Legitimate costs replacing A/C system?

mbrowneJune 18, 2012

I'm a new home owner in central California needing to replace an existing A/C unit. It's a split system, 3 ton, compressor is on the ground. I'm forced to deal with a contractor selected by the home warranty insurance co. - the policy came with the house. There are noncovered costs that I would like to make sure are legitimate.

They wanted to charge $200 for disposal of the old unit and reclaiming the coolant. Since it was totally empty of coolant, I had it removed by a pro for $0 who made his money from recycling it. Now the contractor wants to charge $300 for "flushing the system."

They want $400 for "duct modification." When I asked them what that included, they said they subcontract to have the ducts pressure tested, and any needed "modifications" based on the testing would be additional charges.

I get the sense that they are breaking out individual parts of the job and itemizing as separate charges. I'm wondering if there will be a charge for maybe "removing unit from our truck and transporting it to the backyard" or something.

I'd appreciate any thoughts on how confident I should be with these charges. Thanks!

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You are getting the work over from a third party warranty company. Your anecdotal story is very typical and is why these type of companies have such a terrible reputation.

I assume they will be installing a low end 13SEER AC condenser. What about the matching evap coil?

The flushing charge is legitimate if you plan to reuse the old refrigerant lineset. However, $300 is absurd. Tell them so.

The old unit will have to be hauled off. Again $200 is absurd.

The duct modifications are just a self serving charge.

I always tell a homeowner in a situation like yours to get a settlement price. In the long run, I suspect you would be better off purchasing from a reputable HVAC dealer but it probably will cost you more.

Sorry for your dilemma.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 3:04PM
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Yes. We're looking at a 13SEER Lennox 13ACX-036-230 and CR33-30\36B-F coil. I guess that's pretty low-end? Could you recommend something around the same price range?

I know the "haul off" charge is a ripoff because they will get paid when they recycle it.

I'm getting bids and looking at the out-of-pocket for taking this deal with noncovered costs vs using the settlement toward a better contractor and equipment. The settlement is absurdly low so I may be stuck with the above :/

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 4:02PM
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"I know the "haul off" charge is a ripoff because they will get paid when they recycle it."

If you think it is profitable, why not YOU take it to the recycling location? ;-)

After all, fuel and labor are apparently free. lol

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 5:05PM
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Cali. does have guidelines for duct leakage that need documenting under law and repaired as necassary. That might be the third party duct testing procedure. You are right though as far as the insurance company low balling though.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 8:42AM
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Thanks heatseeker, the $400 is for "testing" only, although they call it "modification." The actual modification will be an additional cost they didn't even list. I'm ready to make sure the ducting is up to code, it will probably only need sealing around the vents.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 3:03PM
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Not a fan of Lennox but surprised that warranty company is installing something as good as the 13ACX model.

I would ask company for the upgrade cost to the 13XC mdl. Should be no more than $300 and would definitely be worth it.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 3:10PM
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Saltidawg, the reason I think it's profitable is because the first A/C guy I asked about it was glad to get it, and picked it up at no charge to me. He told me he would make enough at the recycler he uses to make it worth it. Maybe he just relates well to people?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 3:11PM
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OP: Yeah, this is a scary area b/c that home warranty is paying the installer next-to-nothing fixed bid, and the installer needs to make some money. But on those thin margins, anything that can go wrong (not even wrong, but a little hangup) will eat that profit away. If that happens, you'll be into Cutting-Corners territory and you become one of those statistics where "bad installation" makes everything go wrong from leaky coils, to early compressor or blower failure, etc.

You want your installer to make money and be happy to do a good job, just want it fair.

I live in Central CA and the company I worked with (even via the AHS home warranty) published all their non-covered rates before a job was started. At least gave me some peace-of-mind seeing it on a professional carbon-press job cost estimate (not something printed from Word). If you want, send me a PM and I can share more info about this company and how their rates compared with a 2nd company, however much that'll help.

Refrigerant Disposal (State Environ. Requirement) was $60
Disposal of old unit = $25
Title 24 Duct Testing/HERS Rater Verification = 400
-- any duct modifications are "per job"
For Condensing Units/Compressors: "additional time for difficult access, lifting or inadequate work space" = 75/hr per person.
For Furnaces/Air Handler/Coils: "disassemble old equipment, additional time needed" = 75/hr per person.

They may make a few hundred bucks recycling my old gas-package unit, but it took a crane to get it off there (shared cost w/placing new one), and a couple guys to load/unload it, not making them much for a 22yr old unit.

BTW, is it possible that $25 refrigerant disposal/recapture fee is probably $200 (recapture + flush lineset), less $175 discount for getting to recycle it/reuse or what not. What you've done is taken the value out of the recapture by giving the refrigerant to another vendor and leaving all the labor to flush the old lineset. But if you're tossing the lineset anyway, should there even be a charge?

Good luck,
FYI I'm an average Joe h/o, I don't work in the industry.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 1:26AM
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