Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Home HVAC Upgrades - A Cautionary Tale

I think I need a degree in thermostats to be able to operate it!

New furnace
Last month we had some really kooky weather and it was sweltering hot at one point so we turned on our air conditioner. Normally, once the air conditioner goes on we refuse to turn the furnace back on but we had such extreme temperature changes and at one point it got to 63F in the house during the day. We decided that we would break with tradition and turn the heat back on...but the furnace wouldn't go on. We called Direct Energy who is our service provider and who we pay annually to have the parts/service covered on our furnace - we also rented our hot water tank from them.

A little bit of background information is that a few weeks before this occurred, my husband and I had been discussing the fact that our hot water tank needed to be replaced and we were debating the advantages of owning vs. renting. We had decided we would purchase one but had not started the process. We also had problems with our air conditioner - it was 19 years old and was feeling it's age and not working very efficiently.

When the service man from Direct Energy arrived he didn't even bring in a tool kit and he tagged our furnace. When your furnace gets tagged they shut off the gas to it and you are not allowed to have service until you replace the furnace. Just because our furnace was 26 yrs. old, the service man - without doing any checking - decided the heat exchanger was cracked and that it was dangerous. (We have carbon monoxide detectors in our house and they never alarmed and we had the furnace checked in September and it was all good to go). He then also very kindly offered to have one of their salesmen come right away to see us to have it replaced. We booked an appointment and had their salesman give us a quote. The quote he provided was about $12,000 plus 13% tax to replace just the furnace and air conditioner. If we wanted to purchase a hot water tank it would be at least another $1000 plus tax for the tank and the installation. Let's just say we had some sticker shock!
New hot water tank
New air conditioner

We knew we needed to get other quotes and after checking we decided on a local company that works with Costco. The quote the local company provided was a few thousand $ cheaper and it included the hot water tank. When the salesman was here he wanted to know how our basement was being used because he could see that we are renovating. He suggested that we install 2 return air vents and recommended their placement. He included them in the quote as well. With the lower quoted price, a rebate from Costco along with other government incentives our cost will be just over half of the quoted price from Direct Energy and that my friends is a huge difference. In all fairness, we would have received the government incentives even if we went with Direct Energy but the difference is still huge.

I had mentioned earlier that we pay a fee to have the parts and service covered for our furnace. Because we have replaced it and it has it's own new warranty we no longer have the requirement for the service from Direct Energy. We had paid for coverage up to September and because we no longer need the service we wanted our money back. That was quite the challenge but after speaking with a customer service supervisor and being very firm, my husband was able to get the money back.

We had our new system installed yesterday and so far so good!

The point of the story is that if your furnace breaks and it needs to be replaced, even if it is in the dead of winter and panic sets in please, please make sure you get more than one quote. The first quote you get is not likely to be the best one.


audrey said...

So very true.

Cathy said...

Our daughter and son-in-law are in the same position here, except they were with Reliance energy, who came in and gave a quote for a huge amount and pressured for a decision right away. Matt did some shopping around, and went the same way you did..... Costco, for a much less amount for the same thing.