Help with Replacement HVAC Proposals
My home needs a new HVAC system because the 18-year old heat pump compressor locked up. The house is in Columbia, Maryland. It is a two-story colonial built in 1978. The unfinished block-wall basement, where the heating and air handler package is located, is 844 square feet. It has no air return and two operating registers cut into the single main trunk; those registers are opened in the winter and closed in the summer. The 844-square foot first floor has the larger air return high on one wall with floor registers throughout. The 972-square foot second floor has a return in the hallway ceiling that is about half the size of the first floor's, plus floor registers in the four bedrooms and two bathrooms. All windows are Anderson low-e, dual pane insulated. The house has a dark brown shingled mansard roof. The house front faces east. All windows are on the east and west sides.
As with many houses of this age and style, the second floor is hotter in the summer. This problem can be offset with constant operation of the air handler fan, keeping the temperature differential to 2 to 3 degrees.
This is an all-electric house; no natural gas in the neighborhood. All-in electric rate is 15 cents per kilowatt-hour.
The electric supply wiring to the indoor and outdoor units is aluminum.
It is possible that I will not stay in this house beyond 10 years.
In 1993, though it was operating relatively well, I decided to replace the original GE 2.5 ton heat pump and air handler/heat package on the theory that it had little useful life remaining and the local utility rebates for more efficient packages were enticing. The replacement units were Lennox: HP22-311 2.5 ton heat pump and CB19-31 air handler with 15 kW 3-element heating. A Honeywell Chrontrol III thermostat controlled it. Perhaps because the original thermostat cabling was short, more cable was spliced on the outside of the house, resulting in an electrical-tape-wrapped knot of wires exposed to the elements.
The 1993 installation was done in May. It was cooling season and, as soon as the system was operating, I started having indoor humidity problems. Humidity levels ranged from 60 to 70 percent. I was told that the old ductwork was not working well with the new high-efficiency units. In an effort to cure the problem, the manufacturer told the installer to replace the air handler's blower motor with one of lower horsepower. The theory was that the less powerful motor would run more slowly and allow the chilled air to lose more humidity. This had a negligible effect on the problem. No other help was forthcoming. My remedy was to run two dehumidifiers in the basement that brought the upstairs humidity down below 55 percent.
During heating season, the heat pump gave me ample heat without using the auxiliary heaters: 95-degree outlet air was quite welcome.
Over the years, in addition to the humidity problem, the Lennox system has suffered other problems: defrost control board died in first year; high-pressure cutoff has tripped at least 5 times, though the 6-month inspections showed no pressure problems; the air handler fan motor failed in year 15; the indoor and outdoor units' motor start capacitors have been replaced three times each; until I plugged it, a quarter-sized hole in the bottom of the heat pump allowed mice to take up residence in the unit. Thanks to having a all-inclusive and expensive maintenance agreement, these problems cost nothing extra to repair.
I have received replacement proposals from four companies and a fifth proposal is in the works. The state's energy fund rebate and the Federal tax rebate expire at the end of 2011, so I won't include them in pricing as it may be 2012 before the system is installed. Some manufacturers' rebates expired in the middle of December, just a few days after the heat pump died. I wasn't ready to make a quick decision and didn't have all of the proposals so I lost out on those rebates.
I told all of the representatives about the summer humidity problem and that I liked having a system that gave me ample heat in the winter.
Proposal 1 is from the company that has had the maintenance agreement for 13 years. It is rated best in the county by the local county magazine, though the ratings are based on reader (and, perhaps, employee) voting. Angie's List has no reports on it. The company has been in business since 1979. The person who visited did not inquire as to the square footage of the house or the number and type of windows.
This proposal said the existing 33-year old refrigerant lines would be kept in place, as would the existing thermostat wiring. I was told the manufacturer requires connections to the air handler be made with copper electric supply; a junction box would be mounted on the outside of the air handler and the aluminum wire transitioned to copper at that point.
Choice A) Carrier Infinity 16 25HNB636 two-stage heat pump; Infinity FE4ANF005 air handler; Infinity Control thermostat; 16.5 SEER; cost $8,850.
Choice B) Carrier Performance 25HCC530 heat pump; Performance FV4CNF002 air handler; Carrier Digital thermostat; 15.0 SEER; cost $5,790.
Choice C) Carrier Comfort 25HBC530 heat pump; Comfort FB4CNF030 air handler; Carrier Digital thermostat; 13.0 SEER; cost $4,550.
Proposal 2 is from a company that got an "honorable mention" in the county magazine. I know nothing about it except that it exists and that it is a Trane dealer. Angie's List has no reports on it. The person who visited did not inquire as to the square footage of the house or the number and type of windows. I mentioned that I had read that Honeywell made Trane's thermostats and he said I could save a few dollars by using Honeywell instead of the Trane model. When the proposal arrived by e-mail days later, it said:
Remove all old equipment from jobsite.
Install a Trane XL15i 2�-Ton Heat Pump. Heat Pump to sit on new pad with pump ups.
Install a variable speed Air Handler with new auxiliary Heater.
Revamp ductwork to accommodate new Air Handler.
Run refrigerant lines connecting Air Handler and Heat Pump.
Re-wire high and low voltage at Air Handler and Heat Pump.
Install Honeywell Programmable Thermostat.
Start and check system.
When I asked for the models numbers associated with the above proposal I received the following:
Trane Heat Pump - 4TWX5030A1000A
Trane hyperion Air Handler - TAM7A0B30H21SA
Honeywell Thermostat - TH8320U1008
Heater - BAYEVBC15BK1AA
Proposal 3 is from a larger company that bought out the company that installed the current Lennox. It got an honorable mention in the county magazine. Angie's List gives it a grade of B. The person who visited did not inquire as to the square footage of the house or the number and type of windows. He used to work for the bought-out company. 13 years ago, I was not impressed by the abilities of the technicians who serviced my system after the buyout and switched to the Proposal 1 company for service. This person said no changes were necessary to the aluminum electric supply cable and that the coolant lines would be replaced. The proposal was printed by hand and is hard to read.
"Good" Option) Trane XL15I; Outdoor Unit 4TWX5030; Indoor Unit TAM7A0B30; Thermostat TCONT802AS320A; 15.75 SEER, 9.5 HSPF; cost $8,570.
"Better" Option) Carrier 16; Outdoor Unit 25HNB636; Indoor Unit FE4ANB003; Thermostat Infinity Control; 16 SEER, 9.1 HSPF; Cost $8,938.
"Best" Option) Carrier Inverter; Outdoor Unit 25VNA036; Indoor Unit FE4ANF003; Thermostat Infinity Control; 19.2 SEER, 10.5 HSPF; Cost $13,704.
Proposal 4 is from a company that was recommended to me by someone who knows some of the employees but may not be familiar with the quality of their work. Angie's List gives it a grade of A but lists only three reports. It has been in business since 1969. The representative took the time to ask about the square footage of the house, measure the windows, and count the number and type of doors. The proposal was e-mailed to me the next day and also (not expected) dropped off at my house in a tote bag with a company logo. A follow-up phone call came two days later. This company won't change the aluminum electric cable, will install a fused outdoor disconnect, will replace the thermostat wiring to the outdoor unit, and will replace the coolant lines.
Level 1) Lennox Heat Pump XP21-36; Air Handler CBX40UHV-42; Thermostat CS7000; Air Cleaner HC16; "EvenHeater" 4-level heat package; LSOM package; 18 SEER, 12.5 EER, 8.5 HSPF; cost $8,720.
Level 2) Lennox Heat Pump XP16-36; Air Handler CBX40UHV-30; Thermostat CS7000; Air Cleaner HC16' "EvenHeater" 4-level heat package; 16 SEER, 12.5 EER; 8.5 HSPF; cost $7,156.
Level 3) Lennox Heat Pump XP14-30; Air Handler CBX40UHV-36; Thermostat CS7000; 15 SEER, 12.5 EER, 8.5 HSPF; Cost $6,578.
Proposal 5 is from a company that had all A grades on its 11 reports on Angie's List. Otherwise, I know nothing about it. The company owner was at my house 20 minutes after I called him. I have not yet received the written proposal. The person who visited did not inquire as to the square footage of the house or the number and type of windows. This company will reuse the aluminum wire and install a fused outdoor disconnect. The owner said the 33-year old existing coolant lines are of far better quality than what is available today and he would reuse them. The information listed is from our discussions so I may not have specific model numbers.
Option 1) Carrier Heat Pump Infinity 20; Air Handler FE4ANF005; Thermostat Infinity Control; cost $8,462.
Option 2) Carrier Heat Pump Infinity 16; Air Handler FE4ANF005; Thermostat Infinity Control; cost $6,735.
Option 3) a basic unit yet to be specified.
My initial reaction is that Proposal 5 Options 1 and 2 are bargain priced.
Thank you in advance to those who comment and provide guidance me. I know this post is lengthy but I tried to be as thorough as possible.