Furnace saga and question for the experts (long)

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Brian Perry, Jan 16, 2004.

  1. Brian Perry

    Brian Perry Cinematographer

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    I recently had a new furnace installed and it wasn't a pleasant experience. While I pride myself on being an informed consumer, I felt the whole process was rigged and it left me with a bad taste.

    The problem started when my regular HVAC company did its annual inspection of the furnace (they also do an A/C check in the spring). The tech showed me some cracks in the heat exchanger and explained that I would likely need a new furnace as repairing the existing one would be fairly expensive. He scheduled an appointment with one of the owners of the company who would go over my options (i.e., sell me the new furnace). I knew this company primarily sold Lennox products.

    Prior to the consultation, I did as much research as I could on new furnaces, particularly Lennox. Unfortunately, I soon realized that researching a furnace is not as easy as stereo equipment or even cars. Lennox products, probably like others such as Carrier, are sold through dealer networks and it's very hard to figure out how much the dealer cost is or even how much the MSRP is. All I could do is read the promotional literature on the Lennox website to get a basic idea of their line of furnaces.

    When I finally sat down with Chuck, the owner, he gave me the bad (and worse) news: repairing my 1989 Carrier furnace, which he said was no better than 70% efficient, would cost $2,500 but installing a new Lennox Elite (94.1% efficient) would be $4,500. According to the Lennox brochure, I would save thousands in just a few years with the more efficient furnace, so I opted for new. I also decided to have him install a zoning system in my house, as my house was built with only one furnace and A/C despite being about 3,500 square feet (which I think is on the borderline for deciding whether to install a dual system). Retrofitting this new zoning system meant installing pneumatic dampers in each of my supply ducts. The cost would be $3,500, but again, I was told the zoning should create some savings in future energy bills.

    As I signed the contract, I asked Chuck who would be doing the work and if they had much experience. He said that a couple of younger guys named Mike and Jim would be doing the install and they had finished "with honors in trade school." I didn't know there was such a distinction in trade schools, but I said okay. The whole process was to take two days.

    Without going into too much detail of the installation, the following annoyances and problems transpired:

    * The yellow energy sticker (which you often see on furnaces and refrigerators) stated that the model they were installing was 92.1 efficient, not 94.1 as advertised on the Lennox website and in the brochure. The techs (Mike and Jim) had no idea why there was a discrepancy. When I asked Chuck, he speculated that Lennox just put the wrong sticker in the box. I immediately was concerned that they were putting in a lower model than I had ordered, but the model number on the unit checked out, so the sticker is still a mystery.

    * The sheetmetal filter housing Mike and Jim built for the new furnace was crooked and the filter did not sit straight. Chuck initially said it was only an aesthetic issue, but after showing him that there was a gap created and that not all the incoming air was being filtered, he agreed to straighten it.

    * The new thermostat installed in our master bedroom (which would control the new upstairs zone) was placed only four feet off the ground--standard height is five feet. So now I have to move it up, fix the drywall, and paint. I also have to fix other drywall damage in the basement resulting from the installation of the dampers.

    * The new furnace is actually louder than the older one, despite the claims of "two-stage" heating, a "sealed" unit, and so on. I need to boost the volume of my TV when the blower comes on because there is more airflow noise. This could also be because of the zoning creating added pressure in the ductwork.

    The bright side is that everything is done and working now, but my last fear is this: what is my gas bill going to look like? I have been promised big savings, but based on my less than satisfying experience thus far, I'm thinking that the claims of saving $2,000 over three years were just sales talk. My most recent gas bill was $300 (and I don't have a gas stove, just a gas clothes dryer and hot water heater). If there's anyone here with some HVAC knowledge, here are a couple of questions:

    1. In 1989, what was the highest efficiency one could expect from a furnace? As I mentioned, Chuck claimed my Carrier was 70% at best, but if it did happen to be 80% or higher, my new one won't be as much of an improvement as I was led to believe.
    2. Maybe I shouldn't be so pessimistic, but what would be the best course of action if in fact I see little or no savings (or even higher bills)? There are so many lines of defense Chuck could use ("maybe you set your temperature higher this year so that's why you're using more therms," etc.). Do I just live with it and chalk it up to experience?
    3. Is this a typical experience in having a furnace replaced? Chuck tried to get me to replace my A/C unit as well (for another $5k) but I declined. If in fact I need one come summer, should I go with another HVAC company or are they all the same?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    Brian,

    Those prices seem very high for a new furnace. Does that 3,500 square feet include a basement? Did you get estimates from any other HVAC contractors, even those carry brands other than Lennox? Pricing will vary tremendously from one HVAC contractor to another.

    We replaced our furnace about four years ago in our 2,500 square foot colonial (3,800 square feet with the basement). The original furnace's blower motor had failed, and it was going to cost about $500 to replace it in a 20 year old low-efficiency furnace. We opted to get a new 80% efficiency Hiel furnace for about $2,300 installed. We used a HVAC contractor that we had used in our previous home who are honest, competitively priced and perform excellent workmanship. They originally came recommended from friends who had used them in the past.

    In our case, we compared the minimal savings between an 80% and 90% efficiency furnace, and even the HVAC contractor did not recommend it at the additional cost for the little savings we would gain.

    BTW, we also replaced our central a/c system two years later, and that cost about $2,200 from the same contractor.
     
  3. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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    what is the heat exchanger warranty on your carrier? better check, on a lot of the newer ones it's 20 years, the older ones I think are 10 [​IMG]
     
  4. Brian Perry

    Brian Perry Cinematographer

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    No, with the basement it's about 4,400 sf.

    As for the warranty, he said it had expired so I'm assuming it was a 10-yr. warranty.
     
  5. Eric Kahn

    Eric Kahn Guest

    A janitrol 60,000 btu furnace cost about 600 dollars new (not installed) 94% efficient
    the 100,000 btu version is only about 50 dollars more

    you can figure the actual cost of the furnace at about a quarter of any HVAC companies quote, I can get the actual prices because of my job in building maintenance
     
  6. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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    I'd really reccomend staying away from the goodman (janitrol) products. they're OK for the price, but they're pretty cheap overall, especially the cabinets.
    I would call carrier yourself and verify the warrany, he wants to sell you a furnace, not fuss with a warranty claim (though it would only cover parts and not labor, which to install a heat exchanger would be considerable)
     
  7. David Range

    David Range Agent

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    I just had my furnace replaced last week with a Lennox model G50UH, which is the single stage unit for roughly $3200 with humidifier. I say roughly because I haven't received the final bill. They tried to sell me on the elite, but I plan on moving within the next couple years so I didn't think it was worth the extra cost. My old furnace left me in a lurch with no warning at all, the blower motor was shot, the heat exchange was rusty, and the burners were dirty, but it was 30 years old and neglected. Installation went smoothly except they needed to cut a couple holes in the wall nearest the furnace to meet code and I told them to put one hole in the utility room door, which they did, and one in the bathroom wall which is adjacent to the furnace and they were absolutely forbidden to put the vent in the theater. So what did they do? They put it in the ceiling of the theater. Idiots. I agree with you on the loudness of the Lennox's. The salesman clamed the Lennox units were much quiter than any other brand, but I can't see how anyone could be happy having what sounds like a jet engine in their home if his claims are true. I'll certainly be shopping other brands and installers when I build my next home.
     
  8. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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    I have a lennox in my place, not by choice however. For the record, the quietest furnace I've ever heard is the carrier MVP series, they're infinitely variable, 90%+ efficient, but pretty spendy though [​IMG]
     

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