annette_cain85

American Standard 14 SEER vs 16 SEER dual systems.

Annette Cain
5 days ago
last modified: 5 days ago

I’m trying to decide whether to upgrade or not. I’m having a new house build in Southern Virginia. Two levels, two systems. Gas furnace, Air Conditioner lower level, and Heat Pump, Air Handler for the second level. I’ve been quoted $5500 to upgrade from 14 SEER to 16 SEER and know I’ll never recover that expense in energy savings. Therefore it would only make sense to upgrade for comfort. As far as compressors both the 14 SEER and 16 SEER systems are single stage. However, I’ve been informed that the blower and fans are variable speeds. My question is; is it worth $5500?

Comments (24)

  • tigerdunes

    You have natural gas?....if so, I would put an 80% eff two stage var speed upstairs paired with a 15 SEER AC....forget the heat pump and air handler....need to see some model numbers on what is proposed...


    IMO

    Annette Cain thanked tigerdunes
  • Annette Cain

    Thank you tigerdunes.


    This is a custom home, custom builder. Here’s what I got so far from him.


    1st Floor Unit is currently Specified as American Standard-95% Efficient- Gas-2 ½ ton Unit-14 SEER A/C.
    2nd (top) level Unit is American Standard-2 ½ ton- 14 SEER Heat Pump
    System comes with Programable Thermostats.
    To Upgrade to a 16 SEER System-Cost …. $5500.


    Ducts are already in place for the upper level with air handler to go in the attic. Looks like I’ll have to go with the air handler/heat pump.


    As far as model numbers I’m waiting to hear back from the builder.


    Thanks again!

  • David Cary

    Southern VA - use heat pumps. I live in Raleigh - same climate. Heat pumps save on install and save in ongoing cost. You can only tell you have a HP over NG if you have a bad install. My current system has perfect humidity and makes little noise. Now - my gas company wanted to charge me some money to install the line if I didn't get a furnace but I think that never happened.

    Your upgrade cost is absurd. For a tract builder that is doing large markups - sure. For custom, that is crazy.

    I have Seer 15. Most of the time that is the sweet spot for ROI.

    My last house, I saw the upgrade charge - it was $1000 for 13 to 15 on two 2 ton systems (HP). That was a no brainer - especially since it included a better warranty. Trane.

    Latest house, never priced a 13, just the 15.

    Nothing anywhere is worth $5500 for a basic 2 system house as an upgrade. Imagine $5500 in air sealing and upgraded insulation - that would be so much better.

    Annette Cain thanked David Cary
  • mike_home

    Where will the first floor furnace be installed? What size are the first and second floors?

    Will the attic be conditioned space? If not then installing HVAC equipment and duct work is an unconditioned attic is not the best placement.

    Annette Cain thanked mike_home
  • Annette Cain

    The house is actually in 3 levels. 1st floor is garage/mechanical/storage, 2nd living/kitchen, 3rd bedrooms. The first floor furnace will be installed under heated living space. All ducts will be insulated as well as attic and garage level. Each heated level is 1391 sq ft.


  • CJ Haus

    I agree that the upgrade cost is high and likely to never be recouped. My guess is that your builder doesn't have a Manual J done for each house and accepts whatever his HVAC subcontractor has told him will result in the fewest warranty calls about the A/C not cooling sufficiently. At least that's been our experience in several homes.


    An insulated attic, as you may know, is not the same as a conditioned attic. Even with insulated ducts it's not ideal to run ducts in unconditioned space, but in our experience it is the norm in most of the south. Five tons for less than 2800 SF seems excessive, without knowing more about the property, but it's typical as well to oversize systems in order to cool quickly. That often leads to a more humid home since the A/C short cycles.


    There may not be anything the builder will do outside of his normal practices. If that's the case, then something you could consider after closing is installing a "whole house" sized ventilating dehumidifier system. That would provide filtered fresh air and would also dehumidify your home. Odds are that will help with drying out the new house over the first year, and will also help in following years during the shoulder seasons when temperatures mean there's little or no demand for either heating or cooling. Portable dehus take care of the humidity problem at a much lower initial cost but new ones seem to have short life spans, and of course they also don't provide fresh air.

    Annette Cain thanked CJ Haus
  • Annette Cain

    Thank you for your input and advice! It’s very helpful.

  • weedmeister

    $5000+ for 2 points of SEER is ludicrous. If they are going from single stage to two stage, that would be different, but still too much. If they are going from a fixed blower to a variable, that would also make some difference.

    As Tiger said, you need part numbers. And in southern VA, you shouldn't need a 95% efficient furnace. 90% would be fine, and if the price was right, %80.

    Annette Cain thanked weedmeister
  • Annette Cain

    Thanks weedmeister. This confirms what I thought. Still awaiting part numbers.

  • tigerdunes

    What is your cost for nat gas/ therm and cost of electric/KWH?...nat gas pricing is marketplace where electric is usually regulated...I generally am opposed to heat pump heating where nat gas service is available.


    TD

    Annette Cain thanked tigerdunes
  • David Cary

    TD - can I ask why?

    The best argument is more equipment failures and longevity issues.

    Predicting future rates is difficult but it is hard to argue that electricity has zero carbon options and NG does not. When carbon pricing kicks in, NG has to rise. Electricity does not (still will of course but doesn't have to).

    The US is now the only country in the world to not be in the Paris agreement. That is unsustainable.


    Annette Cain thanked David Cary
  • BT

    1) Price difference between 14 and 16 SEER nowhere near $2500 for 2.5T unit unless you are getting some variable speed, high end communicating stats, etc.


    2) The US is now the only country in the world to not be in the Paris agreement. That is unsustainable.


    It was the BS brexit like bad deal negotiated by President Obama, were China and India are allowed to pollute for decades and US was on the hook for Green Climate Fund with the goal of raising $100 billion a year by 2020. China would have been largest beneficiary of the fund. Just like with Brexit the US was told that they CAN NOT renegotiate terms of this accord.


    It was the very raw deal, with the blatant redistribution of wealth, no verification, no deliverables for decades.


    With one year left this fund claims to have 5B and only short by 95B. US should never sign those b.s. accords like this.


    Annette Cain thanked BT
  • tigerdunes

    for David...i have a HP, works good with a dual fuel setup. When I installed this system (Trane) around 14 yrs ago, there was operating cost leverage around 30% btw nat gas and electric (Duke Power). That leverage has long since disappeared.because here where I live electric rates are regulated and getting ridiculous. I have not used my heat pump for heating in about 5 yrs because nat gas is so much cheaper not to mention more comfortable. It's that simple. also, life of gas/AC system versus HP/Air handler is longer.

    your statement about zero emissions from electric is not accurate. While DP has a large nuclear footprint, I see many coal car trains rolling through the South to support all these electric generation plants fueled by cheap and dirty coal. Take a moment and google Santee Cooper/SCE&G abandons nuclear.project, DP as well in Cherokee County. Also, DP had a multimillion dollar fine for dumping coal ash in a NC river not to mention the cleanup cost. if you are in NC, you should be aware of this.


    TD

    Annette Cain thanked tigerdunes
  • mike_home

    I also recommend you ask your builder for a copy of the Manual J load calculation. Your first floor AC of 2.5 tons is likely over sized which means you will get poor humidity control. I would say the second floor is also over sized. However the duct work in the unconditioned attic is likely have a 0.5 ton of duct looses. It is difficult to say whether 2 or 2.5 tons is the correct size for the second floor. This is why you need to review the load calculation.

    If you were able to reduce the sizes to 2 tons, then you could upgrade both systems to 2-stage rather than investing in a whole house dehumidifier. This should work eill for a new build with tight construction.

    I would also rather see a furnace installed in the attic rather than a heat pump. Running a gas line to the attic should not be that much more money than installing a heat pump. Unfortunately your builder has budgeted the least amount of money he can for HVAC, and wants to make a generous profit on any upgrade.

    Annette Cain thanked mike_home
  • sktn77a

    Upgrade from 14 SEER to 16 SEER should cost around $600 for each system (given you're getting 1 SEER from upgraded condenser and 1 SEER from the VS furnace). Not $2250 each!

    Annette Cain thanked sktn77a
  • tigerdunes

    SKTN is correct...if your dealer/GC wants to treat customer fairly for upgrades on new construction HVAC, he should pass along his cost plus say 25%... I would tell the GC/dealer how you feel about the upgrade pricing and then make him an offer. The $5500 price is out of line but very typical.


    TD

    Annette Cain thanked tigerdunes
  • Annette Cain

    SKTN I was inclined to ask him if it was a typo! Maybe he added a 0 by mistake. $550 to upgrade each would have been more reasonable. But I don’t think so. He also quoted me $2460 to add a Aprilaire 700 humidifier upper unit, and $2280 for the lower unit. Accuclean Electronic Air Cleaner $1975 each unit, or Aprilaire Media Filter $585!

  • Annette Cain

    mike_home When is the Manual J calculation typically done for New Constructions?

  • sktn77a

    Oh, and you will not see any difference in comfort from a 16 SEER system vs a 14 SEER system. It will just cost fractionally less to run (you probably won't even notice the difference). Now, going to a 2 stage system is different, but god know what he'd try to charge you for that!

    Annette Cain thanked sktn77a
  • Annette Cain

    SKTN I know! It’s a little upsetting...you have to get American Standard, Gold series, SEER 17, to get the 2-stage system.

  • mike_home

    Annette,

    The Manual J can be done as soon as the building plans are finalized. The HVAC contractor needs the dimensions of the house, the size and rating of each window, the attic and exterior wall insulation, and the orientation and location of the house. Most likely the contractor will wait until the house is framed and all the windows and insulation are installed in case some last minute changes are made. But the calculation has to be done prior to the equipment being purchased and installed.

    Annette Cain thanked mike_home
  • David Cary

    Just a couple of datapoints.

    2018 was the lowest coal consumption in 39 years. The forecast decline for 2019 is 8%. Assuming that rate continues, it is insignificant in a decade.

    April 2019 was the first month that renewables (23%) surpassed coal (20%) for US electricity generation. And yes - April is great solar month. I suspect it flips back for one last time in December.

    The fuel choice in a new house lasts for a long time. Switching can cost a significant chunk of change. You can talk about coal as a electricity generating source but that is backward thinking.

    Trust me, I know about the coal ash issue.

    I would 100% never change NG out for an economic or environmental reason. But buying a new one, plumbing and exhausting a new one - doesn't make economic sense (most markets) . Southern VA has got to have relatively low electric rates.

    TD - I had Dual Fuel in my last house. My NG bill for heat was around $100 a year (skipping the monthly maintenance and cooking amount) Resistance electric probably would have been $250, except that I would have run the HP harder. I would guess it saved $75 a year tops. Cost me $1500+ (new construction) so payback was marginal at best.

    Annette Cain thanked David Cary
  • robin0919

    I would hire an expert 3rd party to determine your heat/cooling loss to determine exactly what tonnage you need for each floor. I've seen numerous times over the last 2 decades that allot of HVAC companies use almost 2x the tonnage actually needed to cover their A#%%%#

    Annette Cain thanked robin0919
  • tigerdunes

    Someone should run the operating cost comparison for the OP. You need to know the nat gas cost/therm and the electric cost/KWH. Also the efficiencies of gas furnace and HP (COP).


    here are the numbers for my location. Costs of electric and nat gas verified. Used 93% eff for furnace (XV90) and 2.6 COP for HP (XL14i).


    Cost per 100 K btu of useable heat

    Electrical baseboard $3.43

    Heat pump $1.46

    Nat gas $0.89


    gas over electric a no brainer.


    TD

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