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air conditioning - Karen's Musings
Random Rambling
air conditioning
Two steps forward with getting central air, 1 1/2 steps back. At least it's not the other way around, right?

We were all set to have someone start early next week with the install. He'd given us a quote. It was on-par with what we'd been told to expect. It was on-par with casual (though not official) quotes we'd gotten from other professionals. We were set to go.

And then I called our handyman to ask him if he could patch the ceiling where the whole house fan currently resides after it's all done and over with. He thought the quote we'd been given was outrageous. He, unfortunately, doesn't do full installs, only changeouts. So he had a buddy of his that does full installs give me a call. He, too, thought it was ridiculous, even after I tried to explain some of the oddities of the house that might have been contributing to the cost.

Furthermore, he said a heat pump was a bad idea as a primary source of heat for the house. We don't have any insulation (literally) and lose heat all over the place. Furthermore, if it's blowing from the top down, we'll lose a good portion of it through the roof in the attic. So that's no good.

Seth called back guy number 1, explained our concerns and explained that we were holding off until we could get another quote or three and he got very agitated. He didn't really care for us second-guessing his professional judgment. He is confident that when another company comes in and understands the construction of the house, they will come up with a similar number (Personally, I tend to agree, but better to find out, right?) Furthermore, he says that the heat pump is exactly what we want and he listed some reasons why but Seth couldn't really follow them because guy number 1 was so agitated (and he has a strong accent), that he wasn't the easiest to understand.

So now I'm all confused. And I don't even know HOW to go about figuring out which guy is telling the whole truth. ARGH.

It's okay. It's really okay. I JUST WANT THIS FINISHED!

Tags: , ,
Current Mood: aggravated aggravated

35 comments or Leave a comment
cellio From: cellio Date: March 4th, 2005 02:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Guy #1 is behaving unprofessionally and suspiciously. He should expect you to shop for bids. Unless you broke a contract (which I doubt), he should not be showing agitation.

If it turns out that the price and approach he gave you are right after all, I'd suggest giving the business to the other bidder anyway.
gwiii From: gwiii Date: March 4th, 2005 03:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

as a causual observer...

I have walked through your house, and I have laughed at its sillyness.

One thing to remember, all houses have their little oddities, yours, has more then its fair share.

The reason for the heat pump: To add just air conditiong is silly, literally its like another 5-10% to add the heat pump feature. Everything else will be the same except the compressor outside.

I know that you want to remove the radiators. They are old, outdated and probably inefficient. However they are more efficient the using a heat pump in the coldest days. Heat pumps lose efficiency at temperatures near and below freezing. So in our Climate, its about even for the steam heat. Colder days, steam wins, days above freezing, heat pump wins.

But none of that matters because you WANT to get rid of the exisiting system, that adds cost.

Your house is not set up for ducts. In fact there is little room in your house to put ducts in. That is going to add to the cost of installation. Mostly because this will mean a lot of manual labor.

Putting the heating/cooling system in the Basement or in the attic is less effective for half of the year, no matter what you do. Heat rises, cold falls.

All in all I would trust in the word of someone that has come in and inspected your house. And given your house the inspection was probably more then a few hours.

Everyone says they can do something cheaper until the see for themselves or worse, tell you they can do it cheaper and then keep adding to the price as the job goes on and you can’t change contractors.

I think the most important thing is to call the contacts they give you and possibly see examples of work done.

By the way, I can install your whole Air-conditioning system for just over 2K, I just need you to pay me in full before I start….. :)
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: March 4th, 2005 04:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: as a causual observer...

The radiators themselves are not inefficient. The boiler is. And I'm okay with keeping the radiators (though there are one or two in really awkward places).

The problem with the heat pump is that 1. in the coldest temperatures it's inefficient; 2. in a house like ours which has no insulation we're asking for it to be insuffiecient even on the warmish-days of winter; 3. If the air is blowing from the top (attic) down, we're going to lose a LOT of heat out of the attic, which is poorly insulated and (in fact) insulated incorrectly.

There is plenty of room for duct work. Remember that we are not running the ductwork into the basement. Rather, we are running it in the attic and will have registers in the ceilings of our main level. As the attic is unfinished at this point, there is PLENTY of room for duct work.

It isn't the price that I'm worried about. No matter what it costs, it's going to be a lot. A grand or two either direction is not going to make a difference in the long run. What's worrying me is the difference between the two approaches.

Putting the heating/cooling system in the Basement or in the attic is less effective for half of the year, no matter what you do. Heat rises, cold falls

But you're assuming here that they have to be in the same place. If we add central air, but keep the steam heat/boiler system, then it is as efficient as it'll get in terms of location: the cold air coming from the attic, the boiler in the basement.

As for taking the word of someone who's come in and inspected the house... that's all fine and dandy, except that no, it didn't take several hours. He was in the house, maybe 30 minutes the first time he came. He did not take precise measurements, which worries me. He would not answer my questions directly because you know, he's the expert. So I'm not sure the fact that he's seen our house means that he's the one we should trust. I'm not saying he's NOT trustworthy. But the other person I talked to wasn't giving me a quote until he comes to see the house (on Monday). He just said he couldn't figure out how it oculd cost that much. I explained some of the quirks of the house and why things were costing what they were and he still didn't think it made any more sense. However, like I said, I'm not as worried about the price as I am about the question of which approach is better.

And yeah, we're going to call some references from guy number 1. Well, we don't have to call the references... we'll see them in synagogue tomorrow. Or at least Seth will.

As for you doing it for $2K, go ahead. I'll write you a check right before I stop payment on it. :)
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estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: March 4th, 2005 03:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
well, this was sort of after-the-fact. He does a lot of work in our community, so I don't think it's a scam. English is not his primary language, and I think he also just tends towards getting agitated at the least little thing. Or it could be that his mannerisms just make him seem that way.

Honestly, his quote sounded right about on par with what we expected, so I wasn't surprised. It's the discrepancy about whether a heat pump is a good idea that's bothering me.
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From: lola100 Date: March 4th, 2005 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: March 4th, 2005 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
No kidding.

Are you sure a nice frum girl like you should be saying such things though? I mean, I have an excuse...I'm a heathen. ;)

(I'm just kidding, of course)
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From: gittygiggles Date: March 4th, 2005 04:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
what kind of accent? he wasn't a frum guy was he????
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: March 4th, 2005 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know and I don't know.
From: bodnej Date: March 4th, 2005 04:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Advice from The Wife...

1. Have you looked into getting insulation installed correctly? How much of a difference would it make?

2. Have you thought about calling Bob the Home Inspector? He should be impartial has inspected your house already, and might know people he could recommend.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: March 4th, 2005 05:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Advice from The Wife...

1. The insulation in the attic isn't the only problem. Actually the first step is to remove the insulation. The fact is, the way it's installed we're better off without it than with it, because it's destroying our roof. I spoke with someone a couple days ago about ripping it out, but we're trying to figure out what's going on with the air conditioning project. I don't want one to interfere with the other, so we need to do it after the air conditioning because the AC is more time sensitive. If we don't get it done before late spring, we won't be able to get it done until December because no one will be available to install it during the summer. Anyway, unfortunately, the attic isn't the only place we lose heat. We actually have no insulation in our exterior walls. There's brick and then plaster. Nothing in between. (Not unusual for a house this age.) Our biggest problem areas are the sunroom, the "breakfast room" and the attic, but the whole house loses heat. Now, that's a fact of life, but I'm not sure it's wise to exacerbate the problem.

2. Bob and I talked about air conditioning guys back when he inspected the house. I have the list. He wasn't especially partial to any of them except one who is booked through 2094. Guy number 1 comes highly recommended in our community, so I'm not inclined to believe he's ripping us off. I'm just worried about the approach and how to figure out which is the better approach. It's really not about the money. Bob had estimated that it would be ~$9 or $10K to install air conditioning. He was pretty close. Guy number 2 that is coming out on Monday is highly recommended by our handyman. We love our handyman. He's terrific, explains himself well, gave me some background on the different types of compressors and why I'd want one versus the other (boiled down to a better warranty on one), he's friendly, most of Kemp Mill, White Oak and Woodside trusts him to do just about any kind of work, he's respectful, he's quick, and he's thorough. So I trust his recommendation. Neither the handyman nor guy number 2 said that the quote was wrong. They both admitted that maybe in the end there's something about the construction of the house that mandated that number. But they both had issues with the approach being taken and took a lot of time to explain WHY they didn't feel like it was a good approach.

So yeah. I'm confused.
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From: have_inner_lady Date: March 4th, 2005 07:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't trust any contractor with anything anymore.

BUT to temper my opinion with a little story: Back in MD, we got three quotes for replacing the siding with vinyl. The first came back TWICE as much as either of the other two. The other two came back within $30 of each other.

I don't trust any contractor with anything anymore, nomatter who says what about them. If they have a good reputation, maybe their clientele is the happy type who doesn't pay no nevermind to the final price.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: March 10th, 2005 02:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fortunately, the one person I DO trust is our handyman. Nothing in it for him, but he told us our original AC person must be smoking crack for the quote he gave us. If it had just been that, it'd be one thing, but he took about 30 minutes to explain to me the different types of equipment they can use and why one is better than another (boils down to the warranty). Explained to me how they work and why different systems have certain advantages in older homes, and then told me what he'd just installed in his own home and why. He gave me someone else's name and had that guy call me that night (within minutes of our original conversation). The other guy came out, gave further explanation of why he would use a particular design and particular equipment (which mostly meshed with what my handyman had told us), etc. I'll stay skeptical until the quote comes in, but I feel more comfortable with him as a person at least. He's not pushy, doesn't mind if we just use his information to get a better price out of the first guy, spent a lot of time with us and was willing to come out in the evening to talk to us rather than having us take time off work. All in all, though I still take anything a contractor says with a grain of salt, I've got a better feeling about him. I like that he doesn't act like a slimy car salesman.

(not that all car salesmen are slimy)
From: have_inner_lady Date: March 4th, 2005 07:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd asked for (but didn't get... grr) a heat pump for my A/C. I was not, however willing to use it for heat except as a backup. In my limited experience, heat pumps push out room temperature air nearly all the time. Room temperature sounds good, but when it's moving all the time, it only feels like drafts.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: March 10th, 2005 02:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
yeah, the second AC guy said it's no good as a primary heating system. The first guy eventually made a good case for why forced air heat would be better, but that didn't support the use of a heat pump as primary. Only that forced air from the ceiling was a good idea. That's different.

Suffice it to say, we're not using guy #1.
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