Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Red hot air conditioning troubles

Homeowners often find themselves in desperate situations, at the mercy of contractors and sales people who don't return your calls for help or who baffle you with fact & fiction, leading you to spend outrageous amounts of money in the name of comfort. 

Toronto is experiencing an early summer heatwave with temperatures around 40C with the humidex. While we rarely use our air conditioner, this is the time that we would. We called it into action for some cool relief but instead were assauted by hot air. It was 34C inside, without humidex. Foolishly I called the company who serviced and fixed our furnace last winter (which had broken a few weeks after the warranty expired): Air Quality One Hour. I'm not sure where the name comes from, because they gave us a 4 hour window for their visit and then spent only a small fraction of an hour at the house, telling us that the compressor was shot and would cost $1,300 to fix, but that since the unit is 14 years old, we may want to replace it instead. Then they presented us with a bill for $130, due on the spot. I completed an online request for a sales appointment with the same company as they said that they'd deduct the $130 from the purchase. But I also called a few other companies for comparison.

A nice salesman came to the house at 7 p.m. the same night, and took over our dining room table for 3 hours, where he drew a model of our house, measured all the windows and doors, calculated the square footage, and told us that both our AC and furnace were the wrong size for our house. Interesting. He pointed out many problems with our current system and quoted us $5,000 for a new AC unit. However, they were having a promotion for half price AC if we also replaced our furnace, and since the two work together, it is more efficient to get them at the same time. After more chat and calculations, full reading of all the terms & conditions, along with the warranty information, he unveiled the final price to be $10,540 but with rebates and deducting the money we had "invested" in repairs in the past year, we would only have to pay $8,950. Wow. What a deal. Also, this deal was contingent on us saying YES to do it the next day. They were offering us this special rate because we'd be able to fill an opening in the installation schedule for the next day. As desperate as I was for some cool air in the house, something felt wrong. I called a few friends and found that they paid around $6,000 for both AC and furnace for a larger house and that was BEFORE the rebate. So.... we emailed the guy to say thanks but no thanks. Time for some more quotes. After all, our current furnace is only 7 years old, less than half the normal life of a furnace. Should we really throw the baby out with the bath water? 

The next day I found two other techs who could come to do quotes, however one asked about some sort of booster thing on the phone and I had no idea what he was talking about. But when I returned from work, he was already there and tried installing this device to see if it would work. We flicked some switches and hoped for the best and then... magic. The AC fired up and cool air was blowing around the house again. This mystery repair man asked if the other tech had charged for their visit and I said yes. He shook his head in disgust and asked how much. He looked at our sad old AC and said: "This unit is in good condition. It should run a few more years at least." I like this guy! He charged us $80 and guaranteed the work for a year. So, just when I was losing faith in all technicians, along comes Dan from Revolution Air. He saved us $9,000!