Which brand of HVAC?
June 7, 2012 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Different Central air conditioner and furnace brands? When it comes to HVAC, should we go with Carrier, Goodman, York, or Lennox?

We got quotes from three companies to replace our central AC and furnace (this is a complete HVAC system replacement including the unit outside) and between them we have the choice of Carrier, Goodman, York, or Lennox. Does anyone have any experience with any of these brands? Is there a specific brand considered the "best", another that we should definitely avoid? This is a for a small single family home, two stories, 4 bedrooms.

The quotes we've gotten are between $6500-$8400. Is there any benefit to replacing the whole system now? Only the AC is busted, the existing furnace is fine, but all three companies are suggesting we replace everything.
posted by exhilaration to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We had to replace both our furnace and A/C three years ago in our 3 bedroom/two story house. Luckily, we have a friend who does HVAC for a living and is all certified and whatnot. His brand is Goodman so that is what we installed. We have had absolutely no complaints in the last three years. They are quiet, efficient, and has saved us money. (We are in Minnesota with very cold winters and hot, humid summers.) YMMV
posted by jillithd at 9:06 AM on June 7, 2012

Carrier and Lennox are premium brands. Goodman is a cheapie by comparison. Not sure about York. I have been told by a friend with some expertise that the Goodman units are similar to the lower-end Carrier / Lennox models, but that the customer service is much worse. Part of what you get with the better brands is a better guarantee.

Only the AC is busted, the existing furnace is fine, but all three companies are suggesting we replace everything.

Why? Is the furnace of similar age, and nearing its replacement point anyhow?
posted by jon1270 at 9:36 AM on June 7, 2012

Response by poster: Why? Is the furnace of similar age, and nearing its replacement point anyhow?

I believe it's of a similar age but we used it all winter without too many problems. Can they be replaced separately? I assumed we just had to replace the whole system in one shot.
posted by exhilaration at 9:52 AM on June 7, 2012

Yeah, they can be replaced separately, but it may very well be a good idea to do them both together. Labor is a significant part of the cost of this work, and some of that labor would have to be done twice if the two parts are replaced separately. If you replaced the AC this year and then have to do the furnace a year or two down the line, the total cost will be substantially higher.

FWIW, I've done some minor furnace repairs for myself and some friends, but I'm not at all expert here. For the amount you'll be spending on this project, the contractor ought to be willing to take the time to explain their recommendations to you clearly. Handwavey "it's just better that way" rationalizations tick me off, and would prompt me to seek another contractor.
posted by jon1270 at 10:03 AM on June 7, 2012

If the A/C system contained Freon, would the A-coil need to be swapped out as well? Perhaps that's why the advice is saying to replace the entire furnace unit. How old is the busted A/C?
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:10 AM on June 7, 2012

Oh, and this: ...we used it all winter without too many problems. That's a little concerning. Your furnace is really a pretty simple machine. It doesn't have a lot of extraneous bells and whistles. "Not too many problems" sounds like a fairly substantial number of problems. Aside from basic maintenance, it should very rarely (maybe once every few years) have anything go wrong at all.
posted by jon1270 at 10:11 AM on June 7, 2012

If the A/C system contained Freon, would the A-coil need to be swapped out as well?

In my experience, the A-coil is not integral to the furnace. It sits inside the plenum, which is the sheet metal box that gets built on top of the furnace.
posted by jon1270 at 10:16 AM on June 7, 2012

Response by poster: I checked with my wife (who's been handling everything) and all three companies are telling us that the furnace is also approaching the end of its life and it would cost substantially more to replace it separately a few years down the line.
posted by exhilaration at 10:58 AM on June 7, 2012

I have replaced a few HVAC systems over the years and have always done everything at once due to the savings on labor as well the assumption that if one part of the system is failing the other parts are likely not far behind. A year ago I replaced one of my heat pumps with a new Carrier system. It has performed flawlessly and is much quieter than the no-name unit it replaced. My other heat pump is a Goodman and when it is up for replacement in a couple of years I will probably replace it with a Carrier as well. The HVAC guy I have been working with has Carrier units in his own house; the Goodman has only given me minor problems over the years but is generally described as less expensive but less durable than the other brands you mentioned. I have no experience with the other brands, so can't speak to them directly.
posted by TedW at 12:28 PM on June 7, 2012

If the A/C system contained Freon...

That may be referring to the fact that R-12 is being phased out and it may be best for a new unit to be compatible with modern refrigerants, which would require a new coil in most if not all cases.
posted by TedW at 12:30 PM on June 7, 2012

"without too many problems"? Like what? You shouldn't have had any. When they fail it's a death of a thousand cuts, the blower, an ingniter, controller boards, etc.

We're about to demolish our house entirely and the HVAC seems to know it. It's killing itself one expensive piece at a time, seemingly bent on making us suffer before we sent it to the big recycler in the sky. I will personally get great delight smashing the living daylights out of it with a BFH. Repeatedly.

In the past when I've had systems replaced it's usually most effective to do the whole thing at once. Labor is one factor, a big one. But efficiency is another. Newer systems are almost always a lot more efficient than what's in there now.

Just be sure your HVAC folks do a thorough work up on the house. DO NOT just replace it with something of the same size. Make sure the system is sized properly for the loads to be put upon it. Your existing system make not only be a less efficient one, but improperly sized.

And BE SURE to have the ducts cleaned and the seams all sealed. Way too much energy just gets wasted due to improperly sealed duct work.
posted by wkearney99 at 1:21 PM on June 7, 2012

Fwiw I've been tools repeatedly to stay away from York. On a budget my HVAC guy recommended Arcoaire
posted by pyro979 at 2:53 PM on June 7, 2012

Hey! We just went through this! Bought the house in Feb and when we went to turn on the a/c, there was none! Heat was fine when we still needed it. 3 different companies came out and said we should replace the whole dang system because 1) if you just replaced the compressor (which for us was the broken part), it would be like a bandaid on the problem. 2) If we just replaced the a/c and not the furnace, it wouldn't work because the system was old and the new one wouldn't be compatible with the thermostat (I think). We ended up with a Carrier Infinity because it's badass, supposed to be super efficient, and they had a deal where we got an $110 Visa card as a rebate. Our lowest estimate, for just the compressor and two new returns, was like $3500. Highest was $13,000. We spent $8,000. So far so good!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:33 PM on June 7, 2012

My husband is in commercial HVAC and his boss has a small side business doing residential HVAC. A couple years ago they installed a new heat pump/furnace split system in our house, Goodman brand, which was the brand that boss's company was preferring at the time (he has a lot of budget-minded customers). He has since stopped recommending Goodman because of the number of warranty claims they've had to do on the units, and is instead installing Trane equipment mostly. We've not had any problems with our system, but on a statistical basis, it seems the impression of Goodman as being somewhat more unreliable is warranted.
posted by drlith at 3:43 AM on June 8, 2012

I am a hvac tech. Most of us guys prefer Trane. The typical new installation is going with a heat pump/ gas backup (depending on your region). Installations vary depending on different climates.

All brands you listed are good. What really matters is the quality of install. Make sure to mention that you heard from a technician, that you should always run nitrogen through the system when brazing copper tubing. Because scale (like a black dust) is created when nitrogen is not introduced into the system during brazing, which will result in that scale circulating through your system, eventually screwing up your thermostatic expansion valve.

Most common parts to fail on a gas furnace: ignitor (10 yrs), blower motor run capacitor (10yrs

Be sure to keep your filters changed

Be sure to keep your drain coming out of the evaporator coil cleaned. We usually install a trap inline with the pvc drain and it gets clogged. Once clogged water will spill inside your furnace all over the electronics and causing rust in other areas.
posted by ricosuave at 6:07 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

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