Heat pump replacement: 4 vendors, 3 answers

Hi, folks. Here's my story:
The 20-year-old GE heat pump for my condo apt. ten miles north of Boston has gone on the fritz, so I called some local HVAC firms for proposals to replace it. The old unit is a freestanding or rooftop-style HP heavily adapted to fit into a closet.
So far, I've talked with four dealers and received four completely different answers. How can I tell who's a pro and who's a hack?
Firm #1 (recommended by neighbors) serves a lot of condos in this town, including this complex. They didn't even visit, but sent me an off-the-shelf proposal for a 2-ton Bard heat pump. They haven't actually used the unit in this building before, but have been happy with the results in another local complex. Price: $5300.
Firm #2 (well-rated in a local consumer magazine) came on-site, sounded knowledgeable, and went back to the office. That was about four weeks ago. When I called to see if they were still interested, they said they wanted to propose a "remanufactured" heat pump, and were waiting for info from their supplier.
Firm #3 visited but passed on the job.
Firm #4 visited and looked incredulously at the old installation. He advised against a heat pump, proposing a 2-ton split system Lennox A/C with an electric heat package. He figures that this will fit into the closet better with less kludgery and be more reliable. Price: $7500.
My impression is that #4 has put more thought into this than the other folks, but maybe I'm wrong. Any opinions you can offer about the proposals so far will be greatly appreciated! Do I need to keep looking?
Thanks-- --RC
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Here is my take- I have 32 years experience in the HVAC trade so have a fair idea what I'm talking about:
Dismiss # 2 & 3 (what exactly is a "remanufactured unit")??
#4- a heat pump in Mass. had better have electric backup in it. So you are using the heat pump when the weather allows and then switching over to electric on colder days. A heat pump & a straight electric AHU are the same size so I don't understand his theory.
#1- selected same size as #4, Bard is a good unit (most important item is the compressor and I'm sure neither one makes their own). He/she also services other units in your condo- I would give this a big plus in my determination. They didn't come out because they know the installation. If the warranty is the same for Bard/Lennox/Trane/Carrier/etc. go for it. From what you have said I would go with #1- you could ask them the efficiency rating of the Bard and if they also offer anything higher but remember that it is easy to reach "diminishing returns" on a very high efficiency unit. What I mean is that you could pay a lot more for the initial unit then you will save in energy. Good Luck- stay warm
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#1 was recommended by neighbors and has done other units in the same complex.
Seems like the answer to your question! Greg
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On 6 Sep 2004 00:06:56 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (RC) wrote:

I would. I don't like the last idea; if you're going to get ac anyway, you are getting 99% of a heatpump to begin with . A heatpump will save you money over plain electric heat when it is in the 30's and 40's out and you just need a little heat.
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Funny, but a heatpump doesn't cost 1% more than an air conditioner. I think you have your head up your ass.
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Thanks to all who responded: I guess it's unanimous! I'll be taking your (and the neighbors') advice.
--RC
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