New (house) heating system... is this a good/great deal?

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I get an unsolicited call around a month ago and it's a woman who says they are with a program that might install a heater in my house (Berkeley, CA). She didn't say that exactly, but that's where the conversation went because that's what I need. The heater in my almost 2000 square foot two story 101 year old house was a floor heater that's been disconnected and in the crawl space under the house, rusting since I moved in here in 1983. I bought the house (was renting with others before) in 2000.
I'm very low income right now and have qualified for a few assistance programs but when contacted in the past I didn't qualify for help putting in a heating system because mine wasn't connected and functioning. I explained this to the woman but she seemed to think it didn't matter. She makes an appointment for a guy to come over and check out the house.
The appointment was yesterday and the guy was nice as hell, worked up a plan in a matter of 1/2 hour - 45 minutes and I asked him if I could have a few days to make up my mind. He'd said there was a time limit and a limit on the number of rebates that would be issued, so he'd made it sound like I better act fast (yes, a common tactic and I don't know how for real this was). I asked him if he could call me Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday (today's Sunday).
The old heating system sent up heat through a grate in the floor, AFAIK being only a single one in the center of the downstairs in the living room.
This guy asked me if there was any ducting or way to send ducts up to the 2nd floor. If not, he said I'd either have to have just one heater (heat gets to the 2nd floor by rising up the staircases, there being one in front and one in back) or have 2 heaters, one in the crawl space and the other in the attic. Without bothering to go up into the attic or have a close look to see if ducting is possible from the crawl space to the 2nd floor, he decides it's not feasible (he may be right in that, but I'm not at all sure), he tells me if I want other than heat rising up the stairwells I need that 2nd heater in the attic. He makes a cell call to a guy in the office and asks about that and says they can get me an even greater rebate on a 2nd heater. If I have just one heater it will cost me around $7500, with 2 it will be $13,290 after 2 rebates from my utility company, PGE (evidently about $150 each), a "voucher amount" of $4000, federal tax credit of $400. He says they will provide 6 supply registers, 2 independent digital thermostats (one upstairs and one downstairs). They will remove the old rusted heater in the crawl space. They will have to widen one opening to the crawl space to get equipment (i.e. the heater itself) into the space and remove the old heater. Most of the accesses are surrounded by brick, but I think there's one they can hack into with saws. Presumably they'll repair. They say they'll install ducting (2"). What it actually says on the form he gave me is "Add new (if required) PVC 2" flue system up to 10ft." The heating system is rated at 95.5% AFUE (efficiency). The form says "Seal ducting system to current Title 24 standards as required by law." He said this included pressure testing.
He tells me they have a program where I can go 1 year without interest if I start paying $450/month.
Does this seem like a good/great smart deal? Or should I shop around? The company is California Energy Services, and their site is californiaenergyservices.com.
This morning it occurred to me that I maybe should ask if it's possible to close off some of the supply lines (registers, I think they're called?). I live alone here and in a cold snap in the winter I might want to just heat part of the house or even one room if possible. If I keep the whole house warm or even half, it would use more gas than necessary. Is that a reasonable idea?
Email: dmusicant at pacbell dot net
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My personal take is, I'll do the calling. Absolutely no cold calls for me.
--- snip ---

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Forgot to say, the system he's proposing is a "Trane System," (he said I may have heard of them, said they are extremely good, I may have seen them at Home Depot), said their warranty (10 year limited parts and labor and limited lifetime warranty on heat exchanger) would extend to new owner if I sell the house, something he said only Trane does. The form said it's a 2 stage variable air flow system.
Dan
Email: dmusicant at pacbell dot net
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price sounds too high 3 years ago I got a goodman furnace and air install for 3500 bucks with 10 year warranty..... complete price to fed tax credit that year
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Dan Musicant wrote:

. . .

ANY "offer" with a 3-day deadline is likely to be a scam. $7500 for a single Trane 95% furnace is WAY TOO MUCH even BEFORE any "vouchers," rebates, or credits!
If you really need a new furnace, call several reputable companies and get estimates. Trane, York, Lennox, and a few other major furnace brands are equivalent in most respects.
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That kind of approach is almost guaranteed to be a scam. Best approach is to call one or more local contractors that handle recognizable products and get quotes.
RonB
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wrote:

That kind of approach is almost guaranteed to be a scam. Best approach is to call one or more local contractors that handle recognizable products and get quotes.
RonB ------------------------------------------------------- Better approach is to call the city and get the real scoop. Scammers need to be scammed themselves. I'd certainly help the local government set a trap for them. This deal certainly has the smell of a ripoff to it.
-- Bobby G.
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Let me provide some perspective. We built a new home 2-1/2 years ago. We installed a Lennox 94% efficiency furnace and Lennox Seer 16 A/C. Cost, which included installation of all ductwork, dryer duct AND parts and labor to install 15' of triple wall fireplace flue was $10,150.
Find a contractor.
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Run a mile. That is an outrageous price, and the sales approach is an insult to your intelligence. He will probably come back with another rebate when you tell him you're not interested, but don't even think about it. Do it properly and get three quotes from reputable local contractors. Use servicemagic.com if you don't know anyone. Explain to your contractors about your need for flexibility to heat different zones (which I imagine should be easy).
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As others have indicated, it's a scam. Anyone cold-calling you, for such purchases, is a scammer. You've already shown interest, so expect to be hounded for months.
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Unsolicited calls concerning home improvement/repair are generally scams.
[ ... ]

Have you called PG&E and ask them about these vouchers and rebates? Or checked on their web site to see if they have any such program listed?
[ ... ]

Red flag; inconsistent comments. 2" ducting would be tiny.

What's the interest rate, and is that actually no interest for a year, or you just don't pay the interest for a year and it accumulates on the balance of the loan?

Closing off ducts in a common practice, but there are limits to how many can be closed at once.
I think you'd be better off with an electric space heater; it'll heat one room fine (assuming your wiring is OK) and should cost less than $20 to purchase. A spare blanket is also an inexpensive item to deal with cold snaps.
Gary
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On Sun, 03 Jul 2011 12:50:08 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@hiwaay.net (Gary Heston) wrote:
:>I get an unsolicited call around a month ago and it's a woman who says :>they are with a program that might install a heater in my house :>(Berkeley, CA). [ ... ] : :Unsolicited calls concerning home improvement/repair are generally :scams.
I've never let one get past my door before, but I did call my utility a few weeks ago and ask if this company (California Energy Services) is "legit" and they said yes and they didn't have the sound of a scamming outfit so I decided to let them come and see what transpires. : : [ ... ] : :>call to a guy in the office and asks about that and says they can get me :>an even greater rebate on a 2nd heater. If I have just one heater it :>will cost me around $7500, with 2 it will be $13,290 after 2 rebates :>from my utility company, PGE (evidently about $150 each), a "voucher :>amount" of $4000, federal tax credit of $400. [ ... ] : :Have you called PG&E and ask them about these vouchers and rebates? Or :checked on their web site to see if they have any such program listed?
I went to PG&E's website this morning (it was one of the google hits when I looked up California Energy Services) and I saw rebates that appeared to be consistent with what these people are saying. That doesn't prove a lot, though. The price could be way to high. I have to consider this strongly based on the response to my OP. I will absolutely not sign anything right now. I'm going to call contractors. I have no reason to rush (other than the hurry up, the rebates/incentives may evaporate very quickly admonition from the guy who came over yesterday, but I'm not going for that). I've lived here with no central heating for 27 years, what's another winter? : : [ ... ] : :>there's one they can hack into with saws. Presumably they'll repair. :>They say they'll install ducting (2"). What it actually says on the form :>he gave me is "Add new (if required) PVC 2" flue system up to 10ft." The :>heating system is rated at 95.5% AFUE (efficiency). The form says "Seal :>ducting system to current Title 24 standards as required by law." He :>said this included pressure testing. : :Red flag; inconsistent comments. 2" ducting would be tiny.
Check. I was wondering that (the 2"). What's inconsistent there? There's a lot that wasn't talked about, though. Lots of reasons to ask questions. I want to know with any job what the total cost is going to be before I sign. Also, who's paying for permits. : :>He tells me they have a program where I can go 1 year without interest :>if I start paying $450/month. : :What's the interest rate, and is that actually no interest for a year, :or you just don't pay the interest for a year and it accumulates on the :balance of the loan?
Don't know. Absolutely don't know. : :>Does this seem like a good/great smart deal? Or should I shop around? :>The company is California Energy Services, and their site is :>californiaenergyservices.com. :> :>This morning it occurred to me that I maybe should ask if it's possible :>to close off some of the supply lines (registers, I think they're :>called?). I live alone here and in a cold snap in the winter I might :>want to just heat part of the house or even one room if possible. If I :>keep the whole house warm or even half, it would use more gas than :>necessary. Is that a reasonable idea? : :Closing off ducts in a common practice, but there are limits to how many :can be closed at once. : :I think you'd be better off with an electric space heater; it'll heat :one room fine (assuming your wiring is OK) and should cost less than :$20 to purchase. A spare blanket is also an inexpensive item to deal :with cold snaps.
:Gary :
I have several space heaters, more than enough. I've been using them judiciously for several years along with a couple of 250 watt heat lamps (in 2 different rooms) suspended from the ceiling that are either on or off depending on the weather. A lamp like that can raise the temperature of a small room by 10 degrees after a couple of hours.
One reason I want central heating is that a buddy of mine (well, he lives 130 miles away) tells me that I can't expect to sell the house without it. He says no bank will finance a mortgage on a house without an installed heating system. I think not having a heater is also a no no if I want a general homeowner's insurance policy. My current policy is for the most part just fire insurance with the California Fair Plan.
Dan
Email: dmusicant at pacbell dot net
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Dan Musicant wrote:

BEWARE! Some of these "deals" require you to pay ALL interest on the loan if you do not pay it off in full before the end of the [one year] initial term! Find out the interest rate AND the terms!
Further, ANY "deal" like that implies that a discount is available for cash, since the company has to "buy" the loan. I got a 13% cash discount on my last furnace; you should be able to find a home improvement loan for less than that if you have reasonable credit...

With the new high-efficiency furnaces, 2" PVC piping is used for combustion air intake and exhaust. There is no more large galvanized flue through the roof.
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On Jul 3, 1:50pm, snipped-for-privacy@hiwaay.net (Gary Heston) wrote:

@Gary:
Clearly you are not informed about all the types and flavors of HVAC equipment out there... 2" duct work is quite common in retrofit applications and uses a higher pressure fan system to move the air... The 2" duct hose can be fished through walls without breaking into them in most situations... The smaller sized duct hoses are used with the systems that have the small round outlets in the ceiling where you would need one outlet per set amount of square footage in each room depending on your building's heat loss/gain conditions...
~~ Evan
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Evan wrote:

I would guess that the higher velocity air from a 2" duct would be quite noisy. How is the noise controlled?
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@John Weiss:
The main trunk lines in such high pressure HVAC systems are constructed out of sound dampening materials rather than sheet metal... They are just as quiet as traditional systems and the insulated 2" flex duct hose from the trunk line to the room outlet are a lot easier to locate in a retrofit job than the typical sheet metal duct work outlet boots which require open access below the floor to install...
~~ Evan
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There's your first red flag, right there!

Shop around!!! Never, never, ever, make a major purchase based on a single, unsolicited, high pressure sales pitch. That's insane and you will get burned.
I'm the Bay Area and replaced my furance and central air last year. Cost was $5k before PG&E and tax rebates. And yes, I had quotes ranging up to $25k! This for a 2500 sq ft single family home.
My chosen installer was fully licensed, has a squeaky clean record with the BBB, and came highly recommended by a neighbor who replaced his system some months earlier.
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You don't need to say any more. Look at whatever they told you with a giant dose of skepticism. There is a very tiny chance that they are all legit and a great deal. But you won't know that until you call some local folks, get some references, and check their work.
-snip-

Go to your favorite search engine and enter this string exactly as I show it on the next line; "California Energy Services" scam
That should give you some interesting reading to sort through.
Jim
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For $450/month you can use electric spaces heaters much more cheaply
And while it has the earmarks of a scam, what kind of prices did you get from the contractors you called?
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On Sun, 03 Jul 2011 14:42:20 -0700, "Malcom \"Mal\" Reynolds"
: :> He tells me they have a program where I can go 1 year without interest :> if I start paying $450/month. : :For $450/month you can use electric spaces heaters much more cheaply : :And while it has the earmarks of a scam, what kind of prices did you get from :the contractors you called?
I haven't called any contractor's... YET! There's no way I'm going for this at this point without serious evidence that it beats what other people can do.
Email: dmusicant at pacbell dot net
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