Ginny and I decided to get a new furnace & air conditioner this year … with the price of natural gas going up, we figured it would probably make sense to get a more efficient furnace … and our A/C has always been kind of wimpy.

As I always try to do, I got at least 3 quotes … in this case, four.

Three were for independent HVAC contractors … the remaining one was from Sears Home ImProvement (SHIP).

Three of the quotes were pretty close … one of the independent quotes was about half what the others quoted.

We decided to get a 80% efficient, two stage, variable speed, system by Carrier. We could have gone with the +90% efficient system, but I think the time to recoup the extra cost would take too long. The variable speed aspect was the only iffy bit … we were told by all the contractors that, because our house lacked adequate air returns, the variable speed fan would not be as efficient as it could be (it will still save us money, just not as much).

We ended up going with Sears … mainly because they were also willing to run the duct work necessary to add returns in the three upstairs bedrooms. None of the other contractors offered that. Well, there was a good reason they didn’t offer that.   The estimator from Sears (Ron) said it would cost an additional $2000 for the duct work.

After we signed the contract with Sears.   We got a 10% discount because we paid with credit card and signed the contract when the Ron was there.   Since we already had the three other quotes, and Ron was willing to go for a brief walk so we could talk it over, I wasn’t all that worried.   Plus, we had the legally required 3 day cancellation window.

This was on Wednesday … the next day I got a call from the project coordinator for SHIP and we scheduled an appointment for Friday so the sub-contractor could come out and inspect and measure the area to be worked on.   Well, the sub-contractor came out … looked in the basement to see everything was ok, then checked out the return that was going to be extended.

This is where things went pear shaped … they looked at the return duct, checked the attic, went back down to the basement, and determined that the new return duct could not be installed.

Turns out the existing return duct that they were going to extend was not under the attic as the original estimator thought.   This meant there was no way to extend the duct up to the attic (without opening up the wall and requiring major drywall work).   Well this was a disappointment … the air quality in the upstairs bedrooms is not the best, and the addition of some returns would have helped that a lot.

Well, this required the adjustment of the contract … as they were not going to be doing the duct work.   I talked to Ginny and we decided to have the new unit installed done anyways.

We scheduled the work for the next Monday.   I had already arranged to work from home on Monday and possibly Tuesday.

Monday comes around and the guys from the HVAC company aren’t there at 8am (which is when I was expecting them, although it was never explicitly stated).   By 9am they still weren’t there, so I called Ron to find out when they would be showing up.   He made some calls and told me they would be there around 10:30.   Wish I had known that earlier.

They did show up around 10:30 … and started tearing down the old furnace … needless to say the house started to get pretty warm.   It wasn’t a blisteringly hot day, but the house got to be around 95 degrees.

About half way through the work they realized that the old humidifier, that we had installed about 7 years earlier, would not fit on the new furnace plenum.   Since the contract stated that they would reinstall our existing humidifier, they had to replace the humidifier with one that would fit.   Unfortunately, they didn’t have one with them.   They also didn’t have a suitable thermostat (our old thermostat wouldn’t work with multi-stage systems). or the right size ‘media’ filter (basically, a really thick furnace filter).   There was a question about wether or not we were supposed to get a new thermostat, as their work order didn’t show it … but my contract did, so they agreed.

Around 7pm they left, having gotten the system to a basic level of functionality.   All that was left was to install the thermostat, obtain & install the new humidifier, and install the air filter.   It was taking longer than I hoped, but I had allowed for some extra time.

Tuesday came around and they showed up when they said they would (around 9:30) … immediately got to work on the humidifier and thermostat.   They were done around noon.

Oh yeah, during the sub-contractors inspection, they mentioned that the attic fan (installed back in 2001) wasn’t running … even though the attic was quite hot.   Every year I open up the attic hatch to make sure the fan was running … this year I didn’t (don’t know why).

Luckily the attic fan has a 10 year warranty.   I tried calling the company that originally installed it, but they never returned my calls.   I called the fan manufacturuer and talked to a young lady in their customer service department (who needs some serious help with her phone skills) and was told they would send me the parts necessary to fix the fan (basically, new motor, thermostat, and fan … everything except the housing).   Hopefully that will arrive soon.   I’m not looking forward to installing it myself … I might try to hire someone to do the install for me.

I’m still kind of annoyed at the new returns couldn’t be installed.   I wonder if they could be installed if the wall were opened up?   I may try to pursue that in the future, as we are probably going to have the house interior painited next year … if we’ve got to have some of the drywall opened up, that’s the time to have it done so it can be repaired & painted quickly.

So far the new air conditioner is working fine … no complaints.   Well, almost no complaints.   There is a intermittent rattling coming from the duct work, as if something is loose.   I’ll have to call Sears next week to see if they can send someone out to check it out.

I’m hoping our electricity usage is going to be down next month … although it might be hard to tell (with all the computers that I keep running).

We were thinking of having a tankless hot water heater installed also … but, after I looked at our gas bill, I relized that the gas cost savings would take a very long time to be realized.   With just two of us in the house, we don’t run out of hot water very often, and the gas costs are not that high in the summer.

4 thoughts on “HVAC

  1. http://mrdolomite.blogspot.com/

    Glad to hear the project was mostly a success. Every time I see the tankless hot water heater on a TV improvement show, I think, \”Gee, that seems like a good idea, hot water on demand. Rather than just endlessly letting water heat and cool when it isn\’t needed.\” And then after checking the price, I just stop thinking. 🙂

  2. david

    I mentioned the tankless hot water heater to a friend the other day, and he mentioned that Consumer Reports is going to be doing a story on them in a few months.

    He also mentioned that there had been a lot of comments on the CR forums about how poorly they work.

  3. Mark

    Just found this… it was truly and interesting read for me! I worked for a Carrier contractor for several years and we have considered becoming a part of the Sears program, but heard only horror stories…

    It sounds like in the end it all worked out for you. Were they able to get the rattle in the ductwork completed?

    Im also curious to hear how your attic vent install went. In most cases, the nut holding the fan blade is so rusted on, replacing the motor requires so much of the unit to be disassembled, your’e almost better off having a pro do the work!


  4. david

    FWIW: I finally solved the problem with the rattling in the duct work. And I’m very glad I didn’t call Sears to have it repaired …as the problem was only marginally related to the new HVAC system.

    Turns out one of the ducts had a baffle that was somewhat loose. I had seen the baffle before, but thought it was secure. After hunting around a bit more I determined that the baffle had to be the problem.

    After removing the baffle, the rattling noise went away.

    As for why the rattling started after the new HVAC system was installed … the best I can figure is that the new system blows more forcefully than the old one did … so it moved the baffle around more.

    None the less, the system is much quieter now.


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