I only made one post on this board so far, but I've read many, many others. I just decided on my installer and system, so purely for fun, here's my experience (btw, I'm in northeast Florida about 9 miles from the ocean). My 'current' system is an 18 year old 3 Ton Goodman (in a closet that is 21 3/4" at the door frame) that's still chugging away but has developed some attitude problems (coils icing, mainly). I bought the house less than a year ago. I'm totally new to home ownership and repair, including AC units.
Please note before reading: this is super long, and does not contain any questions. (You pros out there answered most of them already!)
Quote # 1 was from the guy who A.H. Warranty Co(sellers got this for me when I bought the house as part of closing deal) sent out when the thing started leaking. Definitely small time (which I know isn't necessarily bad). Nice guy, had to come out twice, second time I decided to get a new AC unit cuz I can't afford to have my floor destroyed by the ice melting. All of a sudden my outside unit absolutely had to be replaced, and he said he would condemn it to the warranty company.
Can you believe that less than five hours later, they were cheerfully agreeing to send me the cashout value?? I don't think that happens very often. He quoted me for a R22 Rheem heat pump split system, single speed blower, much lower than I was expecting. RAMC036 with RBHK21 (yes, I know). Cool!, I thought... and decided to get at least one more quote anyway. He talked about how he was putting in an R410 system in his house but never suggested it to me as an option.
Quote # 2 was done entirely over the phone. I had the company recommended to me, and when I called the owner, he told me he'd been doing this for 30 years, and he didn't need to come out and see the house (even when I asked him to), he could tell everything just over the phone. He also explained that the other guy's quote was for a straight cooling system, not a heat pump, and suggested that maybe that guy happened to have that unit in storage and figured I wouldn't notice till it was too late (no idea if this is true, obviously).
This guy quoted me for a FX4BNF036 with 38EYG036 Carrier system with R410 (which he told me about and recommended). He also quoted me for a VS option, but told me it wouldn't be worth it for me, that I'd never make my money back. I almost went with this guy, cuz he was a more established operation and he came so highly recommended. His quote was still well within my price range, and still lower than I was expecting (though the VS option would have put it more in line).
Quote # 1.2 was the first guy again, who acted surprised when I told him that the second guy had said it was a straight cooling system, told me he was definitely selling me a heat pump & that I could just cross out the wrong parts and write the words "Heat Pump" in and it would be fine, then called me back about an hour later and apologized for having made the mistake. He then sent me a second quote for a RPMD036 and RBHK21 with R22, and then underneath that wrote in an optional quote for a "3Ton Heat Pump 13 SEER Rheem 410 system" but didn't write in any part numbers. Needless to say, the quote went up, but it was still much lower than I was expecting. I haven't called him back.
I discovered HVAC chat that very night. Guy 2 had told me I could look model numbers up on the Internet, so I decided to educate myself, and wound up here. I posted a question about SEERs, cuz he'd insisted I didn't need to put in a 13 SEER system (guy 1 did). You guys told me some stuff that really helped, and then I read many other posts. By the next day, I started to actually feel like I knew what I was doing a little bit. You also convinced me to get more quotes!!
Quote # 3 was from a Trane dealer who told me that Tranes were absolutely the only thing that hold up out here this close to the ocean. They did insist on coming out and also mentioned load testing. The guy they sent out was very professional and businesslike. He took a picture of my AC, spent about two minutes checking it out (he spent most of the time sitting in my living room and telling my why Tranes are godlike), told me they could reuse my R22 lines for the new R410. He had a nice little laptop that spat out the quote, nice and high tech! Impressive.
Mild sticker shock, just a little too high for my personal limit, even with promotions. He quoted me for a 4TWR2036 R410 XR12 with 4TEE3F31 air handler, along with a nice programmable tstat and 5 year all parts warranty (the only company, btw, to not have a 10 yr all parts on their quote).
We were looking at some data sheets he had, and while he was looking at the air handlers, he accidentally mentioned the wrong one, then corrected himself: "No, you don't have that air handler, you've got this one, that puts you at 12.5 SEER, not 13". "What's the difference in price", asks I, who had told him at the start that (by then) I wanted VS with an overall minimum of 13 SEER. "Oh, this is the 3 Ton air handler, you're getting a 1.5 Ton in your closet instead because it's too small for the other one. Tranes are physically larger than other brands." I didn't even think about it till he was gone, but then I thought: 1.5 matched with 3 ton in super humid Florida? I'm not technical, but something about that just sounds wrong. I checked out this site and found a post that was too technical to fully understand but that seemed to imply that doesn't work well in humid areas.
Quote # 4 I called cuz I loved the company's name. The guy insisted on coming out and said he'd do a load test. When he came out last night, he looked around (he didn't do a test yet), checked lots of stuff out, and proceeded to tell me exactly what would need to happen in order to make a new AC system work in general. He tried to sell me an Infinity system at first, but I held firm because I am convinced I won't make my money back in the 4-5 years I plan to live here, plus I literally cannot afford it at this time. After I told him how much the financing was that I have already secured and which is already on the way, he quickly relented and from there on chatted only about 38YZA units with VS handlers.
He told me he would have to replace some stuff, told me that he would have to replace the R22 lines (he echoed some of the pros on this forum as to the reason why, and because I'd read it, I was perfectly OK with it). He talked about this and that, warned me up front what everything would cost for 'extras' such as replacing the sagging roof over the AC closet, patching up torn insulation on one of my ducts in a crawl-space sized attic, replacing breakers on an older Square D panel, etc. On his quote, he broke everything down for me very clearly.
Ya know how he's handling the fact that I only have a 21 3/4" opening to the closet? He's cutting the sheetrock and removing a part of the non-structural 2x4 (and not charging separately for it, either). Nor is he charging extra to replace all of the copper tubing for the new R410. And when he was done, the system he sold me has an instant rebate right now, and it actually made his quote lower than I was expecting! Plus I feel confident that this guy's install is going to be meticulous, cleanly done, and well planned. And as you have said many times on this site, that's most of the battle right there.
Quote # 5 was suppposed to come out Monday, but I'm cancelling it - I don't think anybody can top this guy.
Thanks again to all you great pros out there who take the time to post to the Residential HVAC board. I haven't had the system installed yet, but I feel like I made the right choice. I never would have been able to do that confidently without this forum - may ALL of you see your revenues rise and your expenses fall for years to come! :-)