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jkelley9

Need advice on replacement HVAC system

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7 hours ago, Golfingdad said:

I was mistaken, they actually came today.  They were done with the install in about 3 hours.  (We didn't need any duct work done)

Cool thanks for the info. I didn't have a chance to look deeper into my units last night as I was EXHAUSTED from having to climb in dirty reactors and do internal inspections all day :~( but I have looked over the upstairs unit at least for several minutes and I just can't fathom how the install could take more than a day for a unit, for 1 person, if there is no duct work that needs to be done. For a certified, experienced HVAC tech I can't see it taking more than a few hours frankly.

I think I just need to evacuate & disconnect the refrigerant lines (which isn't easy of course), disconnect the gas, power, tstat, and duct box ends.... swap out old unit, and reconnect, then recharge and test... and I think that's it. I may need to modify the duct box ends a little but I've worked with sheet metal before. I think most of the time spent is being patient with the evacuation, purging, brazing, re-charging, performance checking of the refrigerant system loop. 

My unit is sitting on cinder blocks so it isn't even hung (talking about the upstairs split system only for now). It's a 16 year old unit and even sitting on blocks doesn't make any noise, and the units nowadays are even quieter. 

The only difficulty that I could see facing is if I had to replace the line set between the condenser and the evaporator coil. But my system seems to have good pressures so I don't believe the copper should be cruddy or anything so I should be able to reuse them.

If I can time this install for early spring I should have a couple weeks of fair weather and give myself plenty of time to do this.

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Figured I'd update y'all on this project. It's has been quite a trip, but like MANY things in life if you educate yourself a little bit in something you can save a lot of money and have quality work done.

I got 4 quotes for this project. 1 national company (who does a lot of business at my plant), 1 larger local company, 1 small local company, and 1 certified technician who would do the work on the side.

$12,800 large national company (both units)

$12,200 large local company (both units)

$9,100 small company through a "friend referral" (both units)

$7,200 on-the-side guy option 1: replace both units and he pulls permits through his guy

$6,400 on-the-side guy option 2: replace both units and I pull permits

$3,400 on-the-side guy option 3: replace just upstairs unit and I pull permits

 

I went with the last option there and I'll tell you why. 1) My upstairs unit was the only unit that was having major issues (compressor cutting out, poor flow, and consuming a lot of power). 2) This guy was very open and honest with me. He told me exactly where he came up with his prices. He communicated with me at the highest level. I checked his certifications and everything checked out. He was also so honest that he told me if he were me, he wouldn't worry about the downstairs unit (even though he was about to make money off me to replace it) because it just had the heating coil replaced 4 years ago and may last a few more years. 3) I work in construction a lot in my plant. I do a lot of project management so I'm very familiar with the whole permit process. I went online, paid $70, spoke with a specialist on the phone, included his license number as a footnote for my home insurance liability (for handling refrigerant) but I was on the hook for the mechanical and electrical inspections. I'm scheduling those inspections today. I don't imagine I'll run into any major problems because I've already checked all the codes and his work and everything looks great. 4) I did not have to pay this guy anything up front. He notified his distributor where he gets a great deal on units having worked with them for years, and I paid for it on my card (yay points! :D) . Had it delivered straight to my house. I was shocked at how inexpensive the units actually are... I paid $1,500 for the 2-ton condenser, 2.5 ton evap coil, and an 80,000 btu furnace all everything plug and play basically. Wow. There were a bunch of other parts on the list as well that I paid for. The distributor also registered the equipment with the tech's licenses and certifications so that I can get the 10-year parts warranty through Goodman. Then Friday night he came and dropped off all his equipment and I paid him the first half of the balance. He went out and got everything he needed from Lowe's and such for first thing Saturday. Showed up on time ready to work, with with brother as a helper. Both were great guys. Worked hard. Got the job done in 6 hours. I paid him the remaining balance minus $130. He told me to hold on to it until after the system passes both inspections. Top-notch honesty and confidence in my opinion. I told him he will certainly have my business twice a year for the foreseeable future. And when my gas pack unit goes out (downstairs).

The unit runs great. I've even been switching it from heating and cooling often because of the weather shift. 

By the way, at least for the Goodman unit I bought, it's not loud like people claim online. I even opened the units up and looked around... they appear to be quite high-grade. I was looking at all of the metal choices, fittings, seals, welds. Everything looked top notch. 

Of course it hasn't passed inspection yet, but that aside I've been very happy so far. 

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Mechanical inspection went great. He said it looked like he did a great job.

Funny story with the electrical inspection. The guy literally had to come out 3 times (meaning... I 'failed' inspection twice lol). First time was an improper "color" ground wire (he insisted it be green... and couldn't be taped with just green tape like it was... seems nit-picky but I obliged of course since it's code). Second was that my breaker panel was atrociously labeled. Basically, like many builder-grade cookie-cutter homes, before they're allowed to even start electrical they have to label the entire panel what's gonig to go where... a lot of times before they're even figured out what's going in the house. So they slapped some super crappy descriptions on there including "heat pump" (I DONT HAVE A HEAT PUMP... NEVER HAVE) lol. So I had to re-label the entire panel. I've been meaning to do it anyways so again, I obliged with some nice-n-fancy label-maker labels.

So on round 2 now that the panel was labeled... I didn't check the fuse amperage of the newly installed units. Apparently newer units use less power (duh) so that was a bonehead move of mine. I should have checked. So I had to replaced some 20A with 15A per the name plates on the units.

So then the 3rd inspection literally took 15 seconds and all is said and done. Build certificate has been issued :)

Boy has this been a project. But I expected nothing less. I made the decision to save $4,000 (the upstairs unit was the more expensive install by far) and swallowed the heartburn as I went. I'm glad I did. I'm much more knowledgeable on my own system now and now I have $4,000 to put towards the next unit when I need it. Which I'll be going with the same guy.

Thanks you guys for your help in this process.

I'm actually planning on getting my refrigerant handling licenses for funsies. Working on getting the Quik608 prep material now and will take the test when I'm ready. A lot of the material is a lot of stuff I've already covered when I was in school for chemical engineering so hopefully it won't be too bad. Then just gotta take the proctored test and whatever sections I pass, I get the certifications for.

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The experience is "priceless" and it also will help if and when any mechanical failure occurs.
Knowing the product is a key element when servicing is required and will also be beneficial.

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On 10/24/2016 at 8:15 AM, jkelley9 said:

 

 

I went with the last option there and I'll tell you why. 1) My upstairs unit was the only unit that was having major issues (compressor cutting out, poor flow, and consuming a lot of power). 2) This guy was very open and honest with me. He told me exactly where he came up with his prices. He communicated with me at the highest level. I checked his certifications and everything checked out. He was also so honest that he told me if he were me, he wouldn't worry about the downstairs unit (even though he was about to make money off me to replace it) because it just had the heating coil replaced 4 years ago and may last a few more years. 3) I work in construction a lot in my plant. I do a lot of project management so I'm very familiar with the whole permit process. I went online, paid $70, spoke with a specialist on the phone, included his license number as a footnote for my home insurance liability (for handling refrigerant) but I was on the hook for the mechanical and electrical inspections. I'm scheduling those inspections today. I don't imagine I'll run into any major problems because I've already checked all the codes and his work and everything looks great. 4) I did not have to pay this guy anything up front. He notified his distributor where he gets a great deal on units having worked with them for years, and I paid for it on my card (yay points! :D) . Had it delivered straight to my house. I was shocked at how inexpensive the units actually are... I paid $1,500 for the 2-ton condenser, 2.5 ton evap coil, and an 80,000 btu furnace all everything plug and play basically. Wow. There were a bunch of other parts on the list as well that I paid for. The distributor also registered the equipment with the tech's licenses and certifications so that I can get the 10-year parts warranty through Goodman. Then Friday night he came and dropped off all his equipment and I paid him the first half of the balance. He went out and got everything he needed from Lowe's and such for first thing Saturday. Showed up on time ready to work, with with brother as a helper. Both were great guys. Worked hard. Got the job done in 6 hours. I paid him the remaining balance minus $130. He told me to hold on to it until after the system passes both inspections. Top-notch honesty and confidence in my opinion. I told him he will certainly have my business twice a year for the foreseeable future. And when my gas pack unit goes out (downstairs).

The unit runs great. I've even been switching it from heating and cooling often because of the weather shift. 

By the way, at least for the Goodman unit I bought, it's not loud like people claim online. I even opened the units up and looked around... they appear to be quite high-grade. I was looking at all of the metal choices, fittings, seals, welds. Everything looked top notch. 

Of course it hasn't passed inspection yet, but that aside I've been very happy so far. 

 

I bolded the portions that would be (IMO) directly related to labor.  First item (delivery) is quite often taken care of by the HVAC tech (or techs) themselves.  Dropping stuff off, picking up materials, acutally doing the work, cleanup, unloading van at shop.  All said, there is probably a total of 20 hours (two techs) of direct labor for the job.  $3,400 - $1,500 (equipment) - $200 (misc. mtrls) = $1,700.  Divide that by $20, and you are at $85 an hour.  Sounds about right..... But, what if something (maybe not even his fault) goes out in a few weeks?  Who pays for that labor?  My point being, he did not leave himself much room at all.  

I believe you got a screaming good deal.....  Also, my calculations does not show him making any money off of the equipment itself.

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3 minutes ago, 14ledo81 said:

I bolded the portions that would be (IMO) directly related to labor.  First item (delivery) is quite often taken care of by the HVAC tech (or techs) themselves.  Dropping stuff off, picking up materials, acutally doing the work, cleanup, unloading van at shop.  All said, there is probably a total of 20 hours (two techs) of direct labor for the job.  $3,400 - $1,500 (equipment) - $200 (misc. mtrls) = $1,700.  Divide that by $20, and you are at $85 an hour.  Sounds about right..... But, what if something (maybe not even his fault) goes out in a few weeks?  Who pays for that labor?  My point being, he did not leave himself much room at all.  

I believe you got a screaming good deal.....  Also, my calculations does not show him making any money off of the equipment itself.

Yea, originally I didn't think he would have a helper. I was glad to hear that it was his brother, that way there's a little incentive for personal accountability there on his part. But basically all he did was help move the units upstairs, and run to the store for a couple forgotten parts. 

But still, when he showed up with his brother I immediately felt a little bad because I figured he would be making EXCELLENT money but when he divides it by two (or whatever he agreed with his brother) it was possibly more into the "good" or "okay" money category.

I talked to him about it and he said he was very happy with how much he made from the deal. He doesn't have a lot of cash on hand so he can't buy units to mark up anyways. I had to buy it and I had it delivered straight to my house. He got "dealer pricing" from his relationship with the dealer which was a GREAT price so while he didn't get a direct markup, when I was calculating the costs of the equipment I was several hundred dollars above what I actually paid for them. So they made that difference off me, which I was more than happy to pay.

Also, it only took them ~8 hours to do the job. They showed up at 8:00AM (sharp, believe it or not! Bright eyed and bushy tailed lol) and they were on their way at 4:00PM. And that included an hour and a half lunch break (while the vacuum pump was pulling down on the system) and having to go back to the store at one point for about an hour to pick up some more materials.

I told him I was happy with the work and that he can plan on me asking him to maintain the equipment twice a year for sure. And when the gas pack unit goes out, he'll be the one to replace it. 

At this point even if he completely flaked on me (which I highly doubt; he is a great guy all around) and something were to go out on the unit there's a lot of components I could replace on it myself now; minus the compressor/evap coil/or condenser; stuff in the actual refrigeration loop. And if/when I get certified, I may even be able to do those myself (borrowing some tools). Worst case, I would think that since I have a certificate from the city that shows that I got a permit and everything passed inspection I could probably find someone willing to work on the unit at this point. Not worried though. 

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Again, site time is only a portion of labor costs.

Regardless, you got a great deal.  I just think many contractors don't account for all of their costs.  Add in rent, utility bills, work van, specialized tools, etc.  You can see at his price, there is really not much left at all.

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Some of you may find this comical and and "I told you so!"

Turns out the guy that did our split system install can no longer be found. He had changed numbers once while working with me for that couple of weeks so I had a feeling he may be a "number changer." So it turns out I can't find the guy and he never called me for a tune up, which I told him I would pay him twice a year to come check everything out, no problem. Well, you guys warned me that these guys can be flaky! :-P

However! On a positive note, I had a big-box company I scheduled an appointment for a spring tune-up and checkout of my new system. This guy was actually very knowledgeable, nice, and seemed very genuine. He checked out the system and basically said he thinks the guy did a great job installing it and even pointed out some "better" features of the install that most people don't do. He said the system checked out perfect on pressure, temp across the unit, etc.

So at least I have that going for me! 

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Update to this sort of blog post.

I went ahead and replaced the downstairs unit this past weekend, myself! :-) 

Went back to my old quote from more than a year ago for $6,900 just to replace that one unit. I couldn't bring myself to pay that kind of money. The downstairs unit is a self-contained, packaged unit (a/c and furnace are all in one unit - condenser, blower, evap coil, burners, everything is within the unit. it even comes precharged with refrigerant).

I researched more than I really needed to, largely due to the fact that my RETAIL parts, pallet jack rental, and permitting total added up to only $2,800 or so. And this was with express delivery of a 400 lb unit, inside delivery, and over-nighted some parts (my father was in town for only a week and I needed his help moving the unit out of and into place). So I kept looking for the reason why there was an extra $5,000 on the quoted price to install.

I found none. 

Sure I was pretty nervous. "Did I miss something?" "Am I going to get burned finding out there's some piece I can't do myself and have to pay someone anyways?"

Turns out, no. 

This thing was pretty flipping easy to install. Just as I had researched, the unit has an extremely limited number of connections: air inlet/outlet duct lines, 3 electrical cords, 1 thermostat cord, gas line, and condensate line. THAT'S IT. It took my father and I 7 hours to install, and ~3 hours of that was me being an idiot and forgetting parts "rushing" to home Depot 3 times. 1+ hour was spent just moving the old unit out and the new unit into place. 10 minutes to swap the breaker.

Since the unit comes sealed and pre-charged with refrigerant, I didn't need a license for this. I merely pulled an OTC permit through my city for the mechanical and electrical install (including the gas line work) and all work was 100% legal and to code.

The thing I love most about this is that I know I did the install right. Unfortunately when it comes to these types of installs a lot of contractors will use shortcuts because there's very limited accountability. For example, in this case, contractors may not follow the specs for the condensate line and they'll just slap some PVC pipe together in the right "orientation." They may use the wrong type of sealant for the gas lines. They may not adjust the gas regulator so that the burners fire correctly (which can dramatically reduce the life of the heat exchanger, and even cause a dangerous situation. They may not seal off holes through the unit where water can get in over time to the boards and prematurely fail. They may not adequately insulate the duct connections to where there will be condensation on surfaces that'll get into the insulation and ruin it, causing mold/bugs. They may go with the pre-charge refrigerant and say "I'm sure it's good enough" even though the factory charging isn't very accurate - which can be the difference of the compressor lasting only 3-4 years... or 10+ years. They may not set the correct fan speeds for proper temperature change across the exchanger/coil. All these things I now know were done correctly. I can't guarantee my unit will last 10+ years... but I know that if it doesn't, it was just a manufacturing defect, not a shoddy install.

I'll follow that rant by saying there's tons of fantastic contractors out there. I've just had a very, very bad run of them the last 2 years.

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