Need to replace ancient R-22 units after flood
My units are 25 years old, Ruud 2.5 ton and 2.0 ton, for downstairs and upstairs respectively.
Due to record flooding in New Jersey, they were completely submerged in water, including the panels and wiring. A lot of mud and debris became lodged inside the condensers.
Finding HVAC techs is extremely difficult after a flood. I called 7 and only two showed up so far.
The first guy said my system must be replaced with R410, which includes the outside condensers, and air handlers in the attic. He also wanted to build a staircase in the hallway because - "My guys need a staircase to get the air handlers up. Your house was built all wrong. You need a staircase."
I told him the access hole to the attic is 22x29 inches, which seems big enough to get an air handler in. After some back and forth, he finally relented and said he can get them through the hole.
Besides the condensers, and air handlers, he said he needs to put in new "pans" and few other items. Also, he told me going with R22 is not possible, because its not "up to code".
He demanded money for his estimate, so I wrote a check. He then insisted on cash, claiming my check might bounce, but "no offense". I said I don't carry that kind of cash on me and he stormed out angrily and never came back.
He said he can replace my condensers with new R22 units. Based on what Tech #1 said, I asked if it was legal and he said yes. He told me going to R410 is unnecessary and very expensive, and "I couldn't do that to you".
Besides the condensers, he said the wiring and panels need to be replaced.
Should I go for a complete upgrade to R410 or stay with R22?
My concern with R22 is that one, it might not be legal, and two, if it is legal, the gas will be extremely expensive in 5 years. Also, what if the new units don't like my air handlers or other components "up stream". Then I would have to get everything replaced anyway - and be stuck with a brand new outdated system.
Going into modern times with R410 would be nice, but I have to replace everything, which is very expensive. Would insurance cover both the air handlers and condensers? You cannot replace one without the other.
I feel like both options are not ideal. One is very expensive, the other may either be illegal, or end up costing more in five years.
Any advice/comments will be greatly appreciated.
Last edited by underwater; 09-12-2011 at 11:08 AM.
both sound like hacks. R22 is "legal" in a loop hole sort of way. they are getting rid of r22. it will be EXTRMELY expensive to repair in the coming years. with a new condenser, you ARE NOT getting a new system, simply a new part to an old system.
Go with a completely new system, you'll be happier, the environment will be happier and your bills will be much lower...if you find someone that knows what they are doing....so far is sounds like you haven't found them.
People complain that hvac comfort systems are expensive....sit back and really look at what youre getting. What other machine in your life do you rely so heavily on every day of your life? Imagine if you drove your car all day everyday...would you expect it to last 25 years?
Technically, you can't get R-22 units. What you would be receiving is a Nitrogen charged unit that will need to be charged according to lineset length. Energy Star recommends replacing your equipment from 10 years and older. If you are in a position where replacement is necessary, now is the time to replace it all. No, it's not code, it's not the law, but it is th right thing to do. Your coil is 25 years old and probably a 8 SEER brand new. If you have a Nitrogen unit installed, your relying on the installer to properly charge the equipment by superheat and the worst part....your condenser will be 13 SEER which doesn't match your coil.
Why do you think the manufacturers only warranty the parts for 5 years on Nitrogen charged units and 10 years on R-410A units?
All in all, it's your choice. Over the long haul, you will be much happier with a longer warranty, higher efficiency, lower utility bills and quiter, more reliable equipment.
The choice is up to you, but I recommend the complete system.
Guy #1 wanted cash to do an estimate? Build an entire staircase because what... he's doesn't like extension ladders? R-22 not to code? You can tell him to go... well... do something that's morally reprehensible.
If the entire system is 25 years old, take the opportunity to replace the entire system. I suspect insurance will be covering part of it... althought at 25 years old, I doubt they will pay out a whole lot unless you have a policy that covers full replacement value.
Hold out a few weeks and get one someones schedule and have a reputable contractor do the installation.
Those units needed replaced 10 years ago.
Bite the bullet and get new high efficient 410A equipment. Have your ductwork inspected also. Now would be a good time to replace that also if needed.
#1 sounds like he had your best interests in mind, but had a lousy attitude. I would get another quote from a reputable contractor.
#2 would have just delayed the inevitable for a couple more years. If he was re-using the 25 year old air handler, I doubt a 13 SEER R-22 condenser would last very long. A few dropped compressors under warranty and the manufacturer would do some digging and find those old air handlers and void the warranties...
How tall are you Private???!!!!
I think #1 sounds shady, and they both sound, at best, uninformed. I agree with motoguy that you should tough it out until things settle down a little bit then try again. Here are my reactions to other things that were said:
R-22 vs R-410A. There is nothing illegal about R-22. They just can't be manufactured and sold new with R-22 in them. Manufacturers are getting around that by making them and filling them with nitrogen then shipping them out. They have to be field charged with R-22.
I've only found one year warranties on R-22 systems. A new 410A system should carry a ten year warranty.
You will waste a lot of money on utility bill if you don't change the whole system, or at least the condenser and indoor coil. You could easily lose 40% of your efficiency.
25 year old coils could fail at any time. I've had customers insist on keeping old parts, only to have them fail soon after costing them as much a double to replace compared to the cost of doing the whole job right.
I've heard of people charging for quotes, but I've never actually seen it done. I question that...
The pull-down staircase is a great idea that you will be happy with as a homeowner. It's far better than having a tech drag his ladder through your house and set it up, bang your walls on the way, etc. You will also make the tech's day when he/she can just pull down a staircase to service your equipment.
In any case, a reputable, well-informed contractor should have been able to explain things well enough that you wouldn't have had to come here to see if they were telling you the truth. Coming here for a second opinion or for more details is a great idea, and the people here seem to be a cut above. But you were left with more questions than answers. Try another contractor or two.
At the age described, look at replacing, not installing a new 13 SEER R-22 condenser to an 8 SEER 25 year old air handler. That would be a really bad idea, though it isn't illegal.
The two people you have found so far are not good benchmarks on which to make a decision. Get more quotes and report back on what the "real" HVAC contractors in your area are recommending. In the mean time, while I know this doesnt help you any, disregard those other ones and start from scratch.
It's not rocket-science...
It's electromechanical thermodynamic engineering
as many here have stated, you can still get r-22 compatible units, but with the age of the air handlers you'd be better off in the long run to replace everything. With the replacement of the air handler upstairs you'd be getting a new emergency pan (at least our company would be putting one in) as well. As for the staircase it is code here to have one, and may be in your area for any new installations. You may not realize it but those air handlers are not light and trying to get them up either off a ladder or using a rope and hoist (i've done both) isn't exactly easy, especially with some of the high efficiency units, simply because they are not lite. Yes after floods and disasters good contractors are hard to find as they usually put their regular customers first and then it's a first come first serve type of situation. Once they start getting thier regulars settled then they will be able to start taking new customers. The ones that usually are able to jump right on things after a situation like that are the storm chaser types who A: don't know local codes, B: more then willing to take your money up front and not show up to do the actual work. C: take your money and throw in something that will have to be taken back out and replaced by a good contractor for more money because it wasn't done right.
You take your pick on that one.
Putting a 13 SEER condense on 6 SEER air handlers, might gt you a 7 SEER system. Pretty much a waste of money doing that.
New R410A systems. But I'd probably wouldn't use contractor 1 or 2.
yes r22 units are available but my county will not give required permits to install them.
To my understanding the state of Florida will not give required permits to install any equipment w/o ari #.
anything less than replacing the whole system (indoor and outdoor) would, to say the least, be putting good money after bad.
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