Need Equipment Advice

qs777March 5, 2011

We are in socal in an approx. 1900' single story house which currently has a furnace but no a/c.

We have had a couple of estimates for installing a/c and a new furnace and they seem to be too high (8000+). We use the furnace/air on those 8-10 days/yr. when there are extreme temperatures and then keep everything off. We have a lot of insulation, new windows, etc., and our climate is pretty temperate with slight humidity a few days in the summer. Price, quietness and dependability are most important.

We're obviously confused with all of these variable stages, thermostats, etc. (although I have learned a lot here) but they don't seem to apply to our usage. Is there a certain brand we should be looking at for just these basics?

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Not really. All major brands will have basic level and more feature-rich levels of equipment.

My advice is to go with the dealer that you feel will give you the best service and that has the experience and satisfied customers to give you peace of mind.

The layout and troubleshooting skills, practice of correct unit startup and handling techniques, and thorough knowledge of what to do and not to do are the most important factor in a satisfactory system with the best value for you and the longest lifespan.

Any good dealer will be able to offer several choices in level of equipment. Tell them how long you plan to be in the home, if you are primarily concerned with the lowest possible cost right now, or the lowest cost of total ownership over several years (ie paying more for equipment with better energy efficiency).

You most likely will want something 1 step up from entry level, as this usually gives the best "sweet spot" of efficiency and cost. (If moving right away, go for lower installed cost, if perfect comfort is more important than cost the go for all the bells and whistles.)

Ask if you state, or you local utility offer any special rebates or rate programs. If they do, there is usually a minimum level of energy efficiency required. So make sure your system will qualify.

Specifically, I would ask about a 14 SEER heat pump with scroll compressor (single stage is fine) Ask if that is what they would recommend, and if not, why they like something else for you.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 7:10PM
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a question.

what size furnace and efficiency are you replacing? the furnace's age?

if you want to craft your new HVAC to your lifestyle, then I would want an 80% eff furnace with a high eff blower motor paired with a matching evap coil and 13 SEER AC condenser. It will be quiet if you have a decent ductwork system that is properly sized both supplies and return(s). you want a good 4-5" pleated filter media cabinet for easy changeout. you want a good warranty-make comparison. thermostat can be a good basic digital model-programmable if that's what you want. I would stay with a reliable Honeywell model.

Above poster has suggested a heat pump. certainly it would work. However it's my understanding that heat pumps are nor recommended for California because of electric rates unless home is in an all electric situation.

I do think good equipment selection matters and you get what you pay for. I would expect California HVAC market would be more expensive.

I can make some specific suggestions if you like.

keep in mind there are three parts to a successful install;good equipment, good installation from dealer, and a good ductwork system. if you have any hot/cold spots in your home, now is the time to point these out to dealer for possible improvement.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 7:54AM
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Thanks to both of you. I agree, a heatpump would not work as our electric rates are high.

Our current furnace looks original (probably 35 years old). It is a Day & Night which I believe was made by Payne. It is hard to read the info, but it looks like it has a 80,000 bonnet (sp.) capacity with 100,000 input, if that helps. It seems to work fine. It has been very cold at night this winter so the house has been about 55 degrees by morning. I turn it on and I can get the house comfortable in about 20 minutes or so. We vaulted our ceilings so we added a ton of insulation which really helps.

We definitely would replace the ductwork to lessen the noise and we only have 1 return in the hallway so I'm sure having another would help as I believe it is undersized.

Thanks for the Honeywell recommendation. Any other recommendations re: equipment would be helpful. And agreed on the install. My husband is pretty adept at a lot of things, so I'm hoping we can make sure the install is done well - and he's more than happy to help or prepare anything to facilitate it.

Thanks, again.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 5:41PM
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where is your ductwork system located?

you definitely don't need a 100 KBTU furnace. Oversizing is never good.

I would start by requesting a professionally performed load calculation for correct sizing both cooling and heating as well as a thorough ductwork system inspection. you mentioned the possibility of adding another return.

I would get a quote on Trane's XT80 furnace with high eff blower motor and XR13 AC condenser. Trane's sister company,Am Standard, offers the same. you will need a matching evap coil, box filter, and HW thermostat.

Carrier/Bryant offers similar system which I would seek a competitive quote.

those would be the minimum basic system that you should want. Higher eff both furnace and AC will come at a price and don't seem worth it considering the low usage both heating and cooling.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 12:07PM
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call your utility and see if they offer discounted rates for heating with a heatpump. I've heard they offer these discounts in some parts of california.

If your choosing to buy A/C, a heatpump wouldn't cost much extra. If your getting discounted electric that would really produce cheap heat. If i'm not mistaken your winter weather is like 30's or 40's. Heatpumps run longer and provide an even heat.

How much do you pay for electricity?
BTW - whether you get a heatpump or A/C I would condsider getting the highest eff. single stage 14/15 seer.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 12:40PM
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for neohio

OP has already decided against heat pump.

I like HPs as well-for the right application. HPs are not for everyone or every application. There are many factors to consider for HPs and those include location/winter climate, comfort, home's envelope/insulation properties, and electric rate vs other alternative heating fuels.

OP lives in SoCal. OP has nat gas. Everyone knows that California has some of if not the highest and insane electric rates in the nation. Some areas have tiered rates based on usage-the more you use the higher your rate.

Nat gas is generally regarded as the heating fuel of choice for California.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 3:10PM
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Our ductwork system is in the attic and my husband is pretty adamant about replacing it since this will be a new a/c install and to make things more quiet. Thanks so much for the Trane recommendation. I had been looking at the XR13 so it is nice to know I was on the right track. You've been very helpful to many on this forum and I have learned a lot from your postings.


Unfortunately, in the end, I don't think a heatpump will work for us. We pay close to 14 cents per kwh on avg. and they keep lowering the tier 1 threshold. We are outside of L.A. and SCE only offers rebates on installation if you use one of their providers and the closest ones are about 1 1/2-2 hours away (without traffic). The other rebates are on evaporative coolers. I love the weather where we are at but, financially, it is getting harder and harder to continue living here.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 3:59PM
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ok. That makes sense based on the higher electricity price and tier 1 threshold. Wasn't sure if there were discounts or not for heatpumps.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 10:28PM
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Following up my original post with my first bid:

Trane 3-ton XR80 with XR13 a/c, new ductwork, pad, permits etc., but not including electrical or HERS testing which is appears to be required in CA (I'm thinking may be an additional 300-400), although I'm trying to figure out if we have to do it since I don't think we will have 40 ft. of duct in the attic.

Total price will be around $8600. No Manual J done, although he said he would do one before install to make sure we get the right size.(?) So if I need a 2.5 ton I still get to pay for 3 ton? I think he would make the appropriate adj., but the total still seems high. I do think they would perform a good install, though. I will get other bids, but any thoughts?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 4:31PM
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I always wonder how a consumer would know that bid seems high? What is your basis for comparison?

Sometimes the highest price is the best value. I continually charge more than my competitors in my area and never have had anyone complain about not getting their money's worth.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 5:11PM
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At this point, I am basing my thoughts on what others have paid on my street (same exact floor plan) as well as what others on this and other websites have stated (obviously different houses/areas).

Agreed that price does/doesn't always equal value. If I had had to do this before myself, I would have a better sense of what seems fair in terms of service. As I said, I will be getting other bids, but I have followed this forum and know there are some very knowledgeable people here from which to get feedback.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 5:29PM
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you will be better served with the XT80 furnace that has a high eff blower motor and is quieter than the XR80 furnace. I would think the 60K mdl furnace would be fine for your area/climate and lifestyle.

and as mentioned previously, Am Std has same HVAC usually less expensive.

I do recommend a good box filter to protect blower motor, evap coil and for indoor air quality.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 6:16PM
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Thanks Tiger! I was hoping you would chime in.

I did ask him about the XT80 as well as maybe going with Am Std. and he said that the Trane and Am Std. are comparably priced and didn't really address the XT80. I had forgotten to mention about the box filter and his bid doesn't mention a thermostat so I guess we will be responsible for that.

I'm still working on the $1900 sticker shock of the new ductwork. I know part of the price is CA requirements but the ductwork is essentially a straight shot down a long hallway to 5 rooms.

I'll see what the other bids come in. It may be that we will have to do the ductwork, furnace and electrical now and wait a while for the a/c. I'd hate to see how much this would be if we wanted any type of bells and whistles. Thanks for your feedback!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 6:49PM
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I pay more for American Standard than Trane here. May be that way in your area as well.

Don't put the cart before the horse and get stuck on brand.

Google these items:

ACCA quality installation checklist
"How to Select an HVAC Contractor"

Come back and let us know what you've learned.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 7:44PM
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The only reason I was thinking about Trane was because they have some better financing deals than others do. I'm not stuck on brand except I am obviously leaning more towards brands that the pros have suggested here.

I think I have a good handle on selecting a contractor but thanks for the suggestions. I used to own my own high-end service business so I have no problem with paying more for excellent service and knowledge.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 5:04PM
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Just got a quote from my preferred installer as I have done business with him in the past. The unfortunate thing is that he has, what I think at least, lower equipment (and too large) but his quote is +/- 1400 cheaper.

Trane 3.5 ton split system with:
Trane 4-ton 13 Seer condenser with CSD 048 evaporator coil to match.
XB80 79K btu furnace
Ductwork, lineset, electrical, etc.

My other bids came in at 3-ton, better units (although I'm not sure as to how much better). I'm o.k. with basic equipment but am worried about the tonnage and if I should be looking at a much lower price to compensate.

Would any of the pros out there be offended if a customer brought this up (in a nice way) or is the first price the final price with no negotiation expected?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 6:29PM
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you are being ill advised both on mdl selection and probably on size as well.

request a load calc for both heating and cooling. get it in writing.

I would not buy a furnace for California that did not have a high eff blower motor. That would be the XT and XV models.

what size is current AC and how did it perform?


    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 8:10AM
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This is a new AC install but would only be used approx. 5-10 days/yr. for very limited periods (probably 15-20 minutes)as we have a lot of insulation. We get slight humidity during those times so I'm concerned that too large of a model won't help with that. Same thing with the furnace as it is rare that we get close to freezing so we really don't use it except for an occasional use to cut the chill.

Not sure what to do because I feel he would do a good install based on previous dealings with him. Does the 1400 difference in price seem in line with the lower equipment?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 11:51AM
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What's there to like?

That's Trane's bottom end furnace.

You fail to mention the mdl/mdl number of the AC condenser.

It appears dealer is quoting a third party evap coil which is not advisable.

There is no mention of a new thermostat or at least a basic 4-5" pleated filter cabinet to protect coil and blower motor.

No, I don't care for that mdl furnace.

But I could go along with it if it was sized correctly.

Here are my suggestions.

1. Get the furnace and AC sized correctly. More is never better especially considering your climate and your HVAC lifestyle.

2. You want a matching Trane brand evap coil-no third party coil is acceptable.

3.a good basic furnace/AC thermostat. I would recommend a Honeywell digital-programmable is your choice.

4. a good basic 4-5" pleated filter media cabinet like AprilAire or Honeywell

Now it's up to you whether you can follow through on this advice.

Good Luck-you will need it!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 12:29PM
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Tigerdunes- What are you really trying to say? lol
I do appreciate the help and was hoping you would respond.

I plan to contact him. He's an independent guy but didn't have a lot of specifics although he did write that the coil would match the condenser and he does show a Honeywell digital thermostat. Since I kind of know him, he probably figures that we'll hash out the specifics when we set up the installation. Hey, at least his bid is better than the guy who just wrote it down on a sheet of notebook paper!

I've had good dealings in the past with him and trust that he would do a good job. I'll ask him to quote an XT80 and XR13 since that is kind of where my research had led me.

Thanks, again for your help!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 12:50PM
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In real estate, it's location,location,location.

In HVAC, it's size, size, size.

I don't know why there are still dealers around that want to oversize on both furnace and AC. It causes problems both in operating costs, short cycling which hurts in longevity of equipment, and dehumidification in AC mode.

I can't see where you would need more than a 3 ton or possibly 2 1/2 ton in AC. For furnace even at 80% eff, not more than an 80 K or even possibly a 60 KBTU size. What is your general area close to so I can get your average summer and winter temp?

Post back.

I hate to see homeowners make mistakes such as sizing that are clearly preventable if one has a dealer that has a little motivation about themselves other than just guessing.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 1:03PM
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We are outside of L.A. but we get a decent ocean breeze and have temperatures similar-lower than the city. We do get the occasional 95 day during a true heatwave and rarely lower than the lower 40's. Humidity seems like it has been getting slightly worse the past couple of years during the hottest days when we don't have Santa Ana winds - or maybe I'm just getting older and notice it more. ;)

My other bids have been 3 ton and I remember thinking that may be too high, but no one seems to want to go lower than that. I believe 3 ton would probably be the highest I would go based on sight location, insulation, windows, etc.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 1:28PM
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Also forgot to ask:

Trane is offering 3 yrs. no interest. I was told by one of the other estimators that the a/c company is somehow penalized in that they have to kind of eat the costs if a customer uses this financing. Does anyone know if that is true?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 1:40PM
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On zip code 90012 for LA, the average winter low is apprx 55 deg fah, average summer high is apprx 85 deg fah. Understand these are averages and there should be a small fudge factor for the colder days and warmer days.

As to your last post, those authorized dealers who choose to participate in Trane's spring and fall incentive programs like rebates, interest free financing, etc usually do share in the cost of such programs with the manufacturer.

Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 4:08PM
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Those averages are pretty good. So you can see, we have a pretty temperate climate.

So the interest-free financing really isn't free? Not that I thought it was, but I was kind of hoping.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 8:56PM
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