Our Furnace & AC Adventure

Written by Renovation

The woes of home ownership – having to pay out the nose when something breaks. Perk – being able to be the boss and get it done how you see fit! This was one of the biggest reasons why we wanted to stop renting and become homeowners. But I’ll admit, paying for that unforeseen breakdown is a bummer.

Right after Thanksgiving, right after we finished the kitchen renovation, I scheduled a regular tune up service for our furnace before it got much colder. You know… being responsible and what not. And then SURPRISE!!! That $49 service turned into a $7,000 bill. Damn it. During that tune up visit, one of guys came upstairs to tell me they found a “catastrophic failure” and had to legally turn off the furnace before leaving. Honestly, they freaked me out at first until I talked to Jordan on the phone. They found we had a crack in our heat exchange. This is actually quite common, but is hard to find unless your service tech sticks a small mirror or fancy wire camera into the furnace.

When they left, I just flipped the switch to the furnace back on…. and Jordan and I made a plan to take care of this quickly, like within the next two weeks. This wasn’t completely out of the blue to us. During our inspection when buying the house, we found out (you could also see it for yourself) that the furnace and AC units were both older and probably only had a year or two left in them. Because of this, we had the idea to just do both the furnace and AC at the same time. So we asked for quotes for both the furnace and AC together, and the furnace alone to help us decide.

There was a little bit of drama during our process of finding who to do the work and get a fair price. We tried to do our usual thing and get a few quotes from different companies. This way we can see if there is a huge discrepancy in prices either way, which might be a red flag. The company that did the original service was AHMAZING at customer service and responsiveness!!! I was in love since I’m used to being treated like an annoyance by most companies these days. However, their prices were ASTRONOMICALLY higher than any other quote we received. We unfortunately had to tell them we couldn’t go with them because of that.

We also received a two year home warranty plan when we closed on the house, so we tried to go through them too… duh! If that worked out, why not save all that dough!? But here’s the thing… the company we are with, set us up with a local third party company (standard) to come out and access the situation for a flat $75 fee (expected). That third party company sent me a time window on a random week day that neither of us could be home for. No one contacted me in any way to ask if that day would work at all! That company’s voicemail was full and no one would answer a phone… I was totally sketched out at this point. I then sat on hold with the home warranty company for over an hour waiting to talk to a customer service person. I just wanted someone there to know I couldn’t meet with the third party company at the scheduled time so I wouldn’t be charged the $75 for missing it! They even tried to call this third party company and got the same result as me. The next day, I got a text message from the third party company number telling me they changed our appointment to another day – again, didn’t ask me if that would work and I never got a response to my text back. But I was scheduled to be working from home that day so it would work out ok this time.

So here we are to the day this third party company is supposed to come to the house… they show up 25 minutes early! WHAT!!! This seems like it would be ok…. but…. since I had no warning they would be early, I was in the middle of walking dogs. I had just gotten back with Tealy and had Finn leashed up and on the front porch when the guy pulled up. Luckily I was even on the porch and not two blocks away missing the whole thing. Finn has a major anxiety issue with walks and was super pumped to be going on one at this point. So it ended up causing a huge issue when I had to turn around and take him right back in the house, and then a strange guy walks up to the door…. it was the only time the two dogs ever got into a scuffle. I had to separate them. At this point, I’m super frazzled and obviously was not prepared for him. And the guy was sooooooo not nice at all, just pissing me off further. During the 5 minutes he was there, he was incredibly rude and condescending towards me even though I had apologized for the dogs and was doing my best to be friendly under the circumstances. Since we had been doing some research, had a couple quotes under our belts from other companies, and asked friends about how much they paid for a new furnace… I set this guy up good. Sometimes… I’ll play the dumb girl on purpose to see how they treat me. I asked a question I already knew the answer to 😉 I can’t remember the question any more because the fall out got me pretty mad. But it resulted in him telling me something I knew to be false from all the other information we had, and he ended asking me “do you even have any clue how much a new furnace costs?!” in the exact snarky tone you are probably hearing in your head right now. This guy failed my test big time. I rattled off the price ranges for low end, mid range and high end furnaces AND how much the cost should be if we include the AC unit as well. His jaw literally dropped as he squeaked out an “oh…” Needless to say, I escorted him back upstairs and out the door quickly, letting Finn out of his quarantine room to bark at the door and make this guy feel very unwelcome.

Another hour long wait on hold with the home warranty company, and I was telling them I refused to work with their third party company. The only other option they had for us: instead of paying the 50% they would if the third party company just pulled out the old furnace and slid in a newer one; they would send us a $500 check after we send them the invoice of work done by a licensed professional. Standard, but seems super crappy since it’s their partner that is unreliable to do the work… not my fault at all. But what’s a girl to do… sit on hold forever with a furnace that could be leaking CO2 into your house? I think this is their whole plan – be super crappy with customer service and quickly wear down the people so they don’t have to pay out a claim…

ANYWHO…. whew… apparently I needed that therapy. If you’re still with me, WOW! I LOVE YOU!

So, obviously we didn’t use the home warranty, and are perfectly content letting it expire after this year. Not only were they not worth the time and stress, but we weren’t thrilled with how they would do the work, or the brand of system they would be putting in. As I said, we had already gotten other quotes from local companies. The two other quotes we received were from companies referred to us by friends.

The company we went with was a small family owned business, and the guy that installed the furnace and AC for us lives down the street! They were both responsive and did great work we trust. They talked us through their opinion on what size units we should install and seemed very honest since they could have sold us on a bigger unit (more money for them) but didn’t. They weren’t the cheapest, but they were right in line with the other quote we got, and from what our friends paid that just had the same work done. We did end up having both the furnace and AC unit replaced at the same time because we got a slight discount doing them together, and they were able to tie the systems together better doing them at once. They even installed this nice wifi thermostat for us, which I’ll admit, we haven’t played with much still – I hate the phone app because it’s in landscape. It goes against all the user experience know how I have!

The owner of the company came by the house the next day, on a Saturday, to collect payment and make sure everything went well during the install. He ended up staying for a half hour chatting with us, and I think I could have sold him the house because he was in love with our kitchen 😉

I guess… long story short, go with your gut! We are still paying for it, but I’m happy with the choice we made and trust the work was done correctly. Who knows… we could still have been dealing with fall out from a shoddy job if we had gone with the home warranty people! Eek!

Now, as far as maintenance goes… we had never been that good about remembering to change the air filter even though it’s incredibly important to the function and longevity of the furnace and to the overall air quality in the house. I believe the rule of thumb is to change it every 3 months. Our service guys told us that since we have a dog, we should change it every month. We were good the first month and changed it. But this last month we let it slide. We decided we are gonna change it every two months because we are rebels (but not too rebellious cause we want to take care of the $7,000 thing we just got installed!) and we will be setting up a subscription and automatic shipping on Amazon for filters. When we receive a filter in the mail, we will just go down and change it out! Take the guess work out of it and no more excuses! There are other filter subscription services out there you could also test out. I’ve heard of some landlords doing this for their rental properties to make it easy on tenants to change the filter out.

Even though it was a surprise, we are ok with it. It’s something we knew would needed to get done, and only adds to the value of the house. We have noticed a slight a dip in our bill compared to last year and are oddly excited for summer to see how the new AC compares. Also… the heat just feels so much more even throughout the house! I can’t say I would be excited to do this again in another house, but at least I know who to call first this time.

ps… If you are local to the Baltimore region and looking for an HVAC company, or just curious, send me a message and I’ll let you know the names of the companies we dealt with.

Last modified: March 14, 2018