HVAC Options -- Any advice?

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blinx77
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HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by blinx77 » Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:21 pm

I live in a DC suburb and received the following quote from a very reputable / established local company (about half our neighborhood uses them), for a 2,100 square foot (2,700 with basement) well-built / renovated split level from the 1950s.

-- One Lennox EL296UH090XE48C Two-Stage Furnace with ECM Blower Motor (88,000 BTU’s per hour input and rated at 96% AFUE).

-- One Lennox EL16XC1-036 Deluxe 'R410A' Energy Efficient Air Cooled Condensing Unit (35,600 BTU's per hour, 16.0 SEER / 13.0 EER and produces a sound rating number of 73.)

Lots of details about ancillary equipment they'll provide and work they will do that I barely understand but seems comprehensive. Ten year manufacturer warranty and two year labor warranty (inc. free repair of manufacturer defects).

Price: $8,747.00, but after manufacturer and electric company rebates, $7,397

I can upgrade the furnace to a variable-stage blower (instead of ECM) and slightly fancier thermostat for an additional $800.
I can upgrade the AC to a variable-stage unit with 35,400 BTUs / 20 SEER / 13.5 EER for an additional $1,300.
I can get a humidifier for $450. (We already have an existing one, the contract indicates this will be removed and patched if we don't elect to get a new one.)
There is also a cheaper option for both the furnace and HVAC for $6,300 but I don't think we'll do that. I'd like quality equipment.
  • Does the price seem reasonable?
  • Would you recommend the upgrades or should we stick with the standard (or consider the cheap one)?
We have enough money for "the works" but are happy to save / invest the money if the standard option would be fine.
Last edited by blinx77 on Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.

livesoft
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by livesoft » Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:25 pm

What do your quotes from other vendors tell you?
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Dottie57
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by Dottie57 » Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:27 pm

Do you needa humidifier? I would have thought yourarea would be plenty humid.

blinx77
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by blinx77 » Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:35 pm

Only one other has come in yet and it varied between $16,000 - $23,000. Very slick salesman type from a larger company. The company I posted has been recommended by numerous people so we're not going to go with this quote.

Two other bids coming in next week.

blinx77
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by blinx77 » Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:37 pm

Dottie57 wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:27 pm
Do you needa humidifier? I would have thought yourarea would be plenty humid.
It is, so much that it's gross at times in the summer. But maybe useful in the winter?

We're actually running a DE-humidifier in the basement most of the time right now.

dknightd
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by dknightd » Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:49 pm

livesoft wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:25 pm
What do your quotes from other vendors tell you?
+2

Teague
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by Teague » Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:03 pm

HVAC prices vary a lot based on region. As mentioned, pricing local quotes is the way to determine what is a fair price where you are located.

Hardware brand is less important than competent system design (specific to your house) and installation quality.
Semper Augustus

Big Dog
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by Big Dog » Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:08 pm

to my knowledge the compressor that you list is a single stage. You cannot make it into a two state by adding a two-stage blower. So, even if you upgrade the heat to 2-stage, the ac would still be 1-stage. To me, that combo makes no sense. If you want to added comfort from a multistage furnace, I'd think you also want the extra comfort from a multi-stage compressor. (The XC is multi-stage.)

What size units are you replacing? A 96AFUE is extremely efficient.

What does the contractor say about your heating/cooling needs? Have they conduced a Manual J? What about your ducts, did they measure air flow in Manual D?

https://www.acca.org/homes

fwiw: About to install a new system in SoCal, and we've opted for the two-stage equipment, even tho its overkill for our use. But the price wasn't that much higher and I like the lower energy use on Stage 1, which it will run most of the time out here.

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yatesd
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by yatesd » Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:10 pm

blinx77 wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:21 pm
I live in a DC suburb and received the following quote from a very reputable / established local company (about half our neighborhood uses them), for a 2,100 square foot (2,700 with basement) well-built / renovated split level from the 1950s.

-- One Lennox EL296UH090XE48C Two-Stage Furnace with ECM Blower Motor (88,000 BTU’s per hour input and rated at 96% AFUE).

-- One Lennox EL16XC1-036 Deluxe 'R410A' Energy Efficient Air Cooled Condensing Unit (35,600 BTU's per hour, 16.0 SEER / 13.0 EER and produces a sound rating number of 73.)

Lots of details about ancillary equipment they'll provide and work they will do that I barely understand but seems comprehensive. Ten year manufacturer warranty and two year labor warranty (inc. free repair of manufacturer defects).

Price: $8,747.00, but after manufacturer and electric company rebates, $7,397

I can upgrade the furnace to a two-speed blower and slightly fancier thermostat for an additional $800.
I can upgrade the AC to a variable-stage unit with 35,400 BTUs / 20 SEER / 13.5 EER for an additional $1,300.
I can get a humidifier for $450. (We already have an existing one, the contract indicates this will be removed and patched if we don't elect to get a new one.)
There is also a cheaper option for both the furnace and HVAC for $6,300 but I don't think we'll do that. I'd like quality equipment.
  • Does the price seem reasonable?
  • Would you recommend the upgrades or should we stick with the standard (or consider the cheap one)?
We have enough money for "the works" but are happy to save / invest the money if the standard option would be fine.
Price seems good to me. I'd upgrade to variable stage and improved efficiency if I planned to stay for 5+ years. Wouldn't bother with the humidifier.

blinx77
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by blinx77 » Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:16 pm

Big Dog wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:08 pm
to my knowledge the compressor that you list is a single stage. You cannot make it into a two state by adding a two-stage blower. So, even if you upgrade the heat to 2-stage, the ac would still be 1-stage. To me, that combo makes no sense. If you want to added comfort from a multistage furnace, I'd think you also want the extra comfort from a multi-stage compressor. (The XC is multi-stage.)

What size units are you replacing? A 96AFUE is extremely efficient.

What does the contractor say about your heating/cooling needs? Have they conduced a Manual J? What about your ducts, did they measure air flow in Manual D?

https://www.acca.org/homes

fwiw: About to install a new system in SoCal, and we've opted for the two-stage equipment, even tho its overkill for our use. But the price wasn't that much higher and I like the lower energy use on Stage 1, which it will run most of the time out here.
To be really precise, the two fancier AC / furnace units would be:

Lennox XC20-036 variable stage outdoor condensing unit rated 35,400 Btu's / 20.0 SEER / 13.5 EER
Lennox EL296UH090XV36B (96% AFUE / 88,000 Btu's) two stage furnace with variable speed motor and one Lennox IComfort S30 WiFi Thermostat

I didn't post the model numbers before because it is all greek to me (first time homeowners, bought two years ago). :confused

The furnace we are replacing was top of the line when it was installed (29 years ago) -- I think it was actually also a 96%. The HVAC was a cheaper model. But I've gathered from other renovations that this probably has more to do with which prior owner owned the house and at which time. The recent owners just patched things along. The owners before them did everything top of the line.

Nobody has done a manual J to our knowledge. Not entirely sure what that is. :oops:

The local company was used by both prior homeowners and our house is pretty similar to most of the rest in our neighborhood -- it was a big development with similarly built houses way back in the day. Presumably they just generally know the local houses at this point, and all of the units they suggested do have the same general BTUs. The guy from the other, expensive company did drill our ducts and said they had good air flow. But then they just proposed a bunch of different units of varying quality like this company.

livesoft
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by livesoft » Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:35 pm

blinx77 wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:35 pm
Only one other has come in yet and it varied between $16,000 - $23,000.
I would not be surprised if some of the local HVAC places have divided up the territory as in:

"If you provide an outrageously high quote in my area, then I will provide an outrageously high quote in your area. That way our quotes will look good in comparison."

I think this is illegal, but would be hard to prove.
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btenny
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by btenny » Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:49 pm

Something is funny with this quote. They are giving you a heat pump ac/heater condenser and related stuff. Why? Then they are quoting a fulll gas heater. Why two heating units? If I were you I would ask what it costs to just put in a new dual mode heat pump heater and ac cooler all in one unit and forget the gas heater. The climate in DC is not that cold and modern heat pumps may be ok. Get some other quotes and look at this option.

Good

obgraham
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by obgraham » Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:49 pm

Price seems good to me. I'd upgrade to variable stage and improved efficiency if I planned to stay for 5+ years. Wouldn't bother with the humidifier.
This is the right answer. You're looking at a reputable brand. Get whatever upgrades there are that are reasonably priced.

More important to me is the installation of the whole system, including the ductwork, the ability to operate zones, and the location of the machinery, both inside and out. None of that can be easily changed at this stage of your ownership.

All this stuff eventually breaks down and needs to be repaired and then replaced. Welcome to the world of home ownership.

criticalmass
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by criticalmass » Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:50 pm

Manual J is the hvac industry standard for calculating the size of your system. The result is a function of your climate, size of walls facing sunlight (and not), size of windows facing sunlight (and not), attic insulation R number, wall insulation R number, etc. A limiting factor is also duct size, which you can’t exceed with airflow, and you can’t exceed heating/cooling capacity over what available airflow/duct size is available. A separate manual D figures out how large the ducts should be but practically speaking that is for new construction.

Many hvac systems are oversized because contractors don’t bother with manual J and don’t want complaints the system isn’t powerful enough.

Over sizing heat means your system short cycles, and you get a blast of hot air, which quickly satisfies the thermostat, then you feel cooler sooner because objects in the house (including you) aren’t as warm as the air when the heat shuts off. Oversizing cooling also means short cycling, plus you won’t get good dehumidification because the system won’t stay running long enough. Short cycles are less efficient and put more wear and tear on components, especially compressors.

Dual stage systems minimize temperature swings in moderate weather, but still leave you with enough horsepower for extreme temperatures. But this is not an excuse for oversizing.

There is no problem with a 2 stage heat combined with 1 stage cool, you just won’t get the 2 stage benefits during cooling season. 2 stage anything requires a variable speed blower, and your ecm motor certainly qualifies, ECM is extremely efficient too.

I wouldn’t bother with a humidifier. Even with dry dc winter air, humidifiers are a pain. The colder the outside temperature is, the more you want humidification, but the more it causes issues like condensation on windows. So you have to constantly adjust humidity settings, many humidistats have suggested settings for the outside temperature forecast. Plus it requires regular cleaning, part replacement, etc. Some models bypass a lot of water down the drain for constant cleaning while operating which is wasteful. If your installer plumbs it to your hot water, (needed for heat pumps more than gas heat) you’re pouring hot water down the drain. If you do get a humidifier, ensure the humidistat control is integrated with your thermostat or placed next to it, not hidden on the duct somewhere in the basement.

obgraham
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by obgraham » Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:52 pm

btenny wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:49 pm
Something is funny with this quote. They are giving you a heat pump ac/heater condenser and related stuff. Why? Then they are quoting a fulll gas heater.
Not the way I read it: he's looking at a gas furnace and electric a/c. Having had both this layout and heat pumps, I'd go this way in a heartbeat.

criticalmass
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by criticalmass » Sat Sep 22, 2018 4:10 pm

btenny wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:49 pm
Something is funny with this quote. They are giving you a heat pump ac/heater condenser and related stuff. Why? Then they are quoting a fulll gas heater. Why two heating units? If I were you I would ask what it costs to just put in a new dual mode heat pump heater and ac cooler all in one unit and forget the gas heater. The climate in DC is not that cold and modern heat pumps may be ok. Get some other quotes and look at this option.

Good
I disagree. The 0-5 degree F temperatures in metro dc in 2013, 2014, and nearly as cold in January 2018 were not fun with heat pumps or electric bills. 15, 10, and 5 degrees in DC felt similar as it does elsewhere. Gas is much better if you have it available (and you trust your utility to manage their service and pressure properly.)

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jabberwockOG
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by jabberwockOG » Sat Sep 22, 2018 4:26 pm

I'd suggest upgrading to variable speed fan air handler as well as a two stage furnace. We upgraded the HVAC in this manner and the reduction in noise and the consistent temperatures maintained in both heating and cooling modes was dramatic. Increase in comfort and extremely quiet operation was fantastic.

I'd suggest that DC climate is too cold for a heat pump to keep you comfortable without add on gas furnace. We live way south on the gulf coast and on the very coldest winter days (low temps hit 17-20 for several nights last winter) our heat pump only system struggles to maintain desired 67-68 degree heat setting and can run 22 hours a day.

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Watty
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by Watty » Sat Sep 22, 2018 4:47 pm

jabberwockOG wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 4:26 pm
I'd suggest upgrading to variable speed fan air handler as well as a two stage furnace. We upgraded the HVAC in this manner and the reduction in noise and the consistent temperatures maintained in both heating and cooling modes was dramatic. Increase in comfort and extremely quiet operation was fantastic.
+1

I don't remember the details but when we got a new furnace and AC a few years ago we had the choice of something like Basic(single speed(?), intermediate(2 speed), and deluxe(Variable speed).

We upgraded from a basic system to an intermediate system and it made a dramatic difference in the comfort of our house and was well worth the money. I would suspect that we also do not set the temperatures as high or low since a more moderate temperature is comfortable.

I am in Georgia where the humidity is a problem and the new thermostat that came with the system also monitors the humidity and when the humidity is high inside it will run the AC at a low speed to run longer to take more humid out of the air.

We also had an old humidifier and had to decide if we wanted to have it taken out or replaced. We decided to have it taken out but we asked them to set it up so that it would be easy to install one in the future if we decided we needed one. We have not added it since it would only be used about one month out of the year if that.

If you have an older gas water heater that is next to the gas furnace then also ask them about replacing it at the same time sometimes you can get a discount since they will be working at your house any way. Them being able to do this varies a lot by the area you live in. In some areas they can do this but in other areas they will look at you like you are crazy since only plumbers can do that in that state.

Big Dog
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by Big Dog » Sat Sep 22, 2018 5:24 pm

A separate manual D figures out how large the ducts should be but practically speaking that is for new construction.
Perhaps you are correct, but i mention it bcos contractors who built "back in the day" could throw up a lot of mismatched equipment, typically over-sized (as you noted). OTOH, there is a rule of thumb in the industry, that return air flow grills are 30% smaller than they should be.

I received 5 contractor quotes to replace our HVAC, and four of them looked at my house and all parroted, 'based on my xx years in the business, your home needs x tons of ac and yy BTU's of furnace. Grills are fine, but could be updated if you'd like."

I required for a Manual J from the 5th contractor when I made the appointment for a sales guy to come over. (Note, that a Manual J is recommended by the HVAC trade association.) I also pushed for a Manual D or at a minimum, that he examine closely the return grills and estimate air flow out of the registers. On the wall was two large return grills, plenty of size, at least on first impression. But both return grills fed into a hidden (and small) wall cavity between 2x4's. But upon further inspection, part of that wall cavity was blocked off by the builder as it looks like the builder was supporting a nearby door jamb. As a result, the current air flow through the cavity to the blower was not even close to support our current xTon compressor and one that the 4 other contractors recommended. (Yeah, our unit was still pushing air, but it was sucking it out of other conditioned and unconditioned spaces, including the attic! (No wonder our house with an oversized compressor, cannot handle 95+ degree days.)

So, in our case, the result of the Manual J said that we can go wth a smaller (and less expensive ac compressor); we also need to add a new return grill through a separate wall to improve return air to the blower.

Now, perhaps the first four guys would have found and adjusted the air flow that after the install, but I'd rather know the details up front. The thorough guy got the job, even tho he was not the cheapest.

blinx77
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by blinx77 » Sun Sep 23, 2018 11:58 am

obgraham wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:52 pm
btenny wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:49 pm
Something is funny with this quote. They are giving you a heat pump ac/heater condenser and related stuff. Why? Then they are quoting a fulll gas heater.
Not the way I read it: he's looking at a gas furnace and electric a/c. Having had both this layout and heat pumps, I'd go this way in a heartbeat.
Yes, gas furnace and electric a/c.

blinx77
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by blinx77 » Sun Sep 23, 2018 12:10 pm

criticalmass wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:50 pm
Manual J is the hvac industry standard for calculating the size of your system. The result is a function of your climate, size of walls facing sunlight (and not), size of windows facing sunlight (and not), attic insulation R number, wall insulation R number, etc. A limiting factor is also duct size, which you can’t exceed with airflow, and you can’t exceed heating/cooling capacity over what available airflow/duct size is available. A separate manual D figures out how large the ducts should be but practically speaking that is for new construction.
Thanks. Assume this company has worked with hundreds of houses almost identical to mine for 60 years (including the old system on my house and a bunch of my neighbor's houses). I checked one neighbor's house and the new system looks virtually identical -- same models, same spot in the basement, etc. Is that enough or should we still insist on Manual J?
criticalmass wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:50 pm
There is no problem with a 2 stage heat combined with 1 stage cool, you just won’t get the 2 stage benefits during cooling season. 2 stage anything requires a variable speed blower, and your ecm motor certainly qualifies, ECM is extremely efficient too.
If ECM is a good motor, would it make sense to get the upgraded AC unit but stick with the originally recommended furnance with the ECM?
criticalmass wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:50 pm
I wouldn’t bother with a humidifier. Even with dry dc winter air, humidifiers are a pain. The colder the outside temperature is, the more you want humidification, but the more it causes issues like condensation on windows. So you have to constantly adjust humidity settings, many humidistats have suggested settings for the outside temperature forecast.
Thanks. I think we've decided no on the humidifier. Rarely an issue here and we can always buy little bedstand units for sleeping if we care. Plus seems easy to install later if we change our minds.

I really appreciate the advice everyone!

blinx77
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by blinx77 » Sun Sep 23, 2018 12:12 pm

obgraham wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:49 pm
Price seems good to me. I'd upgrade to variable stage and improved efficiency if I planned to stay for 5+ years. Wouldn't bother with the humidifier.
This is the right answer. You're looking at a reputable brand. Get whatever upgrades there are that are reasonably priced.

More important to me is the installation of the whole system, including the ductwork, the ability to operate zones, and the location of the machinery, both inside and out. None of that can be easily changed at this stage of your ownership.

All this stuff eventually breaks down and needs to be repaired and then replaced. Welcome to the world of home ownership.
Thanks. Ductwork was apparently done very well but various contractors have said zoned systems might not work well in our house. Something to do with the layout of the split, plus it would just be pricey to change at this point.

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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by jehovasfitness » Sun Sep 23, 2018 12:17 pm

criticalmass wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 4:10 pm
btenny wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:49 pm
Something is funny with this quote. They are giving you a heat pump ac/heater condenser and related stuff. Why? Then they are quoting a fulll gas heater. Why two heating units? If I were you I would ask what it costs to just put in a new dual mode heat pump heater and ac cooler all in one unit and forget the gas heater. The climate in DC is not that cold and modern heat pumps may be ok. Get some other quotes and look at this option.

Good
I disagree. The 0-5 degree F temperatures in metro dc in 2013, 2014, and nearly as cold in January 2018 were not fun with heat pumps or electric bills. 15, 10, and 5 degrees in DC felt similar as it does elsewhere. Gas is much better if you have it available (and you trust your utility to manage their service and pressure properly.)
30 mins from DC and going from a gas furnace to a heat pump shocked me utility bill wise.

Even all electric now going from AC to heat with the heat pump and frigid temps is a big increase

Saving$
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by Saving$ » Sun Sep 23, 2018 2:26 pm

btenny wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:49 pm
Something is funny with this quote. They are giving you a heat pump ac/heater condenser and related stuff. Why? Then they are quoting a fulll gas heater. Why two heating units? If I were you I would ask what it costs to just put in a new dual mode heat pump heater and ac cooler all in one unit and forget the gas heater. The climate in DC is not that cold and modern heat pumps may be ok. Get some other quotes and look at this option.

Good
I agree with this, but instead I'd do the following, if your end goal is really comfort and efficiency at the best cost:

1. No decision on equipment type & sizing unit someone does a REAL Manual J. Not a manual J with fudged inputs to get the output to match the equipment they want to sell you. If you can find someone in your area who does only Manual J calcs, and does not sell equipment, I'd spend $150 to $250 to hire them to do that. Then insist that the people giving the quotes actually quote the equipment sizes/loads the Manual J says you need.

2. While you are having the Manual J done, see if you can get a whole house energy audit. You may find you can spend $1000 on insulation or air sealing upgrades that saves you $1500 on equipment, but also results in significantly increased comfort and lower operating costs.

3. Instead of gas or heat pump, consider ducted min splits. They may be the best for your climate. They may also be cost prohibitive, so gas may be the way to go.

4. It is highly unlikely you need a humidifier in the DC area. If the house gets very dry in the winter, that points to lots of air leakage/outside air coming in, so a great opportunity for air sealing. People living in a tight house in that region of the country generate sufficient humidity (showers, cooking, breathing, etc) to not need a dehumidifier.

killjoy2012
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by killjoy2012 » Sun Sep 23, 2018 6:56 pm

OP: The price in the quote sounds about right. If you purchase an upgrade, I'd go for the modulating furnace -- Lennox markets that as "variable capacity". I live further north than you, and our heating season is much longer than cooling... so the modulating aspect pays off, especially in terms of noise levels. I honestly wouldn't pay extra to go beyond 16 SEER or single stage AC as I just don't think you'd see the financial payback.

Normchad
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by Normchad » Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:02 pm

I just went through this last year, also 30 miles outside of DC. My advice is contrary to a lot here, so take it with a grain of salt.

1) I don't think any companies in this area will do a Manual J calculation; certainly none that I could find.
2) The humidifier is money well spent. And yes, it's for the winter time when the gas furnace will make your skin dry and itchy. The humidifier eliminates that.
3) It's hard to find a company you can trust in this area. I think going by your neighbors word of mouth is the best way to go; that's what I ended up doing.
4) I was tempted to go "top of the line"; as an engineer it really appeals to me. It's cool stuff, very efficient, and the pitch about variable speed motors etc all makes sense. But at the end of the day, I went with the bottom of the line. My reasoning was that I have only ever owned "builder grade" stuff, and I've always been happy with it, and it's always lasted 20 years without problem.
5) One contractor even recommended against high-efficiency and fancy systems; saying they were more likely to have problems, and when they did have problems, they were much more expensive to repair.
6) So I've got my "bottom of the line" Trane systems, and frankly, they are great. Your system is so old, that anything you get will be awesome by comparison too. Mine are quiet, and even at SEER14 they are much more efficient than my 20 year old SEER10 units were. My bills are lower.

Good luck!

tesuzuki2002
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Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by tesuzuki2002 » Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:09 pm

blinx77 wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:21 pm
I live in a DC suburb and received the following quote from a very reputable / established local company (about half our neighborhood uses them), for a 2,100 square foot (2,700 with basement) well-built / renovated split level from the 1950s.

-- One Lennox EL296UH090XE48C Two-Stage Furnace with ECM Blower Motor (88,000 BTU’s per hour input and rated at 96% AFUE).

-- One Lennox EL16XC1-036 Deluxe 'R410A' Energy Efficient Air Cooled Condensing Unit (35,600 BTU's per hour, 16.0 SEER / 13.0 EER and produces a sound rating number of 73.)

Lots of details about ancillary equipment they'll provide and work they will do that I barely understand but seems comprehensive. Ten year manufacturer warranty and two year labor warranty (inc. free repair of manufacturer defects).

Price: $8,747.00, but after manufacturer and electric company rebates, $7,397

I can upgrade the furnace to a variable-stage blower (instead of ECM) and slightly fancier thermostat for an additional $800.
I can upgrade the AC to a variable-stage unit with 35,400 BTUs / 20 SEER / 13.5 EER for an additional $1,300.
I can get a humidifier for $450. (We already have an existing one, the contract indicates this will be removed and patched if we don't elect to get a new one.)
There is also a cheaper option for both the furnace and HVAC for $6,300 but I don't think we'll do that. I'd like quality equipment.
  • Does the price seem reasonable?
  • Would you recommend the upgrades or should we stick with the standard (or consider the cheap one)?
We have enough money for "the works" but are happy to save / invest the money if the standard option would be fine.

FWIW

The Quote seems in the right ballpark to me.

smackboy1
Posts: 1000
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2007 9:41 pm

Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by smackboy1 » Mon Sep 24, 2018 10:08 am

blinx77 wrote:
Sun Sep 23, 2018 12:10 pm
Thanks. Assume this company has worked with hundreds of houses almost identical to mine for 60 years (including the old system on my house and a bunch of my neighbor's houses). I checked one neighbor's house and the new system looks virtually identical -- same models, same spot in the basement, etc. Is that enough or should we still insist on Manual J?
You must have a Manual J because it's specific to your house. Everybody's house is different because of the location. It would be akin to a surgeon performing a hip replacement without the actual patient's X-ray by using somebody else's X-ray or a "rule of thumb" based on years of experience.

Don't think of it as buying HVAC equipment. Think of it as buying 365 days of comfort. Compared to "rule of thumb" installations that usually means a smaller AC/furnace equipment that runs for longer cycles. That's is the best way to keep the house temperature and humidity even and comfortable and not have big swings caused by the blower cycling on and off all the time.

https://hvac-talk.com/vbb/forumdisplay. ... 8b2e99f8d2

If you are going to perform any upgrades that will affect heat loss/cooling e.g. changing insulation, air sealing, windows, doors, do it before the Manual J.
Disclaimer: nothing written here should be taken as legal advice, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

cyclist
Posts: 44
Joined: Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:04 am

Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by cyclist » Mon Sep 24, 2018 10:19 am

Besides the big dominant contractors, I'd recommend getting quotes from some smaller ones.

We're in the DC area and were picky about our requirements. We were happy with what we got from mpenergyservices@gmail.com.

No, they didn't do a full Manual J calculation (nobody else would do that for us either - I asked) but they declined to do the installation at all until we committed to better insulation in our attic. Then they sold us a lower-capacity system that has been more than sufficient and a substantial improvement.

They're tiny, but we've been happy with them. Good luck.

Big Dog
Posts: 846
Joined: Mon Sep 07, 2015 4:12 pm

Re: HVAC Options -- Any advice?

Post by Big Dog » Mon Sep 24, 2018 10:21 am

1) I don't think any companies in this area will do a Manual J calculation; certainly none that I could find.
Manual J is not rocket science, it just takes time. But more importantly, a Manual J is recommended by the professional HVAC associations (link posted earlier). All contractors in the biz know it well. They just may not want to do it bcos of the time involved, (And of course, if you end up needing and buying a smaller unit than their rule of thumb, they make less money!)

But in a hot/humid place like DC, a smaller compressor is better since it will run longer and thus maintain humidity/comfort better; longer runs are better for the equipment. (just reinforcing what was noted by another poster)

I called around and basically said, 'I have a house of xx se'f't and need to replace by total system, but will only choose a contractor that performs a Manual J first. Is that something that your firm does and would you be interested in coming out?'

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