School me on heat pumps
#11
  
Hey all,

I had an HVAC guy look at my furnace/heat pump today. No pressure from him, but he suggested that I might want to start considering a new unit since the current one is showing its age. So I'm looking for advice/opinions/etc.

We live just outside Washington, DC. Nice and humid in the summer. Hardiness zone 7a, if that helps. We usually keep the house at 80 in the summer and 65 in the winter.

Current system is 19 years old and made by Trane. Heat pump is 11 SEER, 3 ton. Air handler is 3.5 ton. We already use a Nest thermostat and plan to continue doing so.

I asked the HVAC guy about opinions/recommendations. He suggested either Trane or Goodman. He thought Goodman had gotten significantly better in recent years and was what he planned to install in his house in the near future. He quoted a 16 SEER Goodman (single stage) heat pump and air handler at $6500 installed (this is the expensive area around Washington DC). 16 SEER two-stage was $800 more and the 18 SEER was $1300 more (not clear if that was more than the single or two stage 16 SEER).

From some research, it seems like the two-stage is a nice addition. An online calculator suggested that going up to the 18 SEER might not be worth it based on initial cost vs. energy savings, assuming a 15 year lifetime.

So any thoughts? Especially about SEER ratings, single/double/variable speeds, etc.? Suggested or hated brands?

And yes, I plan to get other quotes, but want to be armed with more information.

Thanks!
Tyler
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#12
  Re: School me on heat pumps by OneStaple (Hey all, I had an...)
I don't know how "recently" he's talking about, but the Goodman AC/Heat unit I have is crap. Previous owner put it in. It's required two expensive repairs in the last 5 years, and it's barely 10 years old. Consumer Reports confirms that my experience is not an isolated event. Goodman is one of the most frequently repaired brands out there. Trane is rated significantly higher.
Steve S.
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#13
  Re: School me on heat pumps by OneStaple (Hey all, I had an...)
From My Prospective as a home inspector, I'm not a HVAC Tech.

Goodman is a cheap-cheap unit. It's "almost" always what I see when I inspect flips and high volume builds like Ryan Homes and NV Ryan homes. I see very few old Goodmans in good condition.  Conversely, I see a lot of old Lennox units in very good condition but you'll pay for them. No different than any other quality product. Lennox and Goodman, while not at all the same unit are both made by the same company. Goodman is their low end product while Lennox is their high end product line. I see a lot of corrosion issues on not too old Goodman condensers. Goodman just changed their name on the indoor air handler units to American Alumacoil... not sure why. Possibly because Goodman was the first to use aluminum coils?

All manufacturers are now required to carry a 10 year parts warranty.

I would say the Carrier and Trane are middle of the road. They are both big in your area and many HVAC/Service companies front those products so they have a strong parts/service presence in this area. It's nice to have something installed by a company tied to that product. It makes things a little easier when trying to track down somebody to actually do warranty work if needed. Remember the installer doesn't carry the warranty, the manufacturer does. But the manufacturer will press the installer to handle the warranty if they're driving around with the manufacturer's name on their truck.

It also helps to purchase when "you" want to, not when it fails. They usually fail during peak hot and cold seasons.HVAC companies get real busy when we hit our first heat-wave or cold spell and they'll charge a premium because they're busy and they can.

I can recommend a company who might service your area but I can tell you, if they come in low bid it was a mistake. They aren't cheap. Service is very good and their installation are very well done... again, they aren't cheap. Very well trained installers. James Wheat and Sons. They front Carrier products. I've used them twice for new installs knowing I could have saved by going elsewhere. But, never had a single issue with them and feel good about recommending them. I don't have time for problems associated with low bid companies. Although not cheap, they seemed to be in line with other pricing I got from the larger, more established companies. About a grand higher than my lowest bids. They also weren't the highest. They installed Carrier in both homes. The first one is now 17 years old and still kicking.

But.... I always recommend woodnetters bounce HVAC questions off of Blackhat, Our own WN expert.
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#14
  Re: School me on heat pumps by OneStaple (Hey all, I had an...)
My last 2 houses had Carrier (ground source) heat pumps. The first was bought about 7 years ago, then we moved and I had a similar system installed in this house. I've been happy with Carrier (the current system has a 10 year parts and labor warranty). but it was the contractor I chose...he just happened to install Carrier. After dealing with estimates from guys who told me what they wanted instead of understanding what  wanted the contractor I used really listened to me and discussed the options available. They also have very good service, a problem I ran into with a Trane unit I had put in some 2 houses back. No problems with the Trane either, just the dipwad company that installed it. So my advice is to choose the  contractor and go with what he offers as long as a more reputable name than Goodman.
I started with absolutely nothing. Now, thanks to years of hard work, careful planning, and perseverance, I find I still have most of it left.
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#15
  Re: School me on heat pumps by OneStaple (Hey all, I had an...)
We bought our home in 2014.  Built in 2004, with a Trane heat pump over an electric auxiliary furnace.  We live in hardiness zone 5a.  Winters can get cold, but not like North Dakota or Minnesota.  It was -20F here on New Year's morning.

Hated the Trane unit.  Unreliable in any mode.  In the 3 1/2 years between our move in and the replacement, I had 8 service calls on the unit, 7 of them unplanned.  A/C went out in summer when it dumped all the refrigerant out into the wild blue yonder; that was a $1200 bill including $750 for refrigerant replacement.  Heat went out in the winter on a number of occasions.  It was LOUD, even when running correctly.  Power hog; there's no way I could run any portion of it in winter on my smallish backup generator.  The ratings on that unit indicate no aspect of it could be pushed with a 22KW backup generator that I plan to transition to soon (it required 28 KW).

I actually had the HVAC guy out to look at my gas fireplaces on a Tuesday.  He and I talked about the heat pump during that visit.  He told me that 14 years was about the life expectancy on the heat pump in our area.  The Trane dumped two days later on Thursday when the compressor froze.

We replaced our Trane unit with a Lennox heat pump (14 SEER) over a propane auxiliary furnace.  I'll agree on the pricey aspect of Lennox.  $9400 installed, for all-new HVAC mechanicals.  The only thing that isn't new is the HVAC ducting.  Very clean job.

The new propane aux unit can be pushed by my current generator, and that's why I opted to switch over to propane for the auxiliary heat.

The new unit is quiet (to be fair, I did have the HVAC guys move the new outside unit off the old pedestal that was attached to the foundation.)  It has a two-speed fan that is one of those quiet-start models.  I like it -- a lot.

The HVAC guy quoted me an 18 SEER unit that was $3500 higher, IIRC.  I used an on line calculator to see if I could justify that added cost; couldn't amortize it over a 15-year period.  When I talked to the HVAC guy, I told him I had used an online calculator to look at amortization of the higher-cost unit; his immediate response was, "You couldn't do it, could you?"  He did say that in our area, the power savings generally won't justify the added purchase cost, and so he opted for a 14 SEER unit recently in his own home.  This is very dependent on local conditions, so I recommend you look into that.

Good luck.
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#16
  Re: School me on heat pumps by OneStaple (Hey all, I had an...)
Thanks for the thoughts, all. Definitely lots to learn!

Regarding Goodman, the way the HVAC guy described it to me is that they've gotten substantially better in the past few years. He said something along the lines of "I never thought I'd actually recommend Goodman." He really liked their warranty (10 years parts and labor). He also wasn't pushing for a sale or anything. It was all me asking questions and trying to get his opinions. Granted, maybe that just means he's an excellent salesman. Make me do all the work. Haha. I've seen a few comments online that perhaps suggest that Goodman has gotten better. Of course, most people base their experience on whether it lasts 10 years or 15, so perhaps they haven't had time for that.

That being said, I am in no way set on going with Goodman. I want to find the best heat pump system for me, which is why I'm looking for opinions and appreciate the ones already given. And the (multiple) negative comments about Goodman certainly would make me hesitate on going with them. It seems that even if they have improved, they're still a mid-level brand at best.

Snipe Hunter Wrote:It also helps to purchase when "you" want to, not when it fails. They usually fail during peak hot and cold seasons.HVAC companies get real busy when we hit our first heat-wave or cold spell and they'll charge a premium because they're busy and they can.
Agreed. The HVAC guy's comments suggested that I should be looking to replace the unit within the next year or so. Of course, he can only guess based on experience. But I'm currently debating whether to do it right now and take advantage of pre-summer rates or wait until next Fall.

Snipe Hunter Wrote:Very well trained installers. James Wheat and Sons
Unfortunately, I think they're going to be too far away. They're in Gaithersburg, MD and I'm down in Springfield, VA. Probably an hour without the notorious DC traffic. I've researched a bunch of local companies though and have three that are highly rated across multiple platforms (google, yelp, etc.) that I'll probably ask for quotes from. The guy that already came out was from one of the three companies.

WxMan Wrote:The HVAC guy quoted me an 18 SEER unit that was $3500 higher, IIRC. I used an on line calculator to see if I could justify that added cost; couldn't amortize it over a 15-year period. When I talked to the HVAC guy, I told him I had used an online calculator to look at amortization of the higher-cost unit; his immediate response was, "You couldn't do it, could you?" He did say that in our area, the power savings generally won't justify the added purchase cost, and so he opted for a 14 SEER unit recently in his own home. This is very dependent on local conditions, so I recommend you look into that.
I had run some online calculators between 16 and 18 SEER and I really wasn't seeing the benefit of 18. Over 15 years, the 18 SEER would end up costing something like $500 more (if you include the initial install price difference of $1300 for the Goodman). And we keep our house at 80 in summer and 65 in winter, which is higher/lower than most of the calculators assume, so I would see even less benefit than suggested. Perhaps I should even consider a 14 SEER unit? Of course, it was my impression that the 14 SEER units often don't come with things like two-stage compressors (brand dependent, of course).

I don't know if it makes a difference, but our backup heat is electric. No gas available.

Also, if I end up going with a two-stage compressor, I'm thinking that I might need to really look into a whole-house humidifier. It gets really humid here in the summer, and one of the advantages that I understand of the two-stage system is that it's more efficient at pulling humidity out of the air, so I'm looking forward to that. But in the winter, our current system makes it quite dry in the house, to the point that we were already considering a whole-house humidifier (or at least more stand-alone ones). So, a newer two-stage system would probably make it worse.

Thanks!
Tyler
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#17
  Re: RE: School me on heat pumps by OneStaple (Thanks for the thoug...)
(03-24-2018, 09:55 AM)OneStaple Wrote: Also, if I end up going with a two-stage compressor, I'm thinking that I might need to really look into a whole-house humidifier.  It gets really humid here in the summer, and one of the advantages that I understand of the two-stage system is that it's more efficient at pulling humidity out of the air, so I'm looking forward to that.  But in the winter, our current system makes it quite dry in the house, to the point that we were already considering a whole-house humidifier (or at least more stand-alone ones).  So, a newer two-stage system would probably make it worse.

Thanks!
Tyler

 Remember when it is in the heat mode it will not be removing moisture from the air as it does in the cooling mode.   In the cooling mode the moisture in the air condenses on the cold evaporator inside your house, in the winter the frost/moisture condenses on the outside unit.    So the two stage will not make the moisture any better in the winter but helps in the summer.   Roly
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#18
  Re: School me on heat pumps by OneStaple (Hey all, I had an...)
Roly Wrote:Remember when it is in the heat mode it will not be removing moisture from the air as it does in the cooling mode. In the cooling mode the moisture in the air condenses on the cold evaporator inside your house, in the winter the frost/moisture condenses on the outside unit. So the two stage will not make the moisture any better in the winter but helps in the summer. Roly
Ah, that makes sense. Thanks for the clarification. So humidity should be similar in the winter as with our current system.

Thanks,
Tyler
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#19
  Re: School me on heat pumps by OneStaple (Hey all, I had an...)
Whole house humidifier:  Replaced our humidifier along with the rest of the unit.  They really haven't changed in technology over the years, so the new one is just a clean "shinier" version of the old humidifier.

If you notice static electricity buildup in the house during the winter, either make sure the old one works or get a new one, IMHO.  We have a weather station that measures outdoor and indoor humidity (this was the first winter with the station in place).  Outside humidity may have registered  60% or 65% RH outdoors when the temp was 20F, but indoors was 25% to 35% with the humidifier running.  Without it, the indoor RH may have dropped to 10% or even less.  We had no noticeable static electricity in the house.  The sticker next to the humidifier recommends somewhere around 30%.
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#20
  Re: School me on heat pumps by OneStaple (Hey all, I had an...)
If you gave me the equipment and paid me to install it, I still wouldn't have Goodman in my home. There's a new rep in our area and he's been hard selling to all the contractors. I've been to service calls on some of their new stuff. It was still junk the day it left the factory. Sticking a Daiken label on it doesn't change that either.
Blackhat
Common decency is as rare as common sense. I figure there was only a finite amount of both made and its getting shared out among too many folks.


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