New AC - Brand/SEER

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Hogan773
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New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by Hogan773 » Wed May 02, 2018 12:35 pm

Hi there - I have a 14yr old Carrier 10 SEER system (two of them actually) both are I believe 2.5 or 3 ton. One in attic and one in basement.

The attic one obviously does most of the cooling in our Northern Illinois house.

Have a family friend in HVAC. Last summer the attic unit had a wiring issue on the compressor that was short cycling and running up the electricity bills and he has also refilled with some refrigerant in the past couple years but system now whistling again so I am thinking it might be best to bite the bullet and get a new AC for the attic. I don't think the basement one needs to be upgraded yet until I have any issues there.

Questions:

BRANDS: My gut is that American Standard/Trane is good brand. I currently have Carrier and it has generally been fine. Others' experience? Another reputable dealer in town is a Bryant dealer which I understand is owned by Carrier. I have anecdotally heard to stay away from Goodman/Amana.

SEER and "fancy" units: As I've looked at some calculators, I just can't see how it pencils out to pay up any appreciable amount for high seer models in Northern Illinois. We have a 4-5 month cooling season. When I plug in the differences you end up saving TENS of dollars per month of cooling or something like that. I don't see how that ever pays back to "upgrading" for extra $2000 for the fancy unit. Right? One thing I need to check is whether there are any utility rebates that might give me a "free" or lower cost upgrade. The other thing I don't yet know is whether I should get a 2 stage or not bother, if the 2-stages only come in high SEER models. When I got a new basement furnace a few years ago I did opt for a 2 stage blower on the furnace and I do like it. But don't know if I really need 2-stage on cooling for Chicago - have lived 14yrs on 10 SEER single stage.

OR should I just have my friend come out again and put the gauges on my system and maybe spend another $100 or $150 for him to add more R-20 if I truly have a leak? It seems like that is becoming a dumber option as R-20 is getting phased out in 2 years, but I guess it could defer a $3500 new system purchase.

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KSOC
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by KSOC » Wed May 02, 2018 1:02 pm

I live in Florida & 2 months ago replaced a 16 YO Rheem (10 SEER) AC with a Bryant 15 SEER Heat Pump.

Like you I debated the single stage vs. 2 stage, & came to the conclusion that before I did my research I had no idea about either, and did ok for 14 years with single. So stayed with single stage.

I bought from a Bryant dealer, although I got a quote from Carrier dealer as well. Bryant was $300 less, same specs. When it was installed technician showed me the Bryant nameplate he puts on the air handler. They are they same & was told the compressor is the same except for the color it is painted.

Hard to say after only 2 months, but the house feels cooler at the same temps (better air, lower humidity?) & I have had the 2 lowest kilowatt usage months in our 14 years in this house, respective of those months.

I felt at 16 years old unit with an upcoming Florida summer now was better than later.
Too soon old, too late smart.

bloom2708
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by bloom2708 » Wed May 02, 2018 1:21 pm

We have a newer 2 stage Lennox. 16 SEER.

I like the 2 stage. Stage 1 is virtually silent. You don't even know the system is running unless it bumps up into the second stage. Our climate allows for a lot of Stage 1 heating and cooling in the tween months.

If I used a Lennox thermostat, our unit is "Variable" stage. Meaning it can learning your heating/cooling and start at different output stages. I've considered dumping my ecobee 3 thermostat system and going back to the variable stage Lennox paired with my system.

There is a lot of variability depending on who installs. Some oversize. Then you get short cycles, uneven heating and cooling. Too cold, blasts and Too hot blasts.

The brands you mentioned would be good.
"People want confirmation, not advice" Unknown | "We are here to provoke thoughtfulness, not agree with you" Unknown | Four words. Whole food, plant based. Bing it.

Topic Author
Hogan773
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by Hogan773 » Wed May 02, 2018 1:27 pm

bloom2708 wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 1:21 pm
We have a newer 2 stage Lennox. 16 SEER.

I like the 2 stage. Stage 1 is virtually silent. You don't even know the system is running unless it bumps up into the second stage. Our climate allows for a lot of Stage 1 heating and cooling in the tween months.

If I used a Lennox thermostat, our unit is "Variable" stage. Meaning it can learning your heating/cooling and start at different output stages. I've considered dumping my ecobee 3 thermostat system and going back to the variable stage Lennox paired with my system.

There is a lot of variability depending on who installs. Some oversize. Then you get short cycles, uneven heating and cooling. Too cold, blasts and Too hot blasts.

The brands you mentioned would be good.
What was the price difference between yours and a "base model"? Did you figure any payback or just decided it was worth paying more for the comfort aspects such as quieter operation, maybe reduced humidity, etc.

Spirit Rider
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by Spirit Rider » Wed May 02, 2018 1:32 pm

The installation is far more important than the brand.

You pay more for "premium" brands (Trane, Carrier, Lennox), but as KSOC pointed out there are only two or three compressor manufacturers and most of the other parts are commodities. The premium brands have all had their share of lemon models over the last ten years. You are mostly paying for advertising.

Then there are the second tier brands such a Bryant, American Standard, etc... The dirty little secret is that most manufacturers have two or more "brands". These are just their approach to market segments; i.e. Toyota/Lexus, Chevrolet/Cadillac, etc...

Finally, there are what I call the "contractor" brands. These are no frills, just basic workhorses.

I have seen premium brands last < 10 years and contractor brands going strong at 20+ years.

14 - 16 SEER seem like the sweet spot right now, with maybe 18 SEER where the high temps generate the return on investment.

Get a quality installer. Do not necessarily gravitate towards the bigger HVAC contractors. Sometimes their technicians are compensated to reduce time/install. The problem with a hasty HVAC install, is you may not feel the effect for 5 - 10 years. Personally, I like one man shops or a contractor with a small number of trucks.

bloom2708
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by bloom2708 » Wed May 02, 2018 1:36 pm

Hogan773 wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 1:27 pm
What was the price difference between yours and a "base model"? Did you figure any payback or just decided it was worth paying more for the comfort aspects such as quieter operation, maybe reduced humidity, etc.
There is a lot of price variability. Once we settled on the Lennox (SLP98v), then I got quotes from 3 well known contractors in town. They were quite a bit different. $500 range. One wanted to oversize the AC unit. If your friend is doing it, you will have to kind of rely on his "do the right thing" criteria. If he is an oversizer or single stage is good enough or dual stage is overill, that will sway you.

The fan not running at turbo mode (where you can hear it) is a big reason why we went with it. We run "fan only" 50 minutes of every hour. Keep hot and cool pockets from happening. Most days I don't hear the furnace/ac run. A few times I had to check and see if it was working. Humidity control has been good in the summer..longer runs at stage 1 instead of shorter high fan/cooling runs.

Let's say it is $500 more than a single stage. Will I make that money back over the life of the unit? Perhaps. The other nice thing about the outside AC unit is the added sound reduction for the better units. When you are outside, you don't have that constant roar of the AC unit in the summer.

I didn't pick the lowest cost or highest cost unit. I went upper 1/3 and I've been happy with the unit.
"People want confirmation, not advice" Unknown | "We are here to provoke thoughtfulness, not agree with you" Unknown | Four words. Whole food, plant based. Bing it.

unstartable
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by unstartable » Wed May 02, 2018 1:48 pm

I have a Carrier 19 SEER 5 stage A/C in Connecticut. I am sure the difference in energy will not make up the difference in price, even with electricity approaching $0.20 kw/hr. I went with a Carrier because the previous ac/furnace in the home I purchased lasted almost 40 years and it was still working. I think a multi stage makes a lot of sense with more than one zone, and my home has 3 zones. The new system is great at controlling humidity and temperature control is very good, especially with long runs on the first stage. Also quiet, even on the higher stages.

Also curious, how is your home heated?

Topic Author
Hogan773
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by Hogan773 » Wed May 02, 2018 2:34 pm

unstartable wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 1:48 pm
I have a Carrier 19 SEER 5 stage A/C in Connecticut. I am sure the difference in energy will not make up the difference in price, even with electricity approaching $0.20 kw/hr. I went with a Carrier because the previous ac/furnace in the home I purchased lasted almost 40 years and it was still working. I think a multi stage makes a lot of sense with more than one zone, and my home has 3 zones. The new system is great at controlling humidity and temperature control is very good, especially with long runs on the first stage. Also quiet, even on the higher stages.

Also curious, how is your home heated?
Our home has two gas furnaces. Basement unit was oversized by the builder and the fan konked out twice in 10 yrs. It was a 120,000 btu big-a$$ furnace. When I replaced it I had them downsize it to the right size and got a two stage - I think high stage is 90 or 95K btu and low stage is 65k.

Our attic furnace is also probably oversized a bit (I think it is 100k and probably doesn't need to be that large), and is also an 80% efficiency rather than high efficiency (the basement one was always high efficiency). Beyond the fact that the builder screwed up the install by using a filter box that is too small for the air-hungry unit (causing some overheat short-cycling with "normal" MERV7 filters and forcing me to move to the cheap blue floss filters to maintain sufficient airflow), the attic furnace has generally been fine and I felt the numbers never penciled out for spending money to upgrade to high efficiency on an otherwise working furnace.

If I do the attic AC I might also take the opportunity to drop in a new furnace too, where I could get a smaller, 2 speed unit like I have in the basement. I think the 2 speed furnace would help keep my kids' rooms warmer because it could stay on longer and keep the warm air circulating. I could also get them to put in a larger filter box so I could use the correct size of MERV7 filters without choking the system.

bob60014
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by bob60014 » Wed May 02, 2018 2:42 pm

So you are not spinning your wheels, it's probably time you had a proper, not a quick, Manual J Load Calculation performed.

unstartable
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by unstartable » Wed May 02, 2018 3:48 pm

If that gas is propane not natural gas I would give serious consideration to a heat pump with your current furnace for very low temperatures.

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4nursebee
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by 4nursebee » Wed May 02, 2018 4:06 pm

We value low monthly expenses.

Daikin minisplit, SEER 19-25 (two units). Heat pump 85% efficient down to quite cold temperatures (good for the north).
Goodman owns them.
Goodman huge, many parts available today locally for common units.

What do you want and value?
4nursebee

Topic Author
Hogan773
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by Hogan773 » Wed May 02, 2018 4:14 pm

4nursebee wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 4:06 pm
We value low monthly expenses.

Daikin minisplit, SEER 19-25 (two units). Heat pump 85% efficient down to quite cold temperatures (good for the north).
Goodman owns them.
Goodman huge, many parts available today locally for common units.

What do you want and value?
I value overall best economic value. Low monthly expenses are great but I'm not the guy who is going to spend $2500 to buy myself a $10 per month savings for 5 months of the year on a unit that has an economic life of 15ish years. That would not be a wise transaction in my mind.

neilpilot
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by neilpilot » Wed May 02, 2018 4:17 pm

4nursebee wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 4:06 pm
We value low monthly expenses.

Daikin minisplit, SEER 19-25 (two units). Heat pump 85% efficient down to quite cold temperatures (good for the north).
Goodman owns them.
Goodman huge, many parts available today locally for common units.

What do you want and value?
Actually, Daikin owns Goodman

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Smorgasbord
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by Smorgasbord » Wed May 02, 2018 4:24 pm

I'm also in the Chicago suburbs (NWI). Last year I put in a brand new AC system in my house, and it got used all of one time. With the big lake still in the mid-40s in early May, it is not looking good for much use this year either. :oops:

Topic Author
Hogan773
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by Hogan773 » Wed May 02, 2018 4:30 pm

Smorgasbord wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 4:24 pm
I'm also in the Chicago suburbs (NWI). Last year I put in a brand new AC system in my house, and it got used all of one time. With the big lake still in the mid-40s in early May, it is not looking good for much use this year either. :oops:
Whaddya talking about? Today is 85! But yeah I get the point....hence why I probably won't look to buy the Ferrari of AC units when a Toyota will do

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4nursebee
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by 4nursebee » Wed May 02, 2018 4:55 pm

In order to comment on best economic value for you, one would have to know the applicable variables and costs. How much work do you want to do?

For us, it required understanding the current and future billing practices and affiliated costs of our utility company.
Base facilities charge, peak demand charge, on peak charge, off peak charge etc...
Usage patterns for heating and cooling.

Up north considering the relative efficiency of the Daikin minisplit heat pumps, it could be a great savings for heating as it could likely be very economically efficient except for when the temps were way low. So how are your heating costs?

The Daikin minisplits also work on a dehumidify mode, making the air comfortable at warmer temperatures in the summer.

The Daikin minisplits also offer room by room zone control.

In general, I think it is safe to say that things can equal out in the long run. Pay more now for cheaper bills (perhaps increase comfort due to features) or pay less upfront for higher bills long term. One just has to decide where they want to be.
4nursebee

boffalora
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Re: New AC - Brand/SEER

Post by boffalora » Wed May 02, 2018 6:54 pm

+1 with Spirit Rider.

Don't be overly concerned with the brand of the equipment. Priority One is finding a skilled, reliable HVAC contractor who will install the system properly. If you are satisfied with your existing contractor, stick with him and follow his recommendation. If he sells more than one brand, any of them will be more than adequate simply because they will be installed and serviced by him. Don't be afraid to choose the least expensive brand if that's what your budget will support.

We live in Louisiana where cooling is far more important than heating. I replaced a 1992-vintage 10 SEER unit in 2016 with a Goodman 14 SEER. 80% heating efficiency system. FTR, before its acquisition by Daikin, Goodman itself was regarded as the workhorse of the South. The brand was developed by Houston HVAC contractor Harold Goodman, who had sold and installed several brands before building one designed to power its way through successive brutal Houston cooling seasons that roughly last from Easter to Thanksgiving.

Also for the record, my outstanding HVAC contractor sells both Carrier and Goodman/Daikin and heartily endorses both brands.

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