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Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Posted by hamconsulting (My Page) on
Tue, Aug 14, 12 at 1:11

My a/c broke last week and the hvac specialist says my Fraser-Johnston condensing unit is over 40 years old. I've only been in the house 16 years, so I can't verify it's age.

It's a single story ranch-style house with 1430 sqft of living space with crawl space under house and attic above. It's an oven in here.

The 1993 (Made in the USA) Rheem Criterion Gas Furnace in the attic looks new. It's a model RGPH-07NAMGR, 75k BTU, 21.97 kW, 3/4 HP. The only repair that I've done to this gas furnace is replace the electronic ignitor a couple of times. It was an easy job that I did myself by reading the forum.

Fraser-Johnston Model HDEC-F042SA, R-22
Evaporator Model G(M)BUA048

HVAC specialist says to replace this Fraser-Johnston outside condensing unit and its electrical wiring. He suspects that everything in the attic like the furnace, ducts, etc. was done new in 1993, but somehow kept the old Fraser-Johnston condensing unit on the outside.

He's also not recommending to change the pipes (lineset?) that go from the outside condensing unit up to the attic.

Does this recommendation sound reasonable? I don't have quote since I don't have the details of what to replace with.

Any help is appreciated.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Ham

Any idea of the size of the Fraser Johnson condenser? I am not familiar with their model numbers but it looks like a 3 1/2 ton size which would be quite large for your living space. This should be checked and verified.

Now to the lineset. It has to be sized correctly to the manufacturer spec for new condenser. This is an important detail not to be overlooked or disregarded.

Your condenser selection should be a quality 13 SEER model with matching evap coil. Without knowing more information, it would be difficult for me to believe you need more than a 2 1/2-3 ton size.

Post back.

IMO


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

I took a picture of the fading tag on the fraser-j unit, but I couldn't find anything on the tons nor evap coil. It just lists 4 models listed for evap.

I'll look again for more info, but even google can't find my model. I'll pack us on making sure that lineset matches.

Is it possible to just replace the coul in condenser unit n not the whole outside unit? My wife got verbal quote for $1600, but I'm haven't gotten details. This quote doesn't sound right unless it only fixes coil?

I don't want to repair part on old unit. I rather replace it.


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

I don't think it is possible to fix a 40 year old condenser. The parts would not be available and no one would gurantee the work.

You need to replace the outside condenser, indoor coil, and lineset. It would be good to match it to your existing furnace, but even that at 19 years is getting old. If you are planning to live in the house another 7-10 years then considering replacing the furnace also.


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Thanks for the advice on replacing the outside condenser, indoor coil, and lineset. I just can't afford to replace the whole system (including furnace and ducts) right now...

I'm attaching a picture of the tag on my outside condenser. I can't figure out how man tons it is.


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Here's the picture


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Model No. Fraser-Johnston Model HDEC-F042SA

The "42" implies 42,000 BTU which is 3.5 tons.

Does the label say MFD 0788? This would indicate it was manufactured in July 1988. Who told you it was over 40 years old?


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Thank you for translating the numbers for me. Hvac tech told my wife it was 40 yrs, but 24 is not quite 40.

I now have a better idea on what I should be getting.


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

3 1/2 ton condenser would be quite large for 1430 sq ft.

2 1/2-3 ton would be closer to the norm.

IMO


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Thanks. At minimum, I should be replacing outside condenser (a/c unit at about 3 tons), lineset (or maybe have it flushed if same size), and indoor evaporation coil (air handler?).

I'll replace the furnace when it goes bad. We don't use it too often. Furnace is 80.5% efficiency at 75K BTUs.

Now, I need to get some quotes. Any recommendations for hvac in the LA area?


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Stick with a solid 13 SEER 2 1/2-3 ton model with matching evap coil.

If you intend to use old lineset, it must be the correct size to the model specification.

I would recommend AmStd, Rudd/Rheem, Carrier/Bryant.

Mid level OK. Stay away from low end.

IMO


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Thanks for the advice on the brands. FurnaceCompare.com has a lot of reviews and there are more negative reviews than positive review on almost all brands.

I usually don't like to pay for the extended warranties for anything including hdtv's, refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, dryers, microwaves, cars, etc., but I think I'm going to make an exception for the a/c system.


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Ham

These comparison sites are basically useless. They are skewed towards negative ratings versus positive ratings.

I would rather pay a little more from a quality dealer and quality HVAC over an Ext warranty on condenser and evap coil.

IMO


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Really like the advice on this board. I'll definitely be posting my quotes once they start coming in. It's a busy time here in Southern California!

I'm getting a whole system quote from Costco, but they only have Lennox Signature, Elite, and Merit models.

I'm assuming that heat pumps are not recommended for So Cal, right?


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Please.

You will be making a mistake purchasing through a big box store like Costco.

If you have nat gas service already, then stick with existing setup.

And no reason going beyond a good basic 13 SEER condenser with matching evap coil. The high SEER models would be a waste of money because you have a conventional 80% eff furnace with standard PSC blower. Now if you plan to replace furnace with high eff var speed model, then that's a different story. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not speaking the truth.

Post back.

IMO


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

It's been a super busy month here in SoCal, so I haven't been able to get a quote from independent companies. They are not calling me back. They just take my info.

The furnace is 19 years old, so I am starting to consider a full new system. I called a couple of independent companies that deal with American Standard equipment.

I started another thread asking about the Gold SI vs the Silver SI on American Standard AC.

I would like to have an American Standard base system in mind when I talk to the companies that come give me a quote.

I've read many other posts from a couple of years ago and something like this might be my base system for my 1430 sqft house in Los Angeles with R30 insulation in attic, but no insulation on walls or floor (crawl space under floor).

Possible New System:
2.5 Ton Outside AC Unit. Mid-level American Standard like Gold SI
Furnace to match AC
Evap coil to match AC
Trane PureAir 5" Filter
New lineset
Thermostat XL803

I'm getting the quote from Costco because they were at the store today and I signed up for a quote. This will be my first quote until someone else comes to the house.


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

tigerdunes,

You probably understand thtat people are drawn to using contractors "affiliated" with the chain stores, and however loose the affiliation they don't care, because still too many contractors are rogues and scoundrals. The ones obtained through the referrals may be no better, and could be worse, but I think people find some comfort in thinking they have recourse with the referring legitimate store if there's a problem. Especially a Costco referral, since most people think Costco's customer service practices are among the best of the best.


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

For the previous post.

A false sense of protection plus you will pay more. This arrangement does not benefit the homeowner at all.

IMO


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

I'll have to disagree that there's no benefit by going thru Costco. I've have nothing but good experiences buying a mattress, car batteries, tires, cars, etc. through Costco's programs/stores.

I've even had to return my mattress after 3 years because the box spring came apart at the seams and Costco refunded my full amount. I turned around and bought a new mattress there with the full refund.

I've also used Costco's auto buying program. You don't get the best price, but you get a good price and no hassle negotiation. I've seen reports that say Costco's New Car Program is a good way to buy a car especially for those that are not great negotiators or don't want to hassle negotiating. If you are a great negotiator, then you can do better on your own but it's going to take more time to get the best price.

A co-worker who lives in Pasadena used Costco's HVAC program about 5 years ago. He's very happy with his new system and he highly recommended Costco. It was through a different local HVAC company that services his area. He gave me some details on the process, but not details on the equipment.

He also mentioned that Costco offers up to a $1000 Costco cash card (10% of new system cost), 2% cash back for Executive members, and 1% cash back for paying with American Express. So, whatever the price is, there's a 13% cash back potential.

I need to find out if there's any additional warranty included in the Costco program. Costco does this for computers...they extend an extra year when you buy through Costco.

So, as you can see...I'm a big Costco shopper. I'm not saying that I'm going to buy their HVAC system, but I'm going to consider it. I just don't like the fact that they only offer Lennox equipment through their program.

I'm going to get a specific American Standard quote from a reputable local HVAC company that's been around for 80 years and they were on the AmStd web site when you find authorized dealers. Unfortunately, they took my info on Friday, but haven't called me back. http://www.laplumber.com/

Local story in the news says that most HVAC companies were swamped this month due to heat wave.

Anyways, I feel that I'm better prepared to look at the Costco quote and compare it to other quotes.

I'll post back as I get ready to make a decision. This forum, and in particular tigerdunes, have been extremely helpful.


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

I will not change my mind about purchasing HVAC through big box stores including Costco.

And BTW, I like Costco as well-for certain things but definitely not HVAC. Third party purchase arrangements just add confusion to an already complicated situation.

Make no mistake. Costco is not giving you anything on these gift cards. You the customer are paying for it.

That's all I will say on the subject.

Just keep your eyes wide open.

IMO


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Yes, I'll keep my eyes open. That's the great thing about this site...it's helping me see things much better.


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Yeah! I finally got a call from my local independent contractor and they are coming to do a quote.

Over the phone, they are already recommending an American Standard 3.5 Ton a/c unit for a 1430 sqft house. I told him I prefer a 3 ton unit, but I have a feeling that So Cal has such bad insulation all-around that their guideline is 400 sqft per ton.

I'm going to request a Manual J from these people, but I do have a dark brown cement tile roof that absorbs heat and hardwood floors that let air from crawl space. No insulation on walls/floor. Maybe this is why we have over-sized ac units in my area.

My existing unit is 3.5 tons.


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

The independent HVAC company that deals mainly with American Standard equipment is telling me this (will send quote via e-mail later this week):

1. Need 3.5 ton unit because new refrigerant 410A is not as cold as R-22. Also, insulation in older homes in Southern California is not good, so need stronger ac unit.

2. He says that he doesn't need to do a Manual J. His 25 years of experience says to stay with 3.5 ton unit. Also, recommends replacing evap coils and furnace.

3. Noticed that existing furnace is upright/standing rather than laying flat. He's the 2nd guy to shake his head at the way it's installed. He says it's not efficient to put a furnace upright and the evap coils on the side of the upgright furnace.

4. He doesn't work with rebates, so he doesn't want to bring outside company to test energy efficiency prior and after install. He says the extra money you spend on trying to qualify for a rebate is a waste and not worth in the long run. I told him that the Costco affiliated company will do rebates and will test. He says California is going broke and probably no money for rebates. He also said that I need a 90% efficient furnace to qualify for rebates.

5. Asked if I wanted to get the permits myself. Kept saying that city is likely to ask me to move outside condenser due to its closeness to new pool. I told him I got permits 4 years ago for pool and pool equipment and city approved the location of pool and pool equipment and a/c unit was there already.

6. Says to use existing ducts and vents/registers. Will probably use same lineset since it will outlast my lifetime.

7. This guy is the actual installer. Company is so busy, they couldn't send me the salesperson. He came from finishing an install at another house.

-----------------------------------------

Costco affiliated HVAC company (www.airtro.com) will also send me quote via e-mail tonight or tomorrow. Sent the salesman who says he'll be the supervisor for the job at the start.

1. Says that I can go with 3 ton a/c unit with new evap coils. Keep lineset. Says that double-pane windows help. Says Fraser-Johnson was low end unit. Says Lennox is much better.
2. Says furnace should not be upright in attic and says it's a bad installation. Recommends new furnace.
3. Permits will cost about $200 to pull.
4. Will bring a company to test ducts/energy efficiency to qualify for best possible rebate amount(probably $1500). Can't promise, but says that's his company has not been denied a rebate yet. They will do all the paperwork.
5. Recommends new ducts and a new vent/register in kitchen. Recommends dampers in ducts to evenly distribute air. Says some existing ducts are the rigid ones and might have moved/shifted over time, so he's certain that I'm losing 30% of air. $2000 to do all new ducts.
6. Problem is he only offers Lennox Merit equipment for $7000, $2000 for ducts, $200 for permits. I'm expecting a detailed quote. He says equipment is the best in the industry. 1-year labor warranty and the standard 5-year equipment warranty on the a/c unit from Lennox. I can upgrade to Lennox Elite for $2000 more, but it's a 2-stage system that I don't want. Did not recommend anything outside of the Costco price list.
7. Showed me awards from Angie's list and local newspaper, BBB certificate, insurance coverage, etc. True salesperson.

My overall impression is that the American Standard independent installer seemed to say that he's been doing this for xx years and he knows what's best for me. Don't need rebates and don't need permits. That's what it felt like, but I told him I want permits. I told him I want all American Standard equipment like the Gold SI compressor, matching coils to maximize SEER, and a compatible AS furnace at 80% efficiency.

The Costco affiliated company wants to charge me for a full-system (cut-in) which includes new ducts, new registers, new equipment, etc. I think that he wants to put a new register in the kitchen to justify the $2000 duct charge on the price list. I felt that this salesperson was recommending the package rather than my needs. He did have a checklist of items to go over, so it felt like we had a more complete conversation minus a technical discussion on how to ensure that all the Lennox components fit my needs and achieve the best possible SEER.

I think that after reading so many posts here and getting so much advice, I was expecting more.

I suppose that I'll find out more when I get the quotes via e-mail and see how detailed they are. Also, I'll see how they respond once i start making changes to the equipment based on opinions from this board.


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

I'm talking to myself now, but you can see the evolution of my savvyness in the HVAC world.

1. Called a 3rd HVAC independent company to come take a look and provide me with a quote. They are coming next week. Everyone is super busy this month.

2. Figured out that the rebates are coming from my electric company Southern California Edison. http://www.sce.com/default.htm

I can get up to $1500 in rebates by improving my energy efficiency by 15% to 19%.

I also called them to schedule a free home energy survey to see how I could qualify for up to $4000 in rebates (might require wall insulation, attic insulation, waterless tank, etc.).

I need to find out if Southern California Gas company also offers rebates for replacing the gas furnace and the gas water tank.

So, I'm learning little by little, but I know understand what someone said about rushing through this process. It's just that it's hot while you learn little by little. I just hate to drop $9K and not know if I'm getting the best possible system.


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

It looks like you realize that your are interviewing the contractors and not just getting price quotes. It takes time to find a good contractor who wants to work with the homeowner to do a quality installation.


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

My wife is not happy that it's taking this long. Got the first quote (Costco Lennox Merit package) and still waiting for the other quotes.

House summary for load calculation purposes:
1. 1430 sqft house built in 1952
2. R30 batt insulation in attic, but no wall/floor insulation
3. Dark brown cement tile roof
4. Hardwood floors with about 30" crawl space under house
5. 14 double pane windows and super wide single pane front window (it's like 3 windows in 1)

Equipment:
Lennox Furnace ML180UH070XP36A -- 80%, 66K BTU, handles 2 to 3.5 ton ac
Lennox Condenser 13ACX-036 -- 3 Ton, 13 SEER
Lennox Coil CH33-36A
Honeywell Thermostat TH61110D

Installation:
New ducts
New lineset
Connect to existing gas lines, electrical panel
Permits
Company fills out rebate forms and schedules testing to qualify for rebates (up to $1500 rebate)
Warranty includes 1-year labor, 5-year parts, and 20-year heat exchanger.

Cost:
Upfront cost = $9200 ($7000 for equipment and installation, $2000 for ducts, $200 for permits)
Possible rebates = $2580 ($900 costco cash card, $180 executive costco member rebate, $1500 electric company)
Total cost if I get all rebates = $6,620 (Cash price, so can't get 1% AmEx rebate)

My main concern with this package is that it's the low-end Lennox equipment with maximum SEER of 13. If I'm going to replace all the equipment, then I would like to see a SEER ratio closer to 15. Unfortunately, the Costco package upgrade to a two-stage Lennox Elite system is $2000 which is a little too high for me.

I do like this company. I like the fact that this company will do the rebates, permits, new ducts (attached to existing registers), and new lineset.

Is this low-end Lennox system well matched in terms of coil, condenser, furnace, and thermostat?


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Please

If you are going single stage furnace, at least get one sized correctly and with a high eff blower motor.

And no low end Merit series like you were quoted. Move up to XC 13 condenser model.

I agree that a 3 ton condenser should be adequate but I would want to see load calc for heating. Can you tell me what a typical winter is like for your area? Don't care for how Lennox sizes their furnaces to the marketplace.

Not a Lennox fan period but if Lennox, then this what you should be looking at.

IMO


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Coldest month is January, but December and February are very similar. So, Winter lows are in the 30s with an average in the mid 40s. No snow at all.

Winter numbers:
Average high = 71
Average low = 48
Record low = 30

Summer's warmest month is August, but July and September are very similar. Hot days are in the 100 to 110 range. Mostly dry heat.

Summer numbers:
Average high = 90
Average low = 65
Record high = 110


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RE: Need to replace old Fraser-Johnston a/c unit in Los Angeles

Wow. The quote from the independent HVAC company that's NOT affiliated with Costco gave me such a generic and expensive quote. It doesn't include any model numbers. It does not include any HERS testing, so no rebates. It just says $9.5K for this...

- Install new 80K BTU heater in attic.
- Install evaporator coil with new lineset.
- Install 3.5 ton condenser (15 SEER) in same location per City approval.
- Included: Permits and thermostat relocation.
- No Hers test included
- American Standard equipment
- Warranty is 2 years Labor and 10 years parts
- Includes Material, Tax and Labor

I have a couple more HVAC companies to interview.


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