Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why You Should Call a Pro.

Happy 2014 and sorry for the lack of posts, but if you live in the Northeastern United States you know what the situation is. We've had the double whammy of power failures AND double digit lows without even factoring in wind chills. This means furnaces have been working overtime and if something is going to fail, it will. The result is that I've worked 60+ hours this week and the past several weeks getting these furnaces to rights. As a side note, if you have a Lennox Whisper Heat, or any Lennox product with the Dura Curve heat exchanger, get it inspected as soon as possible. You may have a health hazard at best and a death trap at the worst. These furnaces start with the model numbers G8, G12, G16, and G20 and were made from the 1970's (to the extent of my knowledge) to the late 1990's. I use an infrared camera to inspect these, but taking the duct off the top and using a mirror can also suffice, unless it's a counterflow model. Since I got this camera, every furnace with these heat exchangers I've scoped has had a failure; EVERY ONE OF THEM! Even if yours hasn't failed yet, it will! Of course this is the same deal with the Lennox G14, and G21 (Pulse) models. These are very efficient for their time, with 97% not unheard of, but these furnaces are over 20 to 30 years old. When these fail, it will be difficult to start and you will left with a no heat. Best to either test the heat exchangers every few years or just get rid of them. Nothing against Lennox because they made a good product (although parts are expensive and the present models are over engineered) but this is what I've been seeing folks. As you will soon learn, if you haven't from me already, all manufacturers make a few mistakes. I've had issues with every brand across the board, and some more than others.

Counterflow Lennox Whisper Heat with Inspector Infrared Camera.

One brand I've been seeing more and more of are the Nordyne family. Tappan, Gibson, Frigidaire, Thermal Zone, and Miller have had their share of issues. In the case of a two year old Gibson, I had to remove the control board to clean the flame rod; not a good design here folks. You shouldn't have to remove anything other than the flame sensor to clean or replace it. This is double for the igniter. On the 90% models, the drain fittings to the vents always break, but these aside, with proper installation and care, they'll last you a good ten to fifteen years.
One trait of these furnaces is the fact that many can and will buy them without a license or pulling a permit. Instead of doing a proper load calculation, which is measuring the square footage, windows, and ductwork to properly size the equipment, they'll look at the BTU ratings of the old furnace and buy a new one with the same ratings. This is not the proper way of doing things, but I digress. Another is that these same people will try and play Mr. Fix It; installing used, substandard or the wrong parts. I was in a home that was hacked, and not in a good way. This was the way to get to the basement, and yes, this was a shed roof made of OSB about 2 feet over an open stairwell.


The stairwell was pretty hacked too.

The furnace was even worse :(
Sorry for the blurry pic!
This is the way they jury rigged the drain fitting
that broke off.

To make a long story short, I found this furnace with a blown board, a worn vent motor and a jury rigged drain fitting. The customer replaced the igniter, which touched the frame and shorted out the board the minute it fired up. I installed a Glowfly, re-replaced the board, the inducer, and installed a proper drain fitting. It took me three hours because I had to get another board, replace the igniter, plus grill them about the mess they made so I had a clue as to fix the damn thing. I gently reminded them that since you have an appliance service plan or ASP, call and I'll be happy to fix the furnace. It cost almost $1200 to fix this mess by the time I factored in two boards, the inducer, the igniter, and the drain fitting with pipe. If the customer had called when the igniter quit, the cost would have been less than $500, but because he elected to take this upon himself, he made an additional $700 of work for me to do. The moral of the story is that you can be handy all you want, but there are some special skills that are required when trying to fix anything electrical. I have many years of training, and thousands of dollars of tools that require updating and replenishment regularly. My multimeter alone costs $200 and the camera I use for the heat exchanger is close to $3000. Most importantly, I've been doing this on and off for nearly 28 years. This is why I add those disclaimers and implore you to use caution in your work. Maranatha!

1 comment:

Walter Grace said...

I want to add that the customer was very helpful in removing that shed roof. It would have been dangerous to try and climb down there.