heating and cooling questions

What a week... Our 28-yr-old air conditioner blew a few years ago, and we'd finally gotten tired of sweating like chimps in Borneo, so we were getting several quotes for a new whole-house air conditioner. Then the 28-yr-old furnace blew (or rather rusted out), so we find ourselves in the market for both heating and cooling and we have a couple of questions.
On the cooling side, the old unit is under the deck in a place about 5' 5" high. The old unit itself is about 2' 2" high. Two of the quotes said that a new unit would need more headroom and need to be moved further away from the house (adding to the cost) - otherwise, they say, there won't be enough air circulation, the air conditioner will be recycling the hot air it spews out, and it will burn out faster. The other 2 guys say there's enough room and it doesn't need to be relocated. I guess we should have gotten 5 estimates so we wouldn't have a tie :) What do you guys think?
On the heating side, my wife noticed water leaking from inside the furnace. Our oil company sent someone over, he cracked the case, and the entire inside is massively rusted out. Since it was already leaking, he said it could blow completely at any moment and advised us to turn it off and leave it off until a replacement gets in - so we have no hot water for at least the next few days. They said they'd try to schedule us in as an emergency, but they have only one option for brand (my wife doesn't remember the name, but it wasn't the ones we recognize - Wiel-McCain, Carrier, or Trane). My wife said the brand they carry was something like "Ream"...
Are there any brands that should be red flags? I guess for both heating or cooling?
We had Sears come out and give a quote on the cooling, and they said that Kenmore is just rebranded Carrier. We thought the independent guys would come in a lot cheaper, but so far they haven't. Given the warrantee and financing Sears is offering, it's making them sound pretty good. Anyone have experience getting Sears to do air conditioning systems?
Thanks -Mark
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Mark Modrall wrote:

I would keep shopping around, Goodman units can usually be bought for less and they will do the job as well as the others. Brand name means little, - as it is a quality install that counts!
What state are you in and large city do you live near? That will indicate SEER levels & Efficiency levels of furnace that you need.
They must do an accurate Manual J heatgain heat-loss calc. Then do everything you can to reduce those loads before you select equipment size! That is the optimal way to save money! - udarrell
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Air Conditioning\'s Affordable Path to the "Human Comfort Zone Goal"
http://www.udarrell.com/air-conditioning-total-heat-enthalpy-latent-heat.html
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Mark Modrall wrote:

Personally I would not choose Sears.
I suggest asking around among your friends, neighbors and co-workers and ask for their experiences with local contractors (who might be doing the "Sears" work anyway.) Don't worry about brand names, there are really few brands, but lots of names. If you have a good contractor, let the contractor make the recommendations based on what is best you're your needs and in that area. A good contractor will not recommend second rate equipment.
--
Joseph Meehan

Dia duit
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SEARS CHARGES A MINT FOR REPAIRS:(
If you call them to service your furnace with air they charge travel, that I can understand but they charge travel TWICE one for furnace one for air then discount the second travel a little. gee for walking to the truck and changing tool kits..........
any company who gouges like this deserves to go out of business!!!!!!!!!!!!
they also change part numbers and do other things to make 3rd party service difficult........
SEARS IS A RIP OFF!
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wrote:

I'd move it. Obstructing ventilation seems like a bad idea and that sounds pretty obstructed to me.

Might be time to consider a separate water heater. it'd likely be cheaper to operate than your boiler in the summer.
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