SEER is useful for comparing one model to another much in the same way that a car's calculate MPG is useful. It's not an accurate prediction of exactly how efficient the system is, but it can tell you which one is more efficient. Also, since SEER is based on a "cooling season", what region you live in will determine how long or short your cooling season is.
Metal is way better than flex duct or ductboard. It gets better airflow, holds up to critters and duct cleaners. I know of no hvac company here that cleans ductwork. (there probably is one somewhere) The mfg's of duct cleaning equipment keep trying to sell us hvac people on their benefits and profit potential but most all hvac people know that unless you have metal ductwork you are NOT doing the customer any favors.
So HVAC sent Tony Diaz to my house. I was at work so he was subjected to the most excruciatingly exacting woman on the planet (my wife). Tony impressed her with his friendliness, professionalism and the obvious jouneyman-level knowledge of his craft. He found literally --burnt-out-- parts in our system and replaced them. It cost us a bit but I know enough about the parts to see there was no gouging on the parts and a fair rate for the labor. It wasn't cheap but it was fair and worth every dime.
You can adjust for seasons: During the summer, you can have the air conditioner stay off during the cooler morning hours and start cooling the house as everyone gets up and starts moving around. During the winter, you can have your heater stay off while you are away at work and turn on about a half hour or so before you get home so that you are coming home to a nice, warm house.
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Asbestos removal tip. Don’t trust any HVAC installation company that says that they will remove asbestos for you. They will do either one of two things: remove it and do a horrible job because they don’t know how (an illegal act in California, finable by up to $250,000), or they will say they did and never actually do it, which is dangerous to your health. Any HVAC contractor worth their weight will know not to touch it. Call an asbestos abatement company – it should cost around $500-$1,000, and your HVAC installation company will come in right after them and do the installation to decrease cost and inconvenience.
You may consider having your air ducts cleaned simply because it seems logical that air ducts will get dirty over time and should be occasionally cleaned. Provided that the cleaning is done properly, no evidence suggests that such cleaning would be detrimental. EPA does not recommend that the air ducts be cleaned routinely, but only as needed. EPA does, however, recommend that if you have a fuel burning furnace, stove or fireplace, they be inspected for proper functioning and serviced before each heating season to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning.