: Repair or replace furnace
2007-11-02, 12:36 AM
Hi everyone, I am new here and today is not a good day for me. I had the Direct Energy guy to came in to do an annual checkup. They found my furnace heat exchanger is cracked. I have this since 98 when I first purchased the house. Of coz I got the option of repairing it for 1000 or get a new furnace from the tech. He almost wanted me to give him a cheque to him coz they tag my furnace and shut it down. I had another tech came in and he confirmed the exchanger seems to be cracked. Now I have no choice, the dream is true. I need to made a decision,Repair or Replace. I called the dealer (Heil DC90 is the model). They told me the repair is about 400 for the primary and 750 for the primary and secondary. This tech came later the day told me about 500. Of coz the Direct Energy guy told me around a 1000. My furnace is an 92% HE model which is not bad. The exchanger was overheated due to I used the expensiv 3M filter which get rid of fine dirt but also reduced air flow.
Anyhow, I have price quote for new furnace range 2000-4000 for my 2300 sq ft house. I have to make decision soon.
- I want to repair but worry that crack will happen again.
- I want new furnace but don't have that much cash.
upgrade to a new furnace doesn't play a big role here since mine is already 92%. I won't get a big break in gas. May be the new variable speed motor can save some Hydro.
I want to hear some suggestion from floks out there and help me making a wise decision.
2007-11-02, 02:41 AM
I would do the repair and install a filter that has better airflow. Many filters are mounted in the return air duct so this should be possible with minor duct changes. A 20"x25"x4" filter is fairly standard for high efficiency furnaces. They have much better airflow and last longer than 1" deep filters. Stay away from washable filters or extra high efficiency filters (as you have seen.) The standard high efficiency filters do a good job and allow good airflow. It is also a good idea to get a programmable thermostat that has a filter change reminder based on fan use (not just calender days.)
Or you can spend some additional $ and get an electrostatic air cleaner installed, if you have the room and if you have the money. (along with the repair)
2007-11-02, 05:11 AM
Definitely the repair. Lots of heat exchangers crack and are replaced. One company years ago had a pile up to the roof of the warehouse. All warranty. Of course they are no longer around :)
Be careful with those repair guys (looks like you are). Better the extra $500 remains with you
2007-11-02, 08:49 AM
The dealer did mentioned they can cut the return duct to make a 5" room for the larger filter. That job will cost me about 350. I don't know what exactly he will be done but sounds to me it will give me space to put the 5" filter in. Is $350 sound resonable?
2007-11-02, 09:13 AM
If you Google your model you see a lot of talk about stainless steel heat exchangers and lifetime warranties. Did you check to see if this is the case for yours?
When I bought my high efficiency furnace 5-6 years ago (different from yours), this was a big factor....in my view, everything else can be fixed/replaced.
2007-11-02, 10:22 PM
I would fix it as well. I'm a tech for Direct Energy as well. Just to clarify we charge 700$ for a primary or secondary heat exchanger and 1000$ to replace both. We only replace what is cracked. 99% of the time on your furnace its the primary heat exchanger(popped rings or crack near the burners) I have the same furnace in my house and its got 4 winters on it, im waiting for my fairlure to occur soon. ITs the nature of these models just bad luck. But hey there a cheap furnace but do the job, the other nice thing about these units is they use many off the shelf parts. In my service truck i have every single part needed to repair the base model of this furnace. So your in good hands.
My opinion is replace the heat exchanger. Of course we would love to sell u a unit but im a tech and ill be honest and sugest changing the heat exchanger. You have lifetime warranty to the original purchaser and 20years to any second owner and so on. So drop the 500$-1000$ and get some more years out of her. Good that it happened now because a few winters ago in ottawa we had a 2-3 week delay as so many of these failed, supply was low on heat exchangers...
As for going to a new Hi eff furnace, there are other savings to be had if you did change over:
-2stage(runs on low fire 80% of the time uses less fuel) dont have the numbers on how much it saves but it does
-some new units are in the 96% range... in know only 4%
-DC fan motors this is the big one, you currenlty run 400-600watts anytime your fan is running. DC powered fans run 60-100watts. As a comparison on the amp meter i have seen low fire operations with the blower running and got amp draws down to .8amps! Thats low compared to the 5-7amps i get on normal AC fan motors.
-warranty 12year parts and labour means no insurance plans needed for that amount of time(yes people on this board are against them but 95% or more of my work is non chargable plan work so it must be attractive)
-Anyway just some food for thought
I would go with the heat exchanger. Also not all failures on this furnace are from overheating, some of the best installs are failing, its simply the product.
Make sure that who ever you have in to change the heat exchanger checks the following after they are done:(we do this as standard proceedures on all calls but others may not)
-Check and set manifold pressure and clock the input(very important)
-Check temperature rise(if its off it should be rectivied)
-we do a bunch of other checks as well but those 2 are key to be check considering the heat exchanger failure. dont want a new heat exchanger gettting overfired.
IF the temp rise checks out you may be ok with the 3m filter but personally i prefeure the cheap fibreglass units and change them monthly. There is no filter on the market the is designed to clean your house(thats what a vacume is for :) :) ) The nice thing about the monthy filters is you get in the habbit of changing them, the 3,6 and 12 month filters are just asking to be neglected. Everyones home has differnent levels of dust, what last you 12 months may only last 3 months in your neighbors house. So the potential for forgetting a plugged filter is much higher with those types of filters. I say keep it simple and cheap and replace monthly
Good luck and let us know how it all turns out.
PS: The new heat exchangers will smoke when first fired. The smell goes away after the first few cylces. (manufacturing oils on the outside of them)
2007-11-03, 12:28 AM
ITs the nature of these models just bad luck.
IMHO, that's known as a design flaw that should be covered under extended warranty. If your company wants to charge $700 for a well known design flaw, that's up to them. (What is really amazing is that you know about this problem and let your employer continue to charge consumers for repairs. OTOH, it's not so surprising since it is in your best interests to cover it up or get fired.) In the US, this would either be covered by the manufacturer or become a class action lawsuit. In Canada, I guess manufacturers cover it up and consumers just roll over and pay up. :confused:
2007-11-03, 04:13 AM
Absolutely a flaw and dangerous. As far as I know a crack in a HE means dangerous gases get into the house! (CO)
2007-11-03, 10:04 AM
woooh back up a second, first off the furnace is not made by Direct energy or Joe's heating. The manufacture of Heil is intercity pruducts, its there warranty that excludes labour but includes the heat exchanger for 20 to life. Do u expect us or joes heating to go into any house we service and just replace heat exchangers for free??? Think about what your saying. The manufacture is not the installer or the service company. Some manufactures give 10 or 15 year not lifetime... buy a builder model get less heat exchanger warranty..
And for the record there is no furnace on the market that is amune eveyone one will have a defective heat exchanger at some point. Just like your cars muffler, it has lifetime warranty and you know it will rott out but dont get 100%labour included..
BY THE WAY there is no cover up. My options on these service call are:
-RED TAG leave gas off notify the customer and utility and the customer can find his own repair, we dont force our selfs to make the repairs, its not our furnace its the customers.
-RED TAG leave gas off notify the customer and utility and quote the customer for a repair or call in a sales person to quote a new furnace
Get the facts straigh befor you try to create a conspiracy. Most of these furnaces are manufactured outside of canada some in canada. Your beef if there is even one to have is wiht manufactures not the installing or servicing companies......
FYI as a resposible service tech i advice all my customers of the condition and history of there models. I serice all models not just the units we sell. If i see a heil i tell the customer expect it to fail, its just the facts, if they have issue with that they can call HEIL and read there manufactures warranty, i am not obligated to fix stuff for free. no one is.
2009-04-14, 03:58 PM
TKG, why do Direct charge a flat rate for the replacement of the heat exchangers?. The secondary HE is cracked on my furnace but it looks like 5 lag screws and the HE should pull right out. Is there more too this that I am not seeing? I believe the furnace is a Keeprite (its one of the ICP lines for sure, 75K BTU high efficiency). The tech said that some furnaces require major disassembly so they just one flat rate. It would seem crazy to me to pay $700 for a warrantied part if it takes 20 mins to swap out, but like I said perhaps there is something I am not seeing.
2009-04-14, 08:52 PM
ICP provides the part under warranty but does not pay any labor allowances.
Typical Flat rate in Ottawa and area is 600-1000$.. You are in your right to shop around if you feel you can get a better deal. If your on our HIP plan your not obligated to use us for chargeable work IE your failed heat exchanger(although we want your business), The warranty you have is with the manufacture not us. We offer the service of doing the repair for you and do all the leg work.
So here are some costs associated with changing your heat exchanger.
$700 single heat exchanger $1000 two heat exchangers
-two techs $109$/hr
-typical time on job 2-4hrs depending on the unit. If we are on site for 3hours we also had to get there so average time is 30minute drive so there is another hour there you don't see
-we ship the part to your home
-we foot the money upfront to acquire your heat exchanger
-we install it, 2 guys needed to help with lifting it in and out. Safety first. Safety is the most important part of our jobs. Yes you can one man the job but we have 30years plus of career ahead of us. So we work in pairs on those jobs
-8 point safety check afterwards to make sure there are no other defects with the furnace. CO tests,gas pressure test temp rise ect ect
-Warranty paper work completed
-part packaged and shipped back (our cost behind the scene)
-our warranty department processes paperwork in order to get our money back from ICP for the part we paid for.
So on average we are there for 2-4hrs for 2 techs which is $436-872$ in our labor costs. Realistically we are there no longer then 3 hours these days..
What model number is your ICP? The real old ones have a very very simple secondary that does just slide out, i would say there are 8 screws to remove and some gear clamps, along with removal of the venter motor and some electrical. Its a fairly easy one to do. But there newer ones are much more involved.
If you shop around just make sure its a licensed gas fitter doing the work, i seen a few DIY friend of a friend installs where i end up back there because the heat exchanger got installed upside down. So they ended up paying twice to get it done right.
Anyway hope that this sheds some light on what needs to be done...we need to cover all of our costs and make some profit in the job so we flat rate them. Personally i would use that 700$ towards a better brand of furnace. But thats just my opinion.
Consider the age of the unit, if your original owner you got lifetime, if you are the second owner you have the remainder of 20year warranty. The new heat exchangers will fail just like the originals, we have a customer that actually had 2 installed!!
2009-04-14, 10:34 PM
Great post TKG. Unfortunately most customers only see a Service Tech and a van and don't realize all the pieces of the puzzle it takes for an efficient professional company to operate at a profit these days.
2009-04-15, 05:05 PM
Wow. Thanks the the quick reply(s). I realize there is a lot more involved and with labour things don't take long to add up. I was more puzzled about the flat rate fee structure. The furnace is an Arcoaire GUK?...(model number is at home). The venter motor is off and it looks like its only about 6 screws and the secondary HE should slide right out. I am most likely going to get a new furnace installed (its fortunate that it has happened in between cooling and heating seasons) although I would have much rather planned the purchase. If I did get it fixed I would go with someone that is going to do it right, not some handyman Joe who claims to have his tags. The flat fee of $700 for the repair option just seemed like upsell pricing amount it looks like it would take a good tech about 30 mins to do it. If you took your car in to have the water pump replaced and they quoted a flat rate of $1800 because it's hard to get at on some cars, I think as a customer you would look into it. Once again thanks for the detailed and quick reply!
2009-04-15, 07:15 PM
Flat rate pricing is becoming increasingly popular in the trade. It has it's advantages and disadvantages. In some ways a lot of customers like it for the fact they know up front what a call in going to cost them so it takes a little of the anxiety out of the homeowner.
As for the car analogy, as far as I understand, most dealerships already work on a flat pricing system. They have fixed rates for pretty well every repair and charge you their preset book pricing based on the average time it takes a mechanic to do the particular job. If they can manage to do it in half the time, you're still going to be charged the predetermined time.
Let us know what you're looking at with respect to replacement furnaces.
2009-04-15, 10:48 PM
Agreed, flat rate pricing is upfront with no hidden charges. It ensures that everyone is getting charged the same prices job after job, it gives the customer piece of mind knowing that no matter how slow or fast the tech is on site that you wont be paying extra for there time. We don't charge for part ordering or delivering or pickup, sometimes the clock will keep running at some companies while they go get parts. Thats built into the rates im sure
I used to hate when we charged in 30minute windows and then 15minute windows. Nothing worse then having a customer breathing down my back with a stop watch running and then arguing with me over 5-10minutes that would push the total time up another 15minutes. Its not good for anyone.
2009-04-16, 03:56 AM
Thanks for weighing in guys. As far as what furnaces I am looking at..I am basically getting three different quotes that will cover the major brands. Looking at multistage/ECM. I will be replacing a high eff. with another high eff. but from what I have been able to learn as long as I am going above my existing furnace eff. (90%) I will still qualify for the major rebates. One good thing is that as of April 1st the rebates have gone up slightly. So far I have one company quote on a Rheem and York, and one company on a Bryant and Lennox. Have someone coming in the morning to give me a quote on an Amana and I am guessing Trane as well.