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Old 11-23-2010, 11:17 PM   #1
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Drastically Different Basement HVAC Instal Costs ... Why?

First post so I'll leave some good info for those coming after me to read (hopefully).

I have a little over a 1500sq ft basement that I am planning to finish early next year. Because we are in Georgia, we have a walk out basement meaning concrete foundation walls on 2.5 sides (half wall on one side) with 9ft ceilings (unfinished).

I have had two contractors come out to quote and a third is coming on Monday. I am concerned with the quotes I received and want to get some feedback. Here are the details:

Contractor A:
-Recommended by my Boss who had both of his old units replaced. Nice guy who came to the house and spent about 20 minutes with me discussing where everything will go. We identified electrical, rough duct location, and return location requirements. He said we could figure out exactly where the ducts would go when he arrived for the job.

2 Ton Trane Airhandler 13 seer
2 Ton Trane XB heat pump 13 seer
7kw heat strips
All duct work R-6 Flex
All grilles, supply and return
Thermostat (24V)
5 Yr warranty on units
Offers 0% financing for 12months
$3500 mat'l and labor. Electrical, add $300

Contractor B:
Also a real nice guy. Spent way too much time talking about non-HVAC stuff with him. Noticed our existing units have foil backed board (don't remember the name) for the plenum (builder installed) and mentioned that they don't install units using that material due to the health hazards (doh). They use sheet metal for all of their plenums (return and supply side). Seemed very knowledgable about reducing turbulent noise (having too short of a return) and where to place the ducts.

He spent a TON of time figuring out where every duct would go, what size flex to run and where the returns would be. Said every room needs a return.

Various size flex (10,8,6)
2 Ton Ruud Air handler Model RHSL-HM2417JA
2 Ton Ruud Heat pump Model 13PJL24A01
Heat Strips Model RXBH17A05J
** Due to the fact that we will close in the Mechanical room and will have 2 air handlers and one gas water heater, The contractor said we will need a combustible hard pipe duct run to the exterior of the house (about 20ft) to a vent with screen. This is included in the price.

$7600 mat'l and labor, offered no electrical aside from connecting the units (will have to call an electrician)

Also quoted a 15 seer unit to qualify for the tax credit. Total cost for this $8800.

Both contractors get great reviews on Kudzu and I'm not able to find anything negative. They both are smaller family owned businesses. In person, both were also very nice and professional.

I'm involved in writing proposals for my business and I'm well aware that good work doesn't come free. At the same time, I can write a bare bones proposal (if customer is on a budget) or I can write an over-the-top proposal.

Why are these quotes SO different? Is contractor A even making any money? Is contractor B just looking for a windfall? I haven't a clue. What gives?


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Old 11-24-2010, 06:59 AM   #2
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can either give references of work they have done for others ?


Last edited by kenmac; 11-24-2010 at 07:02 AM.
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Old 11-24-2010, 09:44 AM   #3
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Yes both can.

Contractor #1 has done work for two of my coworkers. He can provide additional references if I need. Further, their are plenty of reviews on Kudzu.

Contractor #2 I found in the phone book. They have plenty of reviews on Kudzu also. I haven't asked for referrals but I would assume even a bad company could give some good referrals.
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Old 11-24-2010, 10:18 AM   #4
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Vexing, isn't it?

The only comment I can make on the basis of the information provided is that in my area it's unusual to install a return "in every room", and I've never see a situation where "every room needs a return" to achieve acceptable results. Contractor II may in fact be providing a better (more even distribution, quieter) system, but that a *very* large price difference for what may be a marginal improvement - around here the HVAC contractors I recommend for "reference" quotes usually come it no more that 15%-20% above the people doing "good enough" work, and are sometimes *less* expensive for a particular job.
Home Inspections, Infrared (Thermal Imaging) Leak Identification and Inspection Services, Roof, Attic, Building, Basement and Foundation Moisture Intrusion and Water Leak Inspections, Troubled Building Consultations - Serving Chicago and Suburbs http://paragoninspects.com/

Last edited by Michael Thomas; 11-27-2010 at 09:37 PM.
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Old 11-27-2010, 06:00 PM   #5
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Well, aside from the equipment (which is comparable) you are comparing apples to oranges on the install. Sounds like the second contractor is talking about replacing the plenum/return ductwork with sheet metal (best) and installing a combustion air intake and exhauset. Is the first contractor replacing the ductboard plenum (with flexduct - which is OK for branch ducts but not the best for plenum) or leaving the existing ductboard plenum/return?

Even so, the difference seems excessive.
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Old 11-27-2010, 06:04 PM   #6
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Do you have access to natural gas?

Have you considered a heatpump with gas backup heat? The heat strips cost 4 times as much to run as the heat pump and will negate some of the savings you get with a heatpump if it stays much below 30 in the winter....
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Old 11-27-2010, 06:17 PM   #7
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Doing an online search you can find the actual cost of the equipment you're quoted:

Rudd Heat pump:
13PJL24A01: 997.00 (shipped to your door free via liftgate..)

Ruud RHSLHM2417JA 2.0 Ton Multi Position 3 Speed Standard
695.00 (shipped to your door free via liftgate..)

Rheem / Ruud RXBH17A05J 5kW 17,000 BTU Heater for Air Handlers 17 1/2"
75.00 each (shipped to your door free via liftgate..)

So you are well under 2000 dollars in main equipment costs for contractor B (not including ducts, etc)..

This is why I did it myself.. I got fed up with the really sky high quotes I got..

If he really is spending a ton of time routing ducts, the labor costs will probably be the good chunk of the cost..
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Old 11-27-2010, 06:35 PM   #8
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Contractor A is shooting from the hip. he'll figure out where to place stuff when he gets there. And if it doesn't seem to fit right. Just move it to another place.

Will he be pulling a permit?

Contractor B. is taking his time to plan things out ahead. And is looking to follow code also(he pointed out your need for a combustion air intake). He is using different size supplies, to get your the correct amount of air to the rooms. Makes a much better system then just running the same size supply to all the rooms.

Is he pulling a permit. Sounds like he is planning on an inspection.

Often, a low priced contractor can't afford to spend much time on warranty work. And will often stop answering calls, if your unit has a persistent problem. A higher priced contractor can affors to spend time finding the true cause of the problem, and correct it. And isn't afraid to call in teh manufacturer's rep to aid them. And spend the time making things right.


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