Help with replacing AC estimates

ACMomJune 17, 2014

We purchased a 2,400 sq ft house that is 20 years old in southwest FL on an island (aka, hot, humid & salty air). The house has the original air handler that still runs in the garage with a compressor outside from 2002. When I went to have the unit serviced, we were told there is way too much damage to even clean the unit outside and the air handler is filled with some kind of black growth and is rusted out.

So,now I'm shopping for a new AC unit. I have received 4 estimates and I'm looking for some guidance on the conflicting information I've been told.

First estimate quoted me a 13 SEER Bryant, a 13 SEER Trane and a 14.5 SEER Carrier. He said I should not go above 14.5 SEER given the age of our duct system. He said we won't know if the duct work can handle higher SEER ratings for 6 months to year after installing.

2nd estimate quoted me a 13, 15 or 16 SEER Carriers. This guy told me there would be no problems with our ductwork going with higher SEERs since it currently can handle a 4 ton unit. The 16 SEER also has a variable speed Air handler and a 2 speed cond. unit. He Recommended this given the high humidity levels in our area.

3rd guy didn't give me anything in writing and 4th quoted an Amana but he didn't spend more than 3 minutes at the house so not an option.

So my questions are:

1) How do I know if our existing ductwork can handle a higher SEER? Since I'm assuming currently were at like a 7-8 SEER, how do I even know it can handle a 13 seer?

2) I was also told that the Carrier unit is better for our area since it has copper instead of aluminum and will not oxidize in the salty air. Is there any truth to this?

3) Everyone has just said to replace our unit with another 4 Ton unit. Is there anything else I should be asking?

4) The first estimate guy crawled around in our attic and found areas where our ducts need to be mastic sealed and showed me pictures. The second estimate guy only poked his head into our attic and looked around and said our ducts all looked fine. But he didn't crawl around. Is that appropriate? What should these guys be doing when they provide me with an estimate?

Thanks in advance for your help!

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The statement about copper being superior to aluminum in a harsh environment like yours is pure nonsense. The market for superior HVAC has been slow to respond but definitely is moving toward aluminum and that includes Carrier/Bryant who really have been behind the curve but are catching up.

If you are looking for HVAC that will better withstand your harsh environment then Trane or sister company AmStd. That is your starting point. I will assume no heat is needed for your location.

SEER has nothing to do with your ductwork system. Size of system does.

Ask dealer for a thorough evaluation of ductwork system including size, adequate returns, leaks, mastic, and insulation properties. Home is built on slab or crawlspace?

You want a system that has var speed air handler for better dehumidification. Go no lower than a rated system that has 15-16 SEER. Two stage condenser while nice will be more costly.


This post was edited by tigerdunes on Wed, Jun 18, 14 at 8:51

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 6:07AM
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Carrier makes condensers which have additional coatings designed for coastal environments. I think Trane offers a similar type product. Ask about this when you are getting your quotes.

"He said I should not go above 14.5 SEER given the age of our duct system. He said we won't know if the duct work can handle higher SEER ratings for 6 months to year after installing."

That statement makes no sense. I would have serious concerns about this HVAC contractor.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 8:44AM
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Thank you for the responses! I will request an evaluation of our system, good idea. The house is on slab (we are in a flood zone).

The contractor who made the comment about the duct work not withstanding a higher SEER was my favorite one because he spent the most time examining the house. Now that I'm learning that SEER has nothing to do with it basically invalidates that guy. Back to more estimates.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 9:37AM
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This contractor may be saying he doesn't think spending extra money on a higher SEER system because your ducts are leaking and you won't see much of an energy saving. There is some truth to that. A good contractor will inspect the duct work and make recommendations on what fixes need to be done. I don't care for a contractor who wants to sell you a system that he thinks is compatible with undersized, uninsulated, and leaking duct work.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 10:20AM
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The contractor who said we couldn't handle a higher SEER also said that our ducts need sealing in some places (he showed me pics). He said he would mastic seal them where needed. I am still leery of him though. I Should clarify that this guy was actually not a contractor he was there to do maintenance on our system initially. He was a tech for the first company I called.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 3:22PM
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