How not to get your HVAC stolen while your house is being rehabbed.

9 Replies

I have my first house under contract and it needs a new HVAC.  I do not want my contractors to work in bad conditions but I also don't want the unit to get stolen.  It is cold outside and I can't expect them to work with no heat.  What to do?

The house I bought is in a low end neighborhood in Dallas and I am clueless here.  Any thoughts???

@Jamie Wooley  

I've found that AC's get stolen more than furnaces. Don't install the AC until the rehab is done and the tenant is in place. You probably don't want to do that until Spring anyways. You can always invest in a security system while the property is vacant to keep he furnace from disappearing.

They can use portable ceramic heaters to take with them house to house.  It's the cheapest way to go.  If the hvac has already been stolen...chances are it will get hit again by one of your neighbors.  You can cage the outside unit or roof-mount it to make it a little tougher to snatch.  You can also add a security system with a sensor tied to the hvac unit or cage.  

I would not recommend using your central HVAC while doing construction inside the house. The dust can get into the pipes and the furnace and you'll have to hire a duct cleaners to clean them and they are not cheap.

Also be very careful with the open heaters because they can start a fire especially if there are wood particles in the air. I am not sure if that caused it but I am looking at a triplex that was burned down while contractors were doing inside remodeling. Now the owners want to sell because it is too expensive to repair.

I have been on a lot of new construction sites in the winter and they never have HVAC running. They bring in portable heaters such as the one pictured above. The generic term is a Salamander heater. They run on either propane tanks like the one you use on your grill or kerosene and they really put out a ton of heat. More than enough to heat an apartment to comfortable levels. If it's a bigger house, use 2 or 3. Contractors don't expect to get to work in "comfort" everyday. That's part of the job. 

Also, on ALL of our rehabs, we now use a Simplisafe alarm system. I got hit twice on my very first property. I caught the guy who did the first burglary. He knew I was a police officer and I think he did it just because he had an extensive history that I didn't know about and he wanted to "stick it to the man." I bought my appliances from him after I responded to a Craiglist ad. After he beat up his wife, she called me and turned him in. All my tools had already been sold off for pennies on the dollar. Thankfully, my homeowner's insurance covered my tools at that time as I lost almost $7k in tools. I got hit again a few weeks later. Someone threw a rock through one of my brand new windows to get in and then proceeded to cut out the little bit of copper piping in the basement. Cost me $250 to fix it. There was probably only 30' of pipe but they broke in and took it anyway. And they also cut the copper to my A/C unit and left the unit. I didn't have a clue who did the second burglary but I put an alarm system in right away and haven't had a problem since. 

I actually believe now that it was my painting contractor who took the copper. The house had been sitting vacant for 3 years and it was never touched until I brought people in. On my next project, I brought him in before I purchased the property. He walked through it with me as we discussed what it needed and he took a real interest in some antique doors. The very next day, I went back to look at the house with another contractor and the doors were gone as well as copper wiring in the basement and all the antique air vent covers. I haven't used him again and I haven't been hit again. Coincidence?

About Simplisafe...I have 13 years as an officer. I have responded to calls from every alarm company out there and I did the research on pricing and contracts. Dave Ramsey endorses this company and I tried them out after reading good reviews. All you have to do is buy the equipment. It's all battery powered except for the base station which has a battery backup. It contacts the monitoring company through cell technology. It will operate without monitoring to scare someone off or you can pay up to $25 a month for monitoring. (This is the highest priced package and allows me to operate the system from an app on my phone so I can track when someone is in or out). I turned off the monitoring after my first rehab and put the system back in a box until I needed it again. When I installed it again (took about 5 minutes with the 3m tape strips) I reactivated the monitoring and to my surprise, it had been like hitting the pause button. I still had 17 days left of monitoring from my previous payment! They dont' take advantage of the customer. I will never ever have a vacant property again without monitoring it with an alarm.

Good advice above. I wouldn't install the AC condenser until the home is to be occupied.

One other piece to consider other than the contractor's comfort is the drying time of drywall and other things during rehab. It will take forever for this stuff to dry when it's freezing in the house. I was rehabbing one last February and we had to bring in heaters and light a fire in the fireplace to get the mud to dry.

I would use the heaters recommended by @Matt R. I have used one in a garage in Minnesota during the winter and after a couple hours of running it was 70 degrees so I could work in a t-shirt comfortably. After that I went and bought my own (used) for $30 which uses kerosene and works like a champ. 

@Jamie Wooley

I've worked in Construction for 28 years, the last 17 in Minnesota, and have worked in houses with HVAC installed and running, or with Temp heat. if you install your new HVAC system, install a security system, then $200 to $300 will employ a guy to clean out the duct work after construction is complete.  Otherwise you can use temp heat.  Either propane, Kerosene or Natural Gas Temp heat.  However, Temp heat comes with it's own's not a "Set it and Forget it" heat supply!  Temp heat requires necessary Ventilation.  Combustibles need to be kept away from the temp heat.  It needs to be checked on a regular basis. Fuel supplies need to be monitored and filled. All of these have their own costs associated with them.

When everything is said and done, it comes down to YOUR decision......If it's a small rehab job, couple of rooms of drywall patch, paint, kitchen cabinets and flooring, put the HVAC system in and clean the duct work afterwards.  If its a whole house down to the studs remodel, use Temp heat and install the HVAC after the main work is done.

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