Replace my HVAC system or wait

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Elysium
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Replace my HVAC system or wait

Post by Elysium » Sat Oct 01, 2011 6:47 pm

I am reviewing proposals from multiple contractors for replacing my HVAC system. Here is some background.

Current AC is 25 years old, was part of the house when newly built. It's a Trane and running fine, no problems in the last few years that we have owned the house.

When we bought the house we knew we would eventually need to change since the AC is old, and the Furnace is also on the second half of its life. Furnace is 14 years old.

Surprisingly though the system has held on very well. Never had to call the repair man in two years.

Proposals I received range from $13,900 for a top of the line Trane system, to $7,500 for Bryant Evolution system. In the middle range is Carrier Infinity system for $11,500 from one contractor, and $9,500 from another contractor.

I am inclined to go with the guy who offered Carrier / Bryant for lowest price. Bryant Evolution 2 stage furnace 95% efficiency and 2 speed AC 17 SEER at $7,500 sounds good to me.

Question though, I keep asking should I do this now, or wait longer, since it ain't broke yet, why fix it.

The only incentive is higher efficiency and potential lower utility bills.

Summer was brutal on the Electric bill. Ended up costing $1400 for 3 months. We keep normally at 74 degrees in summer. This summer was exceptionally hot.

Anyhow, I don't have cash to spend now. This is the key thing, as I am paying off credit cards from previous renovations. The only savings are the regular ones going to retirement accounts. Everything else is used for living and paying off CC debts.

I could put more on CC at low interest rates and pay off eventually. Will cost me an extra $600 in interest charges over time.

I am thinking put off this purchase until next year, or as long as the system keeps running.

I do have potential savings from utility bills, and the ability to do it when the system is still functional. There is also possibility of cost of HVAC systems going up, although I am not sure what is the inflation rate on those. One of the contractors said these things do go up in price a lot. It sounded like sales pitch to me.

Should I do it, or wait, make use of the most of what I have.

EDIT: Forgot to mention. I do have savings in the form of I Bonds. But this is sacred, I never touch them, they are bought back in the days at 3% and 2% real rates. I won't sell them to buy an HVAC.

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magellan
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Post by magellan » Sat Oct 01, 2011 7:02 pm

It'd be a lot easier to make a good decision if you worked through some numbers on your expected savings. I'm sure there are rough guides out there on about how much you could expect to save, especially if you can look up the SEER of your current system.

If you can estimate your annual savings, then you can figure out how much it'll take to pay back your investment. Better still, you could do a full blown discounted cash flow analysis that includes any financing costs that you'll incur.

If you can determine the annual utility savings and your financing costs, I bet we could pool our expertise and help you build a spreadsheet to see how the numbers look.

Jim

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tadamsmar
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Post by tadamsmar » Sat Oct 01, 2011 7:27 pm

A few suggestions:

Check with your utility to see if they have some rebates on high efficiency systems.

Look into what it would cost to replace/repair your system after it failed. You might have to pay higher emergency rates. Do your have a service contract on your unit?

Also, you might want to get your ducts sealed. Our utility offered a rebate for that.

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tooluser
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Post by tooluser » Sat Oct 01, 2011 7:32 pm

I had almost this quandary 3 years ago. Small 1-story house requiring only one heating/cooling zone.

My furnace from 1955 finally quit in September 2008. One of two burners would no longer ignite. Due to the age I knew it was time to replace, and not worth fixing. Since I live in Southern California, I also knew that I could time it to my convenience, since a furnace is largely optional here. I had no AC, but had always wanted it (my neighborhood micro-climate runs more extreme than average). I was looking for a good deal but needed something eventually.

I waited until just after Thanksgiving to start getting estimates. This is a low time for installers, and they have to pay the crews or not have them work, so they are a little more likely to give a good price during this time before Christmas (or so it seems). I got a new Carrier 80% efficiency furnace (high efficiency will not pay back here) and a quiet, high efficiency Carrier AC, though not top-of-the-line. (The fan unit is right outside my bedroom, so quiet was important.) Programmable thermostat of course. New ducting (including 1 additional duct), grilles, and asbestos removal from the old furnace ducts were included in the price below.

The furnace and condenser were moved to the attic from a hall closet. The external AC fan unit was mounted on a small platform outside. It took a crew of six plus the supervisor to complete the installation in 1 day. No issues after installation, very pleased. I had a Carrier-authorized inspector from a different company out here 1 year after installation and everything checked out fine as well.

The system costs $1/day to operate the AC at the height of summer (13 cents per kwh), or the furnace at the height of winter (50 cents per therm of gas), but it cools off at night around here and warms up during the day for all but 2-3 nights or days a year. (Ain't life grand?)

$11,000 even, installed, in late November 2008.

Hopefully that gives you some things to think about/ask/bargain for. Nothing like running the numbers for your case. In your case I think it's like owning a well-worn car. Nothing's wrong, so you're not in a hurry. Wait until the value proposition is right. Knowing you could save major bucks in the long run might alter your perception. The new system will be cheaper to operate. The question is by how much.
Last edited by tooluser on Sat Oct 01, 2011 7:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

tibbitts
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Post by tibbitts » Sat Oct 01, 2011 7:57 pm

I don't know anything about inflation in hvac, but you might try for estimates even later in the year.

We changed our same-era-as-yours 10seer for what was at the time a pretty high-efficiency 15seer a few years ago. Went from 2.5t to 3t. It's been ok, but can't keep up in the summer even when running all the time. Bills aren't much different with the new system, despite improved roof venting, added insulation, and replacing all the windows with better-insulatedductwork setup, and you probably low-e, but it's too much hassle to collect the cooling-degree data and actually figure it out, because there's nothing else we're going to do at this point.

Change out your plenum and all the ductwork when you get a new system. We didn't and that was probably a mistake.

Paul

Redbelly
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Post by Redbelly » Sat Oct 01, 2011 8:14 pm

I'd have a home energy analysis done, which may be discounted through your energy provider. Part of that analysis should be an estimate of payback for replacing the furnace and AC with more efficient units in addition to other improvements you could make to the rest of the home. Your money may be better spent on simple things like home / duct sealing and insulation.

If the payoff is long on replacing the H Vac components, I'd let them ride until they require an expensive repair. I let my furnace go until it was 40 years old. AC unit is 30+, but is rarely used and still operates fine.

slick_dealer_05
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Post by slick_dealer_05 » Sat Oct 01, 2011 8:28 pm

Plant a few trees around the house.
Helps improve air quality, decreases electricity bill, and is much cheaper than replacing a HVAC system.
Our entire roof is covered by shade throughout the day and my friends are shocked when they hear how low is my electricity bill.

tibbitts
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Post by tibbitts » Sat Oct 01, 2011 10:01 pm

slick_dealer_05 wrote:Plant a few trees around the house.
Helps improve air quality, decreases electricity bill, and is much cheaper than replacing a HVAC system.
Our entire roof is covered by shade throughout the day and my friends are shocked when they hear how low is my electricity bill.
It can take decades for that to have an effect, and when you're limited to just a few feet of property on two sides of a house it sometimes isn't practical. Also trees that hang over the roof can damage it, or at least increase maintenance required.

New construction should have much better insulated walls and roof, but for existing construction it can be expensive to retrofit those things, and the payback is very hard to calculate.

Paul

Elysium
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Post by Elysium » Sat Oct 01, 2011 10:36 pm

tibbitts wrote:
slick_dealer_05 wrote:Plant a few trees around the house.
Helps improve air quality, decreases electricity bill, and is much cheaper than replacing a HVAC system.
Our entire roof is covered by shade throughout the day and my friends are shocked when they hear how low is my electricity bill.
It can take decades for that to have an effect, and when you're limited to just a few feet of property on two sides of a house it sometimes isn't practical. Also trees that hang over the roof can damage it, or at least increase maintenance required.

New construction should have much better insulated walls and roof, but for existing construction it can be expensive to retrofit those things, and the payback is very hard to calculate.

Paul
Those are exactly the things I was thinking. Anyhow, we've got plenty of trees around the house, only one that hangs over the house, which I am planning to trim in fall.

Elysium
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Post by Elysium » Sat Oct 01, 2011 10:47 pm

Plenty of good answers here. Meanwhile I was doing a bit of looking around on Energystar and few other web sites. It appears that based on my overall energy usage, efficiency rating of house is very low.

I also found another usage pattern change, we have been using our clothes washer / dryer and dishwasher a lot more. I found out that setting the water temp to cold on the washer can save quite bit on Electricity. However, the big catch here is convincing DW to change her new found pattern, changing the HVAC system may be easier decision than this :lol:

My current AC is possibly an 8 or 10 SEER. Furnace is 90% efficiency unit.

Back of the envelope calculation with a neighbor who has similar sized house with newer unit installed tells me that I could save anywhere from $600 to $1000 a year on utility costs.

There are of course several variables here. Usage pattern of other devices mentioned above is one. Second is my duct work insulation as few others mentioned.

In general I think newer HVAC unit should decrease the overall foot print.

But there could be other things, so I might get an Energy audit in my house just to get an overall idea.

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klneutral
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Post by klneutral » Sun Oct 02, 2011 7:26 am

Timing is very important.

If your system breaks during the hottest or coldest parts of the year, you will spend a lot more money getting a replacement. The contractors are covered up with work and "make it worth their while" to replace yours. It is also most likely that your old systems will fail during the most extreme temperatures.

You can save significant money, as mentioned by a previous poster, by controlling the timing. When the weather is mild for long stretches of time, the contractors are starving and compete very aggressively with each other on price and terms. I know that sometimes they will sell and install systems during the slow times for little to no profit just give their employees some hours.

Often, your utility company will offer rebates on extremely efficient equipment. Also, some states and the federal government give tax credits. These things may help you justify the new system.

l2ridehd
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Post by l2ridehd » Sun Oct 02, 2011 8:22 am

I have exactly the same situation. My system is a Trane and about 30 years old. AC part a little newer. I am trying to decide if I should replace it because I am planning to sell the home within the next year and I know this will be a bone of contention for buyers. System working fine with no problems but is probably not the most efficient. Best price I have for a new system (oil) is about $9500, 15 seer unit with HVAC, humidifier and electronic air cleaner. . I could just provide an allowance, but that does not always seem attractive to buyers either.

So the big question is should I do it before putting the home on the market or wait until a potential buyer brings it up and offer an allowance?

Valuethinker
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Post by Valuethinker » Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:04 am

l2ridehd wrote:I have exactly the same situation. My system is a Trane and about 30 years old. AC part a little newer. I am trying to decide if I should replace it because I am planning to sell the home within the next year and I know this will be a bone of contention for buyers. System working fine with no problems but is probably not the most efficient. Best price I have for a new system (oil) is about $9500, 15 seer unit with HVAC, humidifier and electronic air cleaner. . I could just provide an allowance, but that does not always seem attractive to buyers either.

So the big question is should I do it before putting the home on the market or wait until a potential buyer brings it up and offer an allowance?
Don't do it if you are going to sell, would be my view. Get a sense of how much it would cost to replace so if your buyer low balls you, you have a rejoinder.

In truth if you can avoid oil I would: Air Source Heat Pump would work well in many parts of USA (not all-- basically below about 10 degrees F, it goes to electric bar efficiency ie not very efficient). Gas is of course best of all (and if not gas, Ground Source Heat Pump) but you would have installed if that was an option, I assume.

Valuethinker
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Post by Valuethinker » Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:07 am

Dieharder wrote:Plenty of good answers here. Meanwhile I was doing a bit of looking around on Energystar and few other web sites. It appears that based on my overall energy usage, efficiency rating of house is very low.

I also found another usage pattern change, we have been using our clothes washer / dryer and dishwasher a lot more. I found out that setting the water temp to cold on the washer can save quite bit on Electricity. However, the big catch here is convincing DW to change her new found pattern, changing the HVAC system may be easier decision than this :lol:
Roughly speaking, a 15 pound load of laundry should be about 1.5 kwhr at 40 degrees C (that's about 104 in degrees F). [EDIT: just remembered, most Americans use top loaders. So 2-3 times as much, potentially (it depends how much water it uses, and whether that water comes off a hot feed or, as in the UK, just normal tap temperature, and then the machine uses a heating coil to heat it up).]


If you can drop it to 30 degrees C (about 82) it would save you about 10-15%. Uk detergents at least work as well at the lower temperature *except* you are well advised to do a hot water 'clean out' at max temperature once a month or so (we descale at the same time).

Dryer load would be something similar. Note if the dryer vents in the house, then you are dumping that moist air into the house, where the condensation will chill (and give you other issues unless air changes are pretty frequent).
My current AC is possibly an 8 or 10 SEER. Furnace is 90% efficiency unit.

Back of the envelope calculation with a neighbor who has similar sized house with newer unit installed tells me that I could save anywhere from $600 to $1000 a year on utility costs.

There are of course several variables here. Usage pattern of other devices mentioned above is one. Second is my duct work insulation as few others mentioned.

In general I think newer HVAC unit should decrease the overall foot print.

But there could be other things, so I might get an Energy audit in my house just to get an overall idea.
I would definitely do the audit first. Basic passive measures (caulking, attic insulation) can give you a way better payback than active ones (new HVAC etc.). If you have a flat roof have it painted white or silver will save significantly on AC, etc.
Last edited by Valuethinker on Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:38 am, edited 2 times in total.

Valuethinker
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Post by Valuethinker » Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:08 am

klneutral wrote:Timing is very important.

If your system breaks during the hottest or coldest parts of the year, you will spend a lot more money getting a replacement. The contractors are covered up with work and "make it worth their while" to replace yours. It is also most likely that your old systems will fail during the most extreme temperatures.

You can save significant money, as mentioned by a previous poster, by controlling the timing. When the weather is mild for long stretches of time, the contractors are starving and compete very aggressively with each other on price and terms. I know that sometimes they will sell and install systems during the slow times for little to no profit just give their employees some hours.

Often, your utility company will offer rebates on extremely efficient equipment. Also, some states and the federal government give tax credits. These things may help you justify the new system.
When a contractor is busy it gives them every incentive to charge a premium price. Also in emergency situations.

Whereas if you schedule well in advance in a quiet time, the extra money to them is what we call 'bunce' ie free upside. So you are in a much better pricing position as the client. That's true of any services business.

zinnia
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Post by zinnia » Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:32 am

l2ridehd wrote:I have exactly the same situation. My system is a Trane and about 30 years old. AC part a little newer. I am trying to decide if I should replace it because I am planning to sell the home within the next year and I know this will be a bone of contention for buyers. System working fine with no problems but is probably not the most efficient. Best price I have for a new system (oil) is about $9500, 15 seer unit with HVAC, humidifier and electronic air cleaner. . I could just provide an allowance, but that does not always seem attractive to buyers either.

So the big question is should I do it before putting the home on the market or wait until a potential buyer brings it up and offer an allowance?
would including a one year homeowners warranty for a buyer be less expensive

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BTDT
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Post by BTDT » Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:39 am

If it ain't broke, and you haven't had to make repairs, I personally wouldn't replace it until you have the credit cards paid down. That said, if it's starting to cost money in repairs I would consider a change-out this winter.

Last fall I installed a 95% efficient furnace that is so efficient it uses a plastic pipe for the exhaust stack. Also went with a hybrid heat pump/ac that switches to gas based on outside temperature. Electric and gas bill dropped significantly, albeit I also replaced all windows with the high efficiency type in compliance with IRS energy credit requirements. I think energy tax credit program is still in effect? You might check water-source heat pump as I think it has a much higher credit?

Also rented a insulation blower from Lowe's and added 15 inches of glass insulation to attic. Have the spouse feed the hopper while you stand in the attic pointing the hose, and smiling about how easy it is.
If past history was all that is needed to play the game of money, the richest people would be librarians.

mmmodem
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Post by mmmodem » Sun Oct 02, 2011 1:23 pm

This one is an easy one. With credit card debt, you shouldn't be buying anything let alone something that isn't broken. The savings and incentives won't make up for the additional interest you have to pay. Do the math. Save up for the installation in cash before you upgrade. If you want to save on utility bills now, consider turning up the thermostat to 76 degrees as recommended by the utility company and dress down.

tibbitts
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Post by tibbitts » Sun Oct 02, 2011 1:45 pm

In general I think newer HVAC unit should decrease the overall foot print.
Not sure what that means, but a new hvac will be physically much larger compared to an older model. That was a problem for us, because the pad location was between the house and the property line fence, just a few feet away. You need to check the code requirements regarding that. I'd thought 0" was required between the hvac and house (there is no venting on the backside of an hvac exterior unit), but it turned out I was wrong.

Size will increase even for the same-sized hvac. You'll probably go up a size or two. We went from 2.5 to 3t, which would probably have been sufficient if we'd also redone the plenum and the ductwork, but isn't quite making it with the existing configuration.

Paul

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magellan
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Post by magellan » Sun Oct 02, 2011 4:10 pm

I think we've got enough information to at least take a rough crack at running some numbers for this project. Hopefully I won't bore everyone to death or scare everyone away. As always a caveat - this type of financial analysis is more about understanding the range of possibilities than about identifying the one right answer.

With that in mind, I created a spreadsheet that builds a standard capital budgeting analysis for this project. I put comments on most inputs and outputs to show what's going on. Hopefully I got the formulas right!

Image

The idea of this analysis is to consider all the cash flows, both positive and negative, and figure out if the project makes economic sense. To compare cash flows across different years, it's necessary to normalize them, or discount them to the present year. Discounting future cash flows accounts for the reality that a dollar promised 5 years from now isn't as good as a dollar paid today.

The discount rate used to normalize or discount the cash flows takes into account the likely inflation rate, as well as the general riskiness of the cash project's flows. Replacement projects are usually pretty low risk, compared to something like say building a new flat panel LCD factory. So you'd expect an analysis of a LCD panel factory to use a much higher discount rate, say 15-20%, compared to a replacement project that might use 4-6%.

Anyhow, the main output of the analysis is something called the Net Present Value or NPV. NPV tells whether or not, given all the cash flows and the discount rate chosen, the project makes economic sense. If the NPV is less than 0, the project doesn't make economic sense (based on the assumptions). If the NPV is 0 or greater, the project might make economic sense.

Here's a screenshot that shows a range of possible inputs and the resulting NPVs. Remember, negative NPV is bad.

Image

As you might expect, it all comes down to how much the project costs and how much savings it actually generates. We already knew that. But now we can see a range of possibilities and hard numbers to try to put it all into context and hopefully make a better decision.

Feel free to check my work and ask questions if there's something that doesn't make sense or doesn't look right.

Jim

Elysium
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Post by Elysium » Sun Oct 02, 2011 9:15 pm

jvclark02 wrote:If it ain't broke, and you haven't had to make repairs, I personally wouldn't replace it until you have the credit cards paid down. That said, if it's starting to cost money in repairs I would consider a change-out this winter.

Last fall I installed a 95% efficient furnace that is so efficient it uses a plastic pipe for the exhaust stack. Also went with a hybrid heat pump/ac that switches to gas based on outside temperature. Electric and gas bill dropped significantly, albeit I also replaced all windows with the high efficiency type in compliance with IRS energy credit requirements. I think energy tax credit program is still in effect? You might check water-source heat pump as I think it has a much higher credit?

Also rented a insulation blower from Lowe's and added 15 inches of glass insulation to attic. Have the spouse feed the hopper while you stand in the attic pointing the hose, and smiling about how easy it is.
I am primarily looking at higher energy efficiency and lower utility bills as a result. $7500 is a known upfront cost, what is killing me is getting hit with $600 this July for Electricity bill, followed by another $400 next month. By comparison, a neighbor with new system is paying only in the $200+ range.

I have new energy efficient water heater installed early this year since my old water heater broke. So that is not causing problem.

Our attic is well insulated, this is actually a good suggestion, previous folks did that really well with cellulose. Nothing worry there, except may be I could top it off a bit. But that part looks good.

We also have energy efficient windows, again installed by previous folks.

Overall, looks like the old AC is the real energy hog.

Elysium
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Post by Elysium » Sun Oct 02, 2011 9:24 pm

magellan wrote:I think we've got enough information to at least take a rough crack at running some numbers for this project. Hopefully I won't bore everyone to death or scare everyone away. As always a caveat - this type of financial analysis is more about understanding the range of possibilities than about identifying the one right answer.

With that in mind, I created a spreadsheet that builds a standard capital budgeting analysis for this project. I put comments on most inputs and outputs to show what's going on. Hopefully I got the formulas right!

Image

The idea of this analysis is to consider all the cash flows, both positive and negative, and figure out if the project makes economic sense. To compare cash flows across different years, it's necessary to normalize them, or discount them to the present year. Discounting future cash flows accounts for the reality that a dollar promised 5 years from now isn't as good as a dollar paid today.

The discount rate used to normalize or discount the cash flows takes into account the likely inflation rate, as well as the general riskiness of the cash project's flows. Replacement projects are usually pretty low risk, compared to something like say building a new flat panel LCD factory. So you'd expect an analysis of a LCD panel factory to use a much higher discount rate, say 15-20%, compared to a replacement project that might use 4-6%.

Anyhow, the main output of the analysis is something called the Net Present Value or NPV. NPV tells whether or not, given all the cash flows and the discount rate chosen, the project makes economic sense. If the NPV is less than 0, the project doesn't make economic sense (based on the assumptions). If the NPV is 0 or greater, the project might make economic sense.

Here's a screenshot that shows a range of possible inputs and the resulting NPVs. Remember, negative NPV is bad.

Image

As you might expect, it all comes down to how much the project costs and how much savings it actually generates. We already knew that. But now we can see a range of possibilities and hard numbers to try to put it all into context and hopefully make a better decision.

Feel free to check my work and ask questions if there's something that doesn't make sense or doesn't look right.

Jim
Thanks for posting the spreasheet. What is a Boglehead discussion without some real numbers and financial cost benefit analysis. This is perfect. I do not understand all the calculation you have performed. I am vaguely familiar with NPV model, all I know is that it gives you a yes/ no type of decision making.

It looks like the lowest cost option with either cash or lowest interest rate financing, combined with higher utility bill savings, makes sense to go forward with. Others do not.

My financing rates are actually much lower than that. Credit cards that I am paying off are at zero percent interest, so I am not paying any finance charges on them, just need pay them off before the promotional period ends, which I will be able to. I do have back up options in balance transfer offers with 3% fees and again zero interest rates. So, I could charge to a low rate card, say 4.25% interest rate and then keep it there and pay off eventually, or transfer out immediately by paying 3% fees and then paying off within 10 month promo period.

This is all about managing cash flows and managing payments on multiple cards without costing heavy finance charges. I am able to do all that at this point, and in worst case scenario, I have back up plans to fall back on.

It appears to me that I can do this when I am in control of it vs. when it is broken. Besides the utility bills this summer were scary.
Last edited by Elysium on Sun Oct 02, 2011 9:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

kresso
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Post by kresso » Sun Oct 02, 2011 9:35 pm

Not certain if this is any help of all to you so if not sorry, but you can put in your own ac or heat pump yourself pretty easy. I am not endorsing this company but you can check out the site of Alpine Home Air . They have kits that you buy all the stuff, put everything were it need to go then hire a contractor for 100-200 bucks to braze the lines and do the coolant. Plus if you buy an ac unit from them they send you a video all about it. I did this this summer and it saved me about 60%. I bought my heat pump from another web site thought because it was cheaper, but I bought the other things from Alpine. Anyways if you are even semi handy it is pretty simple to do and saves a ton of money.

SamB
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Re: Replace my HVAC system or wait

Post by SamB » Sun Oct 02, 2011 10:20 pm

Dieharder wrote:
We keep normally at 74 degrees in summer. This summer was exceptionally hot.
74 degrees ??? Unbelievable-- Keep your old system and learn something about heat transfer. You could probably cut your cooling bill in half without changing your system. Hint: it is the temperature difference between the inside of your home and the outside that drives your heating and cooling bill.

If it is 105 degrees outside it might make sense to push the thermostat up to say 80 or maybe even 85. For heating you probably have a lower limit so let it go down to that limit in the winter.

It never ceases to amaze me how people seem to think setting your thermostat on one temperature and leaving it there is cost effective. It is not. All you need to know is that the rate of heat transfer is proportional to the temperature gradient and manage the thermostat accordingly.

Sam

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Watty
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Post by Watty » Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:00 pm

Ask your contractors about how much more efficient your new AC will be than your current AC. Last week I just had a furnace and AC installed and got a 15+ SEER A/C. The contractor estimated that my old 14 year old one was probably 10 SEER when it was brand new and with age it would have typically declined to be maybe 8 or 9 SEER. My understanding is that since the SEER rating is a measure of the energy used for a unit of cooling that going from 10 to 15 should reduce your energy usage by 33% since it will take a third less energy to provide the same amount of cooling. If yours is anywhere near the same being able to reduce the $1400 a month A/C could justify the new A/C even with a loan.

Some of the newer A/C's are also much better at controlling humidity since when the load is low they can run longer at a low speed which takes more humidity out of the air. With better humidity control the comfort level is better so you may not need to set the A/C as low which can save more energy.

In comparing bids be sure to look at the warranty and take that into account. I apparently have a much smaller house but I was able to get a full mid-range Trane system for under $6,000 with a 10 years parts and labor warranty. The labor warranty requires an annual service agreement which is something that I have always had done anyway. Some of the systems that I got bids on had warranties that were not nearly as good.

I am in Atlanta so our heating and cooling seasons would be a bit different but the companies that I was dealing with are not busy at all right now. The afternoon I gave the OK on the deal I selected they wanted to install it two business days later. I figure that it took at least one day to get all the components organized and on the truck so they have virtually no backlog. The people giving bids were available within 24 hours of me calling.

The guys installing it also seemed to be in no rush and took about 7 hours to install everything. They were not lollygagging but just taking the time to do everything right since they didn't have another appointment to get to later in the day. I would imagine that will change in a few weeks when the first cold snap hits and they start getting more furnace work.

I was able to get a two percent discount for paying by check so you might want to consider a home equity loan instead of the credit card if you decide to buy it now. Not only would you likely be able to get the 2% cash discount but you may be able to deduct the interest. I was able to also get another $200 off by just asking the company that I had selected if that was their best price and implying that I might be getting some more bids.

All the HVAC manufactures generally make at three levels of equipment, top of the line, middle, and lower end "builder grade". Unless there is some really compelling reason to go the the deluxe level of equipment like you have been getting bids for then the mid-level equipment should work just fine and be orders of magnitude better than what you have now. The companies that have already given you bids can likely just send you new midrange system bids and explain the tradeoffs.

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Watty
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Post by Watty » Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:05 pm

PS

My HVAC was working but being 14 year old but after requiring multiple repairs I agreed with the recomendations of the repair people that it was time to replace them.

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Re: Replace my HVAC system or wait

Post by Elysium » Mon Oct 03, 2011 7:44 am

SamB wrote:
Dieharder wrote:
We keep normally at 74 degrees in summer. This summer was exceptionally hot.
74 degrees ??? Unbelievable-- Keep your old system and learn something about heat transfer. You could probably cut your cooling bill in half without changing your system. Hint: it is the temperature difference between the inside of your home and the outside that drives your heating and cooling bill.

If it is 105 degrees outside it might make sense to push the thermostat up to say 80 or maybe even 85. For heating you probably have a lower limit so let it go down to that limit in the winter.

It never ceases to amaze me how people seem to think setting your thermostat on one temperature and leaving it there is cost effective. It is not. All you need to know is that the rate of heat transfer is proportional to the temperature gradient and manage the thermostat accordingly.

Sam
I understand this part. We cannot tolerate 85 degree inside the home. Setting it to 74 would bring it down to 78 if the outside temperature is 95 degrees, somewhat tolerable. We can handle cold weather, but not the heat.

I know people who do not even turn on their AC until it gets above 85 degrees outside. I am not really planning to follow that. All the money in the world is not useful if it isn't buying you some comfort.

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Post by Elysium » Mon Oct 03, 2011 8:02 am

Watty wrote:Ask your contractors about how much more efficient your new AC will be than your current AC. Last week I just had a furnace and AC installed and got a 15+ SEER A/C. The contractor estimated that my old 14 year old one was probably 10 SEER when it was brand new and with age it would have typically declined to be maybe 8 or 9 SEER. My understanding is that since the SEER rating is a measure of the energy used for a unit of cooling that going from 10 to 15 should reduce your energy usage by 33% since it will take a third less energy to provide the same amount of cooling. If yours is anywhere near the same being able to reduce the $1400 a month A/C could justify the new A/C even with a loan.

Some of the newer A/C's are also much better at controlling humidity since when the load is low they can run longer at a low speed which takes more humidity out of the air. With better humidity control the comfort level is better so you may not need to set the A/C as low which can save more energy.

In comparing bids be sure to look at the warranty and take that into account. I apparently have a much smaller house but I was able to get a full mid-range Trane system for under $6,000 with a 10 years parts and labor warranty. The labor warranty requires an annual service agreement which is something that I have always had done anyway. Some of the systems that I got bids on had warranties that were not nearly as good.

I am in Atlanta so our heating and cooling seasons would be a bit different but the companies that I was dealing with are not busy at all right now. The afternoon I gave the OK on the deal I selected they wanted to install it two business days later. I figure that it took at least one day to get all the components organized and on the truck so they have virtually no backlog. The people giving bids were available within 24 hours of me calling.

The guys installing it also seemed to be in no rush and took about 7 hours to install everything. They were not lollygagging but just taking the time to do everything right since they didn't have another appointment to get to later in the day. I would imagine that will change in a few weeks when the first cold snap hits and they start getting more furnace work.

I was able to get a two percent discount for paying by check so you might want to consider a home equity loan instead of the credit card if you decide to buy it now. Not only would you likely be able to get the 2% cash discount but you may be able to deduct the interest. I was able to also get another $200 off by just asking the company that I had selected if that was their best price and implying that I might be getting some more bids.

All the HVAC manufactures generally make at three levels of equipment, top of the line, middle, and lower end "builder grade". Unless there is some really compelling reason to go the the deluxe level of equipment like you have been getting bids for then the mid-level equipment should work just fine and be orders of magnitude better than what you have now. The companies that have already given you bids can likely just send you new midrange system bids and explain the tradeoffs.
This is very useful information. Thanks. My contractors talked about the SEER rating dropping over time. Original AC unit might have been a 10, and it is is likely that in 25 years it has dropped down to an 8 or even lower efficiency level. One contractor said, a 15 SEER does not mean you would get 15, but it really is an up to 15 SEER rating, meaning depending on your home configuration and the outside temp the actual efficiency you are getting will vary, but it has ability to get a maximum of 15 SEER. I think the efficiency is still proportional compared to the old unit. Therefore it should still increase by at least 30% if I go with a 16 SEER or 17 SEER that they have recommended.

It might be a regional thing, but most contractors around my area do not appear to be clamoring for business by competing on price. They have a set pricing on these things, and may be willing to go a couple of hundred dollars on signing, but beyond that one guy who services a lot of equipment in my street told me they don't do different rates for off season vs. peak season. One reason is that they don't want people living on same street paying different prices. His pricing had a lot of fat though, so I am not considering him at this time.

The lowest cost bid came from a guy who had performed work for others that I know of. He provides 2 year labor warranty and reputed to be very prompt in turning up for service calls and taking care of any issues.

All units come with 10 year warranty for major parts.

I considered going down to mid range equipment or lower. One downside is that you do not get 2 stage variable speed with that, the mid range and lower range is single stage AC / furnace, which means lower efficiency.

I have one more contractor coming this week and giving estimate on a Bryant system. After that I will have enough proposals to make a decision.

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Post by Fletch » Mon Oct 03, 2011 8:05 am

One other thought:

Based on my experience (7 years since replacement) with the "new" high efficiency AC/Furnaces, you can expect much more maintenance $$ after the warranty expires with the new stuff vs. the older "non-electronic" models. My 7 year old system (Carrier top of the line high efficiency in 2004) has had over $1000 of warranty repairs so far, not counting the approximate $200/year for two/year preventative maintenance service charges to make sure the warranty stays in effect.

Just something else to consider.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.

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Post by tomd37 » Mon Oct 03, 2011 8:48 am

Dieharder,

Greetings from middle Tennessee where we just had the hottest summer in many years. That said and not knowing where you live, I have to agree with you that sometimes higher thermostat temperature settings just don't make the house comfortable.

We have been proactive rather than reactive when it came to replacing the HVAC units for our two-story home. The first was seven years ago when we replaced our Carrier natural gas-pack unit for the first floor that provides for our heating and cooling needs. We replaced it with a Carrier unit that used R-410A as the refrigerant instead of R-22. The second was two years ago when we replaced our Carrier split system in the attic that serves the second floor for our heating and cooling needs. We replaced it with an Amana unit (manufactured by Goodman Industries) with a 19 SEER cooling rating and a 80 AFUE heating rating. It too has the R-410A refrigerant. Our two-story home is open on one half to a height of 18 feet so the cooling aspect of the second floor unit was of critical importance to us. The second floor unit has a two-stage air handler with the heating and a/c coils in the attic while the two-stage scroll compressor with dual speeds sits outside next to the gas pack unit. The warranty on the Amana unit is much better than the warranty on the Goodman Industries unit and other units I researched.

I must admit that the new refrigerant (R-410A) in both units has made a noticeable change in our thermostat setting and the cooling aspects. We have not had to set the thermostats below 78 degrees with the newer units. I have kept a log of our utility costs for the past 16 years at this home and noticed an immediate change in heating and cooling costs after both units were replaced

Don't forget about the federal tax energy credit available up to $500 if you have a federal tax liability. There also may be a local energy credit available to you. Check with your local energy supplier.
Tom D.

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Post by magellan » Mon Oct 03, 2011 8:54 am

Fletch wrote:not counting the approximate $200/year for two/year preventative maintenance service charges to make sure the warranty stays in effect.
What do folks think about the need for professional annual service on central AC? I change the air filter and check the condensate drain in the attic annually. Also, I close and re-open all of the registers in the fall and spring. That's about it. After 8 years of trouble free operation, I had an annual service done a couple of years ago and the HVAC guy said everything looked great. He didn't seem to notice that it had been neglected for 8 years.

I understand the need for regular oil-burner service, since the filters, nozzle and combustion chamber need regular cleaning and the combustion stuff seems like something to leave to a pro. But with central air, as long as it's putting out appropriately cold air, what actually needs to be done for routine maintenance that a homeowner can't do?

Jim

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Post by Valuethinker » Mon Oct 03, 2011 11:09 am

Dieharder wrote:
Watty wrote:Ask your contractors about how much more efficient your new AC will be than your current AC. Last week I just had a furnace and AC installed and got a 15+ SEER A/C. The contractor estimated that my old 14 year old one was probably 10 SEER when it was brand new and with age it would have typically declined to be maybe 8 or 9 SEER. My understanding is that since the SEER rating is a measure of the energy used for a unit of cooling that going from 10 to 15 should reduce your energy usage by 33% since it will take a third less energy to provide the same amount of cooling. If yours is anywhere near the same being able to reduce the $1400 a month A/C could justify the new A/C even with a loan.

.
This is very useful information. Thanks. My contractors talked about the SEER rating dropping over time. Original AC unit might have been a 10, and it is is likely that in 25 years it has dropped down to an 8 or even lower efficiency level. One contractor said, a 15 SEER does not mean you would get 15, but it really is an up to 15 SEER rating, meaning depending on your home configuration and the outside temp the actual efficiency you are getting will vary, but it has ability to get a maximum of 15 SEER. I think the efficiency is still proportional compared to the old unit. Therefore it should still increase by at least 30% if I go with a 16 SEER or 17 SEER that they have recommended.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_e ... ency_ratio

gives you a formula for estimating energy savings.
Substantial energy savings can be obtained from more efficient systems. For example by upgrading from SEER 9 to SEER 13, the power consumption is reduced by 30% (equal to 1 − 9/13). It is claimed that this can result in an energy savings valued at up to US$300 per year depending on the usage rate and the cost of electricity.

With existing units that are still functional and well-maintained, when the time value of money is considered, retaining existing units rather than proactively replacing them may be the most cost effective. However, the efficiency of air conditioners can degrade significantly over time.[3] Therefore, maintenance (such as cleaning the coils) should be performed regularly to keep their efficiencies as high as possible.

It's interesting re falling SEER:

- that might be the freon leaking out, presumably that can be replace?

- it might be increased dust in the ducts, that too can be fixed with a cleanout

- if it is general mechanical wear and tear (eg more leaks from worn compnonents) one would have thought a full servicing could restore that?

Some other comments from this discussion:

- if you have to do this on credit cards, it's probably not worth doing. It would be better to sell some iBonds than carry credit card debt. Should you become unemployed, you can always run up your cards again (in effect, borrowing to pay interest)

- if payback is less than your expected holding period for the house, it is definitely worth doing

- if not, it's harder. You will get some money from the buyer (or rather no money knocked off) for an up to date AC, but probably not everything you spend

- others have recommended 2 speed ACs because they give you more comfort

Beware of oversizing. The typical problem then is the house gets cold enough, but it doesn't pull out the humidity (which is what makes you feel hot).

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fus ... gw_code=CA

the savings calculator on the right hand side might prove useful?

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Post by Elysium » Mon Oct 03, 2011 1:03 pm

Valuethinker wrote: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_e ... ency_ratio

gives you a formula for estimating energy savings.

It's interesting re falling SEER:

- that might be the freon leaking out, presumably that can be replace?

- it might be increased dust in the ducts, that too can be fixed with a cleanout

- if it is general mechanical wear and tear (eg more leaks from worn compnonents) one would have thought a full servicing could restore that?
At this point, looking at various calculators and reading materials, I estimate around 50% reduction in utility bills for cooling. AC is the main culprit, its 25 years old and reached its end of life. Furnace is only 14 years old, and should have another 8 to 10 years of life. Furnance is also 92% AFUE rated, going from that to 95% rated newer furnace isn't likely to make substantial reduction in heating cost, if at all anything.

Spending money on fixing AC to improve efficiency is not worth it. Freon is not used anymore on newer units, they come with Puron. Last year a tech looked at AC and said the coils look good. One thing with an AC produced in 1986 is that they used to make better quality those days, one reason the system has lasted so long and still running trouble free.

That said, I am convinced that AC needs to go eventually, but to do that without furnace do not make sense, unless it dies and I replace it with a cheaper option. This is not out of question though.
Some other comments from this discussion:

- if you have to do this on credit cards, it's probably not worth doing. It would be better to sell some iBonds than carry credit card debt. Should you become unemployed, you can always run up your cards again (in effect, borrowing to pay interest)
Yeah, I surely get it. But selling IBonds is out of question, someone has to pry it out of my dead cold hands, they don't issue risk free 3% real rate bonds anymore, do they? This is also kept for my son's college tuition when I can redeem tax free. If I become unemployed, I expect to get a severence for few months and find work in that period. Spouse can take care of half of the bills. If not then I have credit card balances open, HELOC open, as well as fairly large stash of fixed income portion on 401(k) that I can tap into (with penalty of course). These are all extreme measures that I hope are never needed.
- if payback is less than your expected holding period for the house, it is definitely worth doing

- if not, it's harder. You will get some money from the buyer (or rather no money knocked off) for an up to date AC, but probably not everything you spend

- others have recommended 2 speed ACs because they give you more comfort
We expect to stay here for a good while, no intention to sell anytime, this is a great neighbourhood to bring up children, we have great schools and very good community activities.

At this point, we are heading into cooler climates, therefore AC is no longer needed. I don't expect to see it running again until next Spring. We have a good six months period where the furnace is used mostly, and the cost saving on heating isn't that great to consider upgrade. I am thinking of postponing the purchase into next year.

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Post by englishgirl » Mon Oct 03, 2011 1:28 pm

I replaced my HVAC unit last year, and was surprised when the bills didn't come down all that much. So I finally called out the utility company to check the insulation and the duct work. And I found out that the duct work was leaking so much that I was basically air conditioning the attic/sky, and that one part of my home had no insulation in it at all.

The energy efficiency check cost me $30. Best $30 I have spent in a while! The guy also gave me pointers on other money savers (running the pool pump only 6 hours in summer and 4 hours in winter being one of them). He called 5 different companies for estimates for fixing the duct work, and 5 for fixing the insulation, right there and then. And gave me rebate certificates for both the insulation and ductwork - the insulation one was so much that with his calling around I was able to get my attic insulation totally brought up to code for nothing. Yup, $0. Now, the ductwork cost $1200, but that's still cheaper than a new HVAC system.

I wish I'd done the energy efficiency check first before getting the new HVAC system.

So, having done it, I'd recommend getting the utility company in first to check your energy usage. There might be several low or no cost things that you can do now that will reduce your bills while you save up for your new HVAC system and pay your cc off. And they'll help your new system run better/cheaper once you do install it.
Sarah

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Post by Valuethinker » Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:20 am

Dieharder wrote:
Valuethinker wrote: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_e ... ency_ratio

gives you a formula for estimating energy savings.

It's interesting re falling SEER:

- that might be the freon leaking out, presumably that can be replace?

- it might be increased dust in the ducts, that too can be fixed with a cleanout

- if it is general mechanical wear and tear (eg more leaks from worn compnonents) one would have thought a full servicing could restore that?
At this point, looking at various calculators and reading materials, I estimate around 50% reduction in utility bills for cooling. AC is the main culprit, its 25 years old and reached its end of life. Furnace is only 14 years old, and should have another 8 to 10 years of life. Furnance is also 92% AFUE rated, going from that to 95% rated newer furnace isn't likely to make substantial reduction in heating cost, if at all anything.
No point on the furnace. They don't run rated efficiency anyways in all circumstances. To get a leap from there, you'd need a heat pump.
Spending money on fixing AC to improve efficiency is not worth it. Freon is not used anymore on newer units, they come with Puron. Last year a tech looked at AC and said the coils look good. One thing with an AC produced in 1986 is that they used to make better quality those days, one reason the system has lasted so long and still running trouble free.
Still interested as to why they decline in efficiency?
That said, I am convinced that AC needs to go eventually, but to do that without furnace do not make sense, unless it dies and I replace it with a cheaper option. This is not out of question though.
I don't know enough about US systems because to me keeping a furnace and replacing AC seems quite logical (separate boxes).

Your real risk is your AC system dies inconveniently.
Some other comments from this discussion:

- if you have to do this on credit cards, it's probably not worth doing. It would be better to sell some iBonds than carry credit card debt. Should you become unemployed, you can always run up your cards again (in effect, borrowing to pay interest)
Yeah, I surely get it. But selling IBonds is out of question, someone has to pry it out of my dead cold hands, they don't issue risk free 3% real rate bonds anymore, do they? This is also kept for my son's college tuition when I can redeem tax free. If I become unemployed, I expect to get a severence for few months and find work in that period. Spouse can take care of half of the bills. If not then I have credit card balances open, HELOC open, as well as fairly large stash of fixed income portion on 401(k) that I can tap into (with penalty of course). These are all extreme measures that I hope are never needed.
This is complex. I take your reticence, but you are effectively borrowing on a credit card at c. 18% pa? 3% real is never going to compensate you for *that*.
- if payback is less than your expected holding period for the house, it is definitely worth doing

- if not, it's harder. You will get some money from the buyer (or rather no money knocked off) for an up to date AC, but probably not everything you spend

- others have recommended 2 speed ACs because they give you more comfort
We expect to stay here for a good while, no intention to sell anytime, this is a great neighbourhood to bring up children, we have great schools and very good community activities.

At this point, we are heading into cooler climates, therefore AC is no longer needed. I don't expect to see it running again until next Spring. We have a good six months period where the furnace is used mostly, and the cost saving on heating isn't that great to consider upgrade. I am thinking of postponing the purchase into next year.
It sounds like, given your CC situation, that is absolutely the right thing.

When you do replace, I would *reach* for the higher efficiency ie SEER 15,16, 17. In the long run, it will I believe pay off (energy prices go higher).

The right discount rate for cost savings is essentially the risk free rate (ie Treasury Bonds) and after tax, too, because the cash savings are after tax.

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Post by Elysium » Tue Oct 04, 2011 12:01 pm

Valuethinker,

My CC rates for remaining balances are all at 0% interest rate. Only catch is that they are all ending promo periods at different dates next year, I need to pay them off before then, if I don't then the rates will be exhorbitant. But, I will pay them off before promo period ends. Keeping this balance and working on paying them off comes at zero cost to me therefore. If I buy an HVAC system on CC though, I have to pay 4.25% p.a interest rate at this time. There is no point in selling IBonds since the rates are zero. Just need pay them off.

Regarding changing AC only vs. changing both, I too am not 100% certain why most contractors recommend it that way. One thing I have heard from all of them is that an older furnace combined with a newer high efficiency AC unit will not bring out the complete efficiency. I am considering replacing only the AC next spring with a mid-range or builder grade unit, instead of the higher end unit. I am checking around on HVAC forums for opinions on this.

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Post by Elysium » Tue Oct 04, 2011 5:34 pm

There is a good reason not to change AC alone. For starters, coil on top of the furnace box need to be replaced, without which the new AC unit will not be compatible with Furnace. When you do that the expenses are almost up there. I am getting an Energy audit in my home next week and after that getting a proper assessment of what needs to be done.

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Post by Kenkat » Tue Oct 04, 2011 6:34 pm

We just went through this same decision. Ours was prompted by the A/C condenser fan (the thing outside) breaking after 13 years of service. The repair estimate for the fan plus two capacitors was around $1500. The A/C and furnace were installed in 1998 as part of new construction and was a Trane system - 10 Seer A/C and 90% HE furnace.

We went back and forth on whether to replace just the A/C unit or do both at the same time. We ultimately decided to do both. Some of the key deciders:

1. Without replacing the current forced air fan system with a two-stage variable fan, we wouldn't get the full benefit of a high-efficiency A/C unit so no real point in putting in anything greater than 13 Seer
2. Useful life of the furnace is probably around 20 years but it could break tomorrow or it could go 25+ years
3. Estimated energy savings per year of a full system was probably conservatively around $500
4. Tax credits and rebates were only available on the full system
5. It is an in between time for HVAC companies I think so pricing was below what I was expecting
6. New system has a 10 year parts and labor warranty

We ended up with a Bryant 16 Seer A/C, 93% Gas Furnace and variable speed fan system. After $350 federal tax rebate and $400 Duke Energy rebate, net cost was $7250 vs. $3850 for 13 Seer A/C alone.

Installed on Monday - installation workmanship was really good - so far so good although weather has been perfect so we've just been running the fan to circulate air.

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Post by Watty » Tue Oct 04, 2011 9:12 pm

I considered going down to mid range equipment or lower. One downside is that you do not get 2 stage variable speed with that, the mid range and lower range is single stage AC / furnace, which means lower efficiency.

I didn't research the two stage A/C very much since my house didn't really need one but I recall seeing several comments about them being much more complex and having a lot more moving parts which could cause higher maintenance costs and a shorter life span. That would be worth researching more.

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Post by Elysium » Tue Oct 04, 2011 10:08 pm

kenschmidt wrote:We just went through this same decision. Ours was prompted by the A/C condenser fan (the thing outside) breaking after 13 years of service. The repair estimate for the fan plus two capacitors was around $1500. The A/C and furnace were installed in 1998 as part of new construction and was a Trane system - 10 Seer A/C and 90% HE furnace.

We went back and forth on whether to replace just the A/C unit or do both at the same time. We ultimately decided to do both. Some of the key deciders:

1. Without replacing the current forced air fan system with a two-stage variable fan, we wouldn't get the full benefit of a high-efficiency A/C unit so no real point in putting in anything greater than 13 Seer
2. Useful life of the furnace is probably around 20 years but it could break tomorrow or it could go 25+ years
3. Estimated energy savings per year of a full system was probably conservatively around $500
4. Tax credits and rebates were only available on the full system
5. It is an in between time for HVAC companies I think so pricing was below what I was expecting
6. New system has a 10 year parts and labor warranty

We ended up with a Bryant 16 Seer A/C, 93% Gas Furnace and variable speed fan system. After $350 federal tax rebate and $400 Duke Energy rebate, net cost was $7250 vs. $3850 for 13 Seer A/C alone.

Installed on Monday - installation workmanship was really good - so far so good although weather has been perfect so we've just been running the fan to circulate air.
Ken, thanks for posting your experience. That just sounds exactly like the kind of issues I am considering.

Is your Bryant system one of Evolution series or Performance series?

I had a contractor in today who I liked the best so far, he sounded very knowledgeable, they are going to perform load calculation and a full audit, after which they can give me a better proposal than one that is just pulled out randomly.

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Post by Kenkat » Wed Oct 05, 2011 7:59 am

It was the Evolution Series

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Post by HardKnocker » Wed Oct 05, 2011 11:53 am

Run your existing system till it fails.

Then replace it.

Set your thermostat to 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter.
“Gold gets dug out of the ground, then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility.”--Warren Buffett

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Re: Replace my HVAC system or wait

Post by tibbitts » Wed Oct 05, 2011 8:13 pm

SamB wrote:
Dieharder wrote:
We keep normally at 74 degrees in summer. This summer was exceptionally hot.
74 degrees ??? Unbelievable-- Keep your old system and learn something about heat transfer. You could probably cut your cooling bill in half without changing your system. Hint: it is the temperature difference between the inside of your home and the outside that drives your heating and cooling bill.

If it is 105 degrees outside it might make sense to push the thermostat up to say 80 or maybe even 85. For heating you probably have a lower limit so let it go down to that limit in the winter.

It never ceases to amaze me how people seem to think setting your thermostat on one temperature and leaving it there is cost effective. It is not. All you need to know is that the rate of heat transfer is proportional to the temperature gradient and manage the thermostat accordingly.

Sam
If that's unbelievable, try 71. The best our system can do is maintain that up to the low 100F range. It can still maintain about 74 at 110F. The thermostat is in the middle of the house, so the living room, and most other areas are somewhat warmer, to varying degrees.

What you don't seem to understand is that the setting on the thermostat has nothing to do with the outside temperature, or "temperature gradients", or anything else. It only has to do with what temperature your spouse demands it be set at. No need for fancy calculations.

Paul

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Post by Elysium » Wed Oct 12, 2011 3:39 pm

I had the energy audit done today, have some interesting results to share.

They brought in equipment to depressurize the home, then look at air flow through window trims, registers, recess lighting, air returns, so on .. had a laser meter that gauges the air flow. Supposed to be zero for air registers, recess lighting, so on .. but there were several areas with numbers ranging from 8 to 30. The big culprit being recess lighting we installed last year in a bedroom. The main reason for that being directly below the attic. Of course it doesn't look like having any gaps from naked eye.

They also found air coming in through walls above garage and into basement from garage wall joint.

Recommendations:
- Air seal the gaps
- Duct work requires sealing
- Attic insulation

Finally they also gave cost of HVAC, which incidentally came out very reasonable, in the $7,000 range for a 95% AFUE Bryant Evolution Furnace with Bryant Performance 16 SEER AC, Coil, Media Filter, so on ..

That is before $500 federal tax credit, and $500 VA state tax credit. When I include that, the total cost of HVAC should drop to $6000. Not bad I guess.

The real problem is with their estimate in sealing and insulation. May be this is not their field, that could be one reason.

For duct work, they use a technology called Aeroseal, their web site talks about patented technology. It will do sealing of leaks in duct work remotely by pushing some sort of material into the duct work, it will find the leaks and seal them. I have to do bit more research on how this actually works. Cost $1800.

Air sealing of gaps, above garage walls and along the entire front wall on first level. Cost $750.

Now comes the most outrageous one of them all. Attic insulation, $7 per sq ft, for approx 1000 sq ft. Cost $6000.

Obviously, I don't believe it costs $6000 to insulate the attic, so I am reserching this and calling other contractors.

I find this unusual since his HVAC costs are extremely reasonable, and he is costing almost same amout of money for insulating an attic. Perhaps, it isn't their core competency.

That is where it is. I haven't decided anything. HVAC sounds reasonable, especially given $1,000 combined tax rebate for doing it this year.

Have to find more on other services.

tomd37
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Post by tomd37 » Wed Oct 12, 2011 4:02 pm

Thanks for the interesting update. Keep us posted if you will. Good thread to follow.
Tom D.

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HardKnocker
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Post by HardKnocker » Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:16 pm

They air-seal your leaks with expanding foam, just like like "Great Stuff". I had it done a few years ago. Any idiot could do it to be honest.

Image

The price for insulating your attic sounds ridiculously high.

Those air-flow tests they do are a joke. What a con-job.
“Gold gets dug out of the ground, then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility.”--Warren Buffett

Elysium
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Post by Elysium » Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:26 pm

HardKnocker wrote:They air-seal your leaks with expanding foam, just like like "Great Stuff". I had it done a few years ago. Any idiot could do it to be honest.

Image

The price for insulating your attic sounds ridiculously high.

Those air-flow tests they do are a joke. What a con-job.
I figured that out the minute he said they will be applying foam. I have a can of great stuff sitting in my basement, left over from some sealing work I did in the past. I honestly don't think I need it, my basement and garage are not any different from any other.

I am not at all convinced about this Aeroseal thing that will magically seal all holes in the duct work and improve air leaks. Sounds like a big con job. Interestingly Dept of Energy has subsidized this company. There is plenty of money to go around on Energy improvement in the federal budget, with no real numbers attached to return on investment. I have not found any real numbers on measurable results.

Attic insulation is a con job for sure, no way I am going to invite him over and fork over $6000.

I wonder if there are really people who fall for these things.

At this point, I will most likely insulate my attic, it will be either a combination of DIY, plus help of someone to bring the machines and blow cellulite into R-49 depth. I don't think the cost will be anywhere close to even $2000 for this.

I am also very unhappy with the guy proposing a 1 speed AC to go with a 95% two stage furnace. Shows a lack of understanding on his part. If I have a 95% AFUE two-stage furnace then I would most certainly need a 2 speed AC to get the maximum benefit. It appears he was trying to keep the costs low on HVAC system, so that he can also sell me those other services.

I tried calling him at 4 PM today to ask about how he come up with sizing on the HVAC, but the lady who picks up the phone said owner is already gone for the weekend and I cannot get an answer until Monday. I don't want to think too far to get an idea what kind of support I will get from them if I do the work with them.

There are too many cons around and very few people who want to do real hard work.

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Epsilon Delta
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Post by Epsilon Delta » Fri Oct 14, 2011 10:20 pm

HardKnocker wrote:They air-seal your leaks with expanding foam, just like like "Great Stuff". I had it done a few years ago. Any idiot could do it to be honest.
It may not be rocket science but there is some skill involved. They are supposed to find and seal leaks, not spray it around like silly string at a frat party.

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HardKnocker
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Post by HardKnocker » Sat Oct 15, 2011 7:58 am

Epsilon Delta wrote:
HardKnocker wrote:They air-seal your leaks with expanding foam, just like like "Great Stuff". I had it done a few years ago. Any idiot could do it to be honest.
It may not be rocket science but there is some skill involved. They are supposed to find and seal leaks, not spray it around like silly string at a frat party.
There are a couple ways they seal.

For ductwork they can apply a tape product and then cover it with a paste-like application which then hardens to seal ductwork joints. This is supposed to stop air pressure loss from your ductwork.

For general sealing they apply the foam to all gaps and around the sill plate of your foundation, pipe access holes in the basement, in the attic to wall joints. They pretty much seal everything as opposed to location specific leaks. Which is ok.

For insulation in the attic they run a large diameter hose to the attic and blow insulation up there. Very messy. Hopefully they won't put a foot through your ceiling like they did in mine!
“Gold gets dug out of the ground, then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility.”--Warren Buffett

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wander
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Post by wander » Sat Oct 15, 2011 8:25 am

HardKnocker wrote:Run your existing system till it fails.

Then replace it.

Set your thermostat to 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter.
+1

And we installed programmable thermostat. It turns A/C off when we are not at home and turns it back on before we get home. Set it and forget. There is no point to let the A/C run during the day when nobody is home. Since it's automatic, we do not pay attention about the weather outside to decide on switching ON/OFF.

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