New Central Air Install quote

FiziksgeekJune 26, 2012

Hello all, I want to get some opinion on a new central air quote I received.


Traditional 4 bed 2.5 bath colonial in CT, oil boiler/radiant baseboard heat. No ducts. First floor is ~1300 sqft, second floor is ~900 sqft.

Quote was a little weird, just a paragraph, no itemized lists. Here is what is said:

Furnish and install a Trane 4 ton central air conditioning of the following equipment. Trane condenser model 4ttb3048, Trane air handler with cooling coil located in attic, refrigerant lines, condenser pad, gutter piping, honeywell cooling thermostat, drain pan, and necessary electrical connections. A total of 10 insulated supply outlet will be installed along with a central return. System will be started up and recharged with R-410 refrigerant. Condenser and air handler will have a 10 year manufacturer warranty, and labor and materials furnished by installer will be waranteed for 1 year.

Price $12,200

I am not convinced the guy did a model J calculation. He did make a drawing with rough sizes of the various rooms and recommended location of outlets. When done, he paced offed the outside of the house to get the overall dimensions and counted windows/doors.

We had been talking about an XR15 during his visit, but looks like he quoted me an XB13, the lowest model Trane makes. The quote does not call out the air handler model or thermostat model

Only 1 price is listed, no itemized price list. Is this typical?

Based on his visit, the 10 supply outlets would be 6" duct lines run off a central line int eh attic into the upper rooms and down through closets and be broken down like this:

2-master bed

3- 1 each in 3 smaller upstairs bedrooms.

2-living room

2-kitchen/breakfast room


A single large return in above the stairs.

Downstairs is fairly open 3-4ft wide openings between rooms (no doors), but upstairs, the bedroom doors are often closed, will they cool effectively without a return in each bedroom?

Bathrooms aren't huge, but should they have outlets as well?

In addition, the family room is on the end of the house, and the location of closets would at most only allow 1 inlet to this room, so he recommended a minispit. Its ~16x20 with vaulted ceiling, large picture window on one side, sliding glass door on the other side. He didn't quote this for me, but I would suspect it will be ~$3500-4500 extra installed.

Part of me just says walk away from this company, part of me says go ask questions and see if they can clear things up.

We currently have 6 window ACs, one in each bedroom, and two down stairs. The family room is the only issue, we can't put a window AC in there, so we put in the next room and keep a fan blowing on high to push air around.

Is a low end central air system still better than multiple window units? I think out biggest issue is the noise of all the units running and yearly install and uninstall/storage. Humidity control could be a bit better I think, but don't know if I would expect it to be significantly better with a central system.

Any advice is welcome!

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get a 2nd quote from another company. do you feel ok writing a check for $12k based on 1 estimate?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 7:58AM
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Get some more quotes to confirm the price is competitive. Get the XR15 or another brands highest efficiency single stage. I would want higher than just 13 seer.

Ask for a heatpump instead of regular A/C. Price shouldn't be much more. This would allow you to heat cheaper than the oil when the weather isn't too cold and the price of oil is high. Heat pump heat is fine when weather is above 30 degrees unless the house is drafty.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 11:21AM
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You should get at least 3 quotes. You should focus on how each contractor proposes doing the installation. From this you will learn the strengths and weaknesses of each company.

I think the summers in CT are humid, so my recommendation would be to get a 2-stage condenser with a variable speed air handler. The heat pump may be a good option considering what your are paying for fuel oil.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 11:36AM
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You need more quotes.

I would want at a minimum one return upstairs and one return downstairs, properly sized of course.

I will assume you don't have nat gas access.

Add a HP instead of straight AC. This will help you in the shoulder mths and when temp is at or above temp balance point. Even at that, you could stretch the use of the heat pump with a heat strip that would be cheaper from an operational cost standpoint than the more expensive fuel oil.

Post electric rate and cost of fuel oil/gal.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 1:49PM
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"I am not convinced the guy did a model J calculation."

I'd just add that some companies get 95% of the Manual-J done by pulling plans @ the county office. When they show up on site they'll add the glass and door R-values. I ended up doing a full Manual-J myself because I thought they were me r.e. this method. All the heat gain and loss numbers were within a +/-2k range of my calculations.

You should absolutely get some more quotes from reputable HVAC contractors. I was very pleased with the A-rated Angie's List folks I had in my home.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 2:30PM
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(10) 6" supply ducts will not produce the required airlow (1600 cfm) for a 4 ton system.

Find a company that will supply you with a Manual J calculation.

Here is a link that might be useful: 9 facts you should know before investing your money in a central system

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 7:08AM
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Ed is right, there is no way that is going to work as far as air flow is concerned. The system you should be looking at is a ductless A/C system. In this case you may need to do 2 single head systems to account for the higher heat load, but someone who does a proper manual J (which must include a blower door test to measure infiltration!) will be able to tell. As a company, we rarely install ducted systems anymore, they are a very low value and have much higher maintenance costs and lower efficiency. With ductless you will not need to install any ducting and will get near geothermal efficiency. PLUS it will cost almost 1/2 of your horrible, horrible first quote.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ductless Info and Pictures, etc.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 1:48PM
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Thanks for the replies everyone. I had some last minute travel for work, so haven't had much time to read what you all have to say, but catching up on it now.

1. Of course Iw ill get multiple quotes, I wouldn't spend 1K without getting multiple quotes let alone 10-20K.

2. Not interested in a heat pump. Electric rates are high here. House is fairly efficient, and I have a nice wood stove insert and 5 cords of wood read to go. Keeping warm is not my problem.

3. Correct, no natural gas available here. If it was, I would probably switch over.

4. Thanks for the information that 10-6" ducts will not supply enough air flow for a 4 ton system. Thats the sort of info I am looking for!

5. Started reading about mini-splits for use in the entire house, I think thats what you mean barrongreenteam...? Are they variable speed? Because I dont seem to see one under 9K BTUs, which is too big for the bedrooms?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 6:04PM
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Ive found this too. A lot of the HVAC folks will do things by the seat oftheir pants without rigor, not give you any real basis for what is being charged, and then act like how dare you question it...

More quotes is a good thing. Nothing wrong with a slightly lower unit in terms of tonnage, but if you know the unit you want for tech/efficiency.other reasons, no reason you shouldnt demand it. The installer may advise against it based upon experience, and that's good valuable info... But you need to decide what you really want.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 7:49PM
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CJ Mechanical of North jersey llc.

Air flow of 10 pc of 6" supply will most likly only diliver under 2.5 tons of cooling and huge static pressure issues.
I would only install 7" flex ducts . and damper down only if needed.
his design 10 6" supplys at 1600 cfm will be noisey ,long run times and very high static pressure beyond mfg specs.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 10:44PM
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