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Fixing Old Appliances: An Update On My Furnace

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Last week my husband and I were hit with two major expenses. First our car broke down on the side of the road. The next day our furnace crapped out on us. The mechanic said our 1999 Toyota was a lost cause, but I had hope that I wouldn’t need to shell out $6000 to $10000 for a new heating system.

This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered problems with the furnace. A year or so ago we had a small part replaced when the pilot light wouldn’t stay on. I’ll be honest I hate calling technicians out to our house. I know they need to be paid for their time and effort, but being told a 30 minute visit is going to cost $150 in diagnostic fees drives me crazy. Doesn’t it seem a little insane to pay $150 for someone to look at the appliance even if they can’t fix it?

I called a number of companies and the price to drive out and look at that big old metal box in the basement ranged from $89 to $150. I decided to call the company that repaired it for us last year. After all, we had previous success with them.

Right off the bat I got a bad feeling about the technician. He didn’t know how many thermostats were connected to it, despite the fact that you can see the wires leading right down the side of it. He said it looked to old to fix, but couldn’t give me an estimate on just how old he thought it might be. He tried to replace one part, showed me that it didn’t work, charged me $89 and went on his way. His recommendation was to replace the entire thing. On the paperwork he wrote, “This appliance is too old to repair. Recommend replacement. Estimated cost: $7400.”

Before replacing that old hunk of junk I wanted to get a few other quotes. I didn’t think the first guy new what he was talking about and I really had no idea if $7400 was the going price to replace it.

I searched my local listserve for heating and cooling recommendations and came across a small, family run business. The owner of the company came out to give me a quote on a new furnace, but he also suggested trying to replace a few parts on the old one.

When he left I called his secretary and scheduled an appointment for him to come back a few days later. Sure enough he was able to fix our furnace, (at least for the time being), for a little over $200. He said the fix could last a few years or a few months, but for $200 it seemed worth the risk. Heck I paid half that much for the other technician to tell me it couldn’t be repaired.

I’m hopeful these repairs will last us all winter, but we have a full stack of wood and a space heater ready just in case it doesn’t.

Cari

Friday 10th of October 2014

I feel your pain!! We had our furnace replaced on Tuesday and we just bought the house in April. Ouch.

One thing you might try is enrolling in a home protection or home warranty program. We pay Service One a monthly fee of $34 and if something goes wrong they will come out and fix it for only $25. They were going to fix our furnace but it needed replaced, they only cover fixing it, and they did $350 worth of work on our dryer a few months back. All we had to pay is the monthly fee and the $25 to have them come out.

One Frugal Girl

Friday 10th of October 2014

Thanks for the comment! My husband and I have talked about home warranty programs, but I've always wondered whether or not they are actually worth the money. Actually that would be a great topic to research. If you pay $34 a month, that amounts to $408 a year. I wonder how much the average repair costs per year and whether or not you really save money taking this approach. In our case the furnace fix was just over $200, so if nothing else breaks in the house we would still be better off without the home warranty service, but if you require a major repair you certainly make out better. I should look into this more. Thanks for the suggestion.

CheapMom@SimpleCheapMom

Wednesday 8th of October 2014

Ouch! That first guy sounds pretty sketchy!

When we needed a new furnace, everyone came and gave us free quotes. But we weren't looking for someone to fix it. Of course there wasn't anything wrong with it other than it was old, so our insurance wouldn't insure our house, but that's another story.

I hope you make it through the winter on your new part.

One Frugal Girl

Thursday 9th of October 2014

The quotes for a new furnace were free, but no one would agree to repair it without a hefty 'first hour evaluation' charge. I sure hope we make it through the winter too!