The east unit appears to be replaced in 2000, seems to be a 3.5 ton (?) unit, and cools 4 bed rooms, 3 bath rooms and a 30x20 high ceiling, poorly insulated, with 20' of glass and doors on one side, a total of about 2000 SF of space. It is working, but does not cool enough in the middle of summer. My thought is I need to up the tonnage of this unit so it cools better.
The west side appears to be a 3 ton (?) unit, and cools a living room, dinning room, utility room and kitchen, a total of about 1600 SF of space. This condenser is now broken, out of warranty and needs replacement. I would also like to up the tonnage and add two new supply lines to the family room, therefore the large family room in the middle will be cooled by both zones, two vents from each side.
I asked three companies here to provide some recommendations and quotes.
Company 1 came by, looked around, and told me I have a 3.5 ton unit on both zones and they both need replacement, because the one I have there now, brand name "Janitor", is "a piece of crap" and will break soon even if it does not right now. He recommended that I replace both condensers and air handlers with Trane, a much nicer brand. He also recommend that I leave the air handlers up in the attic because it would be too much work to move them down and all duct work needs to be redone once you move the air handler. He will add two new supply lines for me to the family room. I asked him if I should move the air handlers down, he said no, because you have to redo all the duct work and that adds $5000 or more to the cost. I asked them if the air handlers are in good shape, he said yes seems to, but when you switch condensers you have to switch to the same brand air handlers or else it will not match and you will not get energy efficiency.
Company 2 came by, after inspecting my units, said I have a 4 ton in the east and 3.5 ton in the west. I said I thought both units were 3.5? He said says who? I said I had another company provide me with a quote and he told me 3.5 tons for one and 3 for the other. He said well if you want to hire idiots who does not even know tonnages go ahead. I asked his recommendations and he said the Janitor is not as good but it looks like my air handlers in the attic are in good shape, and I only need to replace both condensers on the outside. He also recommended Trane condensers. So he recommended that I leave the air handlers alone. But when I said I need two new supply lines for the family room, he said "Ah, now it changes everything..." he said to add supply lines I need to add ducts, if I add ducts I should move the air handlers down to the ground. I told him my understanding is the duct work has to be all redone, and he said "nonsense, you can reduct just one main to the new location and reduct the return, that may be extra $600 the most, but I have to run new electrical wiring to it that's all". So he quoted me two Trane condensers, one air handlers stays put, the other air handlers will be bought down into the garage, two new supply lines and reduct existing to new location. I will need to hire an electrician to the air handler location. I told him I heard that the air handlers much be switched out to the same brand to get energy efficiency, he laughed and said "well if I wanted to sell you more stuff I would have said the same thing"...I told him about the new supply lines and whether I need to up the tonnage, he said yes, better go with a 4 ton, I asked him if I need to change air handler to match the 4 ton, he said no, he can change the expansion coil and that would take care of it.
At that point I was tempted to go with company 2 cause he seemed to be more knowledgeable.
Now company 3 came by and said OK you have a 3.5 ton and a 3 ton unit, I said what? I thought I have a 4 and 3.5, and he said no he is pretty sure it's a 3.5 and 3, he dialed his partner in the office and read him some serial code and he put his phone on speaker and his partner said it's 3.5 and 3, he said "see? did someone tell you it's otherwise? I would be really scared of someone who can't even determine tonnages, they are not pros". I asked for same recommendations and he said he would replace both condensers and both air handlers with a higher tonnage, redo all ducts and bring the air handlers down, I said I am concerned if the reducting will cost a lot of extra $, and he said yes, it will but you have no choice, the code requires that you bring it down, no one leaves air handlers in the attic anymore, and he said if I need to up the tonnages, I need to reduct everything anyways because the diameter of the existing ducts would not be correct in size. I told him the other quotes I got do not necessarily require bringing the air handler down, and he said "you will see, it is required, they don't quote you because they want to wait till the inspector comes and tell u to bring it down then they will ask for more $ from you, it's a trick".
All three companies are doing this with permit, and included permit fee in their quotes.
Now my head is spinning, I have no idea whose recommendation to trust.
So my questions are:
(1) Is there anyway I can determine the tonnages myself? Is it possible one person determines the tonnages from the condenser and another from the air handler and they didn't match? I need to check it myself so I know who knows what he is talking about.
(2) Is it true that once you change condenser you need to change to same brand air handler to match? One cannot pair a Trane condenser with a Rheem air handler as long as tonnages match?
(3) As far as whether I have to bring handler down and reduct everything, I guess I have to personally check with the county building department, I am just perplexed that all three companies have such vastly different understanding of what the code requires!
(4) All three companies are large popular companies, have perfect record with BBB and licensed/insured.
Thanks for any comments and sorry for the lengthy post.