So in the wonderful heat late last week, we noticed our A/C wasn’t working great. It would try to cool, and then after 15 minutes or so the saver switch would shut it off (stupid saver switch, I need to disable that thing…). However in years past, it could usually catch up in that time, so we had someone look at it on Friday.
They found our 17 year old, Payne A/C unit was low on R22. They couldn’t say how low, and didn’t recommend topping it off. As it could take up to 5 lbs at $85 per pound and no idea of how long that would last since there was already a leak. And that a leak wasn’t worth chasing down on that old of a unit because none of the new parts support the R22, so it would be futile and wasted money. I opted to top it off and see how long we can last and luckily it only took 1 pound. That being said I am looking into a replacement…
I got a quote from them for $4k for a 16seer mid-range model (new outdoor unit, evap coil, etc). My electric company only gives me a rebate of $100 for a 16 seer or greater unit. However, I can get a $500 rebate on a heat pump, and half-price electricity on it through a metered use program. However, he said he “cannot find an indoor unit for my equipment to pair with a heat pump”. He also said heat pumps aren’t really worth it in MN unless you’re on propane, the payoff is too long. This particular company also offers a 17 seer AC Unit that has a 2 stage compressor, but I was told that is a significant price increase as well.
Can I expect a new AC to last me another 17 years? Or are they built to be disposable now just like many major home appliances?
Our furnace is a 7 year old Carrier Performance 96, that seems to work well. It was replace 1 year before we moved in. So while the old owner got the 10 year warranty, we only got the 5 year transfer warranty and of course last year had the inducer motor go out… Do I need to stick with a Carrier AC unit to get them to perform well together or can any of them really work together?
Does anyone here run a heat pump or a 2-stage A/C unit that could offer some comparisons? $4k feels like quite a bit for a “mid-range” unit, and they are about 1 month out on installs right now, but maybe thats the going rate now. Any insight would be appreciated, thanks in advance.
George, any insight?
Not George but I have a little insight – I am helping my friend on a start up company and am researching HVAC like crazy for him. He is trying to develop HVAC product solutions specifically for developing world but would also like to tap into more remote US markets. Not necessarily off grid but lets say ‘grid challenged applications’. I am no where near an expert like George is but talking to A LOT of manufacturers and their tech staff about things like reliability and warranty and real world performance [vs.standard boiler plate claims they provide on their websites].
Per 17 year life span – I doubt it. The engineers I talk to say 10 years is really the maximum a person should expect and that only if they maintain the equipment well.
Two reason to assume shorter life expectancy:
One reason is technology is exploding in this area. While 16 SEER seems like pretty good performance its not that unusual to see performance now in the 20’s for standard commercial units. We are specifying AC to DC POWER inverter and or straight DC units all with variable drive motors. Most of what we are looking at will be mini-split but I am told there are traditional North American style AC units out there using invertor technology now too. Prices are dropping fast and efficiency improving.
Point is in ten years you will want to swap it out anyway just to save on energy which is likely to increase in price A LOT over the next decade.
The other reason you might have to replace sooner than your old unit is while engineers do a much better job of designing product to have very high initial quality [few defects off the line or inside the warranty period] they are not over engineering products for consumer market like they used to. This isn’t planned obsolescence as much as it is trading off initial cost to buy [over engineered parts are expensive] vs longer term reliability. You might get more than ten years out of the thing but I doubt it. I work with design engineers in a lot of fields and this is a fairly universal trend for consumer products like household utilities and appliances.
As for heat pumps – I think they are great. Again inverter technology only. If I was putting in a new AC system it absolutely would be a heat pump like that. But I would only expect to use it to heat in spring and fall – midwinter you still need a furnace in Minnesota.
Furnaces are generally more efficient and lower energy cost but only when running fairly hard at near steady state [meaning on more than off]. In the fall and spring that isn’t usually the case. Inverter based motors are variable so the heat pump is always on but running at demand – so not much on and off. Very efficient.
I would have a more detailed discussion with your contractor – do a little more reading and hopefully others will chime in with their 2 cents.
What I learned is its a lot more complicated today than ever and the systems are in a state of flux. Even today’s ‘new’ solutions could be obsolete in a couple decades. It is crazy how this industry is changing.