Monday, February 2, 2009

Furnace Shopping

Hello Friends. Greetings from my 54 degree house. I'd use the little degree symbol, but I can't figure out how to insert special characters in this little blog editor. So as the title and the first few lines suggest, I'm in the market for a brand new furnace. Awesome. Here's my story.

Kate and I wake up on Sunday morning, and it's only 63 degrees in our house. This is odd, since the little computer in the hallway says it should be 70. The house isn't making the noise that it should be making. Not good. Not good at all. Not good, because I don't like being cold. Not good at all, because the big loud machine in the attic happened to stop working on one of the rare weekends when Kate is actually in town. She likes our house, but still has some residual panic attacks about stuff not working in our sort of old house. I'm having flashback to when we put an offer on the place and she immediately thought that everything would start to blow up. Now this is happening. Balls.

If you're a loyal reader, you probably know that I really don't know a whole lot of stuff about things like how cars work or how furnaces work or things like that. I just know that the loud thing in the attic should be making noise and then create heat. Neither of those things are happening. So I call the company that has the annoying jingle. I call them because A. They have an annoying jingle B. They don't charge extra for Sunday house calls C. they have instant chat support on their website. This means I can actually get a technician to come to my house on Super Bowl Sunday without ever talking to a human. So the guy from the company with the annoying jingle comes to my house on Sunday afternoon. He puts on his little booties and goes up to my attic. Then he tells me that I need a new furnace. Here's our conversation:

Guy from company with annoying jingle: You need a new furnace
Me: Shit, that sucks.
Guy: Yeah, your heat exchanger has a hole in it. Do you know what a heat exchanger is?
Me: Nope, but it sounds important
Guy: Yeah, we don't fix motors if the heat exchanger has a hole in it
Me: Okay
Guy: If we do, there are only a couple of things that can happen
Me: Oh yeah?
Guy: Yeah, either it'll start a fire and your house will burn down, or carbon monoxide will leak into your house and kill you
Me: I don't like either of those options
Me: So how much is a new furnace going to cost me?
Guy: I'm just the technician. We'll have to get a sales rep out here. Buying a new furnace is like buying a new car.

So there are about five things in this conversation that could've caused me to go off on a tangent right now. Like why the hell does any item have one part that is more valuable than the entire unit, or which of those two options (house fire or carbon monoxide death) did service guy think was worse/better. But we'll focus on the last point here. Buying a furnace is like buying a new car? Really? So on Sunday night I was thinking that maybe he meant I could just go on CarMax or cars.com and learn all I needed to learn. Or that I could find some good used units in the newspaper or on eBay. I found out today that he was really referring to the actual sales representatives, and not the actual furnace itself. Because furnaces are nothing like cars. People look at lots of different options for cars, and buy cars for different reasons. Furnaces only have one purpose (producing warmth) and only have two things that they shouldn't do (1. stop making me warm 2. kill me). So I guess it is just the sales guys that he was talking about. I had three sales guys come to my house today.

Guy #1 - Sales Rep from company with annoying jingle - He showed up this morning. Confirmed that my furnace was hosed. Asked me a couple of questions (probably to confirm that I don't know a damn thing about furnaces) and then went out to his PT Cruiser to get some paperwork. Then we sat down at the kitchen table to talk about prices. His prices ranged from  a 10 day European vacation to a 14 day European vacation. Before he opened his colorful price book he asked me what line of work I was in. I think this was just to confirm that I don't know shit about furnaces, but I thought we had already established this. I answered honestly. So I told him I'd talk to Kate about it and would get back to him. He said he could have someone out to get me a new furnace this afternoon. I bet that line works way better in a colder climate. I live in Charlotte. Having a house temperature in the mid 50s is certainly annoying, but I can wait a day or so. I again told him that I'd call him later. He got a little pissy and asked me who else I had coming in to give an estimate. I gave him the name of another company, and then said that my neighbor (the unemployed investment banker) was also going to come down and give me a quote. Of course this wasn't true, but he was lying all morning, so I thought it was just the thing to do.

Guy #2 from Company #2. His company doesn't have an annoying jingle, but their website is pretty annoying. Lots of animation and some audio that I didn't want or need. This guy was bad news from the start. First, he didn't put on any booties. He just went upstairs with his boots on. What the shit is that? I can't even going upstairs with my shoes on without getting yelled at. Yes, this is a ridiculous rule. Especially since Gilbert can go upstairs whenever he wants, while he just digs around in the yard and at the bark park all day. Yet I can't wear my shoes upstairs? Yeah, I know, but I'm not going to win this one, so we'll move on. So this dude pretty much follows the same procedure. Goes to the attic, asks me questions to confirm that I know nothing about the HVAC biz (including, but not limited to not knowing for sure what HVAC even stands for). And then we go to the kitchen table for the colorful price book. Kate was home for this one. She was already a little pissed about the upstairs shoes thing, so I knew this guy had no shot. Then he asks us what we've budgeted for this. Like people actually plan on their furnace crapping out or have some sort of budget set aside for this. Like we weighed the pros and cons and somehow landed on new big heat creating box instead of trip to Greece. I think that was his second strike. His third strike was leading with similar prices to the first company (same as guy with annoying jingle) and then following that up with:

Guy: So this isn't public knowledge yet
Me: Okay
Guy: But I'm going into business for myself. I bought my first truck for the business this weekend
Me: Okay
Guy: So if you go with my company (not the one he's representing) I can do it for [insert price]
Me: Alright. We'll talk about it, and get back to you.

And the price for his yet to be formed company was about 1/2 of what he was quoting with his actual company. How could that possibly work? Complete shadeball. It's not any kind of ethics that led me to rule him out. It's that this was just a really dumb approach. I mean, there's no way that I'm going to go with his existing company if the other 50% is just overhead and mark-up, and I'm not going to go with some dude who is just starting a new company and has zero customers. If he would've just come in and gone with 'yeah, I used to be with company X, now I'm with company Y, and we charge Z - 50%, then I might have considered it. Gotta go all in, shadeball.

So bachelor #2 was out. At this point I realized that I should probably check and see if I had any kind of home warranty or anything like that. Yes, most people would've probably done this step before any of the other men came over, but let's just give me credit for checking this before dropping 4k on a new furnace. So it turns out that I do have a home warranty. And it'll pay for a new furnace. I just have to have their technician guy come out and confirm that I need a new furnace before they'll cover it. Score. Glad I got that home warranty that I didn't know that my realtor signed me up for.

 So this guy #3 comes over. Puts on his booties before going up stairs (good call, since Kate was home) and confirms that my furnace is dead. He then says that the warranty will cover the cost of a new furnace and the service, but that I'll have to pay for some inspections, and for removal of the old furnace. Now if he was the first visitor of the day, I probably would've made some smartass comment about wanting to keep the old furnace and that I'd build a robot out of it, but it was later in the day, and neither of us were really in the mood for this. So I just thanked him and he left. The warranty people called me tonight and said that they'd do it for about $700 total. Which is like a 1 day European vacation. So that sounds better. So now I have to:
1. Deal with a cold house for a couple more days
2. Realize that the $3,300 that I saved is not extra discretionary income, and that I didn't somehow 'earn' a 9 day European vacation in this deal
3. Decide whether I should turn in Shadeball guy #2 or just stop answering his calls

That's all for now. Sorry for the long post. I've had a couple days off, so I couldn't help myself. And the typing is keeping my fingers warm.

13 comments:

Jacque' said...

Hi Nate,
I'm experiencing a similar problem. My furnace is on the blitz and running on strip heat. Which means I have heat, just emergency heat. My issue is I don't have a home warranty plan and would like to get one. I would love to know who you have one with. I have checked on several online and the reviews from different people. Your's seem pretty straight forward. Do you mind sharing that info? In not on your blog, feel free to email me at sunshynejm@comcast.net. I appreciate any help you could give me!!

Sunshyne

Amanda said...

Turn him in! Turn him in! Or, since he didn't wear booties, let Kate turn him in.

If he wants to start his own business, that's fine... but to snipe from the company he CURRENTLY works for, while on company time? Low. Besides... other people shouldn't have to deal with this guy.

HVAC_Mega_Store said...

I agree with Amanda - You should turn him in - To me that is just like stealing.

Jacque - what are are you in we have several guys that buy wholesale from us and I might be able to suggest a reputable professional for your hvac and furnace needs.

www.hvacmegastore.com

Nate said...

Thanks for the feedback, guys. I talked to the customer service manager at shadeball's company and explained what the guy was doing. He was nice and assured me that the situation would be dealt with and that I'd be left out of the drama. So duties performed there.

HVAC_Mega_Store said...

that is great news. The industry needs all the help that it can get.

Kath said...

You've got me humming the song!!!

SO GLAD you found your warranty :)

If our furnace goes, we go with it. 4K - yikes!

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Darryl Iorio said...

Hi there, Nate. I must agree that it is frustrating if you know only a little about furnace. But then, if the furnace isn't heating, there are some possible reasons like the thermostat, circuit breaker, faulty pilot light, or an inhibited propane flow. Anyhow, I wish you called a technician first to identify the possible causes before you decide to buy a new one.

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