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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    7

    Replacing An Old Furnace

    Our house was built in 1969 and it still has the original Rheem model. It's 80,000BTU. We are having problems with the pilot light not staying on, so we decided to call a service technician. They wanted almost $ to replace some parts. We decided to just have it replaced.

    We've had 3 different local contractors come out and give estimates to replace it. I work a 45hr week, so my wife is the person in the home when these contractors come over to give us the estimate. I gotta be honest with you all, I'm pretty darn mad after seeing the 3 estimates and talking with my wife about what the contractors have told her.

    First company:
    Flat REFUSED to give us an estimate for an 80% efficient furnace. Gave my wife a 45 minute lecture on why she needed a 90%++ efficient furnace.

    There's a REASON why we don't want the 90% efficient furnace. The basement is finished. We do not want to disturb any drywall because we were told when we bought the house that the drywall and mud could have asbestos in it. We do not want to disturb that drywall. In order to install a 90% furnace, we would have cut it open so the contractor could install the PVC pipes. In our minds, cutting open the dry wall is NOT an option - not at all.

    He wanted roughly $ to install a 2-speed Trane model. Thats not going to work.

    Second company:
    My wife and I game planned and I told her to make sure she was adamant about asking for a quote to install an 80% unit.

    The man came over and he did give us a quote for a Carrier 80% furnace. He said something about installing (2) six inch "combustion" pipes. I don't understand what this means. I think that he is saying there will be a giant hole cut into the side of our house and he will install (2) metal pipes. These pipes are supposed to take air from the outside and dump it into the furnace room.

    Why on earth would I want to cut 2 giant holes in the side of my house and allow freezing cold air to flow into my house?? That could freeze water pipes and I KNOW it's going to make the entire laundry room freezing cold.

    He gave us a quote for roughly $ to install a Carrier furnace and the combustion air pipes. Thats fine. If I have to install the pipes then so be it. But he wants to route the pipes through a wall that I KNOW has plumbing waste lines running vertically though it. He took a flash light and showed my wife where he intended to run the 2 pipes. He's right, there's a joist space there and it would be an easy shot about 10 feet to the outside wall. But apparently he didn't think to look at the bathroom thats 2 feet away and he didn't think to go upstairs and see the other bathroom stacked right on top of the down stairs bathroom.

    I'm no genius, but I know there's plumbing waste lines in that wall. I know the joist space is only 14 inches wide and I know there's at least 2 waste or vent lines in that wall. You can go outside on the back deck and look at my roof. You can clearly see there's 2 vent lines poking out of the roof - right smack over the top of that wall downstairs.

    So, I have NO confidence that this 2nd contractor knew what he was talking about. This guy does this for a living. He's supposed to be a professional. Even I know enough about construction to see that you can't run 2 six inch pipes through a 14 inch joist space with 2 or 3 plumbing lines running in there too.

    Third company:
    Wants to sell me some brand called Janitrol for $. Said nothing to my wife about combustion air pipes. When she prompted him about it, he said that since there is a louvered door on the furnace room, code says that I don't need those 2 combustion pipes.

    He suggested a 90% furnace to my wife and said he would run a couple 3 inch PVC pipes through that same joist space that the other guy wanted to run the 6 inch pipes. He said he could see the plumbing lines, but it would be easy to run the smaller PVC pipes through there.

    Thats great, but what he didn't take into account, is those pipes will exit under the deck and also directly under my back door. I have visions of a steaming exhaust pipe creating a large frozen ice skating rink right outside my back door on the deck. So thats not an option either. He quoted a Goodman 2-speed furnace for $.

    None of these options seams like a good fit.

    I've attached some pictures. I am going to attach them and then come back to edit this post and give a detailed description of what these pictures show.

    Pics:

    1 - furnace and water heater. Notice duct soffit above.
    2 - here's the soffit for the supply ducts. This could be asbestos - we were told this when we bought the house.
    3 - bathroom door almost open
    4 - bathroom door open all the way. There's no room to run (2) six inch pipes through here. Not if I ever want to open that bathroom door again.
    5 - bathroom right next to the furnace room. You can see the soffit in the ceiling here. The upstairs bath tub and toilet are stacked on top of here, so obviously, the waste lines run down through the wall.
    6 - joist space inside the furnace room. This is where they want to run the combustion pipes for an 80% furnace
    7 - this is the joist space. Obviously we can see water lines. Too bad the camera flash won't light up this entire space. If it did, we'd see 2 waste lines running vertically from the upstairs bathroom down through floor.
    8 - view from out the lower level bathroom window. This is my deck. It's about 36" off the ground.
    9 - this is the location where the 6 inch combustion pipes would exit the house. One person suggested running PVC through the joist space and installing a 90% furnace. But my back door is above here. I know I'll end up with a skating rink here from all the steam. It's not really an option.
    Attached Images Attached Images          
    Last edited by beenthere; 01-02-2011 at 11:39 AM. Reason: removed pricing

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    7
    I know this is a lot of reading. I'm honestly looking for help and I don't believe in spoon feeding people information. I've given all the information that I have available to me so that you guys and gals can help me to figure out a way around this problem.

    Temps have been below zero for the last few nights here in Colorado. The pilot light still goes out at least 3 times during the day and sometimes twice during the night. I'm getting up in the middle of the night to light the pilot light and keep the house warm.

    We need to make a decision this week.

    Thanks very much for any help or insight.


    EDIT:
    I see the moderators have edited my 1st post to remove the pricing. My apologies for putting the dollar amounts in my post. Did not know that was against the rules. Was trying to provide all the info so people could help me make a decision. But I guess the price isn't really the issue here, so it's not necessary to include that info. The issue is how each contractor has chosen to tackle the problem. I don't think ANY of them has offered a good solution. Again, my apologies.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Posts
    1,070
    I'm having problems understanding your post. It sounds like all of the installers want to install an external combustion air/venting system, which you say you don't want because of possible asbestos in your drywall. Why not get the drywall tested to see if it has asbestos in it? Others can comment, also, but if your existing furnace is working OK then you should be able to simply substitute an 80% furnace using the existing venting and air supply (louvered doors).

    Finally, give the second two installers a break - you know there are pipes where they wanted to run the vent pipes, so tell them that.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Washington
    Posts
    7,405
    No offense, sir, but you sound like a pain in the butt.


    I totally agree that there should be better combustion air for your new furnace. There may be louvered doors present but isn't that laundry room a pretty confined space?

    How about a compromise and have them install a couple of pass-through grills from that room into the hallway? That would supply adequate combustion air and would not draw cold air in from outside.

    As far as a 90% efficient furnace goes. Can't they just extend the vent piping under your deck and out the face of it? I've done that many times and would work great in your application.

    Keep in mind that some of the guys you have coming out will have primarily a sales background and may have not worked in the field. Might be one of the first questions to ask them huh?

    BTW, just kidding about the pain in the butt comment......well kind of .

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Wa.
    Posts
    119
    Sir, everything that we do is for a purpose and also involves your local gas or utility code inspector coming out upon completion of our install. You have any questions you ask him and if it doesn't pass than the company doing the install is liable to fix.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    1,127
    Unfortunately, you do need to have some basic knowledge to understand your proposals. It makes it even harder when you are using someone with perhaps even less knowledge than yourself, your wife, to act as an information conduit. I would suggest that you try to get proposals off hours when you can be home, or perhaps engage in followup phone calls so you can ask questions about proposals first hand.

    A 6 inch and two three inch holes are probably referring to the same thing. Two inch pipes that are required to vent an efficient furnace, one for intake, and one for exhaust. A concentric is available for the outside wall penetration that combines both vents into one that just requires one penetration, rather than two.

    The issue of 80 percent furnaces, and condensing furnaces is not as cut and dried as you apparently think. Some 80 percenters can utilize two pipe configuration, and most condensing furnaces will work fine with one PVC exhaust vent only and use inside air for combustion supply.

    A two pipe configuration (with or without a concentric termination) will improve the energy efficiency of your home. Ignoring the issue of how well supplied your closet is with air, think about the source of the air. Ultimately, it has to come from outside, which means you are heating up outside air. It is much better for many reasons to supply the air directly from the outside to your sealed furnace combustion chamber, rather than passing through your conditioned space. Doing so is inherently less efficient regardless of the equipment's efficiency rating.

    I doubt that a sidewall configuration of vents could not meet your needs. The water content in an efficient furnace's exhaust is relatively low so not much worries about a skating rink. The condensate is separately removed and generally will go into your sewer line.

    I see a large flue disappearing into your ceiling. Depending on the configuration of your chimney and the needs of your water heater, a roof termination is certainly possible. I just did it in my house.

    I agree that your drywall should be tested. But even if asbestos is present, the abatement required with one or two small penetrations is unlikely to be that big of a deal.

    There are a number of very important things left off of your list. Like proper furnace sizing. Is your ductwork adequate. Do you have cold/hot rooms. Is your house tight or leaky. The answers can only be found by a good HVAC pro (probably hard to find) performing a Manual J heat load calculation and a Manual D duct evaluation to find the right size and adjust your ducts to match, and a blower door and thermal imaging energy audit (usually not an HVAC company). You are upgrading your furnace, your house undoubtably can benefit from improvements as well, and those improvements may radically affect the size equipment you need.

    I would have thought that in Colorado, efficient equipment is standard issue. I would suspect that installers there seldom if ever install 80 percent equipment anymore. It is likely that in a few years that 80 percent equipment will not be available anywhere.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Washington
    Posts
    7,405
    Quote Originally Posted by commerce48 View Post
    Unfortunately, you do need to have some basic knowledge to understand your proposals. It makes it even harder when you are using someone with perhaps even less knowledge than yourself, your wife, to act as an information conduit. I would suggest that you try to get proposals off hours when you can be home, or perhaps engage in followup phone calls so you can ask questions about proposals first hand.

    A 6 inch and two three inch holes are probably referring to the same thing. Two inch pipes that are required to vent an efficient furnace, one for intake, and one for exhaust. A concentric is available for the outside wall penetration that combines both vents into one that just requires one penetration, rather than two.

    The issue of 80 percent furnaces, and condensing furnaces is not as cut and dried as you apparently think. Some 80 percenters can utilize two pipe configuration, and most condensing furnaces will work fine with one PVC exhaust vent only and use inside air for combustion supply.

    A two pipe configuration (with or without a concentric termination) will improve the energy efficiency of your home. Ignoring the issue of how well supplied your closet is with air, think about the source of the air. Ultimately, it has to come from outside, which means you are heating up outside air. It is much better for many reasons to supply the air directly from the outside to your sealed furnace combustion chamber, rather than passing through your conditioned space. Doing so is inherently less efficient regardless of the equipment's efficiency rating.

    I doubt that a sidewall configuration of vents could not meet your needs. The water content in an efficient furnace's exhaust is relatively low so not much worries about a skating rink. The condensate is separately removed and generally will go into your sewer line.

    I see a large flue disappearing into your ceiling. Depending on the configuration of your chimney and the needs of your water heater, a roof termination is certainly possible. I just did it in my house.

    I agree that your drywall should be tested. But even if asbestos is present, the abatement required with one or two small penetrations is unlikely to be that big of a deal.

    There are a number of very important things left off of your list. Like proper furnace sizing. Is your ductwork adequate. Do you have cold/hot rooms. Is your house tight or leaky. The answers can only be found by a good HVAC pro (probably hard to find) performing a Manual J heat load calculation and a Manual D duct evaluation to find the right size and adjust your ducts to match, and a blower door and thermal imaging energy audit (usually not an HVAC company). You are upgrading your furnace, your house undoubtably can benefit from improvements as well, and those improvements may radically affect the size equipment you need.

    I would have thought that in Colorado, efficient equipment is standard issue. I would suspect that installers there seldom if ever install 80 percent equipment anymore. It is likely that in a few years that 80 percent equipment will not be available anywhere.

    Every single one of your posts has a disdain for our industry. I will repeat what Robo is always asking. "Why are you here?"

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    1,127
    Quote Originally Posted by seatonheating View Post
    Every single one of your posts has a disdain for our industry. I will repeat what Robo is always asking. "Why are you here?"
    Sorry, not following. I thought my post was defending the salespeople and berating (as well as informing) the homeowner. Did you read it?

    Maybe my comment about a good pro being hard to find. Do you disagree?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Washington
    Posts
    7,405
    Quote Originally Posted by commerce48 View Post
    Sorry, not following. I thought my post was defending the salespeople and berating (as well as informing) the homeowner. Did you read it?

    You stated that the salesman has less knowledge than him, that a good HVAC pro is hard to find, etc...


    When we try to defend our own you seem to jump in and side with an uninformed consumer.

    I gave him a very viable solution to both the combustion air for an 80% and proper routing for a 90%. Done deal.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Philadelphia PA
    Posts
    2,168
    I think your concerns about asbestos in drywall compound are not real
    Get the 90% unit
    You have got to learn from other people's mistakes! Because God knows you don't live long enough to make them all yourself !!!!!!!!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    1,127
    Quote Originally Posted by seatonheating View Post
    You stated that the salesman has less knowledge than him,
    Nope.

    that a good HVAC pro is hard to find, etc...
    Is this untrue in the slightest?

    When we try to defend our own you seem to jump in and side with an uninformed consumer.
    Two strong and opposite recommendation have been given here. The OP sided with one recommendation, I actually chose the other position.

    I gave him a very viable solution to both the combustion air for an 80% and proper routing for a 90%. Done deal
    Good for you. But that means you are disparaging of all other pro's comments here in one blow. It is all about you. I'm wondering why they bother to post.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Howell, Michigan
    Posts
    16,158
    I think the issue with the drywall is lead paint, all homes built prior to 1979 are suspect for lead paint.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Howell, Michigan
    Posts
    16,158
    As far as venting under the deck, that is bad, the pipes can be run under the deck to the outside of the deck if they are insulated and maintain pitch.

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