Central Air Conditioning for house - Need any and all advice ASAP

snowhiker

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Like the subject says...I need any and all advice as far as central A/C for a house. Two bed/Two bath house, 1200 square feet. I live where it's HOT!!!!!!!!!!!!1111111111eleven!!!111!! 5+ months of the year.

Considerations:

1) Not be ripped off.
2) Five+ years where were not paying $300-1800/year repairs.
3) Warranty.
4) Energy efficient.
5) Not crazy expensive to buy and install.

Any brands that have their own installers and honest warranty? Any advice, even general advice is VERY WELCOMED.

THANKS IN ADVANCE.

Back story. Mom is the most gullible person in the whole-wide-world. She was sweet talked into spending $1000 on 10/year maintenance contract for an A/C unit that was already 8 years old. Then spend $1800 on repairs 6 months later for "non-covered" problems. Same shame company. A/C has broken down TWICE within a week of the "yearly preventative maintenance visit." I begged her and begged her NOT to go to those assholes but she won't listen. Assholes visit again today and want $750 to replace fan on condenser unit. "If fan unit goes out A/C will keep running and destroy compressor and that's $3000" they say. He said, "It could go out tomorrow or the next day, or next week." Really?!?

I have a really bad feeling here. Again Thanks in advance.
 

ddrueding

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Well, the no-brainer is "anyone but them".

I'd be tempted to go with the largest company around, but that isn't really a guarantee of anything. I'm assuming you don't have a family friend in the business or you would already be there.

With that much repair cost, replacing the unit entirely is already a no-brainer. Getting it from anyone but them is also a no-brainer. Who to go to is a tricky question, as I don't know any companies that are nation-wide who don't simply sub-contract to some local schmuck in each area.

What to get is another tricky question. I decided to go with the most efficient/high performance heat-pump unit I could afford. My thoughts were that with that much money and specialty equipment/craftsmanship in the unit, more reliability would come with it. Only had it for 5 years though, so can't comment on reliability.
 

Stereodude

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Do you know someone with Angie's List access who can find you some reputable companies? Any companies stand out for running ads, or have good word of mouth?
 

CougTek

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For 1200 square feet, you need a 2-ton unit. Our main air conditioner for the server room is an LG 2-ton unit similar to this one. It is worth around 2000$. We've had ours for a single year, but it works all year long, even during winter. Despite that the outside temperature is quite a bit lower here than it is in AZ, our servers (around twenty plus the switches inside a very small room) give our A/C unit a harder time than any temperature you can experience down there I'm sure. So far, so good.

I don't know if 2000$ is within your budget or not.
 

snowhiker

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Thanks for the replies and suggestions.

I have a LOT of research and reading to do.

1) No family friend in the A/C business. Just remembered, Duh, that brother-in-law fixes/repairs/installs elevators so he must have some advice I can use. Also I was talking with a guy at work who says we could get a fan motor for $150 and he could put it in. So I guess I do have some potential "inside" help after all. I will explore it.

"Shitty Company" price for fan motor+labor is $804+110=$914, "discounted" to $644+88=$732. I'm going to get some specifics once we can sit down for a bit. So might do that.

2) We won't be using "shitty company" any more. I told her to NOT buy anything on the spot. And she didn't. Thank God. The "shitty company tech" was dumbfounded when he didn't get his "sure sale" that day. Fucker. Even if the multiple breakdown were coincidence they are still shady. The $1800 repair included a line item of $180 to drive part from warehouse to the house. Crazy.

3) Yeah....a big A/C vendor... "who ... simply sub-contract to some local schmuck in each area" is something I'm worried about and getting into a situation were A/C vendor won't honor warranty because of installer issue and local schmuck blaming A/C vendor and vice-versa.

4) I'm told that A/C units last 8 years (or so) out here and I hate throwing good money after bad. Seems like when it's 110F outside would be a --BAD-- time to buy an A/C unit. I'm hoping the unit will hold out until Jan/Feb next year and maybe get a deal.

5) Never used Angie's List or Yelp or know anybody who has. Definitely have to check this out. My sis does all the social media crap so I'll ask. Good suggestion, thanks.

6) Coug we have this 3-Ton unit. 38BRC 036. Need a central A/C unit. The unit you listed looks like it would be for one room only?

Once again, thanks for the help.
 
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Bozo

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Been there, done that.
Try a big box store. We have had good luck with Lowes during our kitchen remodel. They seem to have excellent installers and knowledgeable sales staff. Home Depot was way more expensive. Sales staff is hit or miss as far as knowledge is concerned.
Also try a local contractor that has been in business for at least 10 years. Usually the rip-off ass holes only last about 5 years, close up shop and reopen under a different name.
You could also try contractors that handle brand name A/C that has been around for a long time. (Trane, Lennox, Carrier, etc.) The large A/C companies usually rid themselves of shady installers.
Check with the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports. For the BBB, have the names of the contractors you are interested in when you contact them.

Service contracts are usually a rip off. So are most maintenance contracts. Just remember to change the air filter every 4-6 months. Put a reminder on your phone. For the A/C coils, I use aluminum wheel cleaner and a squirt bottle of water. Squirt the unit, scrub with a soft paint brush, rinse with water. The condensate pump should remove the water.
Make sure the drain lines are not plugged, and pour a little Clorox into the drain pan and the condensate pump to kill the nasty's. After a few minutes, flush with some water. Done.
I also use canned air to blow the dust out of the thermostat.
The outdoor unit can be cleaned with the wheel cleaner (spray on and let soak for a few minutes) and rinsed with a garden hose.
 

Howell

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Angie's list is a good place to start when you have zero local resources. Other than that use the company that might have the most to lose from an unhappy customer. Then you be paying for performance and warranty.
 

snowhiker

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Thanks again for the additional tips. I have my research to do. Just hope this baby holds out till the end of the summer.
 

time

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Sorry, but they're very possibly telling the truth. If your fan fails, your compressor will be toast unless there's a thermal cutout. And although pricey, $644 for a Carrier fan motor in the middle of Summer is not quite as outrageous as you might think.

Have you gone outside and actually listened to the fan, particularly when it's cycling on? Does anything sound out of the ordinary? Try this site for examples of possible signs of imminent failure. If it's just having trouble starting, it might be a simple capacitor or maybe the relay.

Not sure about the unit's life expectancy. If it's adequately sized - and yours sounds like it is - the load shouldn't be terribly high (humidity is very low, so you don't have to worry much about removing latent heat). So 8 years may well be a little pessimistic.
 

snowhiker

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Fwiw, I have had to replace my entire unit and they were very generous with the financing.
I'm most worried about getting a quality unit installed correctly than cost. I guess, I'm actually more concerned with finding a decent repair tech/company that is honest.

I never really thought about it before but you really need to add $50/month ($600/year) to your monthly energy costs when you factor in you might have to drop $5000 every 8 years for a new A/C unit.

Sorry, but they're very possibly telling the truth. If your fan fails, your compressor will be toast unless there's a thermal cutout. And although pricey, $644 for a Carrier fan motor in the middle of Summer is not quite as outrageous as you might think.

Have you gone outside and actually listened to the fan, particularly when it's cycling on? Does anything sound out of the ordinary? Try this site for examples of possible signs of imminent failure. If it's just having trouble starting, it might be a simple capacitor or maybe the relay.

Not sure about the unit's life expectancy. If it's adequately sized - and yours sounds like it is - the load shouldn't be terribly high (humidity is very low, so you don't have to worry much about removing latent heat). So 8 years may well be a little pessimistic.
Good points Time. I'll have to listen to the unit. Oh and she did have a dual capacitor go out last year so in theory that should still be OK.

I just don't want to give "possibly shady" company any more money. Lets sell "little ole lady" a 10 year, $1000 maintenance contract on an 8-year old A/C unit that runs non-stop 5+ months/year in AZ. She's already put $3000 in repairs/contract into this unit and I think it's time to upgrade.

I guess I need to start working my way through the different A/C brands and models and look for installers. I just wanted to do this in the winter months than during summer.
 

sechs

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Angie's list is a good place to start
Angie's List is a terrible place to start. It's like paying for the yellow pages.

Not only can a company pay to rank higher in searches, they've been reported to remove negative reviews of their advertisers. And you have to pay for it.
 

Chewy509

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My mother in-law had her AC replaced a few years ago (Panasonic unit) that works quite well... BUT we wouldn't recommend Panasonic units mainly due the warranty conditions. (very tight on what they consider covered under warranty, and Panasonic has a general policy of always repair - never replace with their AC units). She had a problem with hers (bad condenser), and it took ACCC involvement to get the thing repaired and operating correctly. (ACCC is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission). Panasonic blamed the installers (the warranty is void if the unit's not installed correctly), the installers blamed Panasonic, and she even had an indepedent 3rd party electrician come out and confirm it wasn't an installation problem, yet Panasonic refused to do anything about it...

It's something to consider when looking at units, what does the warranty really cover and what recourse have you got when things don't go as planned...
 

snowhiker

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Angie's List is a terrible place to start. It's like paying for the yellow pages.

Not only can a company pay to rank higher in searches, they've been reported to remove negative reviews of their advertisers. And you have to pay for it.
I suspected as much. Kinda like the BBB where the company has to pay like $5k or $8k or whatever it is to be "eligible" for a AAA+ rating.

My mother in-law had her AC replaced a few years ago (Panasonic unit) that works quite well... BUT we wouldn't recommend Panasonic units mainly due the warranty conditions. (very tight on what they consider covered under warranty, and Panasonic has a general policy of always repair - never replace with their AC units). She had a problem with hers (bad condenser), and it took ACCC involvement to get the thing repaired and operating correctly. (ACCC is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission). Panasonic blamed the installers (the warranty is void if the unit's not installed correctly), the installers blamed Panasonic, and she even had an indepedent 3rd party electrician come out and confirm it wasn't an installation problem, yet Panasonic refused to do anything about it...

It's something to consider when looking at units, what does the warranty really cover and what recourse have you got when things don't go as planned...
That's exactly my fear Chewy. If you get screwed on a warranty for a $500 item it sucks, but you move on. Getting screwed on a $5000 item is much more difficult to get over.

From all the reading I've done it seems that an "OK" unit that has a top notch install is better than a "super quality" unit installed by monkeys. So the installer is a huge factor.

Nothing specific figured out yet as far as brand/models as I have lots of reading/research to do. Thanks to everybody for the input.
 

time

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Look, if all you're going to do is retrofit new A/C units to an existing installation, you don't need an HVAC engineer - just a refrigeration mechanic. The HVAC knowledge all goes into the ductwork design and equipment selection.

In other words, if you're happy with the performance of the existing system, a changeover is much the same as with a high-wall split system.
 

snowhiker

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Look, if all you're going to do is retrofit new A/C units to an existing installation, you don't need an HVAC engineer - just a refrigeration mechanic. The HVAC knowledge all goes into the ductwork design and equipment selection.

In other words, if you're happy with the performance of the existing system, a changeover is much the same as with a high-wall split system.
Were not 100% happy with the performance of the current system, but it is more than good enough to not have to worry about that part of the install. I simply closed the vents into a closet and utility room and that was enough to balance out the system. --one bedroom was always 3-5 degrees warmer than the rest-- And you are correct, no engineer needed. I figured as much but good to hear someone else say it.

My brother is on vacation but when he gets back he knows a guy at work that flips houses and does construction on the side so hopefully he can point me toward an installer/company with 10'ish years of experience.

Crossing fingers as this is the perfect week for an A/C unit to die. LOL.
 
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CougTek

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And you are correct, no engineer needed.
That's more of a general statement and not only one for your situation. Few are good, but most make me think that their degree made them unlearn how to work intelligently. You want the job to be done? Go see a technician. You want a complicated and uneffective solution to a simple problem? Seek an engineer.

I don't see how you could possibly need an engineer to draft the cooling conduits for an air conditionner. Unless your house is the Empire State building, there is no way that plain and simple logic can't be enough to tell you how to route the air flow.
 

ddrueding

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I designed the duct system for my house. Only 1400sq.ft., but three zones with some tricky bits. Of course, I used SolidWorks FloXpress to model the whole house as part of the design ;)
 

time

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I don't see how you could possibly need an engineer to draft the cooling conduits for an air conditionner. Unless your house is the Empire State building, there is no way that plain and simple logic can't be enough to tell you how to route the air flow.
Coug, you know an awful lot about many things, but given your location, possibly not much about central air conditioning systems. :p

Although the house is small, the heat load is considerable (compared to say, California). I wonder if Arizona homes even use reflective foil laminate under the roofing? If not, I hope the roof is white ...

No heat radiation barrier under the roofing also means your ducts are more susceptible to heat uptake, so higher ductwork R values would be nice, but unlikely. Could be a problem if you can no longer even see the foil skin on your flex ducts for dust.

Anyway, we're assuming that system performance was adequate and you don't need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just make sure that any replacement indoor unit is reasonably comparable in terms of *airflow* - picking something with 50% more cfm would cause huge problems that could not easily be solved. Although units are supposed to have differing airflow vs cooling capacity for arid and tropical zones, market realities mean you will probably find that cooling capacity ends up about the same as your existing 3 ton unit. Of course, I'm assuming the current one can comfortably cool the house for at least 90% of the Summer (for optimum sizing, there should be a few days where it struggles, although that's not such a huge issue as it is in a tropical climate).

Good luck, and don't forget to check if you really do need a replacement fan motor.
 

Striker

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I know I'm late to the party here, but myself and my neighbors have all had really good experiences with Airtron.
They seem to also be in Arizona, so perhaps you could look into their reputation there.
 
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