Pro Assisted DIY Split Unit Replacement
I know this is a sore subject for many "pros" out there, but after receiving quotes in excess of $9000 to replace a 14YO 3-Ton split unit, I've decide to do all the replacement myself, but leave the real art of refrigerant recovery (might do pump down procedures myself), brazing, charging, and leak detection up to a contractor.
I am skilled in electrical and plumbing, and the duct work plenum dimensions is a perfect match. Ducting will stay the same.
I guess my questions are:
What questions should I ask potential contractors about the procedures and related costs?
I'm not looking to "scrimp" on this portion of the costs and from my research know this type of work when done properly should take between 4 and 6 hours to complete and verify. Is it fair to estimate $1000 for this complete system start-up and checkout?
I hope this doesn't start a flame war, but many of us are quite capable in most aspects of DIY residential work and we do respect the skilled trades of those things we can't (or shouldn't) do. We would simply like that respect in return.
Thanks for your time.
I will jump in the fire with you here. My company is where you buy your own product (not MY company regarding this project, but that is what I do), so I am of course looking at your issue and question from your side. I also have experience here that the pros do not have. I have hired pros to complete projects or have assisted many homeowners in procuring final assistance.
I too hope that you (or I) do not get flamed, and that all will remember that this is a DIY forum and that you have asked this question with respect and the highest regard for the professionals in this industry.
A couple weeks ago, I sub-contracted a pro to install a heat pump (outdoor unit) and a new coil to an existing gas furnace. This homeowner did nothing. This contractor charged $1,500 for this installation that included the above along with running a new thermostat to create the dual fuel set up and a new lineset. He also re routed the existing b-vent piping for the furnace and had to do some retrofit sheet metal work. He was on the job for 2 full days.
I have seen charges ranging from $600-$1,200 for starting up previously installed equipment. Usually this start-up has included all connections. I always advise HO to let the pro do the copper.
Just know that if you call the big name brand company from the yellow pages, you are going to hear NO. If I have one piece of advice that probably will not play well, it is this; If you get a price for start up that seems extraordinarily high, and the contractor uses the line "my price is the same regardless of whether I provide the equipment or you provide the equipment". Hang Up and do not argue. At the end of the day, it is your checkbook, and you have the right to use it however you choose. You are also responsible for you own outcome. Sounds like you have a solid head about this.
What you are asking is not unreasonable. All you need to do is contact various pros who are willing to let you do as much of the work as they feel comfortable. You would be wise to leave the final brazing, hookup and startup to a pro as there is way too much risk for the reward. You will most likely have to purchase the equipment through the pro in order to get the manufacturer to stand behind the warranty. For instance, Goodman's official response to me was they don't warranty equipment sold online. Not sure why that is, perhaps others such as Home Air can provide a rational or a explain a way around that.
I always marvel at this line of thinking. I mean, lets face it, contractors show up at homes all the time to repair product that they did not install. If the product still has a part that is under warranty then they should be willing to replace or repair. I mean, they are getting paid their normal labor charge as parts warranties do not normally translate to labor. They also have the option of charging a "processing fee" for filing a warranty for equipment they did not install. All of these actions if conducted correctly can create goodwill and future service.
In the end, it is not as clean as just hiring a local contractor for a turnkey project, but if a HO understands the risks to reward ratio (in this case savings compared to convenience) is does not have to be a problem.
I got a quote for a similar project of $300. Contractor made it very clear that that did not include adding any add'l freon, that would be extra. He would braze and vacuum the lines, balance and start up the system. Anything else would be additional.
Hopefully you will be running a new lineset.
So the job, as a minimum, would amount to:
Brazing the refrigerant lines inside and out, possibly including installation of the TXV (if it's not pre-installed), and maybe a filter/drier.
Leak test with nitrogen.
Evacuate system and verify that it holds a proper vacuum.
Open service valves, fire it up, possibly add additional refrigerant based on length of lineset. Check for proper charge and proper operation.
Haul off and dispose of, or recover refrigerant from, the old outside unit.
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