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Furnace Brand-cost


Steven Hockstein
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We typically specify Carrier, York, or Trane forced air systems in the homes we design. The HVAC contractors keep trying to substitute Rheem, Gibson, Goodman, etc.. with the excuse that the only reason the name brands are more expensive is because of the names and the cost of advertising. I know that there are differences in warranties and availability to the installers but I would appreciate any advice about the technical differences.

Up to now, we have not permitted the substitutions, but if the cost savings for a system with similar performance ratings is substantial ($700-$900), is that a better option for out clients?

Opinions please...

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We typically specify Carrier, York, or Trane forced air systems in the homes we design. The HVAC contractors keep trying to substitute Rheem, Gibson, Goodman, etc.. with the excuse that the only reason the name brands are more expensive is because of the names and the cost of advertising. I know that there are differences in warranties and availability to the installers but I would appreciate any advice about the technical differences.

Up to now, we have not permitted the substitutions, but if the cost savings for a system with similar performance ratings is substantial ($700-$900), is that a better option for out clients?

Opinions please...

My opinions:

I think that Rheem & Ruud make some of the nicest systems out there, certainly on par with Trane & Carrier.

I dislike York equipment. It seems to age very fast.

I think that Lennox makes excellent equipment but I dislike the fact that their stuff is full of proprietary parts that you can't get from most parts suppliers. Your clients might find that it performs very well but is unusually expensive to maintain.

The oldest systems that I see that are still in use and working properly are Lennox, American Standard/Trane, Carrier/Day & Night, and Rheem/Ruud.

I rarely see old Goodman, Janitrol, Amana, York, Gibson, Coleman, & Nordyne equipment. When I do see that stuff still in service, it's never working properly.

Proper installation and maintanance is a huge factor in the satisfactory performance of an HVAC system. In my experience, the better installers tend to install Lennox, Trane, Carrier & Rheem. The better installers dislike Goodman & Janitrol not because the equipment is inferior, but because those companies sell to anyone, thereby undermining the pro's market. That leaves the second-tier installers putting in Goodman & Janitrol & it might explain why they tend to fail early.

I think I'd handle the issue as you do. Spec the parameters of the system and list a handful of pre-approved manufacturers. If an installer wants to present a submittal for a different manufacturer, you can offer it to the client as a cost-saving option with the caveat that it might be a less reliable product.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Jim K has done a masterful job of writing "my" opinions. I will add that I personally spec and purchase Trane. Partly because the tradespeople I work with are knowledgeable, but also for their parts availability. American Standard is mostly the same as Trane for performance (same firm).

We seem to have a dearth of low end hvac equipment with various name plates.

I think your approach is right on.

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It's like the Chevy family that hates Fords. There are good, bad and lemons to all brands. I personally have seen very old Goodman stuff still working and 2 year old Trane equipment gone bad. I have heard technicians praising Carrier and some say it is junk. 90% of the life of the unit is dependent upon proper installation. For example, air flow calculations to keep the heat exchanger proper operating temperature and proper lineset sizing for the A/C condenser. Also, most brand loyalty is preference due to what people hear.

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