Maybe some of you furnace servicers out in the world could educate me on
I had to place service call for furnace after waking in on recent chilly
morning to find inside temp was almost as low as out.
After a pair of guys poked around inside the 12-year-old York, studied my
wiring diagram and the troubleshooting sequence in the owner's manual, they
decided to try replacing the hot surface ignitor because it didn't look very
bright. It would glow, but failed to ignite the gas and the sequence would
stop at that point.
That did the trick. House all cozy again. But the bottom line on the bill
was a shock -- $281 after preventive maintenance agreement discount (had PM
done on the furnace just three weeks ago. Lotta help that was, for the $159
My question (which the dealer hasn't answered yet): Is $281 an unreasonable
price to pay for a part that I've found online for $52-$78 and a local parts
place quoted for $54. Or should that have been broken down to itemize part
and labor? There was a separately itemized $69 trip charge.
It does sound a little on the high side. Depends on where you live.
Also, if they had a quick response time to your service call. Sometimes
that is worth a lot too, especially if you have kids in the house and
the temps are below freezing.
The $69 trip charge I think should have been waived. Usually the trip
charge is the minimum service charge just to come to your house.
Similiar to whan a mechanic has to troubleshoot a problem on your car,
they charge a minimum fee, but they waive it if you let them fix the
problem, then its just total time and parts.
But it's not highway robbery. Rest assured you had qualified
technicians come to your house and fix the problem right the first
The hot surface ignitor and the flame sensor are the 2 most
commonly replaced parts.
Anyone who knows the basic sequence of operations could
identify need of such very quickly.
I'm not in touch with what they commonly charge nowdays, but
I'd personally consider anything above 40 (call) + 60 (part)
+ 20 (labor) = $120 to be exorbitant.
Of course, they don't like folks like me ...
The very first time our new Carrier furnace tried to heat the house, it
failed. A guy came out to take a look and didn't have a clue. Zilch
in basic electronics knowledge. I had to direct him what to do, LOL.
At least this guy did not hate me.
With math like that, its quite obvious why you dont have your own
business. You wouldn't last but a few months, then tax time, insurance
time, salary, truck payments, repairs, workers comp, medical, numerous
local government taxes, tool depreciation, training, liscensing,
gasoline, vacation pay and profit monies would all be due and there
you would be with 2 pennies in your hand.
Jeez. I heard all that and more. Many, many times.
I don't wanna be in that business. That business has
more problems than the Chinese Army can shake a stick
at. In a month of Sundays.
I just wanna be able to fix mine proper, keep mine
running well. For reasonable money. This is something
that many shops are not in a position to do (per your
I got a new HSI from eBay for less than 30.00 including S&H to keep as a
spare. Last week my alarm system needed a new stand-by battery which was
not holding charge due to age. Monitoring center was bugging me to send
out a service tech and they said it'll cost but don't know how much.
It was sending trouble code(for low battery). I told them forget it.
Went out and bought a new replacement for 15.00, put it in. Everything
back to normal. I am sure ADT would have charged more than 15.00.
They might double their cost of the part to a "list price" (when I was
doing electrical service that was not uncommon - partly justified by the
cost of carrying parts on the truck).
How long did the service call take, how much time were you billed for
and what is the hourly rate. Sound like they may have taken longer than
a competent tech should to diagnose it - as Tony said (or maybe not).
Remember an hourly rate covers not just the salary of the tech but
social security and other benefits, cost of the truck and cost of the
central office. A trip charge, I presume, covers transit time and costs
like dispatching and billing. Did they charge for the time of both men -
that would not be reasonable. Could be you got 2 because neither of them
was too sharp or 2nd was being trained.
If the PM was just routine yearly maintenance it may be annoying but not
be relevant unless a brighter tech should have noticed the less bright
ignitor. A 'reasonable' cost for service may seem 'unreasonably' high.
An itemized bill would help figure it out.
Yeah, they should've only charged $54 and donated all their time and
overhead, even paid the taxes for you. Everyone knows that HVAC
companies are non-profit organizations operating on donations from
generous citizens and from government grants. How dare they try to make
it into a private business!
Huh? Nobody was suggesting anything of the sort. Please try to read more
So gouging a customer exhorbitant prices is ok, because it's the HVAC business.
would switch companies immediately, not only for their high billing, but for
useless "preventative maintenance" service.
Sorry, but you didn't strike me as somebody who was up to debating the
issue. If you change your mind and decide that you would like a fuller
understanding of pricing practices and of the virtues of PM service,
then you can start by reading Bubba's post. Our PM contracts are
virtually identical to his, although I don't know what he charges for
his. While it is possible that nothing is wrong with the system at the
time of the service, there is OTOH always the possibility that serious
issues may be found and corrected before more serious issues result, up
to and including death. OTOH, you strike me as the type who would
rather risk the lives of his loved ones on the bet that nothing bad is
going to happen. Trust me, mechanical and electrical systems do break,
if they didn't, then I'd be out of a job. Also houses do indeed burn.
Try reading the paper once in awhile. Only a fool says "It'll never
happen to ME!". Granted, the actual odds will be in your favor, so if
you choose not to have PM done then that is entirely your choice. Those
odds don't however make PM's useless. I have personally found issues
during PM's that would have without doubt resulted in structural fires,
floods, asphyxiation, etc. For some of those customers the PM service
literally saved their lives, for others it saved their houses from
structural damage. A simple condense leak can do thousands of dollars
worth of damage overnight. I doubt you could convince everyone that
PM's are "useless", you haven't even made a case, you only expressed an
empty sentiment. That sentiment was very telling; you're a cheapskate.
While you can rationalize it any way you wish, you are exactly the type
to try their best to fuck a contractor, all the while ranting mindlessly
about how they were fucking you. I despise your kind.
Note "follow-up to" alt.stupidity deleted, asswipe.
I almost thought you might know what you were
Thanks for the reasonable responses -- and I hope the sarcasm from some
doesn't come from anyone who actually works with the public (damn, there are
flamers lurking everywhere.)
I know businesses have to make a profit. But I'm developing the opinion that
preventive maintenance contracts on modern furnaces and ACs are a cushion
for HVAC outfits' overhead. Sorta like extra undercoating or extended
warranties a car dealer will try to sell, or those service contracts store
clerks offer when you buy even a moderately priced small applicance.
One responder to my original post said a PM check probably wouldn't have
spotted the less-bright ignitor. I couldn't expect that the techs would have
spotted the capacitors in the furnace or central AC or the ignition control
module that failed soon after PM checks, either (damned high-tech
On my PM bill, the tech commented that the draft induction blower felt hot.
Now I'm thinking, that may have been because it was working harder than
normal because the HSI was beginning to fail, causing the blower motor to
run for several cycles. But the trained profession just made a note rather
than trying to figure out why. We talked briefly about how it would probably
be a pricey part to replace if it failed -- maybe in the $400s.
As for the repair bill, I might not have had as much of a concern if it HAD
been itemized. But all the tech wrote was "replace hot surface ignitor," and
under the subtotal was the trip charge. Ten years ago, when the same part
failed, a different company waived the trip charge, and instead itemized the
part and repair labor costs. So, gee, why am I suspicious about the cost of
this job? (Now I'll wait for the inflation argument -- don't get me
OK, rant over. I feel a wee bit better. But I still need to go down and
pound some nails. The keyboard won't take that kind of abuse.
PM contracts are not a cushion for overhead. They are services meant
to keep your system running trouble free as opposed to someone that
calls when its 10 degrees out on Christmas Day. Sometimes it works,
sometimes it doesnt. Many variables there to affect the outcome.
One thing they are NOT is money makers. They are loss leaders unless
the sale of a humidifier or some other service comes out of it.
You can believe in them and use them or Not. That is your decision.
I also give a 15% discount on any of my services or parts when you
purchase the contract. I also take care of your call first as opposed
to a new customer that has not "invested" with me. You will also NEVER
get an overtime charge with me as long as you have a PM contract. You
will also receive more time per PM visit on your equipment than a new
customer because I schedule the PM visits when Im not busy and can
afford more time with you. The new customer calls me on the first hot
or cold day when I receive my highest call volume. I cant afford
lengthy time with those customer. That is the time to "fix it fast"
and move on to the next call.
Thus, the reason your igniter failed. It breaks when it breaks. You
cant control it.
Then get online and order a couple spare igniters and a spare inducer
motor and change it yourself when it breaks.
Sorry, you dont get it itemized. I dont right up bills detailing every
penny spent. You are calling for a repair and I charge you a fee. Its
Flat Rate Pricing. You will get the price of the Diagnostic fee quoted
over the phone before I ever show up. If thats agreed, I then show up,
find you problem and quote you the total repair price BEFORE any
repairs are made. If agreed upon, I do the work. If not, I collect the
Diagnostic fee and Im on my way so you can make another decision.
Thats it, one diagnostic fee and one repair fee. Thats all the
further you get it broken down. Im not there for you to compare, and
haggle. You need to work on that gig on your own time.
Whatever it takes. Pound on whatever you want.
Oops, sorry, I forgot: Your muther wears COMBAT BOOTS!! <bg>
Hehehehe! Modern day anger management, fer sure! I like that. :)
I don't know how old you are but, at age 52, I can still remember that, when I
was growing up, the furnace NEVER needed repair. We used the same thermostat
for the 23 years I lived there.
Now that *I* am paying the bills, everything seems to be short-lived and/or
disposable. I replaced the programmable thermostat that was installed when
the house was new after only 8 years or so. After the 14-year-old furnace's
REPLACEMENT motor crapped-out after only two years, I just replaced the whole
system, inside and out.
Now I'm going to have to repaint the house again in a couple years. A window
frame is rotting and two windows have lost their dual-pane seal and are nicely
"condensed" in-between the panes. This sux!!
I want to live in a condo!
You're 52, I'm on the high side of 55. I know what you're saying.
My mother lives in the house my parents bought new in 1968. Still has same
furnace and, to my knowledge (and my Mom is not one to withhold
complaints -- maybe where I get it from), it has had a small fraction of
problems in its nearly 40 years compared to my 14-year-old high-tech,
high-efficiency with annual PM and regular filter changes. She keeps hers
producing 80 degrees during winter. We keep our better insulated house at 68
and the poor furnace keeps getting stressed out.
Had an old house in western NY that had an old coal furnace converted to
natural gas. That thing looked like it was holding up the house, but it ran
like a Triple Crown winner. Had an old-model gas furnace for five years when
I first moved to PA. Not one service or PM call. I'm no Luddite, but, good
Lord, it seems "reliability" and "dependability" are fading from the
dictionary at things become more high-tech.
It's not just furnaces and AC, though. My Dad used to do his own car repairs
and maintenance. Be hard-pressed to do some of that today without your own
diagnostic computer. Can't tell ya off-hand how many TVs, VCRs,
coffeemakers, toasters, etc. we've gone through over the past 35 years. And
the merchants almost always try to sell you a service contract. The
applicances are so cheap, if they go blooie after a couple years of use, you
don't bother getting them fixed like in the old days -- although I have
fixed a couple small appliances, as well as washer and dryer. (And yeah, I'm
gonna get a spare ignitor and swap it out before a service call next time.
And I have a couple CO detectors with annual battery changes.)
One of my current low-level peeves is the gummint deadline for making all
our analog TVs obsolete unless we buy digital converters for each one or put
up antennas (ha! like in the old days). Who on this little, skrewed up blue
ball really needs gol'durned new-fangled hi-def plasma/lcd/whatever to see
the pancaked pores on Uma Thurman's face or each "blade" of astroturf or the
gory innards on one of the many copycat versions of CSI?
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