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Replacing the Decks

  HVAC  
 
 


The house came with an old Quatro forced-air furnace tucked under the stairs. It had two strikes against it:

 
 
The home inspection report associated with the purchase indicated that this on-side Quatro was considered to be a fire hazard.
Squeezed as it was into this small space, not all the ducts worked.

 
 

Since the furnace heated the crawl space more than the house, we didn't use it very often. Now that downstairs was getting torn up as part of the foundation upgrade, it was time to replace it.

I shopped for HVAC contractors using a combination of recommendations, Craigslist and ServiceMaster. My vision was separate units for upstairs and downstairs. I saw two challenges:

 
 
The joists of the new wing run in a different direction than those of the remainder of the house. This makes running ductwork more difficult.
Space is at a premium in each unit. Thus the furnaces will need to be tucked in the crawlspaces.
 
 

Among the folks that came by:

John (Fitzpatrick's Heating Inc (2096 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Fairfax, CA 415-457-0607) came by and looked at the house. He wasn't very talkative, but seemed to be one of the smartest. One challenge for the upstairs unit was where to put the return--that big grill that brings air into the furnace. John's suggestion made sense, and I made a point to ask every other contractor where the upstairs return should go. Only one other offered the same solution for upstairs. Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick's Heating was the most expensive: $11,084 for two 90+% units.

Christian Bedon (265 Camelback Road, Pleasant Hill, CA 925-726-6184) proposed a pair of 80% efficient 45,000 BTU Carrier furnaces, each with four supplies, and each with combustion exhaust run to the roof. Total price: $6,500!

William Soto (1348 Montana Dr. Concord, CA 925-497-7426) looked around, and then suggested two gas-powered wall units for upstairs, and a 40,000 BTU forced air for downstairs. I was disappointed with this suggestion for wall units upstairs, but the price was good: $7,845.

Christian Soto (Concord, CA 925-695-4074) quoted a pair of 93% efficient Payne furnaces (one 60,000 BTU; the other 70,000 BTU) for a total of $9650.

Robert Higares (Accurate HVAC, Sacramento 510-461-6816) proposed two carrier 40-50,000 BTU 90-92% efficiency furnaces for $5,987.

Finally, Art Alcala, the estimator from Henry Mechanical (766 Bell Road, Windsor, CA 707-838-3311) studied the place carefully. He was the one other person who identified what I agreed was the best solution for the upstairs register. His bid was for a pair of Lennox 92% efficient furnaces, one 45,000 BTU; the other 70,000 BTU. Unfortunately, the bid was $10,479 - almost as high as Fitzpatrick's.

I had to decide: take a low Craigslist bid, or pay almost double for a business with a storefront?

I'll never know what the correct answer is; I only know what I did - I selected almost the highest bid, and went with Henry Mechanical.

A half-year has passed, and I'm very happy with the folks at Henry Mechanical.

 

 
     
 
The existing furnace worked, but heated the crawl spaces better than the house.

Pinch-points had defeated some of its ducts.

I had six HVAC contractors visit, and provide bids.
Henry Mechanical's team, installing the furnace for upstairs.

Downstairs' Lennox furnace.
 
 
 
 
 
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Last Updated Feb 2014.