Quoting a Central AC / Heat Pump Job... Advice from the pros please...

I'm in the process of getting quotes for Central Air/Heat Pump for my house:
26 year old center hall colonial (built in 1979) Located in Upstate, NY (Hudson Valley) 2800 square ft, 2 stories, 4 bedrooms + 2 baths on the 2nd floor oil fired hot water baseboard heat 150Amp electrical service presently (I have an inground pool and I run the pump ~4hrs/day in the summer)
I've had three HVAC contractors bid and I must say... the HVAC folks do have some strong convictions...
Items that all contractors agreed on...

is than the quality of design/installation (and of course, each contractor claimed they do the best job). The brands they quoted were Trane, Rheem, York, Rudd, Lennox, Arcoaire

$$$ and would perform as well).

presently.
Now for the differences...

leaks and is therefore less efficient. Further, the leaks will pull fiberglass insulation particles from the attic and circulate it through the house and cause a hazard. The others argued strongly that metal ductwork, caulked, taped and insulated is the safer approach since the ductboard itself contains fiberglass insulation and the insulation can get loose. Further, the problem of pulling insulation from the attic only exists where there's "negative air" and they take great care to seal the return/intake area so no hot air from the attic is being pulled into the system. Reading through this forum, this is subject that is controversial to say the least...

reliable joint. The other guys kind of shrugged this one off as no big deal since they normally run a single length of copper there's only 2 joints in the entire system (one at the compressor and one at the air handler) the silver solder joint they normally use for residential customers really hasn't been a problem for them. Regardless, they'll braze the joint if I want it(since they do it for their commercial customers).

system.
heatpump since in the Northeast it's only be ~2 months/year we can use the heatpump, the heat since its dry air coming from the ceiling is not comfortable (we'd probably have the baseboard on anyway) and I don't want the added parts+complexity. He did say he'll install it if I wanted. The two other guys thought the heatpump would save enough energy to be worthwhile, only one guy did say that he'll run additional registers to a couple of the small bathrooms upstairs that he wasn't planning on for AC only if we added a heatpump. I can believe forced hot air coming from the ceiling may not be all that comfortable but are heatpumps trouble prone? If its "free" (after rebate) why not install it unless its a big headache?

SEER... is there a payback period "calculator" somewhere I can use?

the attic cool.
There is a BIG cost difference... Given the same AC unit, the Ductboard, 2 zone, brazed joint guy is absolutely the most expensive, about 1-1/2 to 2x the cost of the others. I can't believe all of that is because of the 2 zone system. Is the ductboard more expensive?
So I'm a little confused and could use some help from some "non-biased" pros.
Also... There are so many air filter options... I would like to keep the dust down and maybe help with my Wife's allergy... what's the best balance between a good filter vs cumbersome maintenance (it is difficult to get up into my attic).
Thanks for any help!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

    That's nice.
    This is not a homeowner advice group.
    Post in alt.home.repair.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.