Dear PoPville – Furnace Repair?

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Dear PoPville,

I have radiators and an older, but not ancient, gas furnace. I had a guy out to check it and perform maintenance a week ago and all he did was pressure me to buy a new system for $7,000. It worked all last winter and vents properly so I think that’s ridiculous. And I don’t really have the money for a new one right now whether it’s a good investment or not.

So the question is, does anyone know of a good, honest furnace company or individual who can be trusted to maintain older units?

13 Comment

  • saf

    Blake and Wilcox. Good plumbers, good with boilers too.

  • pcat

    Climate Heating and Cooling (703-750-4008). They have been working on my furnaces for over 20 years. My mother also used them. When she was very ill and had a furnace problem, one of the Climate VPs gave me his home number so that I could contact them directly in an emergency.

    • I second Climate. I have been using them for 7 years or so. We have two furnaces, a 7-year-old one that they sold us, and another one that is at least 20 years old at this point. They do annual checkups and maintenance as needed and have been really straight with us. They have told us several times that the older one could die any day but that there is no reason to replace it while it is still in good working order.

  • ah

    If you have radiators, then presumably what you have is a boiler. And boilers can last quite some time . . . the payoff in energy efficiency from a new one can take a while.

  • I’ve been happy with AHR. They replaced my hot water heater this summer and are in the process of repairing my boiler. When I called about the boiler, Carlos, the owner, came out himself with his guy Mike. Good guys, and if the HWH is any indication, they do good work.

  • Discount Appliance Repair … they rock and just replaced our water heater … and did a GREAT job!

  • jim_ed

    You’ve got a boiler, not a furnace. And new boilers run around 5-10k depending on size and brand. Did he give any reason why you should replace it? For instance, if your boiler has a cracked heat exchanger, it would run fine, but would be a very serious danger for CO poisoning in your home.

    Or maybe it’s just old, and not very efficient. Boilers normally last 15-25 years, but some older models have made it 40+ years no sweat. I assume he left you a service sheet, and he probably wrote down why he’s recommending replacement. Meanwhile, have a second service guy from a different company come out and take a look, and see what he has to say.

    I use Cropp Metcalfe, and I’ve always been happy with their work, fwiw.

  • We used Jason Clem from Montgomery Sheet Metal recently for an A/C issue. Nice and felt like he gave us a fair shake: 301-309-2856.

  • Foley Mechanical does a great job mainting old boiler-radiator systems, which are also called hydronic heating. They’re top notch and won’t pressure you to make unnecessary investments. They will make it clear when there are safety issues, however.

  • If you own your home (needs to be a home not a condo). You should check out the DC Department of Environment (DDOE) and the DC Sustainability Energy Utility (DC SEU). You can get a free energy audit and they will do combustion efficiency testing (checking carbon monoxide output, if exhaust fumes are actually leaving the home, if there is proper draft, burners firing appropriately, etc). The auditors do not sell equipment and will give you an idea for what is most cost effective for your home – maybe you should replace your boiler, but maybe you don’t need to yet.

    Anyway, the Free Home Energy Audit program is a great program, and parts of it (specifically the “free” part) are going away soon.

  • If it is already working normally (which it sounds like it is) then the only reason to upgrade would be for efficiency.

    Now I am usually all for efficiency, but with the world glut of natural gas due to all the shale fracking around the world, prices lower right now than they were (inflation adjusted) in 1984. With gas as cheap as it is, and slated to remain that way for atleast the next 3-5 years (the economy would have to go Clinton style gangbusters for a couple years to consume the extra gas capacity), I wouldn’t worry about it.

  • If you are going to make a upgrade to the system, and you are not going to put in central heat and air… I would wait until the end of winter or summer to get it done. I suspect that prices would be a little higher during this time of year, because of the impending weather.

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