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Thread: System Choice

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2005


    Our 18 year old heat pump seems to be near the end of it's usable life, and hopefully this week's freon load will keep us running through the dog days.

    The tech gave me two proposed options for replacement, both Bryants. One was an R22 unit with a capacity of 24,000 and a SEER of 10 @ $3900 (including air handler, new thermostat, and installation). The other was an R144 unit with a capacity of 25,000 and a SEER of 14.5 @ $5100.

    We have an 1800-1900 sf townhouse, 3 levels, with the unit outside the basement level.

    Not a clue what to do here! Get estimates on other brands/systems/sizes? Forget R22 because 2006 is almost here--both in terms of the end of new freon systems and minimum SEER of 13?

    Any advice welcome. My experience is limited to calling for service, writing checks, and a couple of hours of Googling.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Derby City
    Gardenbug, I appreciate your candor, and will try to reciprocate in like fashion. First, if you have an existing relationship with a contractor then that is where you should start. I hold the belief that if someone, in this case your contractor, has treated you fairly in the past, then he deserves the opportunity to continue to provide your service. Unless you have a reason to mistrust him, then follow his recommendations. After all, ultimately he will be responsible for the operation of the system and subsequently your satisfaction. You have certainly gotten the life from your heat pump system! Not knowing where you live, I can only say the 'national average' lifespan of such a system is around 15 years. We on this site, are not allowed to discuss pricing, and when you think about it, that makes sense, since we have not had the opportunity to see the scope of work or the site. Certainly the Bryant is a major brand with a good network of support both in distributors and dealers.

    I also believe it shows foresight on your part in regard to the R-22 refrigerant. You will certainly be 'ahead of the curve' by updating your system accordingly with Puron (r-22 tradename replacement for Bryant).

    Regardless of who you are having provide you with a proposal, they should perform a load calculation. That will insure the proper size system is installed. Even though you have a 2-ton system now, doesn't necessarily mean it is the correct size. Load calculations are for both your and our benefit. Your benefit to be sure the proper size is installed, and our benefit in that we have a definitive basis for making that size recommendation.

    I would consider how long you plan to remain in the residence in making this decision. If you have no intentions of moving within the next 5+ years, then the better, more efficient unit would be a good investment. Otherwise, if you see moving on the near horizon, I would limit my investment towards more the standard option. Also, the better unit may provide a better warranty in addition to the higher efficiency.

    Good luck. Don't hesitate to ask questions here. This site is probably the ONLY place you can access the amount of expertise that is available at one time. With the exceptions of what we cannot and should not discuss, you will find everyone more than willing to help.

    All the best.
    Everyone has a purpose in life..........even if it's to be a bad example.

    Seek first to understand, before seeking to be understood.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Nobody will touch the prices directly- it's forbidden on this site.

    Where is this system? Climate and electric rates matter a lot. How were your utility bills with the old system before it was hobbling?

    There is a phase-out going on for R-22 units and for lower efficiency units, but that doesn't mean that they are necessarily poor choices. If your energy rates are cheap and your climate is mild, you will have a hard time recovering the additional expense of a high efficiency unit, despite any mandate.

    R-22 systems will be on the market for several more years. We bicker about the pros and cons of the two refrigerants all the time. I don't think it makes that much difference now, provided that the installer is fully competent to handle R410a. Most big Bryant and Carrier dealers would tend to be, since they were the first that really pushed R410a products.

    What I would suggest worrying more about, instead of refrigerant, is a couple other questions. We can't answer them precisely without the model numbers of the equipment you've been quoted, but they may have told you in their proposal.

    A 14.5 SEER system will likely have a variable speed air handler, and a 10 likely will not. Variable speed not only improves efficiency, but it tends to make for quieter (indoor) equipment and improves comfort overall. The main ways it does so is improving humidity control in cooling season and making for warmer discharge air temperatures during heating season (with a heat pump, anyway).

    Aside from efficiency ratings, there are also different grades of equipment, even within the same brand. So there will be what's known as the "builder grade", a mid-range product, and then a top of the line product. The differences will show up in quality, noise, and equipment protection (pressure switches, better coil guards, etc.). The relevance here? A new 10 SEER system at this point is probably builder grade or maybe mid-range; top of the line equipment is almost always higher than 10 SEER now. A 14.5 system, on the other hand, *might* be builder grade but is more likely mid-range or higher. Given your setup, the noise rating of the outdoor unit may or may not be a big concern. They definitely get quieter as you move toward the nicer product, though.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Thanks for your responses. I didn't assimilate the info in the rules about pricing--sorry.

    As to climate, I'm in MD--the winters aren't severe, but the summers are hot and humid.

    We will probably be in our current home for 3 to 5 more years, but possibly a little longer.

    The models are (as best I can decipher the handwriting)
    (1) 650ANX024 with air handler FV4BNF002, and
    (2) 693CNX024 with air handler FB4BNF024

    This contractor has been cited positively in the Washington Consumer Checkbook and Washingtonian Magazine. They've serviced our current unit three times over the last 4 years or so, and I do have confidence in them. The tech didn't give me a load estimate.

    I've been seeing (in my limited Googling) a number of references to a SEER of 13, so I was suprised when revisting the options to see 10 and 14.5, but no 13.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Concord, CA
    John is certainly more trusting than I. But the problem with mistrust is that you then have to do a lot of research and reading to determine what makes for a good system and a good installation. The contractor is as much the builder of your system as the equipment maker. Most contractors perform mediocre work and an awful lot of them are just plain hacks.

    So it's up to you. If you're not so technically savvy then you're forced to take the salesman's word for it and trust your installers. You'll probably think they did an OK job and it'll get you by. No perceived harm, no perceived foul. Or you can get educated about what makes for a good installation and become thoroughly annoyed at how few contractors really do things right.

    Yes, in fact my nickname is "Sunshine". Click my sig for more, especially the third link.

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