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Author Topic: [contractor costs] Replacing gas furnace and air conditioning in condo  (Read 2969 times)
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Blackjack
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« on: January 25, 2013, 07:52:21 PM »

I realize "Hardware Hell" probably means more computers, but hey, furnaces and a/c's are a type of hardware, right?

My condo's gas furnace (nearly 40 years old) finally died the other day. While it's cold here in Virginia (20s), it's nothing I can't survive for some time without heat (beyond space heaters).

I got an estimate from a contractor that I've enjoyed dealing with. The estimate for replacing the gas furnace and removing/reinstalling the adjacent water heater (it's a really cramped utility closet), and then replacing the A/C in the closet living room, and other supplementary stuff (new condensation drain line with debris trap, a programmable thermostat etc.) is more than $7,400.

My online research, chatting with co-workers and my brother (he had his home's furnace replaced a few years ago for several thousand $), suggest it's a reasonable estimate though I do intend to get at least a couple of others.

I'm posting here to see if maybe any GTers have had to get a furnace and A/C installed (or even just the furnace) and around what it cost, in case maybe you can help me figure out if the estimates I'm getting seem reasonable.

While I'm not "made out of money," I've squirreled away acorns well since shifting from newspaper reporting to trade media. I can afford it (although think of the kind of GAMING PC I could get for that much money!  icon_razz), I just don't want to be a sucker if it really seems an out-of-bounds estimate.

I know JJ the cat and I are not happy being without heat and I hope to have the replacement done within the next two weeks. Most of the estimates seem good for 30 days.
=======
fwiw, this contractor installs Carrier brand furnaces, and recommends this:
http://www.carrier.com/homecomfort/en/us/products/heating-and-cooling/furnaces/product---furnaces---58cva/

The condo a/c is a kind of less common TTW (Through-the-Wall) unit. I don't mean the kind you would use in a window. This is inside a closet on the condo balcony, and then sends the cold air via the vent, I think in conjunction with the gas furnace's blower motor? It saddens me how much HVAC studying I'm having to do...

 Although I think it's also Carrier, I don't see that type of model at the company's web site.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2013, 08:00:33 PM by Blackjack » Logged

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JCC
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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2013, 09:49:00 PM »

I am no  expert, but I do know Carrier is a good brand. Given you are getting a separate AC unit and furnace, my first reaction is that it's a reasonable number.
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DrJones
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« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2013, 09:16:45 PM »

We had our HVAC system replaced in our house 2 years ago.
We purchased a Trane system and have been very happy.
Ended up with a 95% natural gas furnance and 20 seer AC unit.
It cost us $9000 for the system.  It is extremely efficient and the savings really
show up in our gas and electric bills. 
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TheAtomicKid
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« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2013, 12:48:30 AM »

Feels a little high. I had a water heater replaced in 2011. To remove the old unit, recondition the area a bit, and install a new, high efficiency unit, was right at a grand. And I've been quoted at roughly 5G's for the new AC I'm probably going to have to put in this summer, and certainly by 2014. (basically, for what you were quoted, I'm saying you could probably expect a new water heater out of the process as well, not just remove and replace)

It's a bit indirect, with some apples and oranges thrown into the mix, but, it feels like you could do better.

You certainly could shave a few bucks off if you wait until you're not in the middle of winter (or summer!), to do any related work.

Atomic
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Blackjack
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« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2013, 03:40:10 AM »

Quote from: TheAtomicKid on January 27, 2013, 12:48:30 AM

Feels a little high. I had a water heater replaced in 2011. To remove the old unit, recondition the area a bit, and install a new, high efficiency unit, was right at a grand. And I've been quoted at roughly 5G's for the new AC I'm probably going to have to put in this summer, and certainly by 2014. (basically, for what you were quoted, I'm saying you could probably expect a new water heater out of the process as well, not just remove and replace)

It's a bit indirect, with some apples and oranges thrown into the mix, but, it feels like you could do better.

You certainly could shave a few bucks off if you wait until you're not in the middle of winter (or summer!), to do any related work.

Atomic
thanks though this is replacing a gas furnace AND a separate air conditioner (it's sort of 'through the wall' central air located in balcony closet)' AND removing/reinstalling water heater AND replacing a defective condenser drain line etc.

Certainly I could have the water heater replaced, but the one from 2000 works like new still. Draining it to remove it may be good for it (draining any sediment buildup). And it could be replaced later without fuss I-i.e, they have to remove the water heater to remove the furnace, but not vice-versa. I am aware from family experience that water heaters can bust without warning, so I should keep an eye in it.

Thanks guys for the insights and numbers, it is helpful. icon_smile Overall I feel OK about the estimate and the warranties. Alas, my work sked and, well, being single makes it tough in terms of being able to be home for installation or just an estimate. My mom could help but she's generally terrified of being alone with contractors - she thinks they're all Ted Bundy. paranoid

I could probably either get another estimate or get the install done Thursday, but I just can't get a day free next week otherwise.

For sure, I shoulda just done this in fall or maybe last spring. I guess I was hoping old Bryant the Furnace would just make into Spring   icon_razz
« Last Edit: January 27, 2013, 03:47:47 AM by Blackjack » Logged

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Blackjack
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« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2013, 01:25:24 AM »

After all that, I got a second estimate from a smaller contractor that a Realtor pal recommended me. He seemed much more knowledgeable about the local county code requirements, so his estimates included several things to bring it up to code, including replacing the freon line with a larger diameter one that uses modern non-FCC refrigerant.

He also checked in with my condo building property manager, which I appreciated.

He gave me 3 estimates based on different model Heil furnaces (basically - fairly quiet, quieter and quietest). He said that's also owned by Carrier, and claimed its parts are easier to find. Estimates ranged from $5700 to $6750. He said I could add a water heater install to any estimate for $450,  a Bradford White water heater.

So his most expensive estimate is $7200, but includes new water heater and a lot of "bring up to building code" stuff the other contractor's "comfort consultant" never mentioned. I got cold feet about the larger contractor after reading nothing but complaints online about installs - often needing repeat visits, sometimes law suits etc.

Now there are risks to the smaller contractor, even if he's been around 17 years. His labor warranty is much shorter (2 years vs 10); the catch was the big co. Only offers that if you get $59/year maintenance package. The small one recoomends that type of thing but doesn't use that as a labor warranty condition.

Though lets face it, this stuff will no doubt break years after their warranties expire  icon_smile

I went home early, sick from work today, so I'll mull this over the weekend...

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Blackjack
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« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2013, 02:10:16 AM »

For all 3 of you that are waiting in suspense, Thursday is install day!  icon_cool I'll take some photos at some point.

Glad I got the other estimate (which is a small, independent contractor), and thanks for the suggestions to do so.

Here's hoping things go smoothly. He wants to start on it at 7:30 a.m. (UGH!) for the best chance of finishing all the work in one day.

My place has still been bizzarely mild in the coldest weather (only one or two days maybe in these couple furnace-less weeks did the condo temp drop below 60, and it usually stays in the mid 60s.).

True sign of age is getting more exciting reading about your furnace purchase than your gaming PC purchase.  icon_razz

Here's the Heil model (it's owned by Carrier, but the contractor claims parts are cheaper and easier to find, if needed):
http://www.heil-hvac.com/products/m-vs80.html

*I think my "through the wall" A/C condenser sort of limited my model choices, so I couldn't choose one of these ultra-efficient 96-97 efficiency models.
*Supposedly two-stage/variable speed is the quietest type. I'm not a stickler for a quiet furnace but the 1976 one was just a godawful banshee in action. I always had to crank up my TV or PC gaming speakers whenever the furnace kicked in. I hope this at least makes a discernible audio difference.  icon_smile

If not, well, it'll be like all those times I bought a new video card with cool sounding features, and my frame rates still sucked.  icon_razz
« Last Edit: February 06, 2013, 02:15:17 AM by Blackjack » Logged

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hitbyambulance
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« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2013, 08:18:51 AM »

Quote from: Blackjack on February 06, 2013, 02:10:16 AM


True sign of age is getting more exciting reading about your furnace purchase than your gaming PC purchase.  icon_razz


i dunno... had i gone into the trades, "HVAC" would have been my second choice after "electrician". i'm fascinated by cooling systems!
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Blackjack
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« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2013, 12:24:36 AM »

Contractor and his helper got aaaalmost everything done today. He'll have to return in the morning to take care of some freon-related stuff with the A/C condenser unit and to test some things.

Also, he noticed he had mistakenly installed a non-programmable Honeywell thermostate (his estimate had mentioned a programmable thermostat). Anybody have any experience with programmable ones?

I guess the idea is you can set it about 4 different ways each day. In theory, have it warm up about the time you'd wake up; go down a certain amount while you're at work; be fairly toasty around the time you'd go home; and then a certain temp when you're usually going to sleep. I've never really given much thought to any of that.

The natural gas cost is included in our condo fee, so it's really more of a comfort option than moneysaver, for me. Maybe it's more complicated than I need to bother with.

If anyone uses a programmable thermostat, I'd be interested in your thoughts.  icon_smile
=================

As far as the furnace goes, he needed to do a lot of ductwork customizing. The old furnace was actually based on this rotting-wood box (maybe 2 feet high), and then connected to the duct work up top by a short connection.

For the new Heil, the contractor removed the rotting box, and instead put a large sheet metal pan on the floor (judging from the drilling sounds, I think he fastened it to the floor with a few screws), and then placed the new furnace in that. And then he connected the top of the furnace into the duct work at the top of the room via a lengthier duct connection.

He explained that in a multi-level house, he would probably have set it up so there was a shorter connection to the main duct work (i.e., the blower motor has a shorter distance to the main ducts) -- but in a small condo like mine, it's really not an issue (I can attest that at the variable motor's high speed, it blows very strong volumes of air from all vents).

He also did a custom thing with the inlet panel in the hallway. He made that wider, and installed a clip-cover so that the furnace filter goes there. With my old one, you were technically slotting the filter into the bottom of the furnace unit (just above the duct that leads to the inlet panel). It's a very different size filter; old one was 16X25X1, while this one is 20X20X1.

So far I'm pleased with the reduced noise levels, whether it's running at high speed or low speed. Although it's billed as "variable speed," it seems more akin to a two-speed thing. Like, if it's 65 in the room, and you set the thermostat to 70, it'll run at high speed until it reaches 70, switch to the far quieter low speed and then shut off. It does seem to always want to startup at the high speed, and then after a couple minutes moves to low.

The high speed sound is not quiet per se, but is far less noisy than the ole ones "full speed all the time" motor speed. It does have this sort of "fly wheel" motor noise that I may need some time to get used to. At low speed, it's a whisper. Either way, at least I won't have to crank the TV volume up 4 clicks, or shut the door of my computer room when the furnace kicks in now.  icon_smile

And I couldn't believe how ridiculously rusted up the interior of the old furnace was. It was horrible.  icon_razz
« Last Edit: February 08, 2013, 12:38:43 AM by Blackjack » Logged

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