We recently decided to switch from our old oil furnace to an electric
system. After doing some research and conferring with the technician
from a company that does both oil and heat pump systems, we went with
an air handler that we were assured could heat our home *without* the
heat pump...the logic here was that at a later point (when we could
justify the additional $$$ cost), we might install a heat pump and if
so, would already have the air handler in place.
The problem is that the air handler cannot effectively heat the house.
Our house isn't huge, but it's evidently too large for the two heat
strips that provide the electric heat through the air handler. It takes
several hours for our house to climb to 66 degrees!
In talking with the installing company about this, the service manager
stated simply that we only purchased half a system and we shouldn't
have expected it to effectively heat our home, and that the rep told us
as much but we insisted on doing it anyway. Squeegee?? That's not how
the sales rep represented the situation at all. We were completely
clear with the rep that we were not interested in purchasing a heat
pump and he was clear that this air handler would still do the trick.
Why in the name of all things holy would we purchase a system that was
more expensive than a regular electric furance solution knowing it
wouldn't work?? Yeah. Right.
Now the company is balking.
So my questions are:
1. Does anyone out there have just an air handler heating their home?
We have a Lennox cvx32MV 024/030 air handler with variable speed fan
and even heat strips (EvenHeater).
2. Anyone have any idea if additional strips can be added to this
model? Manufacturer's website is woefully lacking in info...
3. Anyone have any ideas on how to get the installing company to make
good on their word and guarantee? We think the rep just wasn't well
informed, but is now fibbing to cover his behind. Any suggestions? They
are a well-respected company with a great reputation and nary a
complaint to be found...not sure how to help them do the right thing in
Thanks for the help!
1. That would be an electric forced-air furnace. But only "emergency"
heating strips in a unit intended as the air handler for a heatpump
system would be unusual, certainly.
2. I would assume the dealer you've got should be able to answer that
question. I don't know the particulars of the system you name, but
typically heat pumps are supplied with sufficient heat to make up for
the shortfall expected from the heatpump itself in some extreme
percentage of time depending on the location and expected low
temperatures and duration. In really cold climates, they may include
as much or more so that at very low temperatures the heatpump can be
turned off as it is off virtually no use under those conditions. Not
knowing your climate, what would be reasonable is impossible to guess.
3. What does the contractual guarantee actually state? I'm guessing
it covers workmanship and the usual length of time warranties and
little if anything specific about the actual time to achieve a fixed
temperature at a given outside temperature, etc. What, specifically in
the contract did they not fulfill? That is essentially all they're
obligated to provide as well as, of course, workmanlike installation,
What do they propose to do? More to the point, what do you think the
right thing for them to do is? Supply more than the contracted heating
for no cost? I don't think that's necessarily reasonable.
Did they do a load calculation to size the heating requirements and
does this unit meet that? If they didn't, that's a bad sign and
indicates they didn't do their job well. Did you ask how the heating
capacity you were buying compared with that of the existing furnace?
If not, you didn't do your job very well.
I think you will have to work with the company and figure out what
techniclly _can_ be done with the exsiting system to supply sufficient
heating and I think unless you can show they did a load calculation and
missed it by this much you really have very little leverage. Even
then, while I might expect them to contribute some labor, I think it
only reasonable that you should pay for the additional capacity.
Since you were adamant that you didn't want the heat pump unit itself,
that _should_ have raised flags on both sides here -- one, that they
were providing a very unusual system on their end, and you should have
realized you were doing something quite unique on the other side and
done a lot of questioning about how this would manage to provide as
much as or more heat as you removed.
Again, unless you have the stuff in writing as to what was promised, I
don't think there's much you can rely on, unfortunately. That they
have a good reputation as probably means you have a reasonable chance
of negotiating a fair settlement, but I don't think "fair" here will be
likely to include them biting the whole bullet. It may be best in the
long run to actually go with the heat pump addition even if that's not
a thought you wanted to entertain at the moment. That would depend on
the house and the location, but if heat pumps are pretty much the
standard there, that would imply it's not an area too cold for them to
be effective. If, otoh, that's not the case, then options may become
more sticky. Also, of course, what's best option in the long run
depends quite a bit on the electric rates you're paying.
Sounds like a tough situation, but unlike any I've heard before,
Thanks so much for the detailed and informative reply! I posted this in
the HVAC forum thinking it would be more appropriate there and got such
a vitriolic profanity-riddled response that I was a little worried to
even check back here!
I think you pegged the contract - although I believe it also states
that if the intended system does not perform as expected, it would fall
under the service guarantee.
We also think it should have raised some red flags for them. We weren't
sure about this as a stand-alone unit, but the sales person was certain
it would work well with just the two heat strips for heating as well as
our old oil furnace did. We had told him that we wanted to go with a
standard electric forced-air furnace, but he assured us that this air
handler, although usually coupled with a heat pump, should be able to
provide adequate heat to keep the home comfortable.
What we would ideally like is for them to cover the labor associated
with getting this thing to work as they said it would, while we would
cover the cost of the additional capacity (larger unit, more heat
strips, etc.). That seems fair to us, as we would gladly have bought a
larger unit if the salesperson has recommended it - but he felt this
would do the job fine. Unfortunately, he has evidently told his service
manager that he told us it wouldn't work well and yet we chose to do it
anyway (this is what is so maddening -we never would have agreed if he
hadn't assured us it would work without the heat pump).
At present, the company is sending out a more experienced tech to see
if heat strips can be added. Then the negotation over solutions will
likely begin. We do not in any way want something for nothing...we're
just frustrated that the sales rep assured us of something that was
evidently not the case, and that having convinced us to make a choice
based on that assurance, now won't stand by it. We did a bunch of
homework on this and had so many options and questions that nothing
seemed better than anything else...so when we asked and he confirmed
that this would work as a stand-alone unit while we saved up for an
eventual heat pump install, we foolishly trusted him. Now he's implying
that he cautioned against it but that we insisted. Oy!
Today, the service manager asked why we thought a half-system solution
would work and said that it raised red flags for him and that he
discussed it with the sales rep before the install. We told him that we
trusted the salesperson...and asked why they advocated selling it to us
if they knew it wouldn't work. He didn't have any answer to that aside
from advocating that we spend another $5000 and get the heat pump.
As for the heat pump question...we're in the Pacific Northwest, and in
the winter, the temps do drop below the level at which a heat pump
evidently functions effectively...but at this point, likely faced with
having to either get an electric furnace (what we should have done
initially) and eat the money we've already spent, or spend another $5K
for a heat pump and rewiring, we'll likely go the pump route, but not
with this company.
Thanks again. I appreciate the honesty and respectful response.
You already received the technical information you needed, but the problem
now, of course is the resolution. We already know the salesman is sleazy
and not to be trusted. The service manager seems to know what he is doing,
but does not have the authority to make good on what the sleazy salesperson
First, you have the legal contract. You bought X product. The company
installed X product. As long as it works to the specifications of the
product, they have fulfilled their legal obligation.
Next, though, is a moral obligation. As a homeowner, you probably have
limited knowledge of heating systems. That is why you call in experts.
Just as you'd call in a doctor for a gall bladder operation, the heating
contractor is who you call for getting your house warmed up. Had the
service manager made a phone call to you, this would not have happened.
Flags were there, but either ignored or taken away by sleazy salesman.
Who owns the company? Can you sit down with him, one on one, explain the
situation and ask for help? If he is reputable,, concerned about what his
sales people are doing, he may be willing to assist in making things right.
I doubt he is going to give you a $5000 heat pump, but he may do it at cost,
much less than the guy down the street. At least try to talk with him
before you burn a bridge that you want to use a few years from now.
I agree w/ Edwin -- I don't think you should walk away from this
installer just yet. Particularly if it is a relatively small outfit,
I'd really make the effort to talk w/ the owner or senior partner if at
Surely there was some sizing calculation done? Ask to see it and how
the salesman sized the unit -- if there's no answer or an
unsatisfactory one, that's a big plus in your favor in my opinion. If
they're as reputable as your other research seems, that should be a
real indication to the upper level guys they sales rep you had didn't
do you right.
I'd also echo the advice I just gave to the guy ranting on the Sears
installation -- follow this up with a formal letter outlining the the
entire transaction from your perspective. Don't be belligerent or
accusatory, just factual as you understand the facts. You might
outline what you think would be a fair solution as well, although
before doing this you just might want to talk to an attorney for
advice. I'd probably suggest that step anyway simply to get some input
on what you should do to ensure any rights you do have. This is one
that probably won't come to litigation, but a little up front research
can save a bunch of grief later on. It's much easier to
over-gird-up-the-forces than to try to recover later if should have.
Good luck, but I'd really try to work something out with this bunch
rather than going elsewhere from what you've said...
Yup. Try to talk to the owner. The service manager is a hired hand;
the owner may not know what is going on. Explain calmly what you were
told, ask him/her for a solution.
Second, and if you really want to escalate, track down the factory
representative for the equipment you purchased. This can be hard to do,
as they usually *only* deal with dealers. But stay on it, and, if you
can't resolve it with the owner, talk to the rep. The factory doesn't
want bad word of mouth, and they will tell the installer to make you happy.
This *will* piss the owner off, but you are likely to get results.
There is really not much difference between an electric furnace and an
air handler. The only electric furnaces I see here(San Antonio Tx) are
30+ y/o. The main difference between the two is that the A/H has the
evaporator coil built in. There are a number of houses here with air
handlers with straight cool A/C rather than heat pumps.I do not recall
ever seeing a house with electric heat and no A/C, (A/C is not a luxury
here) so most houses with no nat. gas available use heat pumps, as the
only additional cost is the difference between the cool only and heat
pump outside unit. S me of the people who choose to have electric heat
w/o a heat pump(as opposed to those who buy a tract house that already
has that setup) say that they do not use the heat enough to justify the
difference, and when they do use the heat is cold enough outside that a
heat pump would not put out that much anyway. How many KW do you have
now. I am not that familiar with Lummox, but adding heat strips or
replacing the heat strip assy with larger ones is usually not big deal.
The biggest problem is having adequate power to run them. I am sure you
don't use/need much a/c in your area, but if you do add a heat pump, you
will have it, and it sure is nice to have on the days you can use it
Good luck Larry
It came to me last night--I'm thinking the guy ended up spec'ing the
unit based on the sizing calculation of the heat strips for the
installation including the heat pump --- _NOT_ on the basis of it being
the only heat. If, as you say, he was a less-experienced guy, he may
have thought he fooled their software to do the load calculation w/o
the heatpump input but didn't and now he's in a bind...really would
push hard to see how they did the element sizing for the bid 'cause
it's pretty clear you're way under what would be the results of a
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.