Central Air recommendations

Hi all,
I would like some recommendations for Central Air for people that really know about this subject (no offense). I got several quotes for putting central air in my 1500sq feet house in So. California (Orange County). I am looking for a 4ton 14 SEER unit for AC. There was somebody sent from Home Depot that gave me the highest quote, $10,500 and they use Trane. I also got one highly recommended contractor (that worked on a friend's house) that charges $8500 and uses American Standards, and I got a third recommended contractor that would charge me $6000 and uses Rheem. These quotes include parts and labor.
I am definetly inclined to use either one of the contractors recommended. Does anybody know how good are the Rheem/American Standards units? I know that who installs it has a huge part on the success of the project.
Please, I will welcome your recommendations.
Carlos
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4 ton in Orange county? Sounds like overkill to me. I had a 1655 sqft in Phx with a 3.5 ton. Did the contractors do a manual J calculation?
American Standard owns Trane, or it is the other way around. Same company different color on the sheet metal.
The equipment is secondary to the installer. The installer makes or breaks the system. All XX seer equipment is basically equal.
And your surprised how that HD is the highest? Their just middle men getting a cut.
Since the spread is so much I would get some more prices and go from there.
My old boss had a 2000 sqft home in Orange County that had no A/C.
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Carlos wrote:

I am willing to bet that a two or 2.5-ton A/C system will do the job right. As Joseph Meehan said, do not spend any money on equipment and installation until you get the equipment sizing right!
If you over pay for over capacity equipment, --you will be paying more every month and will not be as comfortable as would sizing it right!
When a typical HVAC contractor quotes the efficiency of an Air Conditioning equipment's SEER & Btu/hr, and leads you to believe the new equipment will automatically deliver that SEER efficiency & Btu/hr capacity rating, think again. Typically, --installed equipment only operates at 55% to 70% of rated capacity. Oversized equipment is the worst combination there is because the duct system airflow and heatload on the cooling coil are often, way off what is required! It is important to understand that "equipment ratings are only the 'potential efficiency' of that component of the system under perfect conditions." Over half of the system’s efficiency depends on correct equipment sizing, on the duct system sizing, i.e., on the quality of the complete field-installation!
What you want is right sized equipment operating at its optimal ratings, for optimal comfort and savings.
- udarrell - Darrell
--
Crank Your Air-Conditioner Up To Specs
http://www.udarrell.com/air-conditioner-capacity-seer.html
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Carlos wrote:

Step one is to chose the contractor, not the equipment brand.
How do you know you need 4 ton? Has anyone done the math on your home? If a contractor wants to give you a bid, without first doing the math using a Manual J computation, they would be questionable in my book. The best equipment not properly installed will not work well.
--
Joseph Meehan

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Is this a split system? Why only 14 SEER? Carrier has one that is up to 18 SEER. In the first quarter of 2006 they will have one going up to 21 SEER.
Personally I prefer to undersize the unit. I'd rather it be dry and a little warm, instead of cold and clammy. So I agree with those saying 4 tons is a bit big.
Don <www.donwiss.com> (e-mail link at home page bottom).
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Thank, you for your reply guys. It is very informative and will help me make a decision. I live in La Habra, and there are some really hot days in the summer (95 aprox). It is a split system the one I am interested. The guys that came in to give the estimate based the tonage of the unit based on the square footage of the house, they all said between 3.5 - 4ton. I have a section (500 sq feet aprox) that is an addition to the house that is not insulated (so basicallly, there is just a roof, no attic with insulation like in the rest of the house, this portion of the house in summer gets really hot, I am planning on putting some insulation there in the future since I got space to put insulation and then dry wall it. I thought 14 SEER was efficient enough, 21 SEER may be quite expensive.
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Carlos wrote:

If they did not do a Manual J they did not do their job.
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Joseph Meehan

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There are usually about 2500 homes in every calif neighborhood just exactly like yours, built to the exact same floor plans, etc.. Check with your neighbors and with the local hvac guy.
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I'd have to guess that the insulation is cheaper than running a larger system. And if you install the insullation later, your system will be way oversized.
My reccomendation is insullate first, AC system second.
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Christopher A. Young
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Carlos,
If they size of square feet of floor space, they are not doing their job. I have a 2-ton system cooling my 2000 Square foot house in Mtrtle Beach, Sc. Theperature here today was 95 degrees outside with 106 degree heat index.
They should measure square feet of walls, ceilings, floors, wimdows & doors. They should check insulation levels and type of windows and doors. They should check direction of windows (compass facing). A square foot of ceiling averages 4 BTUs in my area, a square foot of window averages 25 BTUs in my area, If they just go by floor or ceiling area, you may end up too big or too small. 500 Square foot per ton is used all over USA, except in Lousiana where they use 400 Square foot to the ton.
Get new contractors and ask for a load calculation.
Stretch
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Carlos wrote:

I agree with Storm. In this case if you are going to replace your AC before insulating, then I suggest you have the Manual J done based on the insulation you plan to add. That way the A/C will be properly sized after the insulation is added and will be much more comfortable. In the mean time, it may be a little warm from time to time, but that will only remind you to insulate and it will not be that uncomfortable as it will be low humidity.
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Joseph Meehan

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First, forget the name brand. But, since you brought it up, American Standard OWNS Trane. Home Depot would be the LAST place I would get a unit from, since all they do, is subcontract out to the SAME companies YOU can, for more than you can hire them for. Part of that 10 grand, simply goes to Home Depot.

Rheem/Ruud is no longer an American owned company, and for that reason, I am inclined to tell you to ignore it, but as a former contractor in Palm Springs CA, I can tell you that any of the units you ask about will work, last and run fine, provided they are installed correctly. There are also other units out there that are more popular in your area, that would work as well, and would be in the same price range.

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Carlos wrote:

You've located 3 hacks. Keep shopping around, get references. Or are you insisting on 4ton? The reason I ask is that it's difficult for me to believe that all 3 of the contractors recommended 4 ton based upon sq ft. Even by the old rules of thumb you get a 3ton max. If you have a Manual J run on the house and it calls for 4 ton, then fine. It could be that your house is an uninsulated POS, I can't see it from here, but it would have to be something to require 4 ton.
BTW, all of the replies you've gotten so far are from people who know the subject.
hvacrmedic
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Couple of questions.
1) Does this include a furnace, and some duct work, or just adding AC to an existing system? 2) Did you talk to a couple of your neighbors, and ask about their system? I bet they will tell you who installed theirs, and how bit a system is.
I'm in NYS, but six grand to install central AC over an existing furnace is about three times too much money. Well, at least by New York dollars.
--

Christopher A. Young
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I only have two gas wall heaters, the quotes are for central air (AC plus heating), so they have to do all the duct work, electrical, install the condenser, the furnace, etc etc.
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I'd go with the dual stage compressor. That solves your problem of oversizing and adding insulation later. You pay more now, but they are really, really nice.
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