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Thread: Good Contractor Checklist?
02-21-2005, 01:03 AM #1Regular Guest
- Join Date
- Feb 2005
I need to replace my 4 ton AC/Heating system and have read a lot of posts and it seems that picking a good contractor is almost as important and the brand of equipment. I think I will stay away from Goodman products and will go with a R410a unit. Now I just need to get some info on how to pick a good contractor.
I live in the midwest (St. Louis MO area) and there are pages and pages to pick from in the phone book. How can I narrow my search? Can anyone list some of the questions I need to ask? Also, how can I verify this, the BBB?
Last thing, can anyone recommend what Seer rating I should go for? I plan to live in this house at least 5 more years.
Thanks in advance.
02-21-2005, 05:00 AM #2
First thing you might want to do is make a checklist of what exactly you need, such as humidfier, filtering system, single stage, multi stage etc. 80%, 90% and so forth, with A/C I think the big thing is Seer ratings and R410A since its the new replacement refrigerant.
Then go to the Manufactors websites and view their products to get ideas and options of equipment offered.
Once you have this info then look for Contractors that provide this equipment and get quotes from them and compare the prices and service.
As far as questions to ask How much to you want to know ? ask for references,ask friends or co workers who they have do their work for them, What about follow up services, Are they going to do a heat load calculation or just eye balling it and using the guess factor,The most Important factor is to make sure they are legit and not fly by night operators, check out some of their other work if possible.
I am sure there are a lot more question a person could ask once they do a little research first. but this should cover the basic info.
P.S. if they drive up in a Chevy Vega with a ladder rack they might not be the best choice. Good Luck
[Edited by retired btc on 02-21-2005 at 05:06 AM]Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat. (President Theodore Roosevelt)
02-21-2005, 06:57 AM #3Professional Member*
Originally posted by fazgood
- Join Date
- Mar 2002
- Concord, CA
...it seems that picking a good contractor is almost as important and the brand of equipment.
Ask the following:
Do you perform Manual J and Manual D calculations?
(A room by room Manual J determines each room’s heat load. Manual D determines duct sizes required to deliver those airflows. Both are the gold standards. Make sure they do the real deal and not some goofball short form.)
Will you air balance the system to within 10% of Manual J?
(Manual D is an educated guess. Real world airflows always vary. You need dampers and they need an airflow hood so that the system can be adjusted.)
Do you use a micron gauge when vacuuming?
(The only way to ensure that all moisture is removed from the refrigerant circuit. That ensures longer and more trouble free operation – especially with 410A. Most installers don't use micron gauges.)
Do you use nitrogen when brazing?
(Most hacks don't. The nitrogen ensures that ash does not build up in the pipes as they braze the copper lines together. An alternative is to solder with StayBrite 8, which is a lower temperature process that won't produce ash and therefore doesn't need nitrogen.)
There's plenty more to ask. But those questions focus on the deficiencies typical of most installations.
As btc alluded to, the contractor's integrity is most important of all. Asking them about their integrity is obviously not the way to find that out. You'll have to find that out on your own. I can tell you that ultimately the way people are persuaded to use my services is by their interaction with me. Yes, I have referrals that will sing my praises. I have example systems that kick butt. I have a good record with the BBB - and so on. But so do some of my competitors that I happen to know are as crooked as the day is long. The clincher is when I'm doing a bid they can see that I know what I'm doing and that I care to do the job right. They also see that I'm focusing on what they want and need and not on some high margin upgrade that's ultimately useless to them.
On the issue of SEER, you might get a payback on a 12. You'll likely not live there long enough to get payback on a 14. Anything above 14 and you'd probably have to retire there to get a payback. Yeah, they'll argue with me on that. So let them prove it. It's not hard to figure out. Look at your lowest yearly utility bill and figure that as your baseline usage (so long as you weren't on vacation). Then look at how much higher all your summer bills are and add that total difference up. A 14 SEER might save you 17% of that total versus a 12. Whatever you do, be sure that they use your actual usage history in determining savings. Some very well meaning contractors are kidding themselves with this heating and cooling degree days crap. Using heating and cooling degree days often inflates the real savings by a factor of two or three. It's purely hypothetical.
Don't get too set on 410A. R-22 is a perfectly viable option. Don't get too set against Goodman. The problem with Goodman isn't the equipment. It was that they were often the product of choice for hacks. But that doesn't mean every Goodman dealer is one. And Goodman has made some remarkable improvements in the last few years. I say this as a Trane guy. Well, I was a Trane guy. Lately I'm disillusioned with all of them and don't much care which brand I install anymore.
If you haven’t thought about it, be open to replacing your duct system. At the very least it should be looked at and addressed. Most of them are too small. Nearly all return ducts could stand to be upsized. Asking the above questions might be good because even if a contractor does those things, the salesman may consider them to be too technical to bring up. But on the question of your ducts, I would not bring it up and instead wait for them to do so. Not bringing up your ducts would be as fundamental a mistake as not bringing up your air conditioner if you had someone out to quote a furnace replacement. Ducts are just as important as the heater or AC. Yet many contractors don’t bring them up because the way most of them do pricing means that ducts don’t have nearly the margins. If they don’t bring ducts up on their own, or if they do but shrug them off and don’t take a close look at them, then I’d mark that contractor off the list.
02-21-2005, 09:45 AM #4Professional Member
- Join Date
- Nov 2001
Does that mean my 72 ford pinto should raise some flaggs,
Cause if so, then i'm switch'n to my wifes rambler, It's a 4 door.
My step ladder will still fit in the back, I just like the hatch back option.If you try to fail, and succeed.
Which have you done ?
02-21-2005, 12:24 PM #5Banned
- Join Date
- Aug 2002
- Office and warehouse in both Crystal River & New Port Richey ,FL
In St Louis,Jerry Kelly ,maybe Heating and A/C,etc.,you'll be glad you did.