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Author: sojglenn One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 129084  
Subject: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion. Date: 1/3/2004 11:27 AM
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Hi all,

I currently have an electric furnace and am researching a gas company program to switch to gas heat. The gas company provides a furnace free of charge and the home owner just needs to pay installation. The gas company provides American Standard furnaces.

My current system is forced hot air with an external AC/heat pump and an back-up electric coil furnace in the basement (for when it is too cold for the heat pump). However, the heat pump does not seem to be working for heating lately, and i have been running on the electric furnace alone. The heating system/cooling is probably around 30 years old at this point (I have only owned the house for a year now).

The first contractor quoted me $3600 to install the free furnace, and an addional $2000 to install a new exterior AC unit. He claimed the furnace install was high partly due to the fact that they need to recover the freon from system. The place where the furnace is going to go is also very cramped (thus requiring a high efficiency unit), and they need to modify the duct work, as well as install venting (which I didn't have since i am using an electric furnace).

I am currently waiting for a quote from a second contractor. However, my initial reaction was that $3600 was high just to do a furnace install.

Any opinions?

Thanks.
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Author: jiml8 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44179 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/3/2004 12:25 PM
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The first contractor quoted me $3600 to install the free furnace, and an addional $2000 to install a new exterior AC unit. He claimed the furnace install was high partly due to the fact that they need to recover the freon from system. The place where the furnace is going to go is also very cramped (thus requiring a high efficiency unit), and they need to modify the duct work, as well as install venting (which I didn't have since i am using an electric furnace).

LOL!!!!

Run. Don't walk, run. Find another contractor.

The cramped space is going to cost you, especially this time of year. Most furnace people are going to look at it and say "I'm busy anyway, and this looks like a pain" so they'll increase their quote and not care whether you accept it or not.

Based on your description (which isn't much to go on, of course) I would expect the installation to come in somewhere around a grand.

$2K to install a new AC isn't necessarily out of line; depends on the details. How big a unit?

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Author: Goofyhoofy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Top Recommended Fools Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44181 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/3/2004 12:46 PM
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Run. Don't walk, run. Find another contractor.

Uh, yeah.

Your "free furnace" isn't free.

And the contractor isn't telling you the truth.
 


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Author: sojglenn One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44182 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/3/2004 12:57 PM
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Thanks for the replies. I was thinking that it was high, but not more than double. I may be paying more due to the town i live in. It's pretty expensive town to live in (not my place), but i may be paying for the name. I'll have to wait to see what the second contractor comes back with. It's really a small space where the unit will be installed, so imagine i'll have to pay a bit of a premium. But it sounds like $3600 is a bit high. :)

$2K to install a new AC isn't necessarily out of line; depends on the details. How big a unit?

The 2K quote was for a 2 ton unit (cooling 1300 square feet on two floors).



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Author: foo1bar Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44183 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/3/2004 1:09 PM
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Your "free furnace" isn't free.

It is to him.

Sure the gas company pays for it, and it eventually gets pasesed along to everyone's bills. But it's free for him from any reasonable perspective.

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44185 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/3/2004 2:32 PM
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<<I am currently waiting for a quote from a second contractor. However, my initial reaction was that $3600 was high just to do a furnace install.

Any opinions?

Thanks.
>>


Get more bids, and cross examine the sales reps to find out if you are getting reasonably consistant suggestions, and reasonable explanations for the different approaches you hear about.

Also, I'd talk to friends, neighbors and relatives for the names of heating contractors people trust to treat you honestly and do the work competently. That's more important than price as a rule.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44186 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/3/2004 2:39 PM
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<<Based on your description (which isn't much to go on, of course) I would expect the installation to come in somewhere around a grand.
>>


Well Jim --- as someone who does installation work (I don't) how would you treat this free furnace deal from the gas company when making a bid?

Especially if you are busy this time of year, I think I'd tend to add the markup I'd get if I were selling a furnace onto a bid to install this free furnace. That way I'd come out even whether I was selling the furnace or not. If it wasn't busy, I'd tend to reduce that markup.

But as a rule, I'd want to earn my normal price for labor and get the margin I'd usually earn on selling equipment to do this kind of install. Even a free furnace wouldn't quite be free.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: jiml8 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44187 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/3/2004 2:41 PM
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Especially if you are busy this time of year, I think I'd tend to add the markup I'd get if I were selling a furnace onto a bid to install this free furnace. That way I'd come out even whether I was selling the furnace or not. If it wasn't busy, I'd tend to reduce that markup.

Yeah, you're right. I hadn't thought it all the way through mostly because I only install furnaces in my own places, so there is no effective markup for me.

But if I was doing it for someone else, I would want to collect that same markup value so that I would come out even.

Hokay. $1700 for installation.

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Author: jiml8 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44188 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/3/2004 3:10 PM
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Hokay. $1700 for installation.

But, then, that is a 2 ton AC, right? Hokay. Call it $1600 for that, complete. If I don't have to change the evaporator coil (probably do have to...) then call it $1200.

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Author: Watty56 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44198 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/3/2004 9:49 PM
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If your current system will hold up a bit longer then wait until the spring when the heating season is basically over but the A/C season has not started. Then get at least three bids. You might also get some bids that don't include the "free" furnace just to see how much you are really saving. The "free" furnace probably is a very high efficiency unit anyway.

The last time I replaced a furnace was between seasons and the high bid was over twice as much as the low bid for comparable furnaces. The low bid was from a one-man shop who apparently would not have any other work to do that right then so I am sure that that is why he gave the low bid to get the work. I think that he gave the bid on a Thursday, I accepted it on Friday and he installed it on Monday.

If your hot water heater is not very new then you should also check on getting a new one at the same time even if it is still working. Sometimes they will install it very cheaply since they will be working with the gas and ductwork at the same time. The building codes have changed in some areas so you may not be able to install a new one exactly the same as the old one, which can add a significant cost to the hot water tank installation.

Greg




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Author: sojglenn One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44203 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/3/2004 11:45 PM
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The "free" furnace probably is a very high efficiency unit anyway.

Stupid question. But isn't "high efficiency" good? (Sounds good :). They offer both standard and high efficieny furnaces in the program. Both contractors so far have said that i need the high efficiency due to the small area the furnace will be installed.


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Author: 1poorguy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44205 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/4/2004 2:10 AM
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Stupid question. But isn't "high efficiency" good? (Sounds good :). They offer both standard and high efficieny furnaces in the program. Both contractors so far have said that i need the high efficiency due to the small area the furnace will be installed.

For the home we are building we have received bids for various efficiency units (from 1-stage 80% to 2-stage 90%). As near as I can tell they are all the same size. So it isn't clear to me why they are saying you need high efficiency for a more cramped space (disclaimer: I am not a pro, so there could be a reason).

If the unit is free to you, go for the gusto and get the higher efficiency. It will save you money. In my case it isn't free in our new home, so I'm comparing efficiency ratings/savings vs cost of the units.

1poorguy

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Author: sojglenn One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44207 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/4/2004 7:41 AM
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As near as I can tell they are all the same size. So it isn't clear to me why they are saying you need high efficiency for a more cramped space (disclaimer: I am not a pro, so there could be a reason).

I don't think it is due to physical space constraints, but more due to the fact that you are burning natural gas in a smaller confined space. Requires burning with a higher efficiency.

An earlier poster seemed to imply that a high efficiency furnace was undesirable (it's possible that i mis-read his statement). That's what had me confused.



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Author: nnn12345 Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44209 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/4/2004 10:38 AM
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Re: high efficiency gas furnace----I believe there is also a difference regarding the venting requirements between standard and high efficiency units. The standard units need to be vented up a chimney, and a high efficiency unit can be vented directly to outside wall. Much less expensive to vent a high efficiency unit, and can be placed almost anywhere, not only next to a chimney.

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Author: NoIDAtAll Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44220 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/4/2004 8:46 PM
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But, then, that is a 2 ton AC, right? Hokay. Call it $1600 for that, complete. If I don't have to change the evaporator coil (probably do have to...) then call it $1200.


That even seems high, Jim. IIRC, we paid somewhere around $500 (or $700) for a new 5 ton unit at the office where I work and a couple hundred (to a friendly A/C installer) to install it last summer (didn't replace the coil or coolant line though.)

(I don't recall if the unit price was $700 or the total installed price was $700 - as the owner was complaining too much about even having to pay that much.)

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Author: jiml8 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44225 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/4/2004 9:15 PM
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That even seems high, Jim. IIRC, we paid somewhere around $500 (or $700) for a new 5 ton unit at the office where I work and a couple hundred (to a friendly A/C installer) to install it last summer (didn't replace the coil or coolant line though.)

You didn't buy a new 5 ton unit for that money. You might have picked up a used one though.

A 2 ton kit (complete) would rock me about $800-900 wholesale, more or less, depending on brand. Installation would run about 5 hours or so, again depending on the details. Purchase plus labor plus markup...$1600 is pretty close.

A 2 ton condenser only would set me back about $450-500 more or less, again depending on brand. Changing condenser only is a really high profit job; anyone will rock $1100-1200 for that job and it only takes about 2 hours, including freon recovery.

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Author: Radish Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44229 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/5/2004 12:43 AM
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sojglenn,

An earlier poster seemed to imply that a high efficiency furnace was undesirable (it's possible that i mis-read his statement). That's what had me confused.

There are some bad things about high-efficiency gas furnaces.

One: they are more complicated, have more parts, and worse yet have more moving parts. Thus they will require more service than an ordinary furnace, most likely.

Two: the highest efficiency furnaces cool the exhaust gas so much that water condenses out. The good part is the exhaust is so cool it can be vented out a side wall using PVC pipe (as nnn12345 already posted). The bad news is you need some place to get rid of the water that's produced. Also, the water is acidic, so just dumping it down a drain may not be a good idea. Furthermore, if you ever shut the furnace off in sub-freezing weather (on purpose or due to a power failure), the water previously produced by the furnace freezes, and when you turn the furnace back on water that can't drain (past the ice) goes all over the place damaging things (been there, done that).

Phil

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44233 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/5/2004 1:51 AM
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<<Two: the highest efficiency furnaces cool the exhaust gas so much that water condenses out. The good part is the exhaust is so cool it can be vented out a side wall using PVC pipe (as nnn12345 already posted). The bad news is you need some place to get rid of the water that's produced. Also, the water is acidic, so just dumping it down a drain may not be a good idea. Furthermore, if you ever shut the furnace off in sub-freezing weather (on purpose or due to a power failure), the water previously produced by the furnace freezes, and when you turn the furnace back on water that can't drain (past the ice) goes all over the place damaging things (been there, done that).

Phil
>>


Oooh! Very good point ---I repaired someone's furnace with that problem tonight. The actual cause of the intermittent operation of the Payne +90 condensing gas furnace was a bird that had crawled all the way up the 2.5" PVC vent pipe to the furnace, where it died. That caused erratic operation of the furnace for weeks, but 20 degree temperatures caused the house to cool down to 50 degrees or so.

So the owner called me out. I found the bird carcass promptly enough. But the furnace continued operating very erratically.

After a lot of troubleshooting I found that when the owner shut off the furnace because of the erratic operation the drain line froze (furnace in a utility room with a heater that was turned off). When I got the furnace going, the water produced had no where to go, and leaked down onto the circuit board, causing a variety of new problems and symptoms.

Total: 3 hours labor charge.

Darin lines on 90% efficient gas furnaces are common sources of problems in sub freezing weather.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: NoIDAtAll Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44235 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/5/2004 4:49 AM
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You didn't buy a new 5 ton unit for that money. You might have picked up a used one though.

No, it was new - I saw it in the box. Dunno where the A/C guy got it. It looks like $950 for a 5 ton 10 seer unit normally isn't too far off though - and, of course, higher for better efficiency.


http://www.airconditioningexchange.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=acex&Category_Code=AC0

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Author: jiml8 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44236 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/5/2004 7:24 AM
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It looks like $950 for a 5 ton 10 seer unit normally isn't too far off though

$950 is easy enough to believe. $500 isn't. Must have been some very special deal.

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Author: rsprang Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44237 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/5/2004 9:11 AM
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As another data point, a neighbor had a Rheem furnace and air conditioner installed for $4000 total - and it was a bear of a job. Never had AC, major issues getting the old furnace out.

Interesting article in the paper yesterday about furnaces. It's a syndicated column - maybe it's in your paper, too. Cliff note version is that he claims heat pumps "got a bad rap" in the past, but are now usually the best choice. His recommendation for colder climates, though, is to install a heat pump instead of an AC unit, and still install a gas furnace to assist with winter heating.

Definitely include a humidifier in your install - it will greatly increase the comfort level and reduce operating cost (because a cooler temperature will feel "warmer").

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Author: NoIDAtAll Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44238 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/5/2004 9:28 AM
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$950 is easy enough to believe. $500 isn't. Must have been some very special deal.

I hear ya'. It might of been hot, for all I know (and the $700 may have been just for the part.) The next time I see him, I'll ask the A/C guy where he got it and why so cheap.


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Author: Radish Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44264 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/5/2004 5:26 PM
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Seattle Pioneer,

Drain lines on 90% efficient gas furnaces are common sources of problems in sub freezing weather.

I think it would help if they were sloped pretty good, but often there's no drain nearby and they run flat along a floor to reach one.

I actually had two problems.

The first was that during construction, they were using the furnace as temporary heat (which is a bad idea for several reasons, but I didn't know that at the time). The furnace produces a not-insignificant amount of water (more than you'd want to try to just catch in a bucket, for example) but it does it in a small stream over a long period of time. The water was piped to a floor drain, where it went out the main waste line to a septic tank. The line to the septic tank wasn't buried particularly deep (maybe 2 feet, in the foothills west of Denver where the frost line can easily reach down 6 feet), but the general contractor (who was also a professional engineer and designed the septic/leach system) swore it was deep enough. Anyway, the trickle of water would run down the big main waste pipe and freeze. Then the next trickle would run next to the ice, and freeze beside it. Eventually, the entire pipe was frozen solid.

This happened after the original general contractor had disappeared (I posted earlier about the "mysterious fire" that destroyed the house). The new contractor hired some company to run a steam line up from the septic tank and melt the ice out (very slow, very expensive). They (the steam guys) seemed to think once the house was finished, the ground around the house would be hotter (since the house would continuously be heated) and people would be taking showers and flushing toilets, thus running larger volumes of hotter water and melting any trickles. The new contractor dug down to the waste line, put several inches of foam insulation over it, and reburied it; the idea being to hold the heat from, say, shower water in the pipe longer so as to melt water produced overnight by the furnace. Sounded iffy to me, but I never had problems with it freezing again.

The second problem was that the heating contractor wasn't sure he wanted to work with the new general contractor. One day he'd say he would finish the job, and the next day he'd say he wouldn't, or he wouldn't show up when he was supposed to. The general contractor thought there should be a heat vent near the front door, and the heating contractor said it didn't need one. After he refused to put one in, the general contractor's guys went ahead and added one. This apparently outraged the heating contractor, and the night before our CO (Certificate of Occupancy) inspection he snuck in and took his temporary thermostat (a worthless beat-up and much painted-over cheapo). So I get a call early the morning of the CO inspection from the general contractor saying we have to get a thermostat in or we'll fail the CO (he knew I had the thermostats that were ultimately going to be installed safely away from the jobsite). Turns out that during the night the furnace room had dropped below freezing (since the furnace couldn't run with no thermostat) and the furnace drain line was frozen solid.

Now, we had to get the CO that day, because I'd already sold the house I was living in, and I had to be out by a certain time the next day, and the moving van was already scheduled. The county there is VERY strict about not moving anything in before the CO (they wouldn't even let me bring a few boxes of stuff into the garage). So the general contractor put a propane space heater in the furnace room to try to melt the ice. Well, it turns out the furnace room was pretty well insulated (since it had big outside-combustion-air openings, so I didn't want it cooling adjacent rooms). It takes a lot of heat to melt ice in PVC pipe laying on a concrete floor. By the time the ice down by the floor had melted, so had all the central-vacuum piping up near the ceiling (I guess it has a pretty low melting point).

You should have seen the look on the building inspector's face. It was like, "Hey... all these pipes are melted." "Yep, they're melted." "Ummm..." "Well, the central-vac system isn't subject to inspection, right?" "Ummm... I guess not..." Fortunately, the inspector was a very nice guy and he understood our time problems and went out of his way to stick to the "letter of the law" when he could easily have made trouble.

Phil

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Author: rsprang Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 44269 of 129084
Subject: Re: Opinions on quote for gas furnace conversion Date: 1/5/2004 7:43 PM
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You didn't buy a new 5 ton unit for that money. You might have picked up a used one though.

No, it was new - I saw it in the box.


Maybe it fell off a truck ;-)


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