Affordable replacement central air

raymond1953July 25, 2010

I need to replace a 19 year old Lennox air conditioning system, HS18-311-7P, with electric heat, that will no longer hold a charge. I have a budget of $3,000-$3,500 and have quotes from several contractors. It seems that brands that are advertised extensively cost more but I'm not sure I'm getting more. A Lennox, for example, from their low end Merit Series still costs $800 or 25% more than a Kelvinator made by Nordyne. I understand that there are advantages to installing a 16+ SEER high efficiency system but I can't afford that and no matter what I buy, it will be an improvement over what I have. All of these systems are 2.5 tons with electric heating coils. Here's what I'm considering:

Kelvinator JS4BD-030KB with GB5BMX-030KB. 13 SEER, 10 year warranty

Lennox 14ACX-030 with CB32-030. 14 SEER, 10 year warranty

I think the indoor unit of the Kelvinator can be matched with a B4VM-X30KB to make it a 14 SEER system but I don't know at what extra cost.

What about the Nordyne/Kelvinator brand should I be wary of? What makes the Lennox worth an extra $800?

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I have a few suggestions to reach for if possible.

Without knowing your area or climate If you have a lot of below freezing winter use you want a unit with demand defrost so it only defrosts when needed.

If you have hot humid summers or a lot of a/c use try to get a unit with a TXV instead of a piston type orifice. This will greatly reduce your humidity and efficiency. It might also allow a couple degrees warmer temp to be comfortable which will save even more use.

a good thermostat with outdoor temp sensing and option to lock out the heat strips or heat pump depending on temperature so you can better control what runs when and how.

The thermostat can be done later and can be done on a DIY basis so it can wait but is highly recommended and will pay for itself fairly quickly.

For southern states that use very little heat and the low temp is in the high 30's or above the payback on demand defrost is a lot longer than in colder climates.

The txv will pay off well no matter what in overall comfort.

Get some bids and leave the model numbers for the others in here and they will help you get the best bang for the buck.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 6:56PM
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I"ve heard systems made my nordyne are good. I would consider them. Ask for the highest seer single stage that they make. It should be 14 seer and with the proper air handler it makes it 15 seer. Electricity is going up and you need as much efficiency as possible.

How was your old lennox heating? What were your bills like?

I agree with the prior post. Spend a bit more and make sure a txv valve is installed.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 10:33PM
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Thanks for the advice. I see that a TXV valve kit is listed as an option on the technical specifications so I'll have that added to the quote. How much should I expect that to add to the cost?

I don't see any combinations that get to 15 SEER on the Nordyne documentation page. It looks like 13 SEER with the correct air handler gets to 14 SEER then it jumps up to the 16 SEER units.

We're in the St. Louis area. Extremely hot this summer, of course. Our house is all electric and the bill is $145/mo. It's just gone up from $125. I think that a large part of that is the high heat this summer and the AC system that's running constantly and can't get it below about 82-84 degrees in the house.

Coincidentally, Nordyne equipment is made about 150 miles from here. I've never heard of Kelvinator (except for a refrigerator we had when I was a kid) until I got this quote.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 2:40AM
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I am on the other side of the state and highly recommend the TXV and demand defrost for now and the outdoor temp stat later down the line. If there is any way possible to do so, they will pay for themselves rather quickly.

The TXV is expensive to add later in comparison to now and demand defrost might be available to add later also but would cost more also.

I had a friend do the same thing and I am not sure on the demand defrost but the txv coil was 50.00 more than the orifice unit.

Also ask the installer to stage your heat strips.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 7:52PM
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The Nordyne coils have TXV standard. Kelvinator is on the lower end of Nordyne's family but same guts as the higher line just not as fancy a unit nor the 10 year replacement pledge. Just 1 year but that's 1 year that Lennox doesn't have. Air conditioners don't have defrost boards.

If you are all electric, you can save by going heat pump but those are some darn low monthly bills!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 8:44PM
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I had a conversation with the installer today and I think it makes more sense to go with a 16 SEER system and the tax credit than the 13 SEER. The prices are almost the same either way. It's either a Frigidaire FS4BF-036K or a Kelvinator JS4BF-036KA. The only differences I can see is that the Frigidaire has two rows of coils in the compressor unit (1 row in the Kelvinator), a diagnostic system, and a 5-year replacement pledge. They both have a 2-stage scroll compressor. For only $175 more, I think the Frigidaire is the better choice.

I'm a little confused on the air handler, though. I thought he said B5BM-X36KB. I can't find technical specs on that number exactly and the specs for both compressors refer to a B4VM-X36KB. I'm not sure if I misunderstood or if the online docs aren't up to date. I did find a certificate on the AHRI site for each compressor with a B4VM-X36KB handler but not the B5BM. I need to be sure that the combination I buy qualifies for the tax credit or this is not the deal it appears to be.

I might do better with a heat pump but as you say, I already have reasonable electric bills. We're on a wooded lot with little direct sunlight on the house in the summer. Still, this summer it's been pretty warm in here.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 11:51PM
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if your saying you were heating before with pure electric and not a heatpump, you will be in for a nice surprise when you get your heatpump. Your electricity usage will go down alot in the winter when your heating.

Good idea. Get the nicer system then take advantage of the credit.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 7:39AM
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I missed the air cond. part and assumed it was a heat pump replacement. Sorry on that but go heat pump for sure over strip only.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 7:19PM
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Yes, we have just an air conditioner with heat strips now. No heat pump. I'm open to the heat pump option as long as it doesn't blow my budget and can pay for itself in a few years.

I can't remember the last time I had so much trouble trying to spend money. The first guy doesn't seem to understand that only certain outdoor units and air handlers qualify for the ARRA tax credit. He says he'll write on the receipt that it qualifies and that will be good enough. Of course, he won't be one staring down an IRS agent if I get audited. LOL

I've given him the exact model numbers and he says he can't find the air handler in his catalog so he'll give me a little different one. It doesn't qualify! (He claims it does.) He didn't seem too interested in pricing out a heat pump and said it would cost about $1,000 more than just the ac with heat strips.

Today I left messages for two other Frigidaire dealers asking for a quote on the same items. No responses. I guess these guys are busy this time of year and don't need another job especially when they know it's competitive.

What I'm asking for:

FS4BF036K 16 SEER compressor unit
B4VMX36KB variable speed air handler
15 KW heat strip

That's comparable to what I have now and to the original 13 SEER system but at higher efficiency. I know that qualifies for the credit but he insists on selling me the B5VMX36KB air handler that I can't verify does qualify.

For a heat pump, the FS4BF changes to FT4BF036K which is supposed to add $1,000 (almost 25% more). I have no idea if that's right.

Is this typical? I like research and knowing what I'm buying but maybe that's not how they like to operate. Hopefully I'll get the right parts and a reasonable quote from someone tomorrow.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 10:50PM
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Raymond1953 -

Did you ever determine the difference between the B4VMX and the B5VMX air handlers? I was quoted the B4VMX but the dealer installed the B5VMX. I'd love to determine the difference before I pay or confront the dealer.


    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 7:01PM
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