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QUESTION: Hi Joe,

We live in a 1970 3 level split home with 3 ton ac and gas furnace that are 30 plus years old (look and sound ancient).  We have mostly updated windows and blown in ceiling insulation.

We live in Columbus, Ohio where the HVAC companies tell me you should have a good furnace and a decent ac.

Do you think we will pay less and/or get a better quality install if we wait to replace our system in the fall?  I have been told that spring and winter are the busy seasons.

We are currently without ac so we would probably end up paying around $500 to add r-22 with hope that it would get us through the summer.  We spent $250 last summer and got through.

When we do replace our system I would like to get something that will keep our house more comfortable/consistent temperatures throughout the split levels.  I have had 3 estimates and am getting more confused not less.  When I say I want more consistent temperatures, the companies suggest 2 stage furnaces which will stay on longer and also variable speed blowers.  If I have to spend a little more to get a comfortable house, now is the time to do it but I also don't want to be upsold if it won't help.  I have also read that 2 stage furnaces break more often etc.

Am also trying to decide between 80% and high efficiency - so far the price isn't too much difference so I lean toward high efficiency.

So far I have talked with 3 companies.  Two of  them did not do a load calculation and are recommending the same 3 ton ac that I had previously. (One guy is an old timer who claims to have grown up in this neighborhood and knows the houses.)  The 3rd company that seemingly did a load calculation is recommending a 2.5 ton ac.  Do I automatically throw out the 2 companies that didn't seem to do a load calculation and talk to a few more companies?  Is downsizing the ac a good idea?

In the end I want a reliable furnace/ac for a fair price which will make my split level more comfortable.

I appreciate your willingness to share your time and knowledge of this subject.  Many thanks, Laure

ANSWER: Typically the spring and fall are ideal to replace system due to generally speaking not being as busy and they may nor rush the job.

I would go with a condensing high efficiency furnace ,they start at 92% and go up to 98% . IMO I would lean toward a 95 % furnace as there are federal tax credits on A/C or Heat Pumps and furnaces, also your state may offer a rebate ( which is money in your pocket ) for installing energy star rated equiptment. They use plastic flue exhaust pipe and are sidewall exhausted, no chimney needed. You have to terminate the flue exhaust gas 12" above the highest anticipated snowfall in your region. 2stage furnaces come in two styles, one style  actually use a single stage thermostat and the 2nd stage is controlled by a timer that brings it on after the 1st stage has been running for upwards of 10 minutes ( as long as the t-stat is still calling for heat ) the other is a true two stage using a two stage thermostat, and the 2nd stage is controlled by the thermostat.

All three should have done a load calculation, you can purchase the software online and do your own accurate heat loss heat gain calculation , one source is hvaccompter.com. The cost is minimal. You need to know what the material used in your residence is.

You mentioned one company did a load calculation , what did they recommend for the heating side?

Going to a different size ( in this case smaller A/C , and chances the furnace will be smaller ) possible means your existing ductwork may be to large for the new more energy -efficient equipment. The blower motor wheel probably will be smaller than the old unit and you may or may not move the same amount of air through your ductwork. I would ask all of them about your ductwork handling a smaller furnace if going with a condensing furnace. As an example if you have a 100,000 BTU input 80% furnace now which is 80,000 BTU output ( you base the heat load on output not input ) so if the load calculation for the heat calls for as an example 56,000BTU output then getting a 60,000 BTU input ,which gives you around  57,000 BTU output . That's  the size you need but the furnace being smaller the blower wheel will be smaller and may or may not push the air through your existing ductwork now for heat and cool as well as your current system.

Reliability has a lot more to do with a proper install and correct ductwork ,correct static pressure ,etc. having an occasional Preventive Maintance check than brand

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I haven't not yet heard the word condensing in relation to a furnace but the company that did the load calculation provided me with 3 options:

Good - 13 seer ac Bryant 113
with 92% single stage with single stage blower - Bryant 912 $7,567

Better - 13 seer ac Bryant 113
with 95% single stage with single stage blower - Bryant 915 $7,812

Best - 16 seer ac Bryant 126
with 96% 2 stage with variable speed blower - Bryant 926 $8,827

all quotes include a humidifier, a programmable thermostat and a Merv 11 air cleaner

ANSWER: I would go with the 95 % condensing furnace as you can get the tax credit ( have them provide you with the 7 digit AHRI  ( ahridirectory.org ) before you sign a contract. The credit is worth $300.00 and again your state may offer rebates for installing energy star rated equiptment such as the furnace. Which in the end will bring the cost less than the 92% furnace and also save 3 % more on gas use. Make sure they register your furnace and A/C for you to get the maximum manufacture warranty, if it's not registered your A/C warranty will be cut in half, and your limited lifetime Heat exchanger warranty ( to the original homeowner ) will revert to a standard 20 year warranty. Didn't these people explain these benefits to you?

https://www.energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your advice!  I really appreciate your time.  I will ask more about the ductwork and I will definitely  pursue the tax credit.  Thank you Laure

Answer
Here is Ohio rebate program , for anything from thermostats to energy star rated Central air systems . A rebate is money in your pocket, as opposed to the tax credit

https://www.aepohio.com/save/residential/programs/In-homeEnergySavings/In-homeEnergyRebatePrograms.aspx

Just google Ohio rebates for Air conditioning or furnace  

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40+ years diversified experience.An HVAC/Refrigeration Self Employed Contractor since 1986. NATE Certifield. Answer questions pertaining to Residential and Commercial Air Conditioning , Warm Air Heating, Heat Pump systems.Mechanical and Electrical troubleshooting of these systems.Be as detailed as possible when describing problem.Packaged unit or split systems.No appliance questions.

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Installation and Troubleshooting, Mechanical and Electrical, in following areas, Refrigeration ( Walk In and Reach In Coolers and Freezers ) Commercial Roof Top and Packaged Heating/Cooling ( Natural Gas,Propane, Electric, and Heat Pumps ) Computer Room Air Conditoning Systems,Commercial Residential Packaged and Split Systems Air Conditoning and Heat Pumps.Warm Air Oil , Natural and Propane Gas Heating systems.

Education/Credentials
Graduated from Private Technical School in 1975. An HVAC/Refrigeration Contractor . Have Unlimited Heating/Piping and Cooling Contractor License.Limited Sheetmetal Contractors License.NATE Certifield. York Certifield Master Heat Pump Technician 1986. Served 33 years combination Active Duty Air Force , Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard in the HVAC/Refrigeration Shop/Mechanical Shop. Troubleshooting/Installing HVAC/Refrigeration Equiptment Worldwide. Retiring in 2003 as a Senior NCO ,and a Mechanical Superintendent.

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