Furnace Frustrations

Well it finally happened to us. 8 years of being home owners and we finally had our first large repair. Though, at the time I also thought our roof needing to be re-shingled was pretty large, but a furnace/AC combo definitely hits the top of the list for many homeowners. I think it is because it is always quite a costly repair, regardless of grants and rebates that are available. It was how we had always thought and planned for it.

Earlier this summer, prior to the heat dome, we went on a beautiful camping trip for 4 days. It was a late spring camp where the evenings were cool and the days getting warm. It was blissful and it was the beginning of a 2 week vacation. We came home relaxed and chill, and thank goodness we did. When we got home it was starting to hit summer temperatures of 30C and up, so it was time to turn on the air conditioner. So that is what I did. Then waited, and waited, and waited to hear it kick on. Nothing. So I went and checked the furnace because I thought maybe I hadn’t replaced the front plate properly when I changed the filter in the spring. Nope. Darn. I broke the news to Kurt and we decided to call a company to see if we could get it repaired.

The previous home-owner had left a sticker for a local HVAC company right on the furnace, so we gave them a call. They had someone out to us the next afternoon. It was a warm night, but still manageable with some fans. They guy who came to do the repair was great. He tried to get it working, but it ended up being that the motherboard was just to old and kept blowing fuses. We knew this was a possibility since when we moved in our house inspector didn’t think the furnace and AC would last more than a few years due to it’s age at that time. We got 8 years out of it, so that isn’t too bad.

Kurt and I had no idea what a furnace and AC would cost. So we estimated really high and asked the same company that sent the repair guy to send out an estimator. We chose to stick with this company for a few reasons. The repair guy had impressed, doing more than we thought he would to see if he could fix the furnace. The second was that looking at online reviews and the history of the company, it was a well-established company and they had good reviews. I also took note of the reviews that weren’t so good and how they responded and follow up reviews from clients after the issue. They seemed like a stand-up company that when dealing with issues, took the onus and got it fixed asap.

The estimator was great, offering us two options at different price-points and explaining the benefits of both. We ended up choosing the high efficiency options for a number of reasons that I won’t get in to….mostly because I am not selling furnaces, so it is up to you, the reader to make your own choices when posed with this issue. We were going to have a week before the new furnace & AC was going to be installed, which wasn’t a problem since we were headed out of town to a Yurt in the treetops to finish off our vacation.

Installation took 2 days. Now, when you are dealing with a company or anyone doing any sort of service for you, you can often get a feeling of good vibes or not so good vibes. Kurt stayed home the first day with the installers and I stayed home the second day. The vibes weren’t good…but they weren’t bad either. On the final day, when I was home, the main installer showed me everything they did as his partner finished cleaning up. This is when the vibes got a little worse. As he was showing me around (and I know absolutely nothing about HVAC), I was just listening and taking mental notes. For the most part the install went well, but there were a few flags for me. First was when he showed me where our condensation pump was run to and where it drained. It connected to the same drain pipe as our washing machine, which had been left un-hooked the night before, unbeknownst to us. Kurt had done a load of laundry, which resulted in water draining into our laundry room rather than the pipe that it should have been connected to. We did a thorough inspection and it looked like there was no damage and it was not wet. The drain in the floor had done it’s job. Still, it was concerning that it happened.

The other thing that had our attention was the AC unit. It is between two planters in our back garden and it looked like it hadn’t been leveled properly. When I inquired about it, he said that some slant was ok. As noted previously, I don’t know anything about HVAC, so I trusted the expert on it.

A few days after the install, we had a huge rainstorm. Kurt heard dripping from his office, so he went exploring. It was coming from the furnace room. It took a moment since the leak was minor, but there was water coming from the pipe that went up to our roof. They had put a new pipe up to the roof due to new code requirements and we now had water coming in from that point in the roof. So we called the company and had someone come out a few days later to inspect it. We didn’t rush the fix, since the weather was hot, dry and entering into the Heat Dome. The repair guy came and checked the seal on the roof and it was broken. When the installer had put the new pipe in, he had broken the old seal, resulting in the leaky roof when it rained. He got it fixed and we thought we were done.

About 2 weeks later (3 weeks after the install) Kurt went to close the door at the bottom of the stairs, right next to the furnace room and the door dragged along the floor. It shouldn’t touch the floor, and hadn’t in the past. That’s when Kurt noticed the floor buckling and as he listened, it was squishy. A large section of our boot room was flooded. Looking into the furnace room, we could see that water was pooling around the flooring and the furnace itself. We were perplexed about what the issue could be. A little bit later, Kurt happened to be passing the furnace room when he heard the condensation pump start up. He decided to take a look and good thing he did. It was pumping, but as soon as the pump shut off, the water ran backwards down the tube and poured out of where the tube connected to the pump. It had likely been leaking for 3 weeks. We called the emergency line right away and got someone out to fix the problem.

We had another great repair guy. He was there quickly and not only fixed the issue, but also found another spot that the line was leaking. He did an end to end check, repaired and then tested the system while we watched so that we had reassurance that the leaks had been fixed. He was also great at explaining what should have been done versus what had been done. It is a 3/8″ hose that is supposed to go on the pump. The installer had used 1/2″ hose with a zap strap, resulting in a loose hose. The repair guy put the proper hose on and used proper hose clamps rather than zap straps.

Next step was speaking with the company about our flooring. It was a disaster, and we were now concerned about mold issues. The manager arranged to come out to look at the flooring and at our request, also brought one of the repair guys (the first one we dealt with) to do a top to bottom inspection of the whole installation as we now had no faith that it had been installed properly and were likely to run into future issues. As soon as he saw our floor he said he would replace it. I didn’t have to say anything, he was on it. He took pictures, measurements and we discussed how far the new flooring would go since the flooring from the boot room ran through into our rec room and Kurts office. Since there were doorways to all the other areas, we agreed that just the boot room flooring to all the doors was an acceptable fix as none of the damage extended past that. He asked us to go pick out what flooring we would like and he would arrange for a flooring person to come and install it.

While we did that, the repair guy from the company did a few other things that we had concerns about. First was levelling the AC. It just didn’t make sense to us that it could have a tilt when it relied on bearings which would burn out way faster if on a slope. Sure enough, when we read the manual for the AC, it was at a much steeper slope than allowed. So they properly leveled it so that it was perfectly level. He also wrapped our exhaust pipe with insulation as it can freeze without it in the winter, and that would be an issue as it would stop our furnace from working properly or cause damage. Thank goodness we asked for it to be inspected.

So here is the moral of the story. If something seems off, ask questions, and if possible educate yourself on the things that don’t seem right. Some of these issues I wouldn’t have been able to anticipate without the issue actually happening. But some of them were identifiable just by reading the manual. The company, though a very rough installation experience, handled the issues very well and in the end made us feel confident in the furnace and ac. We have still kept a record of everything just in case either the AC or Furnace have any more issues or do not last as long as they are supposed to.

Luckily we don’t have to deal with another furnace/AC install for a long time now. But let me tell you, next time I will know specific things to check at the end of the install.

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