New HVAC system

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investor997
Posts: 266
Joined: Tue Feb 07, 2017 3:23 pm

New HVAC system

Post by investor997 » Sun Apr 15, 2018 4:58 pm

Hi all,

I'm looking into a new HVAC system for my townhome. It was built in 1989 and the existing system is all original - brand name is Tempstar. The property is located in Orange County, CA and the system frankly hasn't been used much over the years - the climate is pretty mild here. Nonetheless I feel like I'm starting to press my luck with its age and perhaps now might be a good time to replace it before the hot summer months arrive.

Random Questions:
- What brands to consider? Avoid?
- Should I stick with big-box retailers (HD, Lowe's, Costco) or smaller, local companies?
- Any particular features worth spending extra on?
- Should I skip the preemptive update and just wait until the existing system dies?
- Anything else I should consider, like ductwork? I think it's possible some of it may be leaking up in the attic/crawlspaces.

Thanks,
investor997

euroswiss
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Joined: Sun Oct 25, 2015 4:40 pm

Re: New HVAC system

Post by euroswiss » Sun Apr 15, 2018 5:44 pm

I'd leave it alone. Given that it is used infrequently, it may have significant life left. Also, even if it DOES die at some point, it doesn't sound like it will be a real emergency so you'll have time to look for a good deal. Prices for HVAC systems have ballooned over the past few years and you are looking at a major, major expense. Milk it as long as you are able!

mikebee
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Re: New HVAC system

Post by mikebee » Sun Apr 15, 2018 5:52 pm

I was told by a service engineer I trust that Trane are the best.
I would clean the condenser and the evaporator with coil cleaner from Home Depot. About $8. See utube for details. It's easy.
Don't replace until absolutely necessary is my philosophy.
My fan motor stopped so I replaced a capacitor and the motor myself with mail order parts. Saved hundreds.

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FrugalInvestor
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Re: New HVAC system

Post by FrugalInvestor » Sun Apr 15, 2018 6:00 pm

I would milk it too, although I would shop around now and figure out what 2 or 3 companies you would be most comfortable with doing the work. Then you're prepared when the time comes to replace it - just get updated bids and have get the work done, it usually doesn't take long. I would get bids from reputable heating and a/c companies, not box retailers, so you have control of who is doing the work. If you do some research you'll find that the quality of the installation is at least if not more important that the brand.
IGNORE the noise! | Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify. - Henry David Thoreau

macheta
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Re: New HVAC system

Post by macheta » Sun Apr 15, 2018 6:02 pm

I shopped around and found a small business owner that sold me off brand for half price. I love the investment and really happy with the results. I would also take the advise by the others and try get some more life out of the existing unit. My condo was built in 92 but the condenser was trashed. They no longer make this part.

investor997
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Re: New HVAC system

Post by investor997 » Sun Apr 15, 2018 6:08 pm

I'll be honest and admit I've never been happy with the performance of the original unit. It seems to generate more noise (coming from the air intake inside the house) than it does cool air. My townhome is only about ~1,300 sqft, but nearly all the rooms have tall/vaulted ceilings so there's a decent volume of air to cool down.

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indexfundfan
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Re: New HVAC system

Post by indexfundfan » Sun Apr 15, 2018 6:41 pm

If you are bothered by the loud startup noise as the blower ramps up, get a two-stage variable speed furnace/blower. The difference in perceived noise is very significant.
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stan1
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Re: New HVAC system

Post by stan1 » Sun Apr 15, 2018 6:47 pm

If you have a gas furnace (likely with 1989 construction in Southern California) you should get it tested for carbon monoxide leaks caused by a cracked heat exchanger. It's a problem in coastal climates even where appliances are seldom used. If they test and find a leak it will get red tagged.

We use a local contractor who has been in business for many years with good reviews. It usually doesn't make sense to buy the more expensive, most energy efficient units in Southern California because you use the units so little. Right now is off season so you might be able to get a deal if you replace the entire system. If you try to call for repairs or replacement in August or September during a heat wave you might not get someone out for two months.

Second the variable speed DC blower even though it is more expensive. It is much quieter (it doesn't wake us when it comes on in the morning).

Ducting is a slippery slope. You can have them inspect the accessible areas to see if it needs to be patched. If you only have one blower in a two story house with downstairs, vaulted, and upstairs rooms you'll never get optimal performance.

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FrugalInvestor
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Re: New HVAC system

Post by FrugalInvestor » Sun Apr 15, 2018 7:07 pm

indexfundfan wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 6:41 pm
If you are bothered by the loud startup noise as the blower ramps up, get a two-stage variable speed furnace/blower. The difference in perceived noise is very significant.
Do consider a variable speed fan. But also talk to the various companies you get bids from about the noise (as well as any other dislikes). We recently had our system replaced which also produced excessive noise from the air intakes as well as the vents. The problem was twofold - an oversized system causing it to cycle often and crimped intake ductwork which is not uncommon as ductwork is 'modified' to fit through framing. If this is the problem with yours you many need to add an additional intake to allow more volume in order to quiet down the air moving through the system. Our new variable speed system is so quiet we seldom hear it at all and the comfort level of our home is much improved.

I chose our contractor based in part by how well they addressed our concerns. Some didn't and some did in unacceptable ways but one stood out by offering very reasonable and well explained solutions which have worked extremely well.
IGNORE the noise! | Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify. - Henry David Thoreau

SittingOnTheFence
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Re: New HVAC system

Post by SittingOnTheFence » Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:12 pm

Pay attention to the type of refrigerant used in the system. The Montreal Protocol has resulted in a change of the refrigerant. I just received a bid to replace my R22 installation (R22 refrigerant is no longer manufactured) with a 'dry' R22 unit (this can be done because of a loophole in the law). Then it is refilled with reclaimed R22. I have heard conflicting opinions on whether or not R22 can be used after 2020. But even if it can be, the cost is going to start to go through the roof.

The newer refrigerant, r410a, requires different equipment, and in my case, my duct work (originally designed for oil heat 60 yrs ago) may be inadequate. Maybe because your house is 30 yrs newer than mine none of this is an issue. But it's good to be aware of it.

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Watty
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Re: New HVAC system

Post by Watty » Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:34 pm

investor997 wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 4:58 pm
Should I skip the preemptive update and just wait until the existing system dies?
29 years is a good run, I would go on and get the quotes and then decide.

In addition to getting better quotes because it is a slow time of year, you will also likely get better quotes than you would if your current system is not working.

It varies with the local rules but in some parts of the country the HVAC people can also change a water heater so if you water heater is old then you should ask them about that if it located next to the HVAC system. Occasionally they will do that very reasonable price if they do the work at the same time. In some parts of the country the HVAC people will not replace water heaters.

I agree with the comments about getting some sort of multi speed or variable speed fan since that will make the house a lot more comfortable. In your climate you do not need a high end fan but one that is a step or two up from the most basic one is likely worth the money.

Missedtheboat
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Re: New HVAC system

Post by Missedtheboat » Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:55 pm

I would not go with the big box stores. I put in A/C in the same county a few years ago (was never hot enough to need it until recently). I interviewed about 5 independent contractors--got bids from around $7500 to around $20,000. Yelp is a good place to start if you don't know anyone to refer you to someone.
Get good equipment as the labor costs are expensive anyway. But you don't need as energy efficient of a unit as you would in the desert or back east, you won't use it as much so it's not necessary. You should replace your heater at the same time as it's at the end of it's life.
Be sure they pull a permit, some will try to talk you out of it. A new thermostat you can control with your phone is really nice too

denovo
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Re: New HVAC system

Post by denovo » Mon Apr 16, 2018 3:35 am

Watty wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:34 pm
investor997 wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 4:58 pm
Should I skip the preemptive update and just wait until the existing system dies?
29 years is a good run, I would go on and get the quotes and then decide.

In addition to getting better quotes because it is a slow time of year, you will also likely get better quotes than you would if your current system is not working.

Summer starts in So. Cal. in May. :beer The slow season is basically over.
"Don't trust everything you read on the Internet"- Abraham Lincoln

buzzbuzzbuzz
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Re: New HVAC system

Post by buzzbuzzbuzz » Mon Apr 16, 2018 8:40 am

I would ask folks in your HOA(if applicable) / neighbors if they have any recommendations on local HVAC companies. That's a good starting point, which we found useful when we started our process.

CRC301
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Re: New HVAC system

Post by CRC301 » Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:45 pm

Since your system is so old, you are likely to get a significantly more efficient system even going with the base-efficiency models that are standard these days. You don't use the system that much so maybe that doesn't matter. Do you have a heat-pump system or a normal system? A heat-pump would make sense in a temperate climate like where you live but they cost more up front. If you currently have a non-heatpump system, what type of heat do you have? Electric or gas?

HVAC systems nowadays are all made by a handful of different manufacturers and they use different badges or exterior grilles for different brands but the internals are the same (https://www.angieslist.com/articles/dif ... brands.htm). The most important thing is to find someone who will install it correctly. In the HVAC world someone who does a "manual j" calculation is generally better than someone who doesn't. This calculation takes into account various physical attributes of your house (square footage, number of windows and which direction they are facing, number of vents and size, etc.) and then pops out an appropriate amount of heating and cooling your specific home needs. They will use those outputs to select an appropriately sized unit for your home. In this regard, bigger is not always better!!!! An over-sized system is actually less efficient and more noisy than a properly sized one.

When we were looking to at replacing our HVAC system, I did a lot of researching and asked many questions on another HVAC forum (Google "HVAC forum" and it's the first one). Good luck!

Update: Also the more expensive systems have "variable speed" blowers. This is marketing speak for a DC blower. DC blowers have infinite speed settings and are quieter but they are less reliable than the tried and true AC blower's that have limited speeds that are hard-wired (literally hard-wired). There's other benefits to variable speed blowers (built-in humidification if thermostat supports it). Also, variable speed blowers normally have proprietary control interfaces which means you must use a thermostat from that manufacturer.

Valuethinker
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Re: New HVAC system

Post by Valuethinker » Wed Apr 18, 2018 4:01 am

CRC301 wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:45 pm
Since your system is so old, you are likely to get a significantly more efficient system even going with the base-efficiency models that are standard these days. You don't use the system that much so maybe that doesn't matter. Do you have a heat-pump system or a normal system? A heat-pump would make sense in a temperate climate like where you live but they cost more up front. If you currently have a non-heatpump system, what type of heat do you have? Electric or gas?

HVAC systems nowadays are all made by a handful of different manufacturers and they use different badges or exterior grilles for different brands but the internals are the same (https://www.angieslist.com/articles/dif ... brands.htm). The most important thing is to find someone who will install it correctly. In the HVAC world someone who does a "manual j" calculation is generally better than someone who doesn't. This calculation takes into account various physical attributes of your house (square footage, number of windows and which direction they are facing, number of vents and size, etc.) and then pops out an appropriate amount of heating and cooling your specific home needs. They will use those outputs to select an appropriately sized unit for your home. In this regard, bigger is not always better!!!! An over-sized system is actually less efficient and more noisy than a properly sized one.

When we were looking to at replacing our HVAC system, I did a lot of researching and asked many questions on another HVAC forum (Google "HVAC forum" and it's the first one). Good luck!

Update: Also the more expensive systems have "variable speed" blowers. This is marketing speak for a DC blower. DC blowers have infinite speed settings and are quieter but they are less reliable than the tried and true AC blower's that have limited speeds that are hard-wired (literally hard-wired). There's other benefits to variable speed blowers (built-in humidification if thermostat supports it). Also, variable speed blowers normally have proprietary control interfaces which means you must use a thermostat from that manufacturer.
Just to add to this the main problem with an oversized system is that it runs too cold, too hot, too cold. I think this is a worse problem in humid climates than in dry ones?

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