Central Air Condo Install, Please advise

I am getting ready to install central air in my 3rd (top) floor Chicago condo. I have got several bids but almost everyone tells me a different story. I was wondering if you guys could offer some advice on what I might be missing.
My condo is 23' x 60' and has 4 bedrooms, 1 bath, kitchen, dinning, living
Note that I only plan on living here for another 2-3 years max so I don't want to overspend on this project.
Equipment: I have gotten quotes on Trane, American Standard, America Star, Comfortmaker, and Westinghouse. I have been told that Trane, American Standard, and America Star are all about the same since they are made by the same company. Is this correct? Is there really that big of a difference between these brands or are they all sufficient?
Price: I have been quoted between $6,500 - $10,000 for this project
Condenser: I have heard estimates of 2 ton and a 3.5 for the condenser. No one has done a Manual J yet. Will they Manual J always come out the same, or can the contractors fudge the numbers to make is say what they want it to say?
Furnace vs. Air Handler: I have baseboard steam/radiant heat so I really don't need a furnace. However it would be nice to be able to control my heat on really cold nights and have it as a backup. Some contractors told me that they can actually get the furnace cheaper than an air handler. Will a 100,000 BTU 80% furnace be any louder than an air handler? Is there anything I should be concerned with?
Ductwork: I am having the ductwork installed in my ceiling in the non-conditioned space. I know the duct needs to be insulated. The contractors very on how they want to insulate the duct from using fiberglass, bubble insulation, and the factor-insulated ductwork. Is there a big problem with any of these methods? Is the factory-insulated ductwork that much better? If so does it cost a lot more? Any advice would be very much appreciated.
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Dave wrote:

Your condo might have a management company that can refer you to contractors and owners who have experience. Do you need to get approval of the ductwork from your condo board?
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We are self managed and i am on the board. All 6 units will probably use the same contractor that I pick.
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Dave wrote:

Lucky you :o) We are also a small condo, Florida. We had AC/heat pump replaced about a year ago (new one is Bard) - serves only our unit and is on outside of building. My technical savvy re: heating/AC is zero. We have about 1200 sq. ft. living area, first floor. The total was about $4400. Might be apples and oranges compared to your needs, but $10,000 is way "out there". We have appliance service contract with the AC company that did the install, and they are trusted as to their recommendations. The discussion included size and efficiency, and the installer seemed to know what was appropriate but I don't recall the details.
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Dave wrote:

Normal, they guessing and pushing you some equipment brand.

You need to know for every wall size W x H, Sq Ft of glass, orientation N, S etc , insulation type, design temp, etc

Amount & compexity of ductwork impact price...

Do your own. Find HvacCalc, Rhvac or something else.

Yeah 100k furnace probably can heat condo double your size...
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Space Pack may be your ideal. small insulated 3" tube with superior humidity removal. Reilly Heating out of Melrose Park is the premier guy installing in the best homes in River Forest and Oak Park. There are alot of hacks out there, as you see none agree on what should be done, thats because few know.. Oversize and you will be left humid and clammy. I had 4 hacks bid and luckily Reily install. Don`t do anything without a load calc and with Chgos heat get a high Seer.
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What kind of range would be reasonable (ballpark) for a condo my size. I know it depends on a lot of stuff, but I am pretty sure from all I have read that 100k BTU will be oversized.
Should it be more like 50k-70k BTU?
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It really depends................. It could be something like being out on the plains or maybe something like standing on your stove (range)
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Dave wrote:

Hi, Condo? Duct work, etc.? Do you have permission from the condo board for the work before anything else? Why do you think extra heat(furnace)? What's wrong with existing heater? No fire place? Is your place multi-level? If I were you I'd just install a wall mount unit with remote control and evaporator unit sitting outside on the balcony or on the roof. They come few different sizes, made by NEC, LG, etc. You can add heat option if you really want. And you can take it with you when moving. This type is in my kid's condo near downtown. Loft unit, ~1100 sq.ft. Works well in hot summer afternoons. Click on the remote, it starts, you can adjust fan speed, set the temp., and direct air flow where you want via motorized flaps. There is one setting which makes surfing sound by pulsating fan speed. Looks like they're quoting something for residetial house. Furnace can come with DC variable speed fan motor, or two or single speed motor. Sounds like they're out to get you, IMO. 100,000BTU 80% efficient furnace is big enough to heat a 2000 sq. ft. 2 story house! and 3.5 ton a/c will cool same house in summer, LOL!
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