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SusanB. 10-14-2008 02:00 AM

Cracked Heat Exchanger
 
I hope someone can help me! I recently called our Heating & A/C company out because our 1994 Bryant Plus 80 High Efficiency furnace wasn't working. To start off, I'll tell you what the serviceman wrote on the w/o before he left: "Came for no heat. Found the burners dirty. Cleaned burners with Co2 and checked the system's operation. System went off on overload. Found heat exchanger cracked." Now, before he wrote all that, he did say that he wanted to show me the crack. All he'd done up to that point was pull off the front of the furnace--he hadn't taken anything apart except when he took the burners outside to blast them with the Co2. So now, he has me look through some hole with a flashlight. I did see the very, very thin--hairline--crack that he was referring to right next to some round, dimpled place, so I'm sure the crack thing is valid, though he hadn't actually taken anything apart. So, at that point, he didn't continue the inspection which he said he'd finish at another time. He said that the heat exchanger would need replacing and that it was probably covered under the warranty, but since it was already after hours, he'd have his manager call me the next day.

The next day, the manager did call to tell me that the heat exchanger was, indeed, covered under the Bryant warranty but that I'd still need to pay $1,400 for the repair because I'd need a new "cell panel", as well. I said, "What's a cell panel?" I think he said something about it being connected to the heat exchanger or fastened to it and that it would need to be replaced, too, though it wasn't covered. At that point, I was confused, and I knew it wouldn't make any sense to argue with him if he was insisting I'd need that part. I decided then to find out more information on the internet on my own because the whole thing sounded fishy, not just the price of the part (when I'm supposed to get free labor and a small discount because I'm under contract with them) but that I needed a new "cell panel" at all!

For the past week, I've been searching and searching the internet for information about "cell panels" and whether or not they really need to be replaced when the heat exchanger is replaced. First of all, there is practically nothing about "cell panels"! All I found was a diagram of a "heat exchanger cell panel" and how to install it. From reading these directions, I can see that the heat exchanger is definitely a separate entity.
However, to make matters more difficult now, I went to the Bryant website and found that there is a class action suit against their "secondary heat exchangers". This confused me further because now I've learned that there is a primary and a secondary heat exchanger, and I'm not sure which one on my furnace has the crack, though I think it's actually the primary from looking at some parts photos on a parts website! Also, I saw where someone said that if one goes, you should replace the other while you're at it? So now I've still got the original problem about this "cell panel" thing and what that is and whether or not I really need to have that replaced and the additional problem of wondering whether or not my problem is with the primary or secondary heat exchanger (remember, I mentioned the circular dimples in the metal where the "crack" is) and should I get both of those replaced while I'm at it.

So, I'm sure you're thoroughly confused by now, but to make a long story short, firstly, what is a cell panel and should it need to be replaced, too, especially for $1,400? And secondly, do you think the crack is with the primary or secondary heat exchanger and should both be replaced while they're at it?

One more thing. As far as the cracked heat exchanger goes, the last time the heater was working, the flames looked all blue and normal, except when they came on, they sort of made a semi-loudish "POOF!" noise that would startle me. I didn't really think that was normal, but, quite frankly (I must be losing my memory!), I'm not sure if it always did that or not, but I don't think so. Thank you so much for your help.

8 Ball 10-14-2008 06:00 AM

It does get confusing. If you have an 80% furnace, I dont believe you have a secondary heat exchanger. Only 90% furnaces have them. Bryant/Carrier furnaces that use the short inshot burners, are a little noisy at start up.

I believe a cell panel is part of where the heat exchanger attaches, top and bottom, to the furnace. The top is a collector tied to the vent, I believe the bottom, where the cells are screwed in is the cell panel. If its rusted or deteriorated, it wont support the cell properly.

Once the furnace is apart, they may find more defective cells, its not that uncommon the cells are simply exposed and are easier to see.

I wouldnt worry about the tech not finishing his inspection. First of all he should have shut the furnace off, and told you not to use it, second he knows he is going to disassemble the furnace to repair it and everything will be cleaned once its apart. Have them clean the evaporator...A/C coil...while the unit is being repaired or replaced.

$1400.00 goes a ways toward a new furnace.

beenthere 10-14-2008 07:55 AM

No other part of your furnace is under warranty anymore.
I would tell them to give me a price on replacing the furnace, and tell them that I want to compare it to other contractors prices.
You will get their best price right away.

Also, you should call other contractors and get other prices.

PS: An 80% doesn't have a secondary heat exchanger.

Marvin Gardens 10-14-2008 11:58 AM

First off a cracked heat exchanger needs to be fixed. It can leak CO into the air and CO is a killer. Granted the crack is small and very little CO will leak out but it is an issue.

Second, there are those in my trade that do take advantage of people who know nothing about HVAC systems. I like to think there is a special place inside the heat exchanger for those people after they die. I am not saying that he is trying to rip you off and he may be an honest an upstanding guy who really is looking out for you.

What to do? Well I would get a second opinion. And maybe even a third.

If the bids are lower then I would go back to the first guy and tell him you have some lower bids. If he drops his price then ask him why he didn't offer that in the first place? Then tell him you won't be doing any business with him and will be telling your friends all about your situation.

As someone already mentioned maybe a new furnace is a possibility.

With energy prices climbing I would look at getting a high efficiency furnace. (Yours is not a high efficiency by the way). These are expensive but will save you in the long run. They can shave about 15% off your heating bill. Depending on what that is now you could be saving $20 a month. In 5 years when gas is a lot higher your savings could be $30-$40 a month. So some money spent now will save you money down the road.

Another option is putting in another 80% furnace. It would cost about the same as the repair on this one and you would have a new furnace with a new warranty.

Lots of options here. The bad part is that you are cold and have to make some decisions quickly. If you can dress warm and take the time to check out all the options. Hasty decisions always cost more money down the road.

hvaclover 10-14-2008 12:20 PM

90% furnaces are becoming a rare breed due to increasing gas rate hikes.

I would use the money towards a new 90% furnace. The class action suit covers Bryant 90%ers and not 80%ers.

You will spend money out of pocket ONE TIME for a 90% but the gas rates will KEEP raising. Which would you rather have then, an 80 or 90% furnace.?

hvac122 10-14-2008 01:12 PM

The cell panel is the panel in front of your heat exchanger and is usually rusted out and will fall apart when changing the heat exchanger.

I also would have shut the furnace off until repairs are made. Hopefully you are not using it.

What kind of service contract do you have? Does it pay for all of the labor for repairs? If this is true then I would get a second opinion on how much this will cost. If you just get a 10 or 15% discount on parts and or labot then the price looks OK to me.

As stated you have a 14 year old inefficient furnace and the average life is 15 years so I would think that the money is much better spent replacing with a new 92% or better furnace. Gas is going to go nothing but up.

SusanB. 10-14-2008 01:47 PM

Thank you so much to everyone who has helped me so far. I really appreciate it more than you know! The gas is turned off, and we have been using little ceramic heaters when the temp. drops and it's cool in the morning. However, it's going down, down this weekend so I guess I'm kind of in a hurry now after spending already 1 1/2 weeks thinking about this problem.

To HVAC 122, my contract covers ALL LABOR and 10% on parts, so it looks like I should be getting some other quotes if I go with the repair. If I go with a new furnace, which I agree is the most logical thing to do, I will have to borrow the money from my elderly parents who always want to help, but I don't like taking money from them. However, it may just be the best thing in this case, but I would still like to keep my costs down as much as possible, of course. So I would ask a couple of new questions to those of you who are so very helpful out there, what is the best value for the money for a new furnace? Do you have any brands and models you recommend? Please let me know the best value for another 80% and the best value for a high efficiency and about what I should be paying for both (remember, I have free labor and 10% off parts). Thanks again so much!

beenthere 10-14-2008 01:55 PM

You might want to remind your current contractor about that.

hvac122 10-14-2008 02:21 PM

As Beenthere said I would remind your contractor about the free labor. It could be that they have forgot that and quoted you regular parts. Does the free labor also include a new furnace? I wouldn't think so but have been wrong many times before.

As far as furnace replacements go the contractor you choose is much more improtant than brand. Find one that will do a manual J load calculation to size the new unit and that does high quality work. Ask friends and family for recommendations.

Pricing is hard to tell from the internet as they vary so much around the country. But remember that the price should not be the only deciding factor.There are lowballers out there but you will most likely not get the installation you are looking for.:(

Marvin Gardens 10-14-2008 02:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by hvac122 (Post 172180)
As Beenthere said I would remind your contractor about the free labor. It could be that they have forgot that and quoted you regular parts. Does the free labor also include a new furnace? I wouldn't think so but have been wrong many times before.

As far as furnace replacements go the contractor you choose is much more improtant than brand. Find one that will do a manual J load calculation to size the new unit and that does high quality work. Ask friends and family for recommendations.

Pricing is hard to tell from the internet as they vary so much around the country. But remember that the price should not be the only deciding factor.There are lowballers out there but you will most likely not get the installation you are looking for.:(

BINGO!!! We have a winner here.

This is correct. I put in Armstrong and my buddy puts in Trane. We both do a good job and all of our customers are happy.

This is the case. You need a new furnace and brand doesn't really matter (watch the heat I get for that statement. pun inteneded). The one who puts it in is the key to a long life for your furnace and a warm house. Good service and a quality install is the key to this issue.

biggles 10-14-2008 03:03 PM

might want to contact an authorized Bryant factory service group,and get more info on those extras http://www.bryant.com/dealers/authorized.shtml

hvaclover 10-14-2008 04:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Marvin Gardens (Post 172185)
BINGO!!! We have a winner here.

This is correct. I put in Armstrong and my buddy puts in Trane. We both do a good job and all of our customers are happy.

This is the case. You need a new furnace and brand doesn't really matter (watch the heat I get for that statement. pun inteneded). The one who puts it in is the key to a long life for your furnace and a warm house. Good service and a quality install is the key to this issue.


Armstrong?



HACK HACK HACK HACK!!!!:jester::laughing:
Just kiddin'
I like :)em too. I put in over 150 SCU10Es one year. Nice unit but the local price is making it impossible to be competitive now.

Mostly pushing Nordyne.

beenthere 10-14-2008 04:57 PM

Around here, Nordyne's Gibson line has taken over the lowest priced unit position.


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