Furnace - Heat Exchanger questions

We had our annual furnace and A/C inspection yesterday.

The technician told me the heat exchanger (gas furnace) is showing some hot spots. Which could lead to cracking over the next year or so. Which could lead to CO leaks in the house (we take that seriously, as I once lived in an apartment where we most likely had slow carbon monoxide poisoning).

So, the heat exchanger will need to be replaced at some point, I gather.

The problem: The furnace is about 14 years old and the technician wasn’t sure they could even find a replacement. And if they do, it’s a couple grand (give or take; he wasn’t sure) to do the swap.

So - does this all sound reasonable? Would it typically really be that hard to find a replacement, and is the cost really that high to do the repair?

The tech was clearly suggesting we think about a new furnace.

We’re estimating that a replacement furnace would be on the order of 5-6 grand, assuming it’s roughly the same cost as the A/C system (replaced in 2004, for about 5100 bucks).

Now, one problem we have is the furnace is located in the middle of the basement. Not in a room against an outside wall. A more efficient furnace would require venting to an outside wall - i.e., we’d have to run a pipe through one of the rooms, to vent outdoors. There’s obviously a cosmetic issue there (dunno if we could enclose the pipe in a soffit). Less efficient furnaces might not require the outside venting, but if we’re going to replace the bloody thing, we might as well make improvements.

The other problem, obviously, is we don’t happen to have 5 grand lying around. We’d come up with it if we had to, but I’m obviouly not in a huge rush!

Fortunately, it’s May, and we’re not likely to need the furnace for a few months. So we have time to do the research.

My gut instinct as to whether this sounds reasonable? No.

I am an HVAC guy, and maybe this tech is legit. (I have posted to the board on many occasions on HVAC issues) But this doesn’t sound right. (and I’d need more info to gather a more complete opinion)

Tell us more, or PM me and I will give you my phone number.

The price seems a little on the high side. A second oppion from another company is also a choise.

If raindog works residential he will be better able to help you.

Thanks. It’s a local business and generally legit; they do have a practice of suggesting additional work when they do the annual inspection (which I guess is to be expected). And of course they’d benefit if we opted to replace the entire furnace!!

What parts don’t sound right? The heat exchanger going bad at all? the unavailability of replacement parts? the high cost of replacing it?

We currently have a York. Builder-grade, of course, though the tech said that builder grade from the mid-90s is probably better than builder-grade today. The furnace has a serial number that suggests it’s a 1994 model; the house was built some time in 1995.

There’s one possible incentive to go ahead and replace the furnace before the end of 2010, and that’s the tax credit - if we got one of high enough efficiency, it’d be eligible for a tax credit which would slash the effective cost. Of course as noted, the location of the furnace makes outdoor-venting a challenge.

Of note, some current models of York have a lifetime heat exchanger warranty. I’ve got to do some research and see if the same was true of this model (doubtful - again, builder-grade which I gather is not top of the line).

Snnipe 70E: Yeah, I’ll definitely get a second opinion before plunking a lot of money into this system or a replacement. Couple hundred bucks, I’d pay it. Couple thousand? Not gonna happen without some thought.

A point of comparison…Today I installed a York 98% efficient furnace, new 3 Ton 16 SEER A/C system, (410A) Top of the line Honeywell line Stat IAQ 9000, top of the line Aprilaire 700 Humidifier with start up, sheetmetal etc etc for $9300.

$5100 for an A/C system seems very high. What was the SEER ratiing? Brand?

For a furnace only, I could install a 95-98% efficient furnace for $3000-3500 with minimal ducting. What is your locale?

I’ll post later. RE: heat exchanger.

Hello, I’m new here but found this place because I’m searching for information on furnaces and possibly a defective heat exchanger.

Without going into the hassle and misery I’ve been thru when I found this HVAC guy to install a furnace in my mobile home this past Nov. because he was the ONLY person who would work on mobiles and I HAD to have it done, I’d like to ask a question about the trouble I’m having.

I began to smell a foul odor the last couple of weeks of Jan when I got home from work. It kinda reminded me of a dead mouse, and having had them die in a wall from time to time, I knew it would take a couple of weeks for the odor to go away.
But, a week into Feb I noticed that the smell only happened when the furnace was on and it came out of the heat vents. I decided maybe a critter died in the ducts, so I cleaned out all the ducts, and washed the furnace filter. It seemed to help but soon I noticed the odor again. It’s nasty, and putrid and reminds me of spoiled oil, or stinky feet. It’s just undescribably foul!

The furnace was used, but reportedly in great shape by the HVAC guy and in MUCH better shape than my original furnace so I let him put it in. They guy has been in business for 15 yrs and seemed legit. (hahaha)

I had NIPSCO (our power company) come and check the odor to see if it was natural gas leaking. NOPE! And he had no clue what it was either.

I’ve been told different theories and don’t know which to believe. I cannot get this HVAC guy to come back and fix this either! He did come and looked at it, was puzzled over the smell, and has not come back since. He was suppose to be here last Sat and talk to me today, but nope!

It’s one of those pilot-less furnaces,(Nordyne) and it worked great for the first few weeks! Never felt so much warmth! I’m not using it at all now. I’ve been baking alot which warms the place up, and boiling water makes it warmer too, but I’m still kinda chilly.

I noticed today that the odor is now actually coming from the furnace, by a pipe in the front. I’m not sick or dying (hopefully) but I’m very, very concerned about what could be smelling so badly and if this can be fixed.

I just want some plausible theories from somewhere since I can’t seem to get the jackass who put it in to come back over and FIX IT!

Thank you and I apologize for the wordy post. Peace, MgL

MerryGreenLeaf, welcome to the Dope! Come for the furnaces, stay for the fun :slight_smile:

I obviously have no clue about what the problem is, beyond suggesting that you check all the places where the unit takes are in from to see if anything obvious jumps out at you.

What sort of odor are you having? “something crawled up in there and died?”, sewage-y, “overdose of parfum de french whorehouse”? Another thing to check is if there are any places where you can look inside without risking damage, see if maybe some critter got in and died and its earthly remains are the problem.

Hopefully raindog will pop in with some more professional suggestions.

Hello MamaZ! LoL The odor is SO putrid that it’s hard to describe! It’s not a dead mouse or critter smell…when I first noticed it, that’s what I thought, but after standing over a register and smelling the heat coming out with that stench in it, it’s…putrid! Not like the rotten egg smell they use for natural gas…more like spoiled, rotten oil, or real bad smelly feet, but more putrid, LoL

I’ve called the man who put the furnace in, and couldn’t get an answer. I left him a message today, and hopefully he’ll get his nearly useless ass over here!

I’m trying like all hell to keep my sense of humor and not shoot this ‘deerlick’ when he finally gets over here to look at this crappy furnace he sold me!

When it’s finally resolved, maybe I’ll feel more like checking out this place…I found it accidently but it looks pretty interesting!

Pax, MgL

It’s probably a Zombie mouse in the ducts.:smiley:

Thanks Sparky! BUT!! I already checked for zombie mice, didn’t find any!

[quote=“MerryGreenleaf, post:8, topic:496463”]

Hello MamaZ! LoL The odor is SO putrid that it’s hard to describe! It’s not a dead mouse or critter smell…when I first noticed it, that’s what I thought, but after standing over a register and smelling the heat coming out with that stench in it, it’s…putrid! Not like the rotten egg smell they use for natural gas…more like spoiled, rotten oil, or real bad smelly feet, but more putrid, LoL

The closest to this we’ve ever had was when we moved, 7 years ago, and our chest freezer developed a nasty smell. We wiped it out all over, let it sit open for weeks, and yet every time we plugged it back in (it was empty the whole time!) after a day it would get full of an aroma like diluted dead-fish. Typo Knig (my husband) finally got rid of it by opening the back up and wiping everything down around the motor. So obviously something unsavory got on it (though we have no clue HOW unless it picked something up from the moving truck ).

I’d guess something got on your sistem while in transit.

MammaZ…the jackass furnace guy FINALLY showed up Thurs and took the pipe apart and found a nest. It was blocking the flow of gas so some of it came into the ducts.

There wasn’t any kind of animal in it, and it was made of pine needles, and leaves.

The bastard charged me nearly $100 to vacuum out the pipe!! I really got into his face about it. I told him that the nest was obviously built while the furnace was in his possession and he said no way!

He said that it didn’t smell till a month after he put it in, so therefore the creature built the nest afterwards! I laughed at that jackass and told him that there’s no way a mouse climbed up the roof, dragging pine needles from down the street (I have no pine trees) climbed down the chimmney and built such an elaborate nest!
And a bird doesn’t build nests in November/December!

We argued but unfortunately I lost. I’m turning him into the Better Bus. Bureau for the way he put the furnace in, taking 8 days to do it, and when I had problems, it took him more than 2 weeks to come over and he lied to me so many times I lost count!

I’m happy that I can now have heat in the house…it’s nice when it’s 20 freakin’ degrees outside!

The price is a bit iffy, but honestly having a new furnace with a brand new furnace filter really pays off. I’m on a really tight budget at the moment and I’m going to be installing a new furnace really soon, and I do not think about any penny I’m going to pay towards it. There is a big difference between a house that has a working furnace with the furnace filters being changed constantly, it is way cleaner and smells much better. Can’t wait till I get mine.

I’ve been in this house since '91, and the Bryant-Plus 90i furnace that’s been here since we moved in is making scary sounds. I called a guy to come over to look at it and really feel like he screwed me.

He went down in the basement to look at it and said, “This is a high quailty variable-speed furnace, well worth repairing. It may be the heat exchanger, it may be the pilot assembly. It might be the motor. The blower fan is for sure a problem, but I’m all about fixing first, unless the total cost of the repair doesn’t justify it.” [this is all a paraphrase.] He then said that he wanted his technician to come over and do a 50 point check list look-see. This would be a hundred bucks, which would be folded into the repair/installation. So, we made an appointment for the next day. No charge for this preliminary visit, all just good will.

Okay, here’s where I didn’t listen to my gut or my wife. The guy came back upstairs and after some innocent chit-chat, worked into the conversation how Jesus was the center of his life. He left, and my wife and I were in agreement that the whole religion thing was creepy. But, I let the appointment for the next day stand, figuring I needed to find out the status of the furnace no matter what.

The next day, the technician shows up and pulls out a camera thing, and shoots some video of the heat exchanger and other stuff that’s hard to see. Five to eight minutes, tops. As he’s filming away at the furnace, he says, “With the tax credit going on, I’m telling everybody in your situation that their best bet is to replace.” He said the motor was 400 bucks, the heat exchanger showed spots that were weak and that would be six hundred bucks, the blower was a few hundred…why spend all this to fix what’s still going to be a twenty year old furnace? Supposedly furnaces are built to last about twenty years.

The thing that bothers me is that the first guy, the one who has Jesus at the center of his life, should have told me right off the bat that I was at the “replace” portion of this furnace’s life. Instead, he got me to spend a hundred bucks to sort of get the hook in, so that I’d feel like a down-payment had already been made, right? The next day’s 50-point checklist seemed to be pretty imaginary too. I guess this business model is all Jesus-approved, but I decided to go somewhere else for a furnace, and eat the hundred.

I feel like an idiot though.

Any thoughts from dopers regarding the fix/replace/tax credit issue?

  1. get a second opinion.
  2. check to see if the energy-star tax credit was extended along with the other cuts recently extended (I don’t know if it has, can’t find anything stating that).
  3. A thousand bucks to repair is a lot less than the cost of a new furnace.

We recently had 3 different roofers look at our roof. Two were gung-ho to replace it. The third said "couple of repairs and you’re good to go, just have it inspected every year or so.