Did I get ripped off on my HVAC repair?


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Old 12-15-10, 09:44 PM
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Did I get ripped off on my HVAC repair?

I have two Lennox 90% heaters in my attic. Recently it has become uncharacteristically cold in my area and my upstairs furnace stopped working. I called a company that I normally use to identify the problem. It turns out that the condensation line that runs outside was freezing. To fix the solution, they recommended that I install a condensation pump on each unit and have it pushed to the laundry line.

The labor took about 2 hours and the materials are 2 x VCMA-15ULS (I believe), 2 drain pans, PVC L-Pipe (tap into the laundry) and 2 sensors to ensure that the system is cut-off if it floods. One pump is right next to the laundry drain and the other is about 30ft.

I was charged a total of $635 for this fix. I googled the part number and realized I can buy them new for $39 each. I'm not sure how much the sensors cost, but it looks like they average around $20 each. The drain pans can't cost more than $20 each and the plastic tubing, well, not sure of the price for that but it could not have cost more than $5 for everything.

Cost Estimates:

Hardware - $163
Labor - $462

Before I call the owner and ask for an explanation, am I missing something here?
 
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Old 12-15-10, 10:23 PM
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Does it get below freezing in your attic? If so, freezing of the water in the pump, pans and lines could be an issue.

You even need to be cautious of shutting off the gas furnaces if they might be idle during freezing conditions in the attic.

I've seen furnace owner manuals for condesing furnaces that require special anti freez solutions to avoid having water in the furnace freeze up.


I hope you are going to tell me that freezing in the attic isn't an issue....
 
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Old 12-16-10, 06:27 AM
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I moved in about a month ago, but given the temperature in the attic, freezing is not an issue.
 
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Old 12-16-10, 06:50 PM
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If it is cold enough outdoors to freeze, why is the attic so warm?
Around here, it is unlawful to pump the condesate into the sewer without a neutralizer since the condensate is acidic.
 
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Old 12-17-10, 08:18 PM
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Grady, I live in Atlanta. Do you know if this is permissible?
 
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Old 12-18-10, 04:51 AM
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Did they give you a quote before they did the job?

Draining this pump vary by area, here it not an issues. Check with your local code.
 
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Old 12-18-10, 07:22 AM
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Your contractor probably did not pay internet price. There is a markup on all parts. A 5 dollar part might see a 3X markup and a 60 dollar pump might be X1.75 . A company would not last very long selling parts for the same price that they pay for them.

It is odd that you needed a pump for drains in the attic.
 
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Old 12-18-10, 11:19 AM
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Did you get ripped off?

My bias is to drain water from a condensing furnace by gravity to the outdoors and dispose of it there.

That's simple. Cheap. And ought to be very reliable if it's done properly. That appears to be the way the furnace was set up.


Freezing the drain line outdoors can be a problem. Usually it can be avoided with a design suitable for your local area.

Around Seattle, temperatures can occasionally get down to the teens and a poor drain can freeze up and cause the furnace to quit working. Usually what is needed is a larger drain pipe (.75" or 1" rather than .5") which makes it markedly more difficult to get plugged.

Often a shorter pipe outdoors directing water down helps prevent freezeup as well.

And once a homeowner is aware of the problem, they can check the line in very cold weather and break any ice that may have accumulated away.

In your attic I presume your drain line terminated outdoors and dripped to the roof?

Local experience with what works in practice is useful, but my bias would have been to cut the pipe short inside the attic and enlarge the pipe size to .75" or 1" and keep it terminating outdoors.

That would have been cheaper and more reliable (the laws of gravity are reliably enforced).

You now have a more complicated system, and condensate pumps have a way of failing after several years and needing replacement.

But what I'm describing is a difference in how I'd be inclined to do the job.

What your contractor did was a reasonable way of disposing of the condensate that is a common way of dealing with the problem. And they did the work they said they would do for the price you agreed to. So I wouldn't say you were ripped off (cheated).

These varying ways of dealing with a problem is why it's often desirable to have contractors bid on jobs before having them done. Of course for small jobs, or when there is no heat, that may not be practical.

The bottom line is that your contractor acted reasonably in recommending the work, and you got the job completed on the terms to which you agreed. I'd say you did well, even if I might have done something differently.

Would I call the same outfit again? Yes. From what you have said they did honest and competent work. That is my bottom line as a standard of performance for service providers.


Things only get really expensive when your have someone who dishonest or incompetent working for you.
 
 

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