Can I get a furnace expert?

13 Replies

AC problems yes, but not many furnace issues. I have a fourplex built in the 80's, and one of the units is turning over. Painters call my PM and say the furnace is not working. PM sends a "comfort specialist" and the diagnosis is a bad gas valve and pilot assembly that would cost $615 to repair. He's recommending replacing the furnace with a new Lennox furnace and evaporator coil, for a total of $2287, 10 year parts and 3 years labor.

Which would you select or would you get another technician out to re-diagnose the problem? PM did get a 2nd bid for $3100 to install a RUUD furnace.

Thanks for any input!

@Derek P.  So I am assuming this is a original furnace. It is not uncommon for a gas valve to go bad, the price seems slightly high, but I am midwest. Do you know if the replacement is for a 80% or 90% furnace. I would go with lennox over rudd. I think I would replace the unit I also notice they are changing the coil. Do you have a new a/c unit? Are they installing a txv valve? Just wondering because if you have a 10 seer a/c unit and they install a 13 seer coil without a txv valve you will have problems, if its a newer a/c (2006 or newer) then it wont matter. If it isn't you may want to change a/c so you have a matched coil and then you will be on 410A instead of R-22 for the Freon, r-22 while most of us guys like it better is being phased out. Let me know if I can give you any more advice or you can reach out to me.

Why replace the unit? Why not do the repair, unless the furnace has other issues?

That seems high unless the four plex only has one furnace. I just had and 80% 110,000 btu furnace put in for $800. But yes, if the furnace is from the 80's it won't be long before the inducer goes or something else and you'll be throwing money at an 25 year boat anchor.

If you aren't paying the bills and it's around 1000 Sqft just ask for an 80% 80,000 btu unit put in cheap. In any market I'd think that'd be less than a grand installed. The unit is only $450.

I purchase Goodman furnaces. They have worked very well or me. I would personally not repair and just replace the furnace. You are going to gain at least 15 points of efficiency and should have few furnace worries for he next decade plus. It sure would be a pain to throw $700 on a repair only to have another issue next year and replace he furnace then...

Originally posted by @Josh Compton:

That seems high unless the four plex only has one furnace. I just had and 80% 110,000 btu furnace put in for $800. But yes, if the furnace is from the 80's it won't be long before the inducer goes or something else and you'll be throwing money at an 25 year boat anchor.

If you aren't paying the bills and it's around 1000 Sqft just ask for an 80% 80,000 btu unit put in cheap. In any market I'd think that'd be less than a grand installed. The unit is only $450.

Thats crack head cheap. You have to watch 80%ers hacks like to put them in unlined chimneys. Which will rot out your chimney over time.

An old A/C is fine on a new evaporator with a piston(not a txv) as long as the piston is matched to the condenser. Hacks generally won't seek out the right piston and just use the one that comes with the evap and don't charge to superheat causing problems.

OP you didn't say how old and what type the current furnace is.  That will determine what you should do.  $600 is a little much for a gas valve.  Last one I did was an expensive valve at $200 my cost(most valves are around $100) and I changed it out for a total of $450.

I'd get a second opinion and another estimate.  With him getting a new pilot assembly makes me wonder whats really wrong.  Sounds like maybe the pilot won't stay lit which most likely would be fixed with just a pilot cleaning and a new thermocouple.  $2200 isn't bad for a new 90%er and new evap.  Lennox is a good furnace but I don't like working on them more proprietary parts.  I like Goodman there cheap and easy to work on.  I do 60k btu 93% goodmans for about $1850.

Originally posted by @Josh C. :

That seems high unless the four plex only has one furnace. I just had and 80% 110,000 btu furnace put in for $800. But yes, if the furnace is from the 80's it won't be long before the inducer goes or something else and you'll be throwing money at an 25 year boat anchor.

If you aren't paying the bills and it's around 1000 Sqft just ask for an 80% 80,000 btu unit put in cheap. In any market I'd think that'd be less than a grand installed. The unit is only $450.

I can't let it go I have to elaborate. 80k btu is grossly oversized for 1000sq ft your only an hour and half north west of me.  Which means the furnace will over heat constantly weakening the heat exchanger because the duct work is never designed for an oversized furnace.  Also causing the furnace to shut off, on limit making it kick on and off constantly putting more wear and tear on parts.  A 80%er might only be $450 but its $200+ for additional materials to do it right.  Anyone that does there own gig for $150 a day is working for a wage and still has to pay for tools and have a truck.  They are certainly going to skimp on materials, the right tools and do a horrible job.  Obviously they don't even have the knowledge to size the unit right. I don't see them being able to afford liability insurance.  Guess who its falling back on if there install damages your property or hurts someone?  Your setting yourself up for a rude awakening and giving bad advice. 

 Lets see some pictures of the installs you get for $800.  I'm guessing rolls of foil tape, a slung around flex gas line and other general hackery in addition to oversized 80%ers in unlined chimneys.  The same stuff I get paid more to fix in rentals all the time. Its cheaper to get it done right the first time.

@John Whittle 

Sorry for the late response, I do everything from my ipad and can't post pictures. (Would be a nice feature for the app @Joshua Dorkin  )

I certainly won't argue the HVAC design because your title says HVAC contractor and mine doesn't. I would like to post pictures and please let me know if it looks like poor quality. I do know he's licensed and insured. I will also say these houses are very old in fact I remember I had one with 12" round duct going to most vents and a huge 30" return. Poor to no insulation, so the systems definitely need to bigger than a house built in the 90s with good insulation and well designed system. But the ones they ripped out were much taller and they how to bend metal to tie everything together.

Let me know your thoughts!

can't tell if this one posted or not

I also like the Goodmans in fact we have done 4-5 over the last couple of years as we rehabbed properties, without any issues. A 4 yr old Heil & 3 yr old Lenox we previously installed both had inducer motor replacements under the 5 yr warranty.

Up here we go with the HI Effic models as the PVC direct vent exhausting is safer (& easier) than using conventional un-lined chimney runs.

The last complete install we did (with 1.5 ton a/c) ran $1,587 for the unit & ancillary parts with a $600 install cost. The Invoice is below...

Date ordered: 06/20/2014

Total: $1,586.87

Goodman 1.5 Ton 13 SEER Air Conditioner

Condenser w/ R410A Refrigerant

Item# 14878 Model# GSX130181

$623.99

Goodman 1.5 to 2 Ton 17 1/2" Air Conditioner

Evaporator Cased Coil

Item# 14664 Model# CAPF1824B6

$197.89

Goodman 95% AFUE 70,000 BTU Downflow 2 Stage

Gas Furnace

Item# 14737 Model# GCH950703BX

$764.99

 @Josh C.

Looks really good for the price I'd hold on to that guy.  Even throw him a extra hundred or 2.  I run a small shop out of my house with very low overhead and it still costs me about $60 a day just for the truck, tools, insurance and gas.  Thats not counting health care or vacation time.  Which means hes only making roughly $100 a day to put that furnace in.  He could make more working for another shop as an employee. 

I'd keep a good eye on him though and I'd make sure he really has insurance.  I'd check the chimney, a house that old it most likely isn't lined.  Even just a clay liner is fine which I see a lot in 40s-60s houses.  If its all brick the 80%er will produce condensate and rot it out eventually.   I'd question him on repairs too.  A lot of installers go out on there own think they can fix them too even though they don't have experience.  So anything a little tricky to them and you must need a new unit. 

Old school rule of thumb on old houses down here in Cincy is 40,000 btu output per thousand sq ft.  So a 60k btu 80% would be 48k out and what I would put in a small old house like that without doing a load calc.  I'd do a load calc before I'd put in 40k 95%.  Which would be 38k out.  Most likely wouldn't do that you'd probably end up with complaints on really cold days.  

That flu pipe could use some straps don't need that coming loose.

Thanks very much for insight and advice. Getting a second evaluation was the right call. Pilot light was still functioning and apparently wasn't staying lit for another reason. Total bill $137. I know applying a band aid isn't always a good call, but if I can get a few more years out of it, sure, sign me up. Plus we are turning this unit after being rented to the same tenants for 10 years, so it's costing me $3000 for paint and floors, and don't need a furnace expense added to it.