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Old 01-31-2014, 12:28 PM   #1
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Central AC/Furnace Repair Question


We had an HVAC contractor come to our house this morning who disconnected and reconnected the central AC/furnace unit. He gave me a call (I'm at work) saying that he can't turn the furnace back because he found some issue with the heat exchanger. His words were that there's "2 bad cells or cracks". I don't really know what that means. He also said that this will cause CO2 leaks, so he can't legally turn on the furnace. I did a bit of searching on these forums as well as other places it seems that furnace will develop cracks in the heat exchage unit and that can lead to CO2 gases getting into the house air. What I don't understand is what the "2 bad cells" means. What are these cells? The contractor said there's 6 total cells in the furnace. Is this the same as the heat exchanger? The other 4 cells are in worn condition said the contractor.

He said the parts for the fix is under warranty, so I don't have to pay for that. But he wants to charge $95/hr with 5-6 hours of labor to fix the issue. My furnace has been working properly until this morning when they disconnected it. It's original to the house which was built in 2000. I'm just trying to figure out the exact issue with the furnace before I pay him to do the work. Is this something he's just making up to get more money out me? Or is there anything I can inspect to know what the problem is? I have a home protection plan with my energy company, so they are sending a guy out on Monday to take a look at it. I want to get someone else to inspect to reaffirm the HVAC contactors claim. In the mean time, what can I do to diagnose the issue? Any help/information per this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you and take care.

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Old 01-31-2014, 01:15 PM   #2
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Central AC/Furnace Repair Question


I'm not at all surprised a unit that old have some issues.
And yes if it's cracked it will dump CO2 into the ducts.

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Old 01-31-2014, 01:32 PM   #3
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Central AC/Furnace Repair Question


Post your make and model info. One the HVAC pros will be by later.

PS. It's CO (carbon monoxide) not CO2. CO is the silent killer, no color or smell.
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Old 01-31-2014, 04:51 PM   #4
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Central AC/Furnace Repair Question


Heat exchangers are made up of individual "cells". Depending on how badly cracked they are he should shut down the unit and red tag it for safety and liability reasons. Some brands are more prone to that than others so post the make and model #. Only way to know for sure is if you are home and he shows you the cracks. Sometimes other techs don't know where to look and you may get a faulty 2nd opinion. Google cracked heat exchanger>Images for lots of pics.
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Old 01-31-2014, 05:05 PM   #5
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why were they disconnecting and reconnecting the furnace?
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Old 01-31-2014, 07:40 PM   #6
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Thanks for that information on the cells. I was at work when the contractor came in so I haven't seen the cells myself. I just got home so I went down to see the furnace. I noted the model number Carrier CK5BXA048021AAAA. Is there any access panel I can get to to inspect the cells myself? There is a panel I can take off to access the electrical ignition. Like I said, a technician is supposed to come on Monday to give me a 2nd opinion so I will be home that time and check out the furnace with him. But is there anything I can do in the meantime? I'm in southeast Michigan and having the furnace off can be just as deadly as CO going through my house.

My thinking is that up until this morning, this furnace has been working for almost 14 years. I am not dead so obviously there wasn't a deadly amount of CO escaping from the furnace as of this morning. If there was, I would've already died. Given the winter weather here, I wanted to turn on the furnace myself (assuming the responsibility of course) so I could have heat until the technician comes on Monday. I was thinking of buying a few CO detectors and place them near my vents and furnace. I am trying to avoid this measure as I have space heaters running throughout the house to try to provide some heat.

The contractor telling me that my furnace is unsafe may be right but he's also just trying to CYA to avoid legal issues. And it's not uncommon for contractors to sell something by using scare tactics. Just a thought.

Anyway, any information you provide on how to inspect the cells or anything else I could check would greatly appreciated.

Thank you and take care.
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Old 01-31-2014, 07:45 PM   #7
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why were they disconnecting and reconnecting the furnace?
Long story...but basically we had a hot water heater leak in the basement back in Nov. This caused mold issues which had been cleaned. They had to rip out all the carpet in the basement and some drywall. When the reconstruction contractor came in, he asked if the bottom of the furnace was cleaned or not since it was right next to the water heater that leaked. He said the water/mold can cause rust or other issues with furnace if not inspected. So fast forward to today, the mold people as well as an HVAC contractor came to clean the bottom side of the furnace so they had to disconnect and move the furnace out of the way. When the HVAC guy went back to reconnect the furnace, he gave me a call to let me know that 2 of the cells were cracked. So he said he couldn't legally turn on the furnace. So I asked him to at least connect the furnace back up. The furnace is now connected back up but it's off.
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Old 01-31-2014, 09:12 PM   #8
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Hate to say it but some brand C units are prone to cracks by the limit control and other spots like the dimples. If it was running too hot from poor airflow or the burner overfiring then that could have contributed to its demise. Unlikely you or anyone will see it easily as he could see EVERYTHING from the top down as the furnace was disconnected and moved out of the way. At that age I would spend my $$ on a new furnace as you have a 14 yr old circuit board, fan motor, exhaust fan and other parts and they may fail soon from use and age. You may have to get the same tech and have him cut a hole in the plenum and if the AC coil is not right on top of the furnace then you can look down and see the cracks with a mirror or video camera on a inspection snake. I highly doubt he is dishonest because if you authorise the repair and he pulls the cells out and there are no cracks and you are standing there he is in major trouble. He would have to be extremely stupid to do that and few techs are. Now if he was pushing a new furnace at you w/o offering to repair it I would be suspicious. Not safe to fire it up now and it has been documented on his service report. The home warranty co may give you some credit towards the purchase of a new furnace if he can see the cracks.
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Old 01-31-2014, 09:28 PM   #9
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Hate to say it but some brand C units are prone to cracks by the limit control and other spots like the dimples. If it was running too hot from poor airflow or the burner overfiring then that could have contributed to its demise. Unlikely you or anyone will see it easily as he could see EVERYTHING from the top down as the furnace was disconnected and moved out of the way. At that age I would spend my $$ on a new furnace as you have a 14 yr old circuit board, fan motor, exhaust fan and other parts and they may fail soon from use and age. You may have to get the same tech and have him cut a hole in the plenum and if the AC coil is not right on top of the furnace then you can look down and see the cracks with a mirror or video camera on a inspection snake. I highly doubt he is dishonest because if you authorise the repair and he pulls the cells out and there are no cracks and you are standing there he is in major trouble. He would have to be extremely stupid to do that and few techs are. Now if he was pushing a new furnace at you w/o offering to repair it I would be suspicious. Not safe to fire it up now and it has been documented on his service report. The home warranty co may give you some credit towards the purchase of a new furnace if he can see the cracks.

Thanks for your input yuri; I appreciate it. I'm thinking since the heat exchanger/cell is still covered under warranty maybe I should go with repair. As for the other 14 yr old parts you mentioned, I have a home protection plan through my energy company which covers the following items on a furnace. This list seems to include everything on a furnace except the exchanger/cells. So if I get the heat exchanger replaced under warranty now, the other parts would be covered under my energy company protection plan if they go bad. Any thoughts? Thanks again.


Parts covered for furance:
http://www.hppservices.com/pdfs/istHppContractBook.pdf

- Appliance regulator
Belts & pulleys
Blower motor, bearings,
wheel
Burner
Circuit boards
Circulator/motor
Collector Box
Condensate line (access
permitting)
Condensate pump
Controls
DC drive blower/draft
motors, circuit boards
and valves
Diaphragm expansion
tank
Fan control
Fan relay
Flame rollout switch
Flame spreader
Fuel line valve
Fuse
Gas controls
Gas valve
Ignition module
Induced fan motors
Limit control
Low water cutoff
Main burner heat
element
Nozzle (Oil)
Oil pump
Pilot
Pilot safety and assembly
Pressure gauge
Pressure switch
Pressuretrol
Pressure relief valve &
temperature control
Pump bearings, control,
coupler, shaft
Reducing valves
(including filltrol valves)
Relays
Relay relief valve
Relief valves
Sight glass
Squirrel cage/blower
assembly
Safety Switches 8 9
Thermocouple glow
rod, flame sensor
Thermostat (standard)** Transformer
Vent connector Zone valves
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Old 01-31-2014, 10:32 PM   #10
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that's true and a not bad idea as long as that plan is not too expensive. you should be able to get 20 yrs use out of it. if you had to pay $300-$700 per repair then it gets expensive in a hurry. It does take 5-6 hrs to replace those cells as they are a huge pain in the butt to line up and time consuming. 4 hrs minimum and up to 6 is not unusual with traveling time factored in.

There is another scenario you may not like. I have not done those Carriers for a few yrs but one of my comrades did lots of them and told me Carrier will only replace the cracked cells not the worn ones. so you end up with 2 new cells and 4 old ones which can fail in the future and you are back to square one with another 5-6 hr bill to replace them. In the old days the whole heat exchanger came as one piece with all the cells welded together as one unit. I would find out if they are giving you all new cells but I doubt it.
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Old 01-31-2014, 11:53 PM   #11
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that's true and a not bad idea as long as that plan is not too expensive. you should be able to get 20 yrs use out of it. if you had to pay $300-$700 per repair then it gets expensive in a hurry. It does take 5-6 hrs to replace those cells as they are a huge pain in the butt to line up and time consuming. 4 hrs minimum and up to 6 is not unusual with traveling time factored in.

There is another scenario you may not like. I have not done those Carriers for a few yrs but one of my comrades did lots of them and told me Carrier will only replace the cracked cells not the worn ones. so you end up with 2 new cells and 4 old ones which can fail in the future and you are back to square one with another 5-6 hr bill to replace them. In the old days the whole heat exchanger came as one piece with all the cells welded together as one unit. I would find out if they are giving you all new cells but I doubt it.
That sucks, ive never been a carrier fan and that just makes me even less of one.
I had a go around years ago with trane not wanting to warranty heat exchangers on 80 percent furnaces unless they had a gaping whole on them.
The service manager at the shop I worked told them he would send out a flyer to every house in one sub division they had installed several hundred 80 percent furnaces in offering a free heat exchanger inspection and turn me loose on them.
Trane changed their attitude really quick! Hahaha
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Old 02-01-2014, 06:32 AM   #12
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Might want to see if its one covered under the class action suit against carrier.
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Old 02-01-2014, 07:21 AM   #13
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the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I would get ahold of the district manager and "negotiate" with him. they sometimes will make exceptions and may give you all new cells if they want good public relations if you get my drift.
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Old 02-01-2014, 06:24 PM   #14
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the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I would get ahold of the district manager and "negotiate" with him. they sometimes will make exceptions and may give you all new cells if they want good public relations if you get my drift.

The HVAC guy that came said he's replace just the 2 cracked cells for the 4-6 hr labor. So like you said, I'd be in the situation of 2 new cells and 4 worn cells. Can you tell me more about contacting the district manager? You mean the district manager of that HVAC guy's company? I'm certainly one who can negotiate, so I can try that approach. Also, any ideas on the cost of a new furnace that's similar to the one I have now? Looking at home depot's site, there's a wide range of furnaces and I don't know which ones I should look for. Any ballpark on installation costs? Or any suggestions on a better/more efficient furnace? My local energy company has 200-300$ rebates for furnaces with efficiency of 95-97%. I don't even know the advertised efficiency of my current furnace so I don't have much to compare. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks again.

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Old 02-01-2014, 06:59 PM   #15
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Carrier district manager or regional manager. would have to contact Carrier for your area and complain or ask for that person. HDepot and all big box stores including Seers from my experience charge about 10% more for the same product as a contractor ( it is all sub contracted out to the same contractors anyway or the cheaper ones as they bid on that contract and the cheapest guy gets it). I would stay away and find a reputable contractor in your area by talking to your neighbors, co-workers etc as they won't lie. that extra 10% is the price people pay for "peace of mind" that they will stay in biz or some goofy reward points worth about 1-10 cents apiece. Post some pics of your furnace with the doors off so I can see exactly which one it is.

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