heater guy says replace furnace/AC

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When can these things be repaired, versus being replaced?
Forced-air gas heater didn't seem to be sending up any heat today, so I cycled it a bunch of times, then finally descended to the 10x10 basement where it lives. Flame would come on, after a minute or three, stay on for 10 seconds, then go out again. Blower kept blowing.
System was working fine two days ago - but for some years, it has had the habit of turning on only slowly, after a minute or three of waiting.
So I called one of the big chain repair places, they came in, popped off the cover, told me the pilot was getting sucked away, and this was a sign that the whole thing needs replacing, for about $10k. Plus, the water heater looks like it's had a couple of leaks, might want to replace it, too, for another $1,500.
Heat/Air is a Carrier unit circa 1984 (house much older), so it's not like a newer, higher-efficiency unit might not be a good idea anyway. Not sure of the water heater age, probably not that old.
This is a unit for a 2,000sqft house in suburban Los Angeles.
What surprises me is how quick the repair guys went to "Replace!". Can't these things be repaired? How complex is a gas furnace anyway?
The repair guys seemed to know their business, I just wonder how much of their business is doing replacement rather than repair, if you know what I mean.
Me being a total newbie on this, any advice appreciated.
Thanks.
Josh
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They make more money replacing units, you got a dishonest tech.
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ransley wrote: ...

Maybe, but certainly not necessarily.
Symptom can be sign of exchanger leak. I would have expected them to have lit and done some testing for combustion gases first, though.
Certainly you'll want a second or even third opinion/bid before committing. In LA area wouldn't think enough of a heat load that efficiency on that side would matter terribly much but A/C upgrade could potentially pay for itself relatively short order depending on what efficiency it is.
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They did some kind of a "smoke test" with a lighter and a piece of paper, seemed very concerned that the pilot was getting sucked to one side.
Seemed curious to me, for all I knew that was normal.
But then, they had removed the front panel of the unit, and it (too late!) occured to me it was acting differently that way, compared to how it was with the panel on - it only lit for a second or two with the panel removed, I suppose the pilot was more stable while the unit was still closed.
I saw in another company's yellow page ad something about a "fire box cracked?", which is I guess what these repair guys were concerned about. They said it could be repaired - but would require hauling the unit out of the cellar and down to the shop, so presumably would be expensive anyway, if they can still get the parts for a 25 year old Carrier unit.
Can't someone just screw on a piece of sheet metal or something?
(I know, in this here modern age, nothing is repaired, everything is replaced, and nothing is *patched*!)
I gather the air conditioning efficiency savings might be on the order of a hundred bucks a month or more? It's not the hottest part of LA, but it probably runs the air for at least a couple of hours, maybe six months a year, and does the whole house, not zoned.
(and actually I was thinking all summer it probably needed a service call for the air anyway - and probably uses Freon we can't get anymore either!)
So, I'll ask again about one other salient point - is $10k a reasonable price for the job?
(If this old receipt is accurate, it cost nearly that much to install 25 years ago, which would make $10k today seem pretty reasonable!)
Josh
ps - they install "American Standard" products, which seemed to get a reasonable repair rating in Consumers Reports, fwiw.
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JRStern wrote: ...

Yes, that's what they were concerned about.
Absolutely not. You're talking letting combustion gas products into the living space here--CO poisoning, iow. Life or death matter, not simply a few bucks.
--
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dpb wrote:

Many of us grew up in homes with gas space heaters with no lingering effects.
Look! A squirrel!
If one is worried about it, a CO detector is far cheaper than a squirrel.
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JRStern wrote:

what you have been quoted. Got a top of the line furnace and I'm not certain but I think gas furnaces are somewhat cheaper than oil.
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I'm with you. I think gas is cheaper.
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Christopher A. Young
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On Nov 2, 6:24pm, "Stormin Mormon"

But did you also have air conditioning replaced??
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On Mon, 02 Nov 2009 19:16:22 -0500, Frank

Including air?
I guess that's about half - plus they believe some ducting changes and stuff are required by code.
Seemed very, very quick about their estimate, actually. That's either major competence - or the opposite, I guess.
J.
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*Get several opinions and estimates before making a decision. The unit is 25 years old. You might spend a few hundred dollars to repair it and maybe go another year until something else goes wrong.
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I'd call another company. Or two. From what you describe, it's repairable.
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Stormin Mormon wrote:

If it is a cracked exchanger causing the draft which sounds like they confirmed, the cost of repair on that old an unit won't be worth it imo.
That still doesn't negate need for/desirability of second opinion/bid...
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I just replaced mine it was 30 years old singer gas furnace. I did the whole a/c and furnace replacement.I got the 2nd best system carrier product line. I got it for 7 grand installed in north carolina . it will make huge difference in your gas bill. all the new systems use electric gas ignition and no more pilot light. all the new furnaces have computer chips in them with sensors for future accessories.you can't even diagnosis your own system requires expensive software.
so in your part of the country everything is more expensive. so 10 grand might be a good number. make sure they do a quality job and don't use reducers line on the ac line coming into the furnace. installing a furance requires a permit these days and make sure they do it right, it will add to your house value and taxes :(
what is your furnace specs look on the furance for BTU's. and horsepower of the blower..
model numbers would be great and go from their. make sure you do your Internet homework I'd say 1 month of researching before making a decision.
ask friends and bosses about who did theirs,etc.....
good luck
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wrote:

Would like to have the time, but if it's really failed now, with cold weather starting soon, don't really want to wait. Might even be a real safety hazard - I dunno.
But it does occur to me that I do not have specific model numbers, I will demand those when I speak to them again tomorrow.
J.
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JRStern wrote:

There shold be a grey, 6x6" box into which the gas line enters and to which the thermostat is connected (I forget its name). This is the "brains" of a gas-fired system and can be obtained from Graingers for about $35.
Check yours out - it may have a button that says something like "turn on the gas anyway."
I had one that refused to work until it got a couple of sharp raps with a broom handle. Eventually it got replaced and all is now well.
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IMO, he's giving you BS. If the water heater "had a couple of leaks" it certainly did not repair itself. Replacements should be half or less that what was quoted. If he is screwing you on the water heater, he is driving in even deeper on the furnace.
Get another guy out there for a second opinion.
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wrote:

Thanks all, have two more opinions lined up, may go for more.
J.
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Get several estimates on the same equipment. Installation is going to be your biggest concern.
Off hand, I couldn't afford to live in LA, with prices like that!
I just replaced my own HW tank, ran me $450, and I was having a cow because the last one was under $300. They changed the ignition, EPA regs or something or other. But $1,500 for a gas fired one seems awful steep. There's not much to installing one.
It's been 5 yrs for a furnace change out, along with A/C changed out. At the time I had a 80% Carrier 2stage gas fired furnace, plus 11 seer a/c unit installed. All 3 companies did a manual J? or something or other. Ironically, 2 companies recommended the exact same equipment. The one company came in almost $2,500 higher, than the other company. I flat out told the guy he was that much higher. He asked the other company, said he started out working for them, and didn't have 1 bad thing to say about them. Just wondered how they could do it that cheap. I got everything installed, plus permit for $5K. They had to do some new duct work since I had an EAC installed also. Forget what the EAC ran me, but the duct work was included in the price of the furnace install. Everything was phoned into the shop for the sheet metal work, delivered within a couple hours. Was a pretty neat operation, the 2 guys worked like a well oiled machine together. Parts guy delivered the equipment, then brought the sheet metal & took away the old. Very well organized company. The 2 installers belonged to different unions. One was pipefitters, & I totally forget the other one.
I thought about going with a higher rated furnace, but heard pros & cons about it. Mainly cost and how long it would take to get back.
I heard a/c has to be at least 12 seer now.
Do yourself a huge favor, and get several estimates, on comparable equipment.
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Duh, the other one belonged to the sheet metal union.
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