Buying new HVAC system?

For AC and heat, using gas heat.

Any brands or things to get (or avoid)? Probably end up with Trane or Carrier since almost all local dealers sell them. Here in the SE I believe AC SEER 14 is the lowest you can get. Might get SEER 15 or 16 if the price is right. I don’t think above 16 is worth the extra money.

Trane & Carrier are great choices. Experts on the AC side especially. Lennox is a great company too. Experts on gas heat.

Are your power bills more cooling or more heating?

This bit might help decide between SEER 14 or 16:

a 16 SEER unit uses about 13% less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as a 14 SEER unit of the same size. That means that for every $100 you’d pay to run your 14 SEER unit, you could save $13 by upgrading to a 16 SEER unit.

We’re quite happy with the Trane heat pumps we put in in 2018. Quite complex system, two heat pumps (4 and 5 ton - this is the Arizona desert) with three damper-controlled zones each. We went with the 18 SEER variable speed units (variable speed works well with the zoning systems) so the whole thing was pretty pricey. Main issue is that because of the variable speed and zoning we are stuck with Trane’s thermostats, which don’t integrate into my home automation system. I have pretty complicated schedules/programs set up in the (free) cloud service, but I hate depending on the internet connection.

The only issues we had is both master thermostats died and had to be replaced under warranty. Since they died in the same manner I am hoping that we just got a couple from a bad manufacturing lot.

more AC than heating . I had a heat pump once, never again. Don’t like cold air blowing on me in winter. Around here in NC only people with heat pump are houses with no gas or propane. Propane has the problem that it’s not regulated like natural gas, the price goes up and down. Normally it goes up and down following the price of gasoline. But it’s still popular in areas with no natural gas which is most of eastern NC

I came by a bit more HVAC knowledge than I wanted – like with so many things – the hard way.

IMHO, the most important factor in purchasing a new HVAC system is getting the calculations done right:

There are endless horror stories about people who bought great systems from the big names, and spent a ton of money doing so … who wound up with no end of performance and comfort complaints because of poorly selected and sized components.

I don’t mean to presume that you’re overlooking this step – just to reinforce its importance.

There are too many HVAC contractors, it seems, who still go by ‘experience’ and ‘rule of thumb.’ That may have worked 50 years ago, but so many things have changed in building science and construction methods that it rarely (if ever) works now.

Best of luck !

So in your Op you named the two best AC companies. Trane or Carrier.

I would try to crunch the number on the SEER ratings to see how many years it would take for the higher SEER rated unit to pay off.

This calculator should help.

There are probably better calculators out there, I went for the first fairly simple one I could find.

We had a pre-existing Ruud system that the HVAC guy I called replaced with… a Ruud system. Haven’t had any issues with it. It’s relatively loud compared to my friends’ Carrier, but unless you’re spending a lot of time around the thing, that probably doesn’t matter that much.

I guess I should have mention I was an HVAC mechanic for 3 years a long time ago. I didn’t have a Blue Seal and never learned much about Freon compressors but when it comes to furnaces, boilers and chill water system I do know what I’m talking about from experience. Trane, Carrier & Lennox are the best names in the industry. If cooling is your primary concern, the first two. If gas heating then Lennox.

In reply to bijou_drains: Not so fast. I’m in the Raleigh area and have gas (water heater, gas logs) but use a heat pump exclusively. In fact, this is true of most of my entire street (about 45 houses) in north Raleigh.

I just replaced my old HVAC system with a new Carrier 60,000 BTU furnace. The AC will be added later when my finances improve. The furnace didn’t last two weeks before the induction fan failed and was replaced under warranty. I’m hoping it was just a weak one from the factory, fingers crossed.

I did a lot of research into this this Spring, and what I learned is that the quality of the install is like 10x more important than the brand or model. In addition to what @DavidNRockies said, the technical issues are huge, and not obvious to a layperson’s eyes: if the unit isn’t truly level, if it can’t pull air like it needs to, if pretty much anything isn’t done correctly, it will have to work harder, and working harder shortens the life of the unit. One thing I read is that half the reason Tranes have such a good track record isn’t that they are great units but that they insist that they are only installed by people they trained.

So pick your company first and your brand second. Get several quotes, and don’t go with the cheapest–go with the one that seems honest and professional, the place that you feel would be able to recruit and retain and train good people. I like my guys a lot–they’ve always been fair with me. If you feel like you can, ask the service guys if the installation guys are good. And if you feel brave, tell the scheduler you want the best install team, not the first available.

Zone your Raleigh neighborhood is rare in my opinion. I think what probably happened was the builder got a very good deal to put in heat pumps so they did . I grew up in N. Raleigh and we had gas for everything but the stove. My parents cooked a lot on the natural gas grill outdoors , even in winter.

There were cases way back where power companies bribed builders to not install gas lines. Obviously that’s not legal and it does not happen now.

Getting at least 3 quotes and price will not be the only way I pick the winner.

This.
When my house was built in 2005, a 4 ton HVAC system was installed. When I decided to replace the old system with a new one, I had contractors bid for the work, and only one contractor performed those calculations. He determined that a 3 ton system was optimal, along with some improvements in the ducting.

I opted for the 3 ton Trane 16 SEER variable speed system and I couldn’t be happier. My heating and cooling bills here in North Georgia have gone down significantly.

Don’t trust or use any contractor that can’t or won’t perform the necessary J, S, T, and D calculations.

I had a really old heat pump that I replaced in the 90s. The power bills went down by 50%. In that house heat pump was my only option.

I had to replace mine a few years ago (40-year old furnace went out on a -15º January night – good thing it wasn’t during a real cold spell!).

But the 2 most important things have already been mentioned:

  1. Installation quality is way more important than brand. Any of the well-known brands are good, if installed properly. Check references on the installing company more than the equipment brand.
  2. Matching size to the house, amount of insulation, # of windows, etc. is critical in getting a system that will work well and last a long time. (Seeing how carefully & obsessively the the salesperson works on these calculations gives you a good hint on the quality & professionalism of the company.)

3 places coming by tomorrow so I will let you know what kind of prices and features they offer.

As long as you have contractors coming by, ask them about their second-line brands. Those are the ones that aren’t Crane/Carrier/Trane, not supported by marketing campaigns.

After studying a lot of HVAC contractor boards I went with a Goodman, which was considerably less costly than the contractor’s main line (Carrier.) Although I suspect a lot of contractors like Goodman because it’s been around for a long time and it’s American-manufactured, it’s also backed by an excellent warranty. We’ve had the furnace/AC for almost a year now, and we’re very satisfied.

Of course, if your current system needs replacing, you’ll see a great improvement with any system you choose.

I grew up with Goodman, had the furnace in my house replaced with a Goodman, and recently had the furnace in my condo replaced with a Goodman. The last one wasn’t my choice; it was the choice of the home warranty program that came with the purchase of the older condo. It’s also the only one I had a problem with as one of the fan blades keep brushing the housing. The unit was replaced and the Goodman is working as expected.

In my case the installation was everything. We recently finally put in air conditioning - I’m a victim of climate change, when we moved in we might need it one or two days a year. Also, the new wing of the house was on a slab and had no heating or cooling.
The old duct work - from the early '50s - was too small. The options were to redo the duct work and put in ducts in the attic of the new part of the house or put ducts in the ceiling everywhere and put a unit in the attic. The first contractor we brought in didn’t even bid, it was such a mess. The costs were close to the same, so we went with the first option. I did not trust a heavy piece of equipment in earthquake country. They ran pipes from the crawlspace to the attic in a convenient closet.
We got two zones, so we can shut off heat and cooling in half the house at night.
It is hard to compare bills since we heat more of the house, but they haven’t gone up which is basically a savings.
It has been great.

Just last month we had to replace heat and AC. (AC was leaking which killed the heater). Ugh. We are lucky we live a bit south.

It was interesting when we had two companies come and look over everything. One spent over an hour measuring the size and temperature of the rooms in the house, looking at everything, and then sent four suggested options. The other spent 5 minutes looking around and then asked me which option from their list of 8 I wanted. We went with the first.

I see I’m a bit late, but our electric company has a payback based on the SEER of the new AC. I don’t know if that’s just a regional thing but take a look.