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#1
Old 01-19-2010, 04:33 PM
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Comparing brands of HVAC units in homes (Lennox, Trane, Luxaire, Goodman, etc.)

Looking to get a new gas furnace/"air handler" AC unit in the house. Condensor/compressor unit outside is not getting replaced. Trying to get a read on how much you get for the money with the pricier brands (Lennox, Trane, Carrier) versus "builder-grade" units such as Luxaire and Goodman.

Any testimonies about other brands are more than welcome.

Regrettably, we are on a super-tight budget with this purchase, and can't really even dump even a nickel into greater unit energy efficiency (no tax benefit would help us soon enough to make a difference). We're locked into a 13 SEER system, though 18+ would be ideal. This thread is basically to gauge HVAC-manufacturer reputations, and share experiences of changing out HVAC parts in the home.

Notes to guide the discussion: we're in SE Louisiana, and can get by with a merely adequate furnace for the 3 or 4 weeks a year we really need to run it. So the types of units we're looking at are substantially different, I think, than what would be purchased in the northern U.S.
#2
Old 01-19-2010, 04:46 PM
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In my experience (4 furnaces in 2 houses), the difference in brands within the same class (like your Lennox, Trane, Carrier example) is less than the difference between the competence & carefulness of the installers.

So look into the reputation of the local companies you are dealing with, pick the one with the best reputation, and then go with the brand they sell that's in your price range.
#3
Old 01-19-2010, 07:16 PM
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Trane and Carrier are very good, make sure to get 3 or 4 quotes since prices can vary for the same unit.
#4
Old 01-19-2010, 08:19 PM
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I just had my 5 Ton heat pump replaced. After conferring with my HVAC guy (who is actually an HVAC engineer in his day job), we went with a Goodman. I had always heard that they had a so-so quality reputation, but he said they they have improved a lot, and they have a pretty good warranty. They also were one of the few companies that make a 5 Ton unit that meets the efficiency spec. to get the rebate and is actually available. So far, it is working perfectly.
#5
Old 01-19-2010, 10:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bordelond View Post
Looking to get a new gas furnace/"air handler" AC unit in the house. Condensor/compressor unit outside is not getting replaced. Trying to get a read on how much you get for the money with the pricier brands (Lennox, Trane, Carrier) versus "builder-grade" units such as Luxaire and Goodman.

Any testimonies about other brands are more than welcome.

Regrettably, we are on a super-tight budget with this purchase, and can't really even dump even a nickel into greater unit energy efficiency (no tax benefit would help us soon enough to make a difference). We're locked into a 13 SEER system, though 18+ would be ideal. This thread is basically to gauge HVAC-manufacturer reputations, and share experiences of changing out HVAC parts in the home.

Notes to guide the discussion: we're in SE Louisiana, and can get by with a merely adequate furnace for the 3 or 4 weeks a year we really need to run it. So the types of units we're looking at are substantially different, I think, than what would be purchased in the northern U.S.
I am in the process of repairing my A/C here in the deep south (it is a heat pump so it is being used). I am told by the repairman-who I trust and has a good reputation-that Trane isn't nearly as good as the old days. But he said all of the major units were physically about the same quality. Their key parts (coil and motor) are all made by a few parts suppliers now. So the coil in one probably came from the same factory/line as the coil in another brand. So I agree with other posters, it is more about the care and quality of the installation process than the components these days.
#6
Old 01-19-2010, 11:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bordelond View Post
Looking to get a new gas furnace/"air handler" AC unit in the house. Condensor/compressor unit outside is not getting replaced. Trying to get a read on how much you get for the money with the pricier brands (Lennox, Trane, Carrier) versus "builder-grade" units such as Luxaire and Goodman.

Any testimonies about other brands are more than welcome.

Regrettably, we are on a super-tight budget with this purchase, and can't really even dump even a nickel into greater unit energy efficiency (no tax benefit would help us soon enough to make a difference). We're locked into a 13 SEER system, though 18+ would be ideal. This thread is basically to gauge HVAC-manufacturer reputations, and share experiences of changing out HVAC parts in the home.

Notes to guide the discussion: we're in SE Louisiana, and can get by with a merely adequate furnace for the 3 or 4 weeks a year we really need to run it. So the types of units we're looking at are substantially different, I think, than what would be purchased in the northern U.S.

Is this an air handler, or a gas furnace?


1) HVAC systems are not like cars. What I mean by that is that we can wrap our mind around the difference between a Chevy and a Cadillac.

However, in HVAC systems every brand------under the same name----- has Chevys through Cadillacs.

So....Lennox or Carrier has lower end products---builders models-----up to more advanced units---all under the Lennox or Carrier name. (as just 2 examples)

In other words, you can get a 13 SEER Carrier builders model that's inferior to a 18 SEER Luxaire. So...rather than looking at brand names, look at specs within the brand name product line. In other, other words make your distinctions on the specs, not on the brand names.

2) Most of the manufacturers sell similar---but most often the exact---unit under different names. Carrier and Bryant are the same unit. Trane and American Standard only differ in the cabinet. York, Coleman and Luxaire are all York Products. And so on.

3) Systems are a matched engineered set. It would be foolish to get anything but a 13 SEER unit if you're not replacing the outdoor unit. In other words, if you put an 18 SEER unit inside and left the existing AC outside, you'll get efficiencies that will likely be less than 13. Read: wasted money.

4) It's really important to know if this is a furnace or air handler. If it's a furnace, and if you only run it 1 month out of the year, your payback for a super high efficiency unit is way, way out there. Given that your heat needs are very low, I wouldn't put any heat in there that wasn't your basic efficiency unit----in the case of a furnace, 80% AFUE. It would just take too long to get the return---without a doubt many years.

If it's an air handler, than you have a Heat Pump, and then there are other concerns. But answer that first and then we'll give you some answers.

If it's a furnace, then an 80% unit would probably be best. If it's an air handler, I'd be tempted to stay with the same manufacturer that makes the out door unit. (which you say is remaining)

But if it's an air handler, I would still stay with a basic model since you're only replacing the indoor unit. If it's an air handler, you're not going to get the benefit of efficiency, SEER rating etc without a matched system.

Questions for you:
1) Do you have a proposal from somebody yet?

2) Furnace or air handler?

3) Brand of existing out door unit? (Is it a heat pump)

4) What is the square footage of the house?
#7
Old 01-19-2010, 11:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
In my experience (4 furnaces in 2 houses), the difference in brands within the same class (like your Lennox, Trane, Carrier example) is less than the difference between the competence & carefulness of the installers.

So look into the reputation of the local companies you are dealing with, pick the one with the best reputation, and then go with the brand they sell that's in your price range.
I couldn't agree with this more.

A homeowner who's having a 13 SEER Goodman installed by a skilled, committed, conscientious [true] craftsman is in infinitely better hands than the homeowner who is having an 18 SEER top-of-the-line Carrier system with variable speed blower, and advanced thermostat installed by a guy who is inexperienced, lazy, without pride or [sadly, all too often] all of the above.
#8
Old 01-20-2010, 12:17 AM
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I think Chevy trucks are superior to Ford.

I can't understand why anyone would chose Pepsi over Coke.

See where I'm headed?

I've worked on thousands of units. And that's not an exaggeration. Keeping in mind my first 2 sentences-----and the plain truth that I have experience in this area, here's my 200 pesos:

1) I'm not a fan of Lennox. Unnecessarily difficult to work on, and often a pain to get parts.

2) I'm not a fan of Goodman. For years that had a horrible reputation. (and that's being kind) Often hard to get good local support or parts. Goodman for many years has been the brand of choice for moonlighters-----entirely because their prices were dirt cheap.

Still, beowulff's point is true. Goodman has worked to improve it's quality, with some successes. The current lineup is not junk. (which is not something I thought I would ever type)

Here's a concern: beowulff's installation was done by a moonlighter. It looks like his moonlighter is highly qualified. But I can't tell you how many abysmal jobs I've seen by moonlighters. It's bordering on criminal at times. [email protected]'s point comes into play here. If your budget is super tight, I would consider Goodman. The bigger concern is in my [extensive] experience the Goodman guys are a scary bunch.

Most of the other brands make a good product IME.

If I were a homeowner I would want to know this:

1) Does the manufacturer have a parts house in your town; i.e. a distributor facility? You want to know that a part you need is local, and doesn't have to be shipped.

2) How long has your guy been installing this brand?

3) Is there local technical support?

We are of the opinion that most of the manufacturers make a decent product. We sell 3 brands:

1) Coleman (York/Luxaire/Fraser Johnson)
2) Brant (Carrier/Payne/ Day & Night)
3) American Standard (Trane)

We could sell others instead, but we choose them because they have a large parts inventory right in our town; when I need a part I'm not overnighting it from Memphis.

And...they have technical help in our town. We're very technically competent but from time to time there may be technical issues, and with those brands we can get a service engineer on site if we have to.

We could sell other brands and be happy. (and maybe one day we will) But those brands meet our criteria and we have had good success with them.

Last edited by raindog; 01-20-2010 at 12:18 AM.
#9
Old 01-20-2010, 10:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raindog View Post

Is this an air handler, or a gas furnace?
Both, as far as I am aware. Perhaps we are getting two pieces ... the HVAC guy (who is a family friend) let us know that the furnace could be replaced by itself, if we wanted. But the air handler is on its last legs, anyway.

Quote:
3) Systems are a matched engineered set. It would be foolish to get anything but a 13 SEER unit if you're not replacing the outdoor unit. In other words, if you put an 18 SEER unit inside and left the existing AC outside, you'll get efficiencies that will likely be less than 13. Read: wasted money.
Thanks for the heads up -- this point was explained to me in detail. When I said that "18+ SEER would be ideal", I meant that if we could throw 10 grand at the problem, we'd get everything replaced at one shot and upgraded to 18 SEER or better.

Quote:
4) It's really important to know if this is a furnace or air handler. If it's a furnace, and if you only run it 1 month out of the year, your payback for a super high efficiency unit is way, way out there. Given that your heat needs are very low, I wouldn't put any heat in there that wasn't your basic efficiency unit----in the case of a furnace, 80% AFUE. It would just take too long to get the return---without a doubt many years.
The problem we've got is that we have no current furnace at all -- the air handler had a huge leaking issue in 2006 that repeatedly flooded out the furnace and rusted it to dust (I exaggerate but little). You're right, though ... we are not throwing money at some Rolls-Royce furnace.

Quote:
If it's an air handler, than you have a Heat Pump, and then there are other concerns. But answer that first and then we'll give you some answers.
Not a heat pump. Isn't the "interior A/C unit in the closet" still properly called an "air handler"?


Quote:
Questions for you:
1) Do you have a proposal from somebody yet?
Yes ... my understanding is that it's a bare-bones offer. Same guy gave us several earlier proposals over the past two years, but it's always been out of our range.

Quote:
2) Furnace or air handler?
:shrug:

We have a gas furnace for absolute sure, with some kind of an interior A/C "thing" in the same closet with the furnace. There's a fan in there that runs when the A/C is on, and coils in there that freeze up from time to time when the A/C is on. That's not an air handler?

Quote:
3) Brand of existing out door unit? (Is it a heat pump)
Don't think it's heat pump outside ... it's a "Ducane", I believe. It was made in the late 80s, but has some relatively new components (e.g. the motor) after extensive repairs in 2007.

Quote:
4) What is the square footage of the house?
About 2100 sq ft ... perhaps stupidly, this will not be a consideration. Cost is the first, second, third, and fourth consideration, for better or worse.

Last edited by bordelond; 01-20-2010 at 10:15 AM.
#10
Old 01-20-2010, 10:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beowulff View Post
I just had my 5 Ton heat pump replaced. After conferring with my HVAC guy (who is actually an HVAC engineer in his day job), we went with a Goodman. I had always heard that they had a so-so quality reputation, but he said they they have improved a lot, and they have a pretty good warranty. They also were one of the few companies that make a 5 Ton unit that meets the efficiency spec. to get the rebate and is actually available. So far, it is working perfectly.
What Beowulff said.

We upgraded about two years ago from a system on its last legs. Utility bills dropped by nearly 50% because the new system doesn't run 24/7 like the old one did.
#11
Old 01-20-2010, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Clothahump View Post
What Beowulff said.

We upgraded about two years ago from a system on its last legs. Utility bills dropped by nearly 50% because the new system doesn't run 24/7 like the old one did.
Thanks for this account. I'm wondering if we'll get better perfomance just from the sake of having a new unit, even if the SEER rating is the same. Our A/C blows cool, but the inside unit (air handler) sounds awful and is clearly limping along. Coils freeze contantly, too.
#12
Old 01-20-2010, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by raindog View Post
Here's a concern: beowulff's installation was done by a moonlighter. It looks like his moonlighter is highly qualified. But I can't tell you how many abysmal jobs I've seen by moonlighters. It's bordering on criminal at times. .
raindog -
Just for the record, my friend is a licensed contractor (you need to be to get the rebate, and for warranty purposes). He designs HVAC systems for a certain large military helicopter manufacturer which has a local factory.

Still, your caution is reasonable.

BTW - just a point of information. I solved one of the major issues with our system by replacing the thermostat with a remote-sensing unit. We have a split-level house, and the original thermostat was in the lower level. This left the upstairs too hot in the summer, and created huge temperature swings. Putting in a new thermostat with the sensor in the kitchen (upstairs), has evened out the temperature swings and has kept the house very comfortable.
#13
Old 01-20-2010, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by beowulff View Post
raindog -
Just for the record, my friend is a licensed contractor (you need to be to get the rebate, and for warranty purposes). He designs HVAC systems for a certain large military helicopter manufacturer which has a local factory.

Still, your caution is reasonable.

BTW - just a point of information. I solved one of the major issues with our system by replacing the thermostat with a remote-sensing unit. We have a split-level house, and the original thermostat was in the lower level. This left the upstairs too hot in the summer, and created huge temperature swings. Putting in a new thermostat with the sensor in the kitchen (upstairs), has evened out the temperature swings and has kept the house very comfortable.
Yea, it sounded like this guy was highly qualified. And.....in case I wasn't clear I am not saying that all moonlighters are bad----not at all. I've seen some very good ones. (and unfortunately some bad ones....)

Good idea with the stat. What brand did you use?
#14
Old 01-20-2010, 12:42 PM
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We just got a complete new American Standard system (outside unit and air handler). It's a Trane, only without the Trane name on it - AS is to Trane as Dodge is to Chrysler.

The actual heating and cooling properties are superb. The only issue I have with it is that the main intake is right next to our TV watching area, and it sounds like a jet fighter is taking off from our living room when it kicks on.
#15
Old 01-20-2010, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by raindog View Post
Yea, it sounded like this guy was highly qualified. And.....in case I wasn't clear I am not saying that all moonlighters are bad----not at all. I've seen some very good ones. (and unfortunately some bad ones....)

Good idea with the stat. What brand did you use?
A White-Rogers (PDF).
The 'stat works fine, although, as an embedded systems Engineer, I think their software is pretty brain-dead. For example, their remote calibration is completely non-intuitive. What it does is change the sent temperature, without affecting the reading. So, if the remote reads 72F, and the actual temperature is 70F, you calibrate it down 2 degrees, which tells the main unit that it's only 70F, but the remote unit still reads 72F! I mean, how stupid is that? But, once it's installed and working, it does the job.
#16
Old 01-20-2010, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by bordelond View Post
Both, as far as I am aware. Perhaps we are getting two pieces ... the HVAC guy (who is a family friend) let us know that the furnace could be replaced by itself, if we wanted. But the air handler is on its last legs, anyway.


Thanks for the heads up -- this point was explained to me in detail. When I said that "18+ SEER would be ideal", I meant that if we could throw 10 grand at the problem, we'd get everything replaced at one shot and upgraded to 18 SEER or better.


The problem we've got is that we have no current furnace at all -- the air handler had a huge leaking issue in 2006 that repeatedly flooded out the furnace and rusted it to dust (I exaggerate but little). You're right, though ... we are not throwing money at some Rolls-Royce furnace.


Not a heat pump. Isn't the "interior A/C unit in the closet" still properly called an "air handler"?



Yes ... my understanding is that it's a bare-bones offer. Same guy gave us several earlier proposals over the past two years, but it's always been out of our range.


:shrug:

We have a gas furnace for absolute sure, with some kind of an interior A/C "thing" in the same closet with the furnace. There's a fan in there that runs when the A/C is on, and coils in there that freeze up from time to time when the A/C is on. That's not an air handler?


Don't think it's heat pump outside ... it's a "Ducane", I believe. It was made in the late 80s, but has some relatively new components (e.g. the motor) after extensive repairs in 2007.


About 2100 sq ft ... perhaps stupidly, this will not be a consideration. Cost is the first, second, third, and fourth consideration, for better or worse.
I think I understand.....

You have a gas furnace. The A/C thing inside is actually an evaporator. (not an air handler) It is connected to the outside unit ( called the condenser) by 2 copper lines---called the "lineset."

Since your furnace is gone, it would appear that what you need is a new furnace, and a new evaporator coil.

Given that you only need heat for 1 month a year, a standard 80% efficient furnace is likely your best bet------especially since you tell us your budget is tight. Virtually all standard efficiency furnaces nowadays will be 80% efficient, give or take. You can get a 90+% efficient furnace but given how little you run it it will take many years to justify the expense---and cost a lot more right now to install.

I think any major brand will meet your needs.

As to the A/C, the contractor can use a generic "uncased evaporator" and mount it in the ductwork adjacent to the furnace. (if its in a basement it will be right above the furnace, and if its a slab house it will be right below the furnace.)

From what you describe, the people doing the work are much, much more important than the brand in this instance. If the A/C has iced up before, than there is a Freon leak----a good contractor will find it and repair it as part of this work.

The quality of the ductwork (which is a specialized skill) will have more impact on your comfort/ utility bills than the brand.
#17
Old 01-20-2010, 01:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beowulff View Post
A White-Rogers (PDF).
The 'stat works fine, although, as an embedded systems Engineer, I think their software is pretty brain-dead. For example, their remote calibration is completely non-intuitive. What it does is change the sent temperature, without affecting the reading. So, if the remote reads 72F, and the actual temperature is 70F, you calibrate it down 2 degrees, which tells the main unit that it's only 70F, but the remote unit still reads 72F! I mean, how stupid is that? But, once it's installed and working, it does the job.
White Rogers is a good stat. Honeywell has similar stats and I believe their calibration actually does change the reading. Good idea on the remote stat.
#18
Old 01-20-2010, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
We just got a complete new American Standard system (outside unit and air handler). It's a Trane, only without the Trane name on it - AS is to Trane as Dodge is to Chrysler.

The actual heating and cooling properties are superb. The only issue I have with it is that the main intake is right next to our TV watching area, and it sounds like a jet fighter is taking off from our living room when it kicks on.
I don't know your set up, or how much return air duct you have, but sometimes insulating the interior of the return duct (and there are specific insulations for that purpose, called "duct liner") can act as a sound attenuator.
#19
Old 01-20-2010, 01:06 PM
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Not to hijack, or anything, but is that the sort of thing I can do myself?

If by "how much return air duct you have" you mean "how far is it from the actual unit to the vent thingy" then none at all, basically - the AC is mounted against the wall separating the living room and garage, and the vent is on the other side of that wall.
#20
Old 01-20-2010, 01:07 PM
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Thanks for the advice, raindog.

The uncased-evaporator route could maybe have been an option, but the whole entire evaporator "system" (coils, fan, whatever else) has just been problematic. Leaks too much, ices up too much, fan groans like it's going to jump out of the wall on cut-off, etc. Can't get a proper air filter into it, so we've been running unfiltered air for over three years (previous home owner had A/C guys coming out a few times a year to cut-and-fit custom pieces of some fibrous hard-plastic "sponge"-looking material and shove it up underneath the fan). And so on.
#21
Old 01-20-2010, 01:10 PM
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I'm guessing that "not having a filter" thing may be the source of your problems.
#22
Old 01-20-2010, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
I'm guessing that "not having a filter" thing may be the source of your problems.
... I'm sure it hasn't been helping. But the evaporator was just throwing out so much water even back in 2006 (when the last of the fibrous makeshift "filters" was still in place) that it rotted out a lot of the wood in the A/C closet. That on top of ruining the furnace.

At this point, it will just be better to rip it all out and get a new evaporator and furnace. Thankfully, A/C closet repair, sheet rock work, etc. is included in the installation.
#23
Old 01-20-2010, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
Not to hijack, or anything, but is that the sort of thing I can do myself?

If by "how much return air duct you have" you mean "how far is it from the actual unit to the vent thingy" then none at all, basically - the AC is mounted against the wall separating the living room and garage, and the vent is on the other side of that wall.
Possibly.

If you could take some digital photos and email them to me, I could give you a better answer.
#24
Old 01-20-2010, 01:24 PM
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one other thing......

There are rules of thumb in this like any other industry.

Here in SW Ohio, our heating rule if thumb is 35-40 Btus per square foot. At 2100 sf, that house would likely get a furnace around 70-85K Btus.

For A/C, around 1 ton of cooling for every 700 sf----so around here that would be a 3 ton unit, give or take.

I would imagine that LA would need a little less heat, and a little more cooling than that.
#25
Old 01-20-2010, 01:25 PM
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I'll do that. Thanks!
#26
Old 01-20-2010, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
I'm guessing that "not having a filter" thing may be the source of your problems.
Quite possibly.

Freezing may be due to a Freon leak.

Or, due to a dirty evaporator because of no filter.
#27
Old 01-20-2010, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by raindog View Post
Or, due to a dirty evaporator because of no filter.
... the previous homeowner had the A/C guy out at her house quite a lot. This was probably one of the things she had taken care of routinely.

The previous homeowner didn't reveal this to us, of course (I found out when the A/C guy called our house a few times asking if we wanted to keep up with the same maintenance schedule). And maybe I was dumb to think a "good" A/C should run for many years without even a peek "under the hood", and to feel that anything less should've been revealed upon sale of the home. Then again, maybe she was doing the right thing in having so much maintenance done all the time -- the guy that did the 2007 condenser repairs took a look at the evaporator and declared that it was an "old paw-paw" that needed a lot of TLC.
#28
Old 01-20-2010, 02:46 PM
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Originally Posted by raindog View Post
For A/C, around 1 ton of cooling for every 700 sf----so around here that would be a 3 ton unit, give or take.
This refers to the condenser's specs, correct? Can't quote the condensor "tonnage" off-hand, but the overall A/C system, despite the evaporator issues, does cool the house well when it's not icing up.
#29
Old 09-09-2016, 03:47 PM
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I have natural gas

I need to know I was quoted by 2 different people between goodman heat /air 13 seer
6800 (with some kind of humidifier thing with it)
also frasier johnson york do not know the seer amount for 4500

What would anyone have to say about THIS I really like the first guys who came not the price I did not like the 2nd guy who came but I liked the price


How AM I to know which brand is alright and which one to go with

THANK YOU I need to make a decision with days I live in MICHIGAN and need this to happen very soon the other one is DEAD. thanks oh home is about 1600 sq ft....... or less loft bedroom open to the main room so very high ceiling there

Last edited by over under; 09-09-2016 at 03:49 PM.
#30
Old 09-09-2016, 04:02 PM
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over under, you've already started another thread about this. Please don't cross-post on the boards. Otherwise, welcome.

I'm closing this one.
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