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Old 01-04-2013, 08:58 AM   #1
dmeadow
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Default HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

We're building a new home and everyone tells us that we need to have a variable speed air handler and a two stage air compressor. This is in Houston and these systems are supposed to be much more effective with humidity.

The "standard" system that comes with the home is not variable speed and two-stage, but it is "multi phase", whatever that means.

The square footage of the home is around 3200 and there are two units involved. I don't have all the specs, but I was told that the units would be a 4 ton and a 2 or 3 ton, depending on how the zones work out.

The builder's contractor uses Lennox products. Again, I haven't seen the final specs, but he said he would use an XC16 exterior unit (according to Lennox's website, not the top of the line, but close) and a G61 air handler (not sure if I have that last bit right).

The upgrade cost we are being quoted is $7328 over the standard unit.

That seems awfully high for an upgrade, but prices are a big mystery in the A/C business. I suspect the builder may be adding a margin for themselves, but haven't asked them that question.

I realize y'all don't know the standard equipment (nor do I), but any of you HVAC guys tell me if that even sounds to be in the ballpark?
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Old 01-04-2013, 09:31 AM   #2
danski0224
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

No comment on pricing...

But, if the ductwork and air filters are not sized properly on a variable speed air handler, you will not see any efficiency benefits and the airflow restriction may cause the motor to self destruct.

Any attic ductwork should be tested for leakage with a duct blaster.
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Old 01-04-2013, 10:06 AM   #3
speadphreak
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

Quote:
Originally Posted by danski0224 View Post
No comment on pricing...

This generally means you're being gouged without someone in the same industry coming out and saying so.

Im trying to get ahold of a friend to see what his pricing for the same would be. Im in a different area so the pricing will be different but it shouldnt be too far off.
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Old 01-04-2013, 10:23 AM   #4
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

I think you're being gouged big time.

Are you saying the yet to be built home normally comes with a new "standard" AC unit that hasn't been installed yet, and the $7,300 is the cost over and above what it costs to have a ungraded unit put in it's place? I would think the upgrade should be something like $2,000 more.

I know one trap a lot of people get into is buying a higher end AC unit to "save" money on electricity, but the math on that almost never works. People will spend $7,000 on a new AC unit to save $20 a month on their utilities for 3-4 months a year in the summer. You're talking about something like a 100 years to break even.

Last edited by TangoFoxTrot; 01-04-2013 at 10:26 AM.
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Old 01-04-2013, 10:39 AM   #5
dmeadow
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

Quote:
Originally Posted by TangoFoxTrot View Post
I think you're being gouged big time.

Are you saying the yet to be built home normally comes with a new "standard" AC unit that hasn't been installed yet, and the $7,300 is the cost over and above what it costs to have a ungraded unit put in it's place? I would think the upgrade should be something like $2,000 more.

I know one trap a lot of people get into is buying a higher end AC unit to "save" money on electricity, but the math on that almost never works. People will spend $7,000 on a new AC unit to save $20 a month on their utilities for 3-4 months a year in the summer. You're talking about something like a 100 years to break even.
Yes, the quote is over and above the cost of the standard unit yet to be installed. The amount is just the upgrade cost.

While the variable speed/two-phase system is supposed to be more efficient, we weren't looking at that aspect as much. We were more interested in its ability to better control the humidity, though I also got encouragement to go that route in this thread as well as other places: http://www.garagejournal.com/forum/s...d.php?t=176435

What is your basis for quoting $2000? Personal experience? Are you in the industry? Not challenging you, I just need some solid information to go back with. Thanks for your reply!
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Old 01-04-2013, 11:01 AM   #6
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

I'm not an HVAC Pro, but I think you are either being misuqoted, or being giving an unreasonable upgrade price.

I had a "heat pump" replaced in my house. It was several years ago. Included multi-stage gas (LP) furnace, the air handler (with a var. speed blower), 15 SEER rating, new lineset, installation and everything for the same as your upgrade price.

Additionally, this was 4 years ago (roughly), we're in a different geography, but the unit is an American Standard (Trane), was not at the top, but close to the top of the list in terms of "best units".

Just my uneducated opinion, but if it's not installed yet, the differences in the ductwork should be minimal with regards to cost. The difference in labor should be minimal. It's really the difference in the price of the unit. I'd think that $1,500 per unit would be a good guess at the incremental retail price to step up to variable speed / multi-stage.

Will watch for others' opinions...
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Old 01-04-2013, 11:30 AM   #7
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

Quote:
Originally Posted by speadphreak View Post
This generally means you're being gouged without someone in the same industry coming out and saying so.
No, it means that there is no comment on the pricing.

I haven't seen the job nor do I know the specs.

Therefore, a meaningful assesment is impossible without considering geographical differences.

If the OP thinks the price is too high, then get another bid... but I bet the OP can't because the builder is using his/her sub.

Generally speaking, home builders are not known for quality below the paint and the builder always gets their markup. In my area, the big name tract and semi-custom residential home builders get at least 100% and squeeze the subs dry.

If you don't like the "upgrade price", then don't check the option box. If it is controlled by the builder, then it doesn't matter if the equipment price difference is $5. That's how it works unless you are working with an ethical builder.

Do you really think the 64GB memory stick in the iPad is really that much more than the 16GB version? Same difference, Apple sets the price and you will pay it if you want it.

Unless there is a spec sheet covering the entire scope of work for the HVAC portion of the job, "price talk" is pointless.

Last edited by danski0224; 01-04-2013 at 11:36 AM.
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Old 01-04-2013, 04:19 PM   #8
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

Quote:
Originally Posted by danski0224 View Post
No, it means that there is no comment on the pricing.

I haven't seen the job nor do I know the specs.

Therefore, a meaningful assesment is impossible without considering geographical differences.

If the OP thinks the price is too high, then get another bid... but I bet the OP can't because the builder is using his/her sub.

Unless there is a spec sheet covering the entire scope of work for the HVAC portion of the job, "price talk" is pointless.
I understand and appreciate what you are saying. I'm not looking for anything precise-- just an indication. I know that anything I get on a forum with as little information as I gave isn't going to result in anything precise.

I do have some leverage with the builder, though, and could potentially negotiate this if it is out of line.

FWIW, I have a spec sheet now that details the equipment that is standard and the upgrade equipment. I don't have pricing for both, just the differential. If there is someone out there that is familiar with Lennox pricing I can forward it.
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Old 01-04-2013, 05:00 PM   #9
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

My son just bought a new furnace last year. The installer said it would take a loooong time to pay back the cost of variable speed blower.

Having 2 systems is a good idea for a house that size, as long as it is zoned properly.

If you have a choice, get a quote on a heat pump, possibly even a geothermal heat pump. The geothermal ones use the earth to heat/cool the refrigerant. Expensive to install, but you will save a LOT especially on cooling !
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Old 01-04-2013, 05:05 PM   #10
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmeadow View Post
Yes, the quote is over and above the cost of the standard unit yet to be installed. The amount is just the upgrade cost.

What is your basis for quoting $2000? Personal experience? Are you in the industry? Not challenging you, I just need some solid information to go back with. Thanks for your reply!
I pulled it out of my ass

But just common sense tells me that no AC unit I'm aware of carries that type of premium above and beyond what their base model costs, but I'm not in the industry at all. I replaced my older unit a few years ago with a new Trane that was a higher end model, and it costs around $5k with installation, and that included removal of the old which they had to use a crane to take it off and install on my roof, so it seems sky high to me that it would exceed that just to upgrade a unit that hasn't even been installed or purchased yet.

In your original post, you said:

"The upgrade cost we are being quoted is $7328 over the standard unit."

But if you are talking about 2 total units for $7328 TOTAL (not each) than that makes a lot more sense.

Regardless, get other bids. I've been amazed over the years what people have tried to pull, and you can't be an expert at everything.
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Old 01-04-2013, 05:12 PM   #11
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

To the OP, bend over. As a builder I can tell you if your paying $7300 over the cost of the basic model your getting hosed. For $7300 total I can have a RHEEM RGFG (top of the line) modulating 97% furnace and 5 Ton 18 seer AC unit installed NOT including duct work, zoning, thermostats, etc.

Allot of times even in tract homes you get the choice between a couple different brands of HVAC equipment. Personally I offer RHEEM (everyone is usually happy with Rheem), BRYANT (so so reviews from my customers), or ARMSTRONG (better reviews then Bryant, but not as positive as Rheem).
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Old 01-04-2013, 05:56 PM   #12
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

Might also be worth considering are the repair/maintenance costs on the higher end systems. A HVAC contractor mentioned to me once that he was hesitant to replace repairable, marginal efficiency single stage units with the higher efficiency systems because they may not be prepared for the price of fan controls, circuit boards, etc that would need to be replaced several times over the life of the system. Perhaps worth considering.
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Old 01-04-2013, 06:23 PM   #13
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

why not call a few local HVAC shops and see if they will quote comparable so you have solid numbers?
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Old 01-04-2013, 06:41 PM   #14
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

That upgrade cost is way out of line. And he's installing 6-7 tons for a 3200 sqft house? Maybe for a 1 story with tons of windows and no insulation. You need to have a reputable HVAC contractor do a load calculation based on your house designs.

We have spray foam insulation, 2800sqft, with 3tons of cooling and 100k btu furnace.

Back to the question of variable speed fan and multiple stage heating. I don't think you will ever recoup the costs of the upgrade. Motor controllers are $300+ to replace as opposed to $8 capacitors. $500 control boards compared to $75. Unfortunately units are not lasting nearly as long as older ones and repair costs have skyrocketed. I'd go basic and spend your money on spray foam or upgraded insulation.
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Old 01-04-2013, 07:04 PM   #15
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

I just ordered a couple of package heat pumps for a commercial building I own. To go
from 14 seer to 16 seer on a 3.5 ton unit was an additional $ 450. On ebay there are
tons of equipment suppliers where you can price equipment only. Last year we bought
a couple of 5 ton units delivered for $ 7K. Having built new homes I get the feeling your
contractor is getting hit pretty hard by his sub on the upgrade and then he is putting it
to you in turn. What is the price point on the new house total package price. One HVAC
guy quoted me $ 8k to replace one of the 5 ton units.
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Old 01-04-2013, 09:00 PM   #16
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

Might be pushing Lennox high-end product for rebates? Last year Lennox had $1,500 rebate for variable speed 97% that I was looking at IF you got both new furnace and A/C.

If your base cost already in the new house build is say $6K to $8K, then your $7K add-on puts you at $13K to $15K total . . . . wow, I'd hope you could get top-of-line geothermal multi-fuel (least cost electric vs NG real-time), etc. for that price!!

I'd suggest doing some "mystery shopping" with your specs. Why weren't these options all covered before you ever signed the house build??

+1 on researching that ductwork will be top notch design as well since it will be life-long detriment to house if it's not designed right. Make sure there's baffles built-in for zone heating so you can shut off areas you don't want to cool or heat. Good luck and let us know this turns out.

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Old 01-04-2013, 10:55 PM   #17
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

I paid right around $9000 for a new Trane 5 ton variable speed with heat strip. This included removal and disposal of existing and installation of new. I can say that it is much more efficient than the old one and has saved me a bunch on cooling cost. I think the Trane is a upgrade to to the Lennox model of the same spec I was looking at and the price was the same. This thing blows like a bad ass. The outside unit is far superior to the Lennox. Get the brochures and do some reading you will see the differences.
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Old 01-04-2013, 11:20 PM   #18
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

I have lived in our home for 10 years. ( built in 1983 ) 4 years ago while adding on a room, we replaced the complete unit with a 98% gas / 16 SEER outside unit. Coming from the old unit ( which was still working ) to the new variable speed was a crazy. The comfort level ( I'm in Oklahoma ) inside the house alongside the lack of hearing one speed ( blowing ) makes it worth a great deal. I did most of the install myself so I saved the difference. I won't move unless I own a home with a variable speed unit. I understand it's a complex system- and the board a doozy, so is a brand new Vette, but if I could do it- I would own one.. One issue nobody may talk about is the returns- I moved from Two 14x24 to two 14x30 and two 12x12, As these units are best running on low speed to longer periods of time- You'll go thru a ton more air filters. Do yourself a favor, make sure whatever you choose- choose the size filter that's around locally and remember that cost is there.
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Old 01-04-2013, 11:58 PM   #19
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

There is no way anyone here can compare their "internet" shopping prices as comparison to yours.
I'm in the biz BTW- can't comment on price because there's not enough info given.
Sounds a little high but know up front the GC is taking money in the deal too.
It's his contractor- as a Sub- not allowed to deal direct w/ HO unless they say it's ok.

You could be talking PSC versus VS motors on both indoor & outdoor units. You could be talking 16+ SEER upgrades w/ specific coils that must be a ARI match. They could be 2 stage cool, could be communicating systems w/ specific communicating IAQ stats w/ humidity control. may need more low volt wire run to outdoor unit & thermostat.
Maybe includes filtration upgrades- maybe Honeywell True Clean or Aprilaire 5000.
Or maybe includes a Fresh air ventilation package like a True Fresh balanced fresh air system?

When we upgrade from the norm- we upgrade everything.
Price may or may not be out of line- depending on how far along project is & what's included .
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Old 01-05-2013, 12:32 AM   #20
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Default Re: HVAC cost with variable speed air handler

You can scoop up a variable speed 15 SEER Heat Pump system at [URL="http://www.budgetheating.com/5-0-ton-Goodman-15-seer-R-410A-heat-pump-system-SS-p/143007.htm"] for $2300.

If my contractor was looking for $7300, I'd be asking for some Vaseline.
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