By October 4, 2006

A lot of hot air?

My house is about fifteen years old. I have two HVAC units, one for the upstairs, one for the down.

We have a home warranty, which covers repairing or replacing the HVAC unit in case of failure. There are some things that aren’t covered, like freon removal, and parts disposal (such as the concrete pad).

The downstairs unit hasn’t been producing cold air for some time, so I called the home warranty company and they sent out a local contractor. They refilled the freon and left. From reading on Ars and other places, I knew that freon didn’t get “used up,” and we had a leak somewhere. Sure enough, we had cold air for a few days but after that it was back to the warm breeze coming out of the vent.

I call the warranty company again, and out comes the contractor on a recall. This time the guy crawls under the house and says the compressor is bad, as well as the coil and the accumulator (at least, according to their follow up paperwork). They say it’ll cost me $200 out of pocket to repair the old unit (freon and parts disposal) or $325 to replace the old unit altogether — the difference in cost being the disposal of the concrete pad and a new one.

I agree to $325, a new unit? Yes please.

Fast forward to last week, while I’m out of town. My girl gets a call from the contractor. Instead of $325, it’ll be $995. Our old unit is a 10 Seer unit, and they only make 13 Seer units now. There was no further explanation as to why the unit would be another $670.

My girlfriend talks to a co-worker who is an HVAC tech during the day and works security at night. He said that the increase in cost would be because of duct upgrades and other things probably not covered by our warranty. He cautioned that upgrading just the outside unit can cause condensation on the in-house components of the HVAC.

I start to get nervous. I can cover it, but I’d rather pay $325 than $995, right? I try not to get run over on the way home from my motorcycle trip and called the warranty company this Monday.

The warranty company says that we’re fully covered, even though that the 10 Seer unit needs to be replaced with a 13 Seer unit. I asked if there was anything that would cause the estimate from the contractor to be $995 instead of $325. She said no, and that the $325 made sense due to the freon and leftovers disposal, but $995 didn’t, given our coverage. I gave the go-ahead to get the work done, to the tune of $325 out of pocket. The parts should arrive early next week.

Okay, if you’re still here, thanks. Here come the questions:

1) Does an upgrade from a 10 Seer to a 13 Seer pose problems for our existing infrastructure?

2) Has anyone had a similar experience with HVAC replacement?

3) If I didn’t have anything to worry about with the 10-to-13 Seer upgrade, did I just screw myself with the contractor because I refused to pay the extra $670 and called them on it with the warranty company? Should I ask for another contractor?

The best part about this whole thing is that so much time has passed since I’ve originally called that it will probably be too cold for AC once the work’s done. 😉

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