Furnace system upgrades - worth it?

Hello All,
We've decided to get a Keeprite Two Stage Variable Speed Mid-efficiency gas furnace for our renovated 1500ft 80 year old story and a half bungalow and have narrowed it down to two installers. Both have included duct cleaning, re-routing of the basement cold air return to the floor, and installation of the two fresh air ducts now required by the City of Edmonton, Alberta, where we live. Both installers are members in good standing with the BBB.
The difference between the two installers are system upgrades, and therefore, price. Installer 1 quoted $3600 complete, including (1) a radius return with 2 fins, and (2) a manually-operated 50% damper that is put in position at Halloween and returned to open when the outside water tap is turned back on. We tried to get the price reduced by not including the damper, but Installer 1 believes that the system should be installed complete to allow for the most comfort in the house. Installer 2 quoted $2900 complete, but without a radius return or damper. When asked if these would be useful upgrades, Installer 2 disagreed.
I've done as much research as I could on radius returns and dampers, including the forums posted by the knowledgeable folks on this site, and understand that there are some benefits with these (radius return -
quieter, and more efficient use of filter; damper - keep too much cool air from recirculating in the winter, especially with a variable speed motor running constantly). In addition, we would like to go with Installer 1, because he knew pretty much more than the other three Installers who quoted combined and was easier to discuss things with. However, we're not certain if the extra $700.00 for the two upgrades is
worth it.
Any commments would be greatly appreciated.
Regards, DL
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Knowing more means he knows how to do a better job, and that is definately worth $700.00!! I don't understand what the damper controls from your post, but I find very few contractors who understand air flow. That is a BIG plus. Go with #1. You will probably get more than the damper and radius elbow for the $700, but they may all be little things that add up to a lot over the years in better comfort and performance.
Stretch
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As I understand it, the 50% damper is a manually operated unit that helps to control the amount of cool air coming in the house through the 4" fresh air intake of the gas furnace. It's placed near the gas furnace for easy access. This will really only be useful in cold climates. From May - October the air temperature outside is 'roughly' similar to that inside the home, i.e., not significantly different for the most part. During this time the damper is left open at 100% air flow. From November - April the air is generally below freezing, and usually much below that, at least in Alberta. Because cold air expands when it heats, less is required for fresh air exchange within the house. The 50% damper is manually engaged during November - April, reducing the amount of cold air coming in the house, but not the total amount of air required for air exchanges. As a bonus, apparently it also saves 10's of dollars in heat savings every year.
Some contractors like to install a Hoyme damper for a similar purpose. It operates as follows (from the Hoyme website):
"The COMBUSTION FRESH AIR DAMPER, Series 'HOM' is motorized and used for the control of fresh air for combustion. It is patented and Code Certified to be field installed and interlocked with a thermostat of a furnace or aquastat of a boiler, using either oil, propane or natural gas. The damper is placed at the terminating end of an insulated fresh air inlet duct beside the furnace. When the thermostat asks for heat, this motorized damper opens to allow fresh air for complete combustion. When the furnace stops, the damper closes to prevent the entry of unnecessary cold air. This results in added comfort with a definite saving of fuel."
Installer 1 (from my first post) who wants to install the 50% damper does not believe the Hoyme damper is useful in residential applications (he will install them in some commercial applications). In fact, he believes that they may be dangerous. I must admit that I don't completely follow his logic (other websites laud the Hoyme Damper), but he seems to know what he's talking about. Perhaps it's related to the fact that he wants to install a two stage variable speed furnace and recommends that the motor run constantly.
Hope that explains the 50% damper more fully. And thanks for the response.
DL
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I think your advise is good, Stretch. After four on-site assessments and quotes and much research, we have decided to go with Installer 2, despite the higher cost of the install. Already we're impressed -- someone's coming by to do a site assessment before the actual install date, and the included duct cleaning is to be
scheduled on a day just before the new install. Installer 1, who we actually hired before we changed our minds, was just going to come in and do the whole thing in one fell swoop, assessment, duct cleaning, and install.
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