Air conditioner recommendations?

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misterno
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Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by misterno » Sun May 20, 2018 9:02 am

I live in a 2 story house. Upstairs unit need Freon almost every year was costing me like $140/year to fill the freon. $75/lb so for 1.5 lbs plus $40 call charge, AC technician was charging me $140

Then last year the AC stopped working, called the same AC technician. He said the board on the coil is gone. He offered to bypass the system by using a cheap part and that way furnace will no longer work but AC would keep working. So it cost me $100 to do that

The reason I did that is because we are in Houston and we barely need heating. I also thought the heating from the furnace of the first floor would warm up both stories. But this winter it got so cold, it could not

Yesterday, AC needed another Freon fill up and this time I told him to check the leak maybe we can fix it. He checked out and said, the leak is inside the coil. After thinking about it, I want it to change the 11 year old compressor, leaking coil and the not working furnace.

Compressor is 11 year old Trane XB13 it is 2.5 tons. But in the very hot summer days, it is not sufficient to cool down to 80, it hovers around 82 anyway, making it barely liveable upstairs. So we agreed on 3 tons.

Coil is Lennox C23-41-1 and leaking big time I think 11 years old

Furnace is Lennox 80-MFG2-45 and not working currently

My AC technician told me I can buy the parts myself wherever I want and he will install it. So next day I drove to Lennox part store and I met the most unfriendly people over there. I was just there to ask prices but the attitude was unbelievable. It turns out they only share prices with licensed technicians. So I told my AC technician to handle this

My questions are

AC technician is okay with Lennox and because of the space limitations I think we have to go with same brand. My attic does not have too much space. But do you think we should look at other brands?

I asked if I can buy online, AC technician is an old Mexican not familiar with internet but all he said was if you buy from internet there is no warranty but I don't think it is true

For the compressor, I checked online prices, what do you recommend? Power is cheap around here so I do not need high SEER rating

Here is the link for the prices

http://www.webhvac.com/2012/04/lennox-a ... rice-list/

As you can see

3 ton Dave Lennox Signature Collection XC21 air conditioner: $3,349 21SEER

3 ton Dave Lennox Signature Collection XC17 air conditioner: $2,659 18 SEER

3 ton Lennox Elite XC16 air conditioner: $2,469 17.2 SEER

3 ton Lennox Elite Series XC14 air conditioner: $1,899 16.2 SEER

3 ton Lennox Elite Series XC13 air conditioner: $1,549 15.5 SEER

3 ton Lennox Elite Series ACX14 air conditioner: $1,569 14 SEER

3 ton Lennox Elite Series ACX13 air conditioner: $1,359 13 SEER

I want to go with the highlighted what do you think?

bloom2708
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by bloom2708 » Sun May 20, 2018 9:06 am

In Houston I would go with the XC17.

It should be a quieter unit. The 17 or 18 SEER is worth the $1,100 over the 15 SEER with all those hot days.
"We are here not to please but to provoke thoughtfulness" Unknown Boglehead

UALflyer
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by UALflyer » Sun May 20, 2018 9:44 am

bloom2708 wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 9:06 am
In Houston I would go with the XC17.

It should be a quieter unit. The 17 or 18 SEER is worth the $1,100 over the 15 SEER with all those hot days.
I get that people are trying to be helpful, but really wish that they would stop responding to questions that they know nothing about. Unfortunately, no part of your post is correct. With a central a/c, your SEER is based on the combination of the outdoor unit, your furnace and the a-coil. So, just putting in an XC17 condenser does not tell you anything about the final SEER. For instance, a system that uses an XC13 condenser can, depending on the furnace and the A-coil, result in 15.5 SEER.

There's also no need to guess about the noise levels, as they are all shown on Lennox's website.

How much energy additional SEER will save you is also easily quantifiable. Just go to https://www.energy.gov/eere/femp/energy ... t-products , which is an official US government website, and select "central air conditioners" there. As the resulting calculator shows you, in Houston a 3 ton 17 SEER unit will save a whopping $63/year over a 3 ton 15 SEER unit. So, given a $1,100 price difference, we are talking about a 17.5 year breakeven period.

In Houston, deciding between a 3 ton 18 SEER unit vs. a 17 SEER one is a decision over $26/year.

OP, you will get significantly higher quality answers on hvac-talk.com, although price discussion is not allowed there.
Last edited by UALflyer on Sun May 20, 2018 9:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

Teague
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by Teague » Sun May 20, 2018 9:57 am

UALflyer wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 9:44 am

I get that people are trying to be helpful, but really wish that they would stop responding to questions that they know nothing about. Unfortunately, no part of your post is correct. With a central a/c, your SEER is based on the combination of the outdoor unit, your furnace and the a-coil.
Can you explain how the furnace has anything to do with the SEER? I was always under the impression that SEER was for cooling only. Thanks.
Semper Augustus

bloom2708
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Location: Fargo, ND

Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by bloom2708 » Sun May 20, 2018 10:07 am

UALflyer wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 9:44 am
bloom2708 wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 9:06 am
In Houston I would go with the XC17.

It should be a quieter unit. The 17 or 18 SEER is worth the $1,100 over the 15 SEER with all those hot days.
I get that people are trying to be helpful, but really wish that they would stop responding to questions that they know nothing about. Unfortunately, no part of your post is correct. With a central a/c, your SEER is based on the combination of the outdoor unit, your furnace and the a-coil. So, just putting in an XC17 condenser does not tell you anything about the final SEER. For instance, a system that uses an XC13 condenser can, depending on the furnace and the A-coil, result in 15.5 SEER.

There's also no need to guess about the noise levels, as they are all shown on Lennox's website.

How much energy additional SEER will save you is also easily quantifiable. Just go to https://www.energy.gov/eere/femp/energy ... t-products , which is an official US government website, and select "central air conditioners" there. As the resulting calculator shows you, in Houston a 3 ton 17 SEER unit will save a whopping $63/year over a 3 ton 15 SEER unit. So, given a $1,100 price difference, we are talking about a 17.5 year breakeven period.

In Houston, deciding between a 3 ton 18 SEER unit vs. a 17 SEER one is a decision over $26/year.

OP, you will get significantly higher quality answers on hvac-talk.com, although price discussion is not allowed there.
Thanks. Happy to defer to an expert.
"We are here not to please but to provoke thoughtfulness" Unknown Boglehead

pindevil
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by pindevil » Sun May 20, 2018 10:07 am

You'll be fine with any brand as long as it's installed correctly. I would suggest getting a heat pump instead of a/c. With your mild winter temperatures there is no need for a dedicated furnace and the heat pump will do both the heating/cooling for you.

tibbitts
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by tibbitts » Sun May 20, 2018 10:11 am

I don't think the attitude is unbelievable because I don't think the parts people are in the retail business and you were a price-shopping retail customer. You knew that going in.

You're throwing out prices for air conditioners but that the issue is cost of the entire system, and the components have to match to get a valid SEER number.

This is an hvac, something most people buy every dozen years or less and the vast majority of people don't shop for hvac in the retail sense that you're trying to do, so you aren't going to get as much currently relevant help with that here than you would with may retail purposes like vehicles or computers. Also to use my own example, my hvac turned out to have a design defect starting close to my model run that didn't show up until some years after I bought it, and even now the class action says my unit is slightly outside the manufacturing date range that has the issue that mine clearly does. Even with my 10-year warranty, I'm completely amused at you thinking a few hundred dollars in initial outlay for one component matters at all in the context of the overall cost of an hvac.

UALflyer
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by UALflyer » Sun May 20, 2018 10:12 am

Teague wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 9:57 am
Can you explain how the furnace has anything to do with the SEER? I was always under the impression that SEER was for cooling only. Thanks.
Correct, but your furnace does a lot more than just heat the air. Your furnace contains an air handler, or blower, which has a fan that distributes cool air (and, during winter, warm air) throughout your home, so, in simple terms, the efficiency of that fan factors into your SEER rating. So, for instance, a single stage furnace with an ECM fan will frequently result in a 1 SEER overall bump, plus it has other benefits.
Last edited by UALflyer on Sun May 20, 2018 10:29 am, edited 3 times in total.

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FrugalInvestor
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by FrugalInvestor » Sun May 20, 2018 10:18 am

I would add that the way you're going about selecting a system is backwards. You seem to be basing it on the size of your current unit and whether it's sufficient but you are not considering that it may not be installed and/or operating properly (given that it's constantly leaking freon it is obviously seldom running at its peak efficiency).

Your starting point should be a calculation of the requirements of the house based on size, insulation, window area, shading, etc. The calculation is called a "manual J" and can be done well or done poorly depending on who's doing it. In addition, the current installation of ducting, etc. needs to be inspected to see if it's done properly, leaking, etc.

Once you know the above and how defects/upgrades will be addressed the size of the unit can be calculated. It may pay off to do upgrades like insulation, duct sealing, duct configuration, etc. in order to downsize the unit and reduce ongoing energy costs. You can't know this without a proper analysis.

The fact that your current technician hasn't explained this to you is an indication that he's the wrong guy to be sizing your system. He may be okay at doing repairs but he's not looking at the whole picture which is doing you a disservice.

Properly sizing and installing an air conditioner is as if not more important than the brand. Find someone who has the knowledge and will take the time to do the sizing and install correctly and you'll be much happier in the long-run. It's worth paying a little more to get it done right.

We got a number of bids and talked to each bidder about the problems we had (i.e. 'hot spots' in the house, noisy airflow in or out, noisy compressor, energy cost, etc.) and asked for their solutions to these problems. The differences were varied and stark - and some made much more sense than the others. One in particular stood out but and was not the cheapest. We are VERY pleased with the end result in every way and ended up with all our previous problems solved.
IGNORE the noise! | Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify. - Henry David Thoreau

tibbitts
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by tibbitts » Sun May 20, 2018 10:39 am

FrugalInvestor wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 10:18 am
I would add that the way you're going about selecting a system is backwards. You seem to be basing it on the size of your current unit and whether it's sufficient but you are not considering that it may not be installed and/or operating properly (given that it's constantly leaking freon it is obviously seldom running at its peak efficiency).

Your starting point should be a calculation of the requirements of the house based on size, insulation, window area, shading, etc. The calculation is called a "manual J" and can be done well or done poorly depending on who's doing it. In addition, the current installation of ducting, etc. needs to be inspected to see if it's done properly, leaking, etc.

Once you know the above and how defects/upgrades will be addressed the size of the unit can be calculated. It may pay off to do upgrades like insulation, duct sealing, duct configuration, etc. in order to downsize the unit and reduce ongoing energy costs. You can't know this without a proper analysis.

The fact that your current technician hasn't explained this to you is an indication that he's the wrong guy to be sizing your system. He may be okay at doing repairs but he's not looking at the whole picture which is doing you a disservice.

Properly sizing and installing an air conditioner is as if not more important than the brand. Find someone who has the knowledge and will take the time to do the sizing and install correctly and you'll be much happier in the long-run. It's worth paying a little more to get it done right.

We got a number of bids and talked to each bidder about the problems we had (i.e. 'hot spots' in the house, noisy airflow in or out, noisy compressor, energy cost, etc.) and asked for their solutions to these problems. The differences were varied and stark - and some made much more sense than the others. One in particular stood out but and was not the cheapest. We are VERY pleased with the end result in every way and ended up with all our previous problems solved.
I mostly agree with this and today everybody selling hvac has software that lets them do schedule j with maybe two minutes of effort, although there are factors that they probably can't accurately account for without practically disassembling the entire house. And there are other factors that might need to be considered. In my case all the software pointed to 3 tons but it's not enough for triple digit temperatures, even after adding much better windows, more insulation, etc.

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Watty
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by Watty » Sun May 20, 2018 10:44 am

misterno wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 9:02 am
But do you think we should look at other brands?
Any of the major brands will be fine.

You should really get quotes from several companies since prices can vary greatly.

You did not say how old the rest of your system is but it sounds like this guy has just been patching it together and that may be a large part of the problem.

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Sandtrap
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by Sandtrap » Sun May 20, 2018 10:53 am

Get at least 3 quotes to replace your system from at least 3 reputable licensed HVAC contractors in your area. First, ask for their recommendations and a quote for that, then later, have them quote you again but for the same system and work across the board.
j

UALflyer
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by UALflyer » Sun May 20, 2018 10:56 am

tibbitts wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 10:39 am
In my case all the software pointed to 3 tons but it's not enough for triple digit temperatures, even after adding much better windows, more insulation, etc.
Each area has a certain design temperature, and the a/c system is set up to handle that temperature. When the actual temperatures in the area exceed the design temperature, your a/c system will start to lose ground.

A lot of people complain about their systems not being able to keep up with unusually hot temperatures and incompetent and/or unscrupulous contractors then sell them oversized units, which frequently make the situation worse, not better. That's because humidity is also a key variable in how comfortable you feel, and oversizing your system can result in what is called flash cooling, where the a/c drops the temperature too quickly and shuts off, which doesn't give it enough time to remove sufficient humidity from the air. It then feels cold and damp, which is incredibly uncomfortable.

So, you never, ever want to oversize your a/c. Do not look at the fact that your a/c loses ground during the few hottest days out there as a sign that you require more tonnage.

People just don't know this, so they demand increased cooling, and unscrupulous contractors are more than happy to oblige. They then sell people on even more expensive and complex variable speed systems, which do help to alleviate the problem, except that they don't mention the fact that you can get to virtually the same solution at a fraction of the cost. For instance, people in hot climates who end up paying a huge premium for variable speed systems would frequently be better off with a single stage system and a whole house dehumidifier, as the combo is cheaper, generally more reliable and cheaper to maintain.

It is true, however, that Manual J has subjectivity built into it. It is a very useful guide, but isn't gospel.

misterno
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by misterno » Sun May 20, 2018 2:52 pm

Watty wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 10:44 am
misterno wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 9:02 am
But do you think we should look at other brands?
Any of the major brands will be fine.

You should really get quotes from several companies since prices can vary greatly.

You did not say how old the rest of your system is but it sounds like this guy has just been patching it together and that may be a large part of the problem.
I think they are all 11 years old

AC compressor, coil and furnace all of them were changed at the same time

tibbitts
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by tibbitts » Sun May 20, 2018 3:01 pm

misterno wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 2:52 pm
Watty wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 10:44 am
misterno wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 9:02 am
But do you think we should look at other brands?
Any of the major brands will be fine.

You should really get quotes from several companies since prices can vary greatly.

You did not say how old the rest of your system is but it sounds like this guy has just been patching it together and that may be a large part of the problem.
I think they are all 11 years old

AC compressor, coil and furnace all of them were changed at the same time
It seems like a furnace will usually outlast the compressor and related parts, at least in the modern era when air conditioning components don't seem to last like they used to, so that's a disappointing lifetime for a furnace.

tibbitts
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by tibbitts » Sun May 20, 2018 3:14 pm

UALflyer wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 10:56 am
tibbitts wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 10:39 am
In my case all the software pointed to 3 tons but it's not enough for triple digit temperatures, even after adding much better windows, more insulation, etc.
Each area has a certain design temperature, and the a/c system is set up to handle that temperature. When the actual temperatures in the area exceed the design temperature, your a/c system will start to lose ground.

A lot of people complain about their systems not being able to keep up with unusually hot temperatures and incompetent and/or unscrupulous contractors then sell them oversized units, which frequently make the situation worse, not better. That's because humidity is also a key variable in how comfortable you feel, and oversizing your system can result in what is called flash cooling, where the a/c drops the temperature too quickly and shuts off, which doesn't give it enough time to remove sufficient humidity from the air. It then feels cold and damp, which is incredibly uncomfortable.

So, you never, ever want to oversize your a/c. Do not look at the fact that your a/c loses ground during the few hottest days out there as a sign that you require more tonnage.

People just don't know this, so they demand increased cooling, and unscrupulous contractors are more than happy to oblige. They then sell people on even more expensive and complex variable speed systems, which do help to alleviate the problem, except that they don't mention the fact that you can get to virtually the same solution at a fraction of the cost. For instance, people in hot climates who end up paying a huge premium for variable speed systems would frequently be better off with a single stage system and a whole house dehumidifier, as the combo is cheaper, generally more reliable and cheaper to maintain.

It is true, however, that Manual J has subjectivity built into it. It is a very useful guide, but isn't gospel.
Having replaced an ancient single-stage 2.5 ton until with a two-stage 3-ton... well that 3-ton runs at stage 2 continuously in hot weather, and has since it was new. It's had a lot of parts replaced, airflow checked, etc. over the years and it just is what it is. Even with the new windows etc. it still does that. But yes having enough cooling for serious triple-digits can result in some overcapacity the rest of time; still it would be nice to not have the compressor running 24/7 and still not achieve the set temperature.

CurlyDave
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by CurlyDave » Sun May 20, 2018 9:54 pm

First, let my qualify myself. DW and I own 12 rental units, each with an furnace/AC system and our residence has 3 separate heat pumps. That is a lot more AC systems than the average bear.

I have a full-time maintenance man, an ex-military aircraft mechanic, and I am an engineer. We do all of the work/repairs/maintenance on the AC systems ourselves. We do major repairs on at least two units every year and have replaced a handful. We own the equipment to evacuate and recharge the systems, and I buy bulk refrigerant, which is much more reasonable than paying for individual recharges.

There is only one major manufacturer who will sell complete units to end customers, which is Goodman. Even then, they say the warranty is void unless the units are installed by a qualified installer. I accept this policy because of the very substantial savings on new units.

Most installers do not consider Goodman as top-notch quality, although I have only experienced one issue with their products. We once got a new unit where a wire had been pinched between other components during factory assembly causing a short. We did the necessary troubleshooting and replaced the wire for nominal cost. One of the reasons for this is that there is not as much profit own Goodman as other brands for the installers, since they do sell to end users. I am personally satisfied with their quality.

Since you seem somewhat familiar with AC systems, I would suggest you look at the Goodman website before you do anything else. My personal experience with Lennox is miserable. All 3 of the heat pumps in our house are Lennox and in 2 of the them the same valve failed on the same day about 2 years after the house was built. They refused to admit,it was a factory defect, although the local dealer did repair one free, but charged for the second. They tout their very high quality, but all I saw was a high-quality fleecing.

takeshi
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Re: Air conditioner recommendations?

Post by takeshi » Tue May 22, 2018 12:26 pm

Watty wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 10:44 am
You should really get quotes from several companies since prices can vary greatly.
+1 Asking for recommendations online is the wrong way to go about this. It's not just a matter of the system or specific components but all the specifics details of the home evaluated by someone knowledgeable and experienced with HVAC. You don't want just random internet commenters.

I'm in Houston as well and would suggest Richmond's Air as an option. They just replaced our system and were very helpful in providing information, ensuring correct sizing, addressing existing issues such as a problem with one of our returns, and providing different options without pushing for one over another.
misterno wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 9:02 am
because of the space limitations I think we have to go with same brand. My attic does not have too much space.
Our attic has severe space limitations and we didn't have to go with the same brand. We had a really old Carrier and replaced it with an American Standard (heat pump). I'd also agree that you're going about it backwards by assuming that your new system needs to be like your old. You need someone to look at the bigger picture and make recommendations appropriate to your situation.

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