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.