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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    17

    Repair v. replace- and if so, heat pump advice?

    8-9 year old lennox 4 ton system for the downstairs.

    I live in DFW area (Texas) and had my compressor die (the compressor is shorting out). The compressor is still under warranty, but the uncovered labor/parts to replace it (and replace some capacitor or something else with it) is significant- about the cost of the compressor itself. Now the a/c isn't THAT old, and it was a nice lennox unit so I'm guessing maybe around 11 seer with age factored in. Also, we have electric resistance heat (no gas run to unit) which is costing us $$$$ in the winter ($500 electric bill last december). I have recently added more insulation, sealed things up, and had the ducts sealed (aeroseal). I was considering if this might be an 'oportunity' to get a new a/c/heat pump- eyeing about 16 seer a/c with a good heat pump.

    1)So repair vs. replace? By my best estimates we spent over $1000 last year in heating electricity- so a heat pump would save about 1/2 that/year. A/c cost savings might be less- going from 11 to 16 seer, but still significant-guessing another $500 in savings. So I'm estimating $1000/year in electricity savings (more if rates go up, we're at 9cents/kwh).

    2)If replace- with what. Had our first estimte to replace and was prepared for a monster price, and it was worse than I expected. I'm not afraid to pay for a quality install, but ouch. Had estimate for goodman and lennox, 13 and 16 seer. Is goodman ok? What about other makes?

    3)Who makes a really good heat pump? Trying to avoid backup resistance heating as much as possible. I've heard about the carrier greenspeed, but that might be overkill.

    4)any other thoughts?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    The South
    Posts
    2,240
    WP

    I think the Greenspeed would be overkill for your area/climate.

    I would replace and start enjoying real savings and payback on the heating side of a new HP system.

    Can you get any monetary settlement for the warranty on your compressor?

    A few HP ideas.

    there are three equally important components-quality HVAC, the install by dealer, and probably the most overlooked and disregarded is the ductwork system.

    these are my minimum specs for a new HP system. both outside and inside units should be replaced to have a properly matched system.

    15 SEER, 12.5+ EER, 9 HSPF
    best matching VS air handler
    full BTUs in both cooling and heating for your rated size
    R-410a refrigerant(same as Puron)
    scroll compressor preferred
    electronic demand defrost preferred
    thermostat with "dehumidify on demand" feature
    staged backup heat strips
    new and correctly sized refrigerant lineset
    10 yr warranty compressor and parts

    you want a thorough inspection of your ductwork system. size, overall condition, supply and return lines, insulation qualities, leak test, etc.

    any hot/cold spot issues in your home should be addressed.

    I would only use authorized dealers for the various brands that provide quotes. see mfg websites.

    I would look at Trane/AmStd,Rheem/Rudd,Carrier/Bryant.

    I would not purchase a new HP system that did not have electronic demand defrost.

    IMO

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    S. Grand Prairie
    Posts
    244
    I live in DFW area (Texas) and had my compressor die (the compressor is shorting out). The compressor is still under warranty, but the uncovered labor/parts to replace it (and replace some capacitor or something else with it) is significant- about the cost of the compressor itself. Now the a/c isn't THAT old, and it was a nice lennox unit so I'm guessing maybe around 11 seer with age factored in. Also, we have electric resistance heat (no gas run to unit) which is costing us $$$$ in the winter ($500 electric bill last december). I have recently added more insulation, sealed things up, and had the ducts sealed (aeroseal). I was considering if this might be an 'oportunity' to get a new a/c/heat pump- eyeing about 16 seer a/c with a good heat pump.

    I personally lean towards repairing, not replacing equipment. I think you need to get more estimates. Don't assume that because the first quote for repairs (or replacing) is high, that everyone will be that high. Get multiple people out to give you a better idea if you can repair or need to replace.

    1)So repair vs. replace? By my best estimates we spent over $1000 last year in heating electricity- so a heat pump would save about 1/2 that/year. A/c cost savings might be less- going from 11 to 16 seer, but still significant-guessing another $500 in savings. So I'm estimating $1000/year in electricity savings (more if rates go up, we're at 9cents/kwh).


    I have a friend who went from a/c & electric heat to a heat pump w/backup electric heat two years ago. His system was 8 SEER and the new system was a Goodman 13 SEER. His average electric bill in the winter was $300 and the past two winters it's averaged $150. So I definitely would recommend going with a heat pump if you upgrade.


    2)If replace- with what. Had our first estimte to replace and was prepared for a monster price, and it was worse than I expected. I'm not afraid to pay for a quality install, but ouch. Had estimate for goodman and lennox, 13 and 16 seer. Is goodman ok? What about other makes?

    As mentioned above, get multiple estimates...don't assume that because the first bid was really high (especially right now with our 100+ degree days) that all the bids will be the same. I've installed everything from ArcoAire to Trane. These days all the major makers...Lennox, Carrier, Trane, Goodman, etc...offer the same 10 year warranty. Last time I looked, Goodman was offering lifetime warranties on compressors on 14 SEER and up equipment.

    3)Who makes a really good heat pump? Trying to avoid backup resistance heating as much as possible. I've heard about the carrier greenspeed, but that might be overkill.

    As mentioned above, most of the equipment these days will be reliable. There are lemons out there, same as with cars or tv's, but most equipment will last you a long time...if the installer does a good job.

    4)any other thoughts?

    The most important part of all of this is getting a good installer. Someone that will do a good job. More issues come from installers doing poor work than equipment being unreliable.
    Originally Posted by ladyfire3374:

    "I used to wake up excited about the challenges of the day. Now the anticipation level is somewhere between a root canal and a colonoscopy."

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Northwest Indiana
    Posts
    40
    If you're paying $500 a month in electricity to heat, it's time to find a better solution. Heck, I think I would be looking for a better solution even if your system was running well. Couple of questions - do you have gas available for a furnace, or is your entire house electric only? Is your current Air handler a similar age or is that up for replacment too? If not, you're looking at changing from R22 to R410A for a new unit and I personally am not comfortable trying to flush an inside coil. Lineset, yes, Coil? not so much. If you don't want to/can't afford to replace the inside coil, then you're looking at Dry/Nitrogen charged R22 replacement units, which extremely limits your choices and variety in a new unit.

    So, let's assume you're looking at both a new outside unit and a new airhandler/furnace. If you can get natural gas, I thing a 2stage Variable Speed 80% furnace would be the best source of backup heat for you, especially if a HP can supply the vast majority of primary heat for you. If you can't get gas, I stilll think VS is a must - it will be more expensive than a PSC motored unit, but the electrical savings and comfort will make it worthwhile.

    As far as the outdoor unit - I would say 16 seer or whatever unit can get you into 2 stages. You can take advantage of higher SEER AC for savings all summer and the larger heat exchanger area on the outside unit should bring your balance point lower to allow the unit to supply heat longer in the winter months as well.

    I wouldn't rule out Greenspeed either - especially if it could completely eliminate the need for auxilliary backup heat (either electric or the cost difference to move to a gas furnace).

    Have you investigated Geothermal? That and higher efficiency (16 seer, 2-stage, Greenspeed, etc.) are all going to have a higher cost of entry, but if you're looking at $500 a month heating bills and long, hot summers, the move from 11ish SEER to 16 or better along with more efficient heating would probably pay for itself in 5 years or less. Even if you're not planning on staying in the house that long (most common thing i hear from customers) a 3 year old HVAC system is much more attractive than a 11 year old one and you'll end up giving any money you "save" to a potential buyer of the home and you won't have enjoyed any of the benefits.

    Think of it this way - any money you spend repairing the unit is money "lost". At the end of the day, you'll still have the same 8 year old unit with the same efficiency, features, comforts, etc. A new compressor won't ever pay for itself and you won't improve any comfort problems (if you have any currently) with the money you spend. Yes, it sucks to have to pay for new equipment this early, but if your compressor is done, it's done. See if the contractor, and by extension, supplier, would be willing to give you anything for your in warranty compressor on the purchase of a new unit - that might lock you into lennox, but it's an angle to investigate at the very least.

    Best of luck with your decisions.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    17
    wow thanks for all the quick, informative replies!
    Thanks for the idea about trying to get something out of the warrantied compressor. I have recently had a blower test done on house/ducts- there was pretty large leakage from the downstairs duct work- about 50%! Several major problem areas were found- and were fixed with with mastic- 1 duct wasn't connected at all *bangs head*. I also paid $ to have aeroseal done. This was all done very recently and I waiting to get my post aeroseal numbers to see how the ducts are now. Hopefully much better, or I'll be pissed with the money I've spent. I have a 2 story house so unfortunately about 1/3 of the downstairs ductwork is inaccessble, unless I punch holes in my ceiling.

    If it weren't for our horrible electric heat, I would just repair it- but the advantage of a good heat pump (on top of improved SEER) makes me really consider replacing it. My wife is 'insistent' that we just fix it, but she is forgetting the bad bills we got last winter.

    I certainly want a quality installer- I guess the key is to find a good installer who can operate without heavy overhead.

    We do have natural gas run to the house, but only to the fireplace, which is on the other side of the house- and we have some obstacles in the (vaulted ceilings, etc). Our house is more or less electric only. The a/c guys i've talked to said running gas would be extremely costly and not worthwhile- but maybe I should just get a plumber out to see what they could do. I'm in DFW, Texas and we can get some rather cold days which would certainly require either electric resistance or gas backup heat.

    Currenty air handler is similar age (about 8 years old).

    What does PSC stand for and why is it worse than varaible speed?

    I actually have explored geothermal and solar- in texas the rebate structure isn't really great to support these- if I was doing a new house I would really really look into geothermal, but the quote I had for geothermal was really really high (have to dig several well sized holes around the house=very difficult and costly).

    Thanks!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    The South
    Posts
    2,240
    WP

    You need to get more opinions on extending nat gas line where a furnace could be installed. This would increase your options.

    PSC refers to sgl speed AC blower motors as opposed to DC var speed blower motors. More eff with the var speed. Much quieter. Better dehumidification. Can improve room to room temp constancy.

    IMO

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    17
    thanks- I will talk to my plumber to explore options. I would LOVE to get some gas in my house- irony is I have the mineral rights and make some $ from selling natural gas... but can't use it in my house...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Northwest Indiana
    Posts
    40
    If you're not going with a gas furnace, I would look at anything that can get you away from electric resistance heat as a major source of winter heating. To that end, Geothermal or the new Greenspeed would let you heat down to freezing or below (I've got geo experience, nothing directly with Greenspeed, but the theory holds from what I can tell).

    Variable speed motor allows for just that - varying speeds to do things like run a profile during the cooling mode to allow dehumidification at the beginning of the cycle, full speed during the cycle and then slowly ramping back down to a low fan-only speed that will keep the temperature room-to-room and floor-to-floor much more consistent.

    If you've got a 2-story house and don't have a zoning system in Texas, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you fight a 5-10 degree temperature difference between floors - 75 on the main where the stat is and 80-85 degrees F upstairs. Variable speed will help that situation if you run the fan in "On" without costing you a bunch or being very noisy while it runs.

    Totally off the wall here, but you could also look into something like a Mitsubishi Ductless heatpump system that would work down to lower temperatures (inverter driven compressor like the Greenspeed) and would give you the temperature control on the upper level as well, but now we're talking about an additional system when you already have one that doesn't work.

    I would say replace existing with a VS air handler (or gas Furnace!) and plan on a zoning system if you don't have one already.
    Last edited by frumper15; 08-15-2011 at 03:54 PM. Reason: clarification

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    17
    I have 2 seperate units- the downstairs unit went. As luck would have it, I contacted the original installers (done for the previous owners) and found out I still have a 10 year parts/labor warranty in effect- so they will be out to fix things for me for free hopefully!! I feel clever suddenly

    So this will be great b/c it will give me time to research the best unit- maybe time to see how the carrier greenspeed is working out. I would love to avoid electric resistance heating if at all possible- watching the meter spin while it's on is a pretty impressive sight to see. I'm gonna talk to a plumber and really start weighing my options...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Northwest Indiana
    Posts
    40
    Quote Originally Posted by wp746911 View Post
    I have 2 seperate units- the downstairs unit went. As luck would have it, I contacted the original installers (done for the previous owners) and found out I still have a 10 year parts/labor warranty in effect- so they will be out to fix things for me for free hopefully!! I feel clever suddenly

    So this will be great b/c it will give me time to research the best unit- maybe time to see how the carrier greenspeed is working out. I would love to avoid electric resistance heating if at all possible- watching the meter spin while it's on is a pretty impressive sight to see. I'm gonna talk to a plumber and really start weighing my options...
    Well, that worked out nicely. Now you can take that money that you already "saved" and apply it to a nice VS High efficiency Gas furnace to replace your lower level Air handler and you'll be in business

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Central New Jersey
    Posts
    253
    I find it very strange someone would build a house which has natural gas and then use electrical resistance for heating. Do your homework on how to get a gas line to where a furance can be installed.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    568

    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by mike_home View Post
    I find it very strange someone would build a house which has natural gas and then use electrical resistance for heating. Do your homework on how to get a gas line to where a furance can be installed.
    i'd use propane, before electric heat, unless his elect. from utility co. is dirt cheap! and if gettinng natural gas,inside the home isn't very exp. better yet!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    17
    Yeah I didn't really realize the full effect of what an electric only home would do to my winter bills. This is where the realtor who made 10k in commision could have proved helpful, or the home inspector. But I digress.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=H08...ed=0CBYQ6AEwAA

    This is what I have- a gold medallion home. Evidently in the 1950-70s or so the power companies were helping people build all electric homes- my understanding is the builder would get discounts (sometimes all the wiring free, etc) and the homeowner would get the 'promise' of low electric rates (especially in the winter)- but you couldn't really have gas run-coudln't even have a line installed 'just in case'. Well fast forward and ooops no more electric discounts... I think they ran gas to the house later just to convert their regular fireplace to gas- that is the only appliance which has gas.

    The 2nd a/c guys came out (those who origianlly installed the a/c unit) and are gonna fix it tonight! It's gonna be 105 today! We didn't sleep well last night! We are pretty excited! He did give me much more of a friendly quote on a new heat pump- more in the ballpark that I was expecting- enough that the payback on our house would be reasonable. He also cringed at the idea of running gas- but I'm gonna actually speak to a plumber/the city to get a real idea of the price- maybe spending 1-2k for gas (if it can be done for that little) would be worth it. But really in our climate a good heatpump might not need backup that often- so adding gas to use as a heatpump backup might be a tough sell. Thanks again for the help- I'm very impressed with the knowledge level/advice from you guys.

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