Looking for heating/cooling system recommendations

Our heating/AC unit died recently (it was a 12 year-old Trane) and now we’re faced with getting a new one. Money is an issue - we can’t afford $6-$7k for a new system, but obviously we want something that will be reasonably efficient and reliable. Our house is about 2100 sq ft, by the way. Single zone, if that matters.

The first contractor we’ve talked to is recommending a Goodman 3.5 ton 13 seer R-22, installed for $3784. The price is right, but I’ve been reading some bad reviews about Goodman.

The contractor said that in the past Goodman was crap, but they’ve really improved their quality lately and he put them in his own home.

So… anyone out there have opinions? Will we be sorry with a Goodman? Should we spring for the more efficient, larger model (he said he could get a 5 ton seer 15, but it was probably overkill for us).

Just wondering if anyone could share their experience.

The reviewssure make it sound like you’d regret it. However, a bunch of the comments are really about the installers screwing things up - stuff like leaking pipe joints, dented coils, etc. which only illustrates the importance of a properly trained technician.

How cool are your summers? 3.5 tons sounds small for a 2100 square foot home. If you have a very well insulated home in a temperate area, you might be able to get along with 600-700 feet per ton.

Did the contractor just take a guess or did they run an actual load calculation, which factors in things like windows, roof color, amount of insulation in the walls and attic, etc.? You might be better off with a 4.5 ton - the general rule of thumb is 1 ton per 500 square feet.

However, an oversized unit is just as bad - it will cost more to buy, consume more electricity and it will “short cycle” and not run long enough at a time to dehumidify properly or arrive at its best running efficiency.

Wow, thanks for the reply.

No, we live in the south, so hot, humid summers are the norm. The contractor we talked to gave us the option of the 3.5 ton or a 5 ton, suggesting the 5-ton was more than we needed. It sounds like you would agree.

It looks like I need another bid.

Just a thought, Skammer. Have you checked with your local utilities to see if they have any programs to help you buy the HVAC system? The old gas company in the Twin Cities had a 12-month no-interest plan for furnaces, water heaters, and so forth. They’d just add the payment to your bill. We put central air in our house using that plan.

I’m still trying to understand how a system dies after only 12 years, though. In our last house, the furnace was nearing 30 years old and still going strong. (Not very energy-efficient, but reliable in a Minnesota winter.)

Okay one last question:

Should I really avoid getting a system that uses R22 coolant instead of the new R410a? I understand that R22 will be banned soon and would be very expensive if I needed to replace the coolant in the future, but the difference between the two systems is over $3000. Even if I do have to refill the R22 in a few years, I can’t believe it’s gonna cost $3k.

I’ve also had another independent bidder talk about how good the Goodmans are since they were bought by Amana, so I’m a little more confident with the brand.

I’ve determined that my old Trane was a 3.5 ton unit, so I’m leaning toward the 3.5 ton, 13 seer R22-using unit.

Purgatory: thanks, I’ll take a look at that. The old unit failed because the heating tubes that collected the hot air were completely rusted through. Not sure how all that moisture got in there…

Don’t know if you have made your decision yet or not, but…

Freon/ R-22
R-22 will be available for several more years. In 2010 equipment manufacturers will no longer make R-22 machines, but the refrigerant itself will still be sold for another 5 years or more. In other words, if you’re system develops a leak R-22 will be available for the foreseeable future. However R-22 went up 79% this year alone and I expect more increases to follow. In 10 years, charging your system may be very expensive. I would strongly recommend a R410a unit.

Important: There should be a very small price difference between R-22 and R410a; certainly no where near $3000. I’d get other quotes if someone is telling you that. A lot of contractors are not familiar with R410a and the best way to nudge your customer towards R-22 is to make the R-410a cost prohibitive. I’ve seen it many times.

Goodman
Goodman has a well earned reputation for making poor quality units. Part of that was simply how they went to market: as **the lost cost manufacturer. ** Goodman bought an old line maker called “Janitrol” and all over the country they are referred to as “Junkitrol” by HVAC people. To this very day there is a program for Goodman’s “Dependable 92” that involves Goodman giving the consumer a free furnace when the heat exchanger fails. (and they fail at an alarming rate)

Since those dark days, Goodman has worked to improve it’s quality and reputation. Buying Amana was said to be a step in that direction, and now Goodman has some of the longest warranties available. From what I can see, they are better, but reputations die hard. (More on Goodman in a minute…)

Other Brands
Like GM, some mfrs sell under badges. Trane & American Standard, York & Coleman, Carrier & Bryant to name a few are brands that are “cousins” at least, and in some cases “identical twins.” Some brands work hard to control who installs their product and establish dealer networks where only a “Carrier Dealer” can buy a Carrier furnace. (as one example)

Some brands----Goodman being the prime example-----will sell to anyone. Because of their willingness to sell to anyone, Goodman has been the favorite of every moonlighter, shade tree mechanic, fly by nighter, miscreant, and barely competent (and more than a few incompetent) contractors. Many were/are unlicensed.

Size
Your wife lied to you. Size does matter. The good news is that too big is as bad as too small. In my experience, (which is in the midwest, SW Ohio) you should be around 750 sf per ton for most houses built in the last 30 years. A decently well insulated house, with decent windows should be in that range. A poorly insulated house may be at 500 sf/ton, and a well insulated house at 1000sf/ton. At 2100 sf I would expect that unit to be 3 tons, and maybe even 2.5 tons if well insulated.

Read the next 2 sentences twice: Those figures are ballpark only. Every house is different, and a “ACCA Manual J” load calculation is the only way to determine what is the right size for ***your ***house.

My advice: Get other quotes. I don’t trust Goodman for the reasons I’ve listed, but in many cases it’s because I’ve seen too many Goodman installers do exceptionally poor quality. (and I’m not saying your Goodman guy is one of them, but I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say “I put one of these in my house”, and I’m making that up)

If price is a motivator, you might look at York, Coleman, Payne (a cheaper cousin of Bryant) Comfortmaker, or Ducane.