Friday, January 9, 2009

House Heating Update

Our house's heating just got way more modern. What we have here is an early-70's stick-built house near The Newport Market. It's well-insulated per the various men I've hired to take care of various structural and mechanical/electrical issues that needed cleaning up. But as I detailed in earlier posts, the upstairs heating for the living room, dining room, and kitchen was broken (read all about that here.) The wood stove insert in the downstairs fireplace does a mighty fine job heating the downstairs, and my fancy duct work does bring a lot of its heated air upstairs, but it labors mightily. On cold nights the living room, where we spend most of our time, can be a bit chilly.

"Why don't we get a small forced-air furnace to heat these rooms," asked Mrs Elliott. 

The more I looked at the idea, the more sense it made. The furnace could go into the garage, a wall of which backs up the the kitchen; the attic/crawlspace has plenty of room for ducting; the main electrical panel is just a few feet away; and directly above where the furnace could be sited there is a natural gas pipe, with a cap on the end. The only thing in the house presently using gas is the kitchen stove. Odd that gas was brought into the house in the first place, since all the original heat was electric (radiant ceilings). 

So I called up a local HVAC company, who quoted the install. For comparison shopping purposes, I called a second one. Their quote was nearly three times higher. I could not determine from the quotes what might account for this difference, although the higher priced guy suggested that the lower bid might not include some fancier hardware and less-good warranties. The lower-priced guy denied that his materials, workmanship, and warranties were any less good. 

So I got a third quote. Which was almost precisely between the first two quotes. And for almost exactly the same job. Nothing fancy, basic stuff. He did sorta kinda suggest that the lowest bidder's workmanship has been found to be substandard in the past, and that his company has been called out many times to take care of problems that the lowballer left behind. 

But I bet the lowballer has similar stories about the mid-priced guy.

Even so, this planted a seed of doubt about the quality of work from the lowest-priced guy. Yet the mid-priced guy wanted more than we wanted to pay. So I asked on the Bend Economy Bulletin Board whether anyone had an HVAC guy they could recommend. One poster suggested Moore Climate Control, operated by Lyndon Moore. 

Lyndon provided a quote, several pages of references and copies of his contractor licenses. His quote was between the lowball quote and the midrange quote. I liked the guy and what he had to say (by now I had become pretty familiar with what we wanted and the corners we didn't want to see cut), so we gave him the job.

He sent out two guy to do the job -- both smart, both well-spoken, both obviously quite accustomed to this kind of work, and both well-aware that they were lucky to be finding work amidst the almost complete cessation of new construction we've seen here. 

There's been some sawing and banging noises, the sound of things being dragged around in the attic, plenty of sheet metal, insulation wrapping, mastic-applying, electrical and gas activity, holes cut in the ceiling with plenty of drywall dust everywhere. 

But we have upstairs heat now. At the touch of a thermostat. Like Mrs Elliott and I have been accustomed to for both our entire respective lives. The system is nice and quiet (oversized boots used for the outlets, Mrs Elliott and I both dislike noisy, whistling vents).

Of course, our gas bill will go up dramatically, now that we have something serious connected to the gas line. And of course I still need to feed the insert downstairs with wood to heat the lower level where Mrs Elliott and I have our work spaces. But it'll be nice to get up in the morning to a preheated house, and I expect to have less wood schlepping to do. 

It's a modern miracle.

Oh - the other companies that bid on the job were (in no particular order): Quality Heating, Mountain View Heating, and Cascade Heating


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