Part of the price is squeezing the stuff down a 4x4' trap door into a
10x10' basement. I think the estimate was generous for the
BTW, it looks like the installation price 25 years ago, was very
nearly as high! I get the feeling that was not well priced back then!
Thanks for the other numbers, helps a lot.
I expect the way the company could do the install so cheap was their
very efficient organization. Phoning in the duct info to someone back at
the shop vs. trucking back and forth, with nothing being done on side
during transit time could greatly increase the time to completion and
therefore the total labor costs and the number of jobs that could be
completed in a day.
You've described perfectly why it's much easier to "rip and replace" than to
repair something 25 years old that's been "worked on" by who knows how many
other people including the home-owner or his over-ambitious teen-age son.
Instead of working with an unknown entity, they are working with something
they've probably installed new several hundred times and the only tough part
is to shoehorn the new system into the old ductwork.
From what you describe, good installers have that base well-covered, too,
because each time an installer has to return, it's profit lost, so they've
honed it to a one-day process. Most new furnaces are much smaller than the
ones they are replacing, so fitting them is easy, sometimes easier than
opening the old furnace, pulling the exchanger, getting a replacement and
then returning to re-install it, test it, close it back up and discover that
something else is wrong that wasn't apparent the first time around.
The problem I have is when they start pulling 5 year old systems because
it's easier to "rip and replace" than spend any time diagnosing any but the
simplest failures. If you replace too soon, higher efficiency is offset
mightily by the dollars that got dragged off with the old furnace.
Todd, you're 101% about getting several estimates. Even if the cold winter
is approaching, buy a space heater, bite the bullet, do the research. It's
never, ever been easier to find out if a vendor is taking you for a ride
because you can plug in the estimate numbers on Google and get a very good
idea of the prices others are charging.
Once a vendor knows you've been talking to other vendors, a sort of Ebay
auction frenzy takes place and they almost all will cut you a deal in this
economic climate. The only one that might not will probably be the lowest
bid because they can't go lower without doing the job at a loss. There's
never a better time to do home improvement work than right after a big
housing boom busts when there are still plenty of contractors around who
haven't bitten the bullet and found other work. )-:
Inland San Diego, which is probably similar to your location in LA.
We had our 25 year old hot-air gas furnaces and airconditioners (3 ton each)
replaced 2 years ago. Installed price was 8,000. Bids ranged from 16,000 to
7,000. You need to do a lot more homework. Also, make sure to take out a
permit. As part of the replacement you are required by law to have a
verification of your duct system. This cost another $ 500. If you don't do
it, it will bite you when you sell the house.
Also replaced our two water heaters, 40 gal. gas, last year: $ 800 each,
courtesy Home Depot. At $ 1500 for one, you are getting ripped off.
25 years is about the maximum life expectancy for gas furnaces. Don't go for
the expensive, high efficiency furnaces and air conditioners. We pay about $
100 a year for air conditioning electricity. Would take several lifetimes to
pay for high efficiency units.
We probably have some old asbestos hanging around,
how much of a $$ is that likely to be?
I guess I could call them for an estimate,
but they don't do the work, do they, just hook
you up with some "approved vendors"?
Again, these (both furnace and water heater) have to be manually
hauled into a very inconvenient hole - or else installed
in a new outside shelter somewhere. I can see a hundred dollars
or more premium for the difficulty. And they were saying new
ducts are necessary, another couple of hundred, I guess. But it
still may be high, thanks.
Excellent point, thanks.
Even the run of the mill is probably a lot more efficient than
these old models, 1984 was just before the more-efficient appliances
Here in NJ companies are running newspaper ads for Trane 100K BTU
upright gas furnace and 13SEER AC for around $5k AFTER rebates and tax
credits. I think as of right now the tax credits for high eff units
expire the end of the year, though they might get extended. Make
sure you check on ALL rebates available from manufacturers, utility
companies, FED/state govt etc. They are substantial but only apply
to high eff models and now could be a good time to replace a 25 year
I would expect the HVAC to do this and be part of the quote. It has to be
installed to code and it has to have inspection(s) like
gas/mechanical/electrical. When all inspections pass then final payment
Someone mentioned buying a controller from Graingers for $35. I'd like to
You can get a generic controller for about $100 from White-Rodgers, but
without a flame probe, and you will proly have to add extra blower relays.
If I understood the problem correctly, the flame going out is not a pilot
problem -- a pilot problem would prevent any ignition. The problem (now) is
the flame doesn't stay on, which could mean a flame probe/sensor problem.
Flame probes cost anywhere from $25 to $100.
Which doesn't mean the exchanger is *not* cracked, but I think this is dicey
to diagnose, as blowers can stir up ambient air around them as well, making
match/smoke tests difficult to assess.
Rewiring a furnace is not rocket science, but it does requre some
familiarity with basic electricity, relays, etc.
We are in the process of replacing our 20 year furnace and air
conditioner with a furnace and air to air heat pump for $6500. That's
not including the federal tax credit of $1500 and the local energy
company's credit of $620. Couldn't pass up the deal. Michigan prices.
As you live in L.A. and it is not very cold there and not very hot in the
summer, I would say get it repaired if the cost to repair is less than about
50% of the replacement cost.
If you lived up north where heating is a major expense, then it would be a
good idea to replace it now rather than later because the energy savings on
new units would help to pay for it.
Or if you lived in Arizona with summer temperatures frequently around 110
F., then replace the A/C as the newer units can save quite a bit of
electricity and A/C is a major expense there.
Complicating life is that the heater is down in a cramped little
basement, do they really have to haul it back to the shop to work on
BTW I also talked to the guy who gave me the quotes yesterday (and is
giving me a little high-pressure, it's in his job description, but
when I told him I just have to get some more bids, he was decent about
it), I said that $1500 for the water heater sounded high, and he said
yes, it's the cramped location, and see if other bids don't say the
IMO, You'd have to be nuts to put anyhwere near 50% of the replacement
cost into a 25 year old gas furnace. That is the typical life
expectancy for units of that era. With all the rebates and credits
available around here, NJ, which certainly is one of the more
expensive area, you can get a new furance and AC installed for about
$5000 after rebates and tax credit. Now way I'd sink say $2400 into
a 25 year old unit.
How about after he spends $2400 on it, two year later it has another
Replacing just the AC on a 25 year old gas furnace makes no sense to
me. Especially with all the rebates and credits available right now
that knock thousands off the actual cost.
It gets a bit complicated with heating and A/C due to more efficient new
models, rebates, etc....
Anyway with things other than that, I've seen some businesses have a policy
of ALWAYS repairing things if the repair cost is less than buying a new one.
One dollar less to repair, they will choose repair!
This makes a lot of financial sense. Take an apartment complex for example.
There may be 100 units. That is 100 refrigerators. Say 10 of these break
each year. And repair costs average 25% of the cost of a new refrigerator.
This policy could save thousands of dollars a year on refrigerator
Anyway that is the way some businesses decide the repair / replace
Replaced our 35 year old gas furnace with a high efficiency non
condensing furnace (High medium efficiency?) 2 stage burner, 2 speed
DC eductor fan and variable speed DC blower - didn't save a cent on
gas. The couple percent improvement in gas efficiency was countered by
the VAST improvement in blower efficiency - so the heat that was no
longer supplied by the inefficient blower motor had to be made up by
It IS saving us significantly on electricity, however.
A 10% improvement in gas efficency would mean less than $50 per year,
and a "high efficency" furnace would not be 10% better than what we
got. Figured the extra expense, and generally shorter life of a
condensing furnace, would take too long to pay-back to make it worth
Didn't replace the (still working well) 35 year old AC. A 14 SEER
would be nice - the old one is likely closer to 5 - but since we
generally only use it about 5 days a year, the payback on that one
would go to our grandchildren!!!
Which just shows how foolish some business people can be and how much
more money they'd be making if they had some sense.
I don't think so. You can buy a brand new refrigerator typical of
what you might find in many apartments for $400. Using your example,
I think it's highly unlikely that you're going to find the average
repair cost for a service call on a 25 year old refrigerators is going
to be 25%, which is only $100. That's where all the math breaks
down. And that's even before you factor in pissed off tenants with
spoiled food, the overhead of the calls they make to management in the
middle of the night, how your apartment looks with a 25 year old unit
compared to others that may have newer appliances and command higher
In the case of the OP's 25 year old gas furnace, I think most of us
here would agree it could make sense to put a few hundred dollars in
repairs to it under certain circumstances. However, I think very
few would say that it makes sense to put repairs costing anywhere near
half the cost of a new system into it.
On Thu, 5 Nov 2009 06:33:09 -0800 (PST), email@example.com wrote:
With the prices of so many "things" dropping,(and the markup, or
"profit" on the sale shrinking even faster,)it is QUITE possible that
fixing things will make more money than replacing in the not so very
distant future - particularly when disposal of the "spent" product is
factored in. We live in a VERY wasteful society.
To me, if the choice is fixing something that has worked well for10 or
more years at a cost of X dollars, and replacing it with something of
unknown (but suspect) quality for 2X dollars, I sure know where MY
money is going.
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