ten years, the average life expectancy of equipment in the coastal climate I live in, be it 13SEER or 18SEER.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    North Richland Hills, Texas
    Posts
    14,914

    Re: Unit efficiencies

    Originally posted by bornriding
    2nd - Mark - thank you for your response ( yours too bald ) However, around here the difference in my cost for a 12 seer ( say 3 ton hp ) would be 400-500 dollars over a 10 seer unit. A thirteen seer would cost even more.
    It all depends on your electric rates and cooling demand. In an area with moderat to low electric rates and moderate demand for cooling, a high efficiency system would not pay for the difference in cost during the life expectancy of the equipment.
    In the Dallas/Fort Worth area in Texas where I am, the difference in utility costs are much greater because we are paying almost 10 cents a kilowatt and we usually have a very long hot cooling season. Because of that, the high efficiency equipment is a good investment.

    And what about repairs on the higher eff. units ??
    aren't the repairs ( in general ) more costly ??
    It depends on what breaks. Varriable speed fan motors are much more expensive than standard motors. The motors themselves are actually much more reliable than standard motors, but the control module mounted on the end of it can fail. Unfortunatly, many technicians will replace the entire motor and control module instead of just the module, doubling or tripling what it should have cost to repair.
    Ultra efficiency systems are more sensative to poor installations, and are generally more complex, so there is a lot of misdiagnosis of problems.

    I think every manufacturer of ultra high efficiency equipment also offers 10 year parts and labor warranties. So for generally less than $500 up front, repairs don't cost you anything for 10 years.

    And what is your experience with longevity - do you have any 13 seer systems that have been installed more than 10 years without major ( over $300.00 ) repairs ???
    There isn't much in the way of long term track record available. Lennox really were the pioneers of 2 stage ultra efficiency residential systems. My first service job was with a Lennox dealer that had been installing 2 stage equipment since Lennox first began producing it. For the most part, it was reliable equipment. Most of the cronic problems with them were due to poor installations, and poor service by people that didn't understand the technology. The last company I worked for was also a high end Lennox dealer. Out of 12 service technicians, I was one of only 3 that were allowed to condem a compressor or other major component on a 2 speed system.

    Trane made a true varriable capacity system in the early 90's, varriable speed compressor, fan motor and blower motor, and one heck of a control system.
    It was a very good idea, unfortunatly it was a couple of decades more technically advanced than most of the people working on them in the field. There were some problems due to it all being basicly new technology, but Trane got back far more "warranty" parts that had nothing wrong with them than what actually failed.
    I think the technology has matured enough that a system like that could be made very reliable now, but technicians are still lagging way behind.

    I have serviced many more 20+ year old 2 speed systems that had no more component failures than a standard system would have had than I have run into that had serious problems.

    One last question, Mark, How does a high eff. system deliver more comfort ??
    When you get into 16+ SEER equipment, it is all 2 stage cooling. Be it 2 compressors, 2 speed compressors, compressors that spin in different directions, or compressors that unload to reduce capacity.

    If the system is correctly sized to match the 2nd stage to the load, the unit will cycle on and off on 1st stage during milder weather, giving much longer run times than a 1 stage system would. This gives more even cooling and increased moisture removal.
    When temperatures are closer to design conditions, the system runs constantly on first stage cooling and cycles 2nd stage cooling as needed to prevent the room temperature from rising.

    Some argue that the 1st stage has less capacity to remove moisuture, but in most climates, the greatly increased run times more than make up for it, so you get much better humidity removal than a 1 stage system would give, especially during milder than design conditions.

    Some make the gross mistake of oversizing 2 stage systems. Doing so virtually guarantees humidity problems.
    If more government is the answer, then it's a really stupid question.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    North Richland Hills, Texas
    Posts
    14,914

    Re: The answer to your question, Born....

    Originally posted by special ed
    ... is already a moot point. In less than a year the new standard will be 13SEER, so to even question whether money is saved doesn't matter anymore.

    The question you SHOULD be asking is, "Is it worth buying 18SEER over a 13SEER?". And the answer to that, IMHO, is no, especially in the salty climate of the coast. There's no way anyone would recoup their money in energy costs savings in ten years, the average life expectancy of equipment in the coastal climate I live in, be it 13SEER or 18SEER.
    Thats a good point. It doesn't really matter how much less it costs to run, if the "payback" isn't shorter than the time it takes critical components in the system to decay into a pile of varrious oxides and mineral salts, the investment is rather pointless.

    It is all situational, there are many varriables to considder. To bad the DOE doesn't understand that...
    If more government is the answer, then it's a really stupid question.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Dothan, Al
    Posts
    3,453

    Thank you , Mark

    Mark, I very much appreciate your answers to my questions and the way you presented your answers.

    Am I to understand that you have dealt with many 'older' high eff. systems and still feel that they are worth the money spent, and will have decent paybacks for customers.

    Cause I try to treat my customers as I would treat my mother. And I have never been able to insure myself that a high-eff system was worth it ( payback & all ) - You have helped with that.
    I am adamant about trying to do what is right for my customers wallet, but I am always concerned about the long-term.
    I believe that a system should lasts. 15 yeras ago, when I started in this business, I would tell my customers that they could expect 15 to 20 years use. Nowadays, I can only honestly tell them 10 to 15 years ( such a shame )

    anyway, this is the first time that I have had a place to go to to ask my questions. Seems no one around here knows much more than I do. And that is frustrating when I don't know the answer. And I can't depend on manufacturers info, or textbooks for a lot of my questions.

    So, Thank You
    Richard

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Posts
    152
    Real-world experience.. Lady I work with just had a new dual-speed AH installed (I geuss with a 2-stage system). The low-fan speed wouldn't keep the house cool at all. They had the contractor come out, and put in a single-speed AH, and now the temp in the house is just fine.

    Would it be true, if you have drafts, or poor insulation, where heat is being introduced at an unusually high rate, the 1st stage cooling (or low fan speed) would just not be enough to maintain your target temp?

    In other words, if you're going to have a 2-stage system put in, make sure your house is tight as a drum & insulated well...

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    North Richland Hills, Texas
    Posts
    14,914
    Originally posted by alexb
    In other words, if you're going to have a 2-stage system put in, make sure your house is tight as a drum & insulated well...
    The house doesn't need to be "tight as a drum", but if the lady had unusually high levels of infiltration, it may not have been accounted for when sizing the system. Duct leakage, especially on the return side, will crater the 1st stage operation of a 2 stage system much more noticably than it will a 2nd stage system.

    The lady would have been much better served by diagnosing and fixing the problems with the house, in my opinion.
    If more government is the answer, then it's a really stupid question.

  13. #13
    Originally posted by mark beiser
    The lady would have been much better served by diagnosing and fixing the problems with the house, in my opinion. [/B]
    Exactly.

    As to the payback, I always aim for a 5-year max, and look at the unit costs and efficiencies in the given area. Sometimes that will only happen with a 13 SEER, in others a 15 or 16. I have never seen above that, though that doesn't mean they don't get installed, especially where there are 50+ units that the maintenance guys can just swap parts for if something breaks down.

    And where I am the standard is rising - 10 SEER used to be the norm, around 12 is now, and already people are demanding 13 or 14 for only a marginal cost increase.

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