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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I would like opinions on how much would be fair to pay my HVAC repairman after 8 hours (assuming $80/hr) of diagnoses and $330 of replacement parts that did not fix the problem, and 3 visits over 3 weeks? The final diagnosis was that during my re-roof (which is when I told him was about the time my furnace stopped working), an improper vent cap/crown was installed on my intake/outtake mobilehome roof jack assembly.

Please read and let me know if I am expecting too much of an HVAC repair professional (who is non-licensed and maybe just lacks experience. I think my local mobilehome HVAC guy would have caught this on first visit…but maybe you have a different opinion?

History:
My mobile home furnace would not stay lit due to a “weak flame”. (Flame went out after 6-8 seconds) right as fan would kick on. After replacing the ignitor myself, and then calling back my roofer (who replaced all venting on my roof which is very typical of a re-roof) to ensure they did not do anything to block the vent (we could feel the clear air-flow and very little debris could be seen), I called a professional HVAC repairman “Ed” who was referred by the appliance parts store ($85 for initial visit). I offered to email Ed a picture/model # etc beforehand since I knew my unit was one he would likely not be familiar with.

When he showed up he was not at all familiar with any type of unit similar to mine (a Nordyne M1MC, and I learned he was not a licensed HVAC. He mostly was a “fix it” refrigerator, stove, washer/dryer repairman (unlicensed for those types too). Nevertheless he was a nice guy and sounded confident, determined to fix it, fair, and very sincere.

Day 1 / Diagnosis 1
-early on the flame did not look right, and he suspected the problem could be airflow related

-after lots of testing he thought most likely the issue was the control board needed replacing.

-he spent about 3 hours at my house but assured me that since he was learning on the job on this type of unit and it was good experience for him, he was not going to charge me for all his time. For example, he had no idea if my unit had a sensor or where it was located. (I actually did an internet search and found the troubleshooting guide for him)

-I agreed to $155 Total labor + part ($189) which was backordered. If the part did not fix the problem, he would eat the cost

Week 2: Day 2 / Diagnosis 2

-New control board did not fix problem.

-Ed spent another 1-1/2 hours at my house diagnosing

-Ed considered removing the vent from inside the house to perform testing to ensure no blockage. He was thinking there could be a blockage, but I told him when I went on roof with roofer, airflow seemed fairly strong & I didn’t see much debris; however, he said there would be an elbow that wasn’t visible from the roof.

-Nevertheless, he though the issue was likely a faulty regulator/control volve ($148) and that could cause the look of the irregular flame

Week 3, Day 3 / Diagnosis 3, and 4 hours!

-New control valve didn’t fix problem

-Ed is now almost certain something in vent is interfering with airflow. Removed the vent on the interior and was able to keep the furnace running!!!

-Vacuums out debris (just a little bit of roofing paper and 1 inch scrap of wood), but doesn’t fix

-Finally notices that I have an INTAKE & OUTAKE on my furnace venting but the vent cap/crown on the roof was not a 2 level like the one here: http://www.mobilehomerepair.com/media/img/nordyne/903656.jpg and replaced with a single cap, so intake/outtake were mixed. He said that he would never have expected that the cap had been modified.


Ed wants me to just cover the costs of the parts for about $330, and he’ll eat the labor and chalk this up to a learning experience, except he doesn’t consider it a learning experience because it was not what he expected – that the unit had been modified.

My opinion is that:
1) He knew my house had been re-roofed
2) He could have done the same testing on day 1 that he did on day 4 before ordering any parts and only been out for 1 visit.
3) Look at any new roof, and you’ll almost always see new vent pipes and caps. You don’t want to be installing a new 50 year roof and have old piping.
4) Had he asked if vent cap had been changed, I would have said yes. In this case, the roof jack (i.e. piping) was not changed, just the crown (If I knew such thing as intake/outtake venting in one vent, I would have offered the info that there was a new vent. No idea it could make a difference)
5) Almost every one of the 800 homes in my neighborhood I now notice (because Ed told me to look around) have vent caps/crowns similar to what I should have---meaning they use a similar type of furnace intake/outake . A quick peek outside would have given this away had he the hunch early on about a potential blockage/venting issue. He’s supposed to be the professional/expert.
6) He never checked venting on the roof until Day 3. A ladder was leaning against the roof to go up had he asked (he didn’t have one)
7) I had to be home on 3 occassions for his 8 hours of labor & diagnosis, coordinate ordering parts over internet to get them quicker than his supplier could (Plus, I ordered parts over the internet so we could have them sooner than his supplier)
8) I do feel bad that this turned out to be the problem. He’s a nice guy and we are both losing money on this one. I can have the roofer pay for some of the labor (or sue him), but I doubt anyone will say he owes money for mis-diagnosis and purchasing of wrong parts (please let me know if you disagree), and that 8 hours is very excessive

Please provide me your professional opinion. I want to be fair. Was my guy incompetent? How much should he be paid by me in labor vs. parts? How much do you think my roofer is reasonably responsible for? He’s also a very nice guy and this is a first for him with this problem/type of heater too.

Thanks so much!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Doc Holiday, I appreciate the response and the time you invested in reading my marathon. Sorry if it came across as if I am slandering him, that was definitely my intent. I was trying to present the facts and the "my opinion" is my perspective as someone with 20/20 hindsight with knowledge of the resolution versus what is a customary diagnosis process (and as someone who often has too high expectations :) which is why I asked if I am expecting too much of him (or anyone for that matter) in this situation). This has been a very frustrating process for Ed and me, and now I still have to deal with getting my roofer to order the correct part and fix the furnace problem, and hopefully reimburse me & Ed for at least some of the HVAC expenses.
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In reply to your comment, I went ahead and gave Ed the business because I like the guy (and still do), had already waited for him to show up on day 1, felt a sense of obligation to pay him for showing up as agreed, said he could fix it (and yes, he did eventually figure it out), and did come recommended. I had no idea he was unlicensed before he showed up (response to HVAC Benny). In fact, his initial visit fee was higher than some of the "pros" in my area.


For clarification, I never told Ed the furnace was venting properly, and he knew that I was not an expert. I only told him it seemed like strong air flow was coming out of the vent and that would then seem to rule out it from being blocked, and I couldn’t see any blockage/obstruction with a flashlight. I also never said anything about inflow & knew nothing about the furnace getting air this way. Had he asked me about the inflow, I would have said, “I have no idea but if you are telling me you can test that in 20-30 minutes to rule it out versus my first spending $300 on parts/labor for a new control board in which I have to wait 7 days for the install, please do the vent testing now!”

Anyway, given that I did not tell Ed it was venting/exhausting properly, do you think he still followed a reasonable process for diagnosis and did not prematurely order/install the parts? Also, if your answer is “yes” how much do you think the responsibility for the diagnosis costs should fall on the roofer given my contract with him was to replace all the vents with equivalent. My roofer is a good guy too, and will likely want to set things right. It’s an unfortunate situation.


Thank You,
Marcum
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
HAVAC BENNY:
Given the facts about my re-roof, what would the diagnosis procedure have been for a real pro like you have been? How long do you think you would have spent before hopping on a ladder to look at the venting, and then identified it had the wrong crown?

BTW, Ed would not say that I "hamperred" him in finding the way to correct the problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Beenthere, thanks for your comments. Much appreciated. In the industry, if I hired a licensed HVAC repairman, can he keep buying parts he says will should fix the problem and leave me paying for labor+parts until he finds the right diagnosis/fix?

Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks Marty...

Marty, appreciate this insight. Useful information. Ed was trying to be very fair but nothing we had was in writing. His standard practice is to charge his cost+$20 on parts...the $20 is like insurance to him. On some jobs, he'll eat more than the $20 and others he won't. So, I agreed to cost+$20 (even if I ordered them).In the case of the control board, I ordered it on the internet since it was significantly lower in cost than his supplier and would arrive sooner. But he said he'd eat it if it didn't fix the problem, though he was confident it would. Likewise, he was willing to eat the cost on the control valve if it did not fix the problem (and glad to hear that is a standard practice) At this point, I am only out of pocket for the control board but I do want to settle up appropriately with him for his work. If I pay him what he is asking for (about total cost of $350), before purchase and install of the correct part, that is more than 4 hours labor for diagnosis of this problem. His intent I think is to charge me what a licensed professional would have charged, but he doesn't think this would have been a 1-2 hour job because no one (or very few HVAC guys) would have expected the crown to have been modified. (again, I think if you a knew a re-roof were done, you'd check) After reading a post by another person, it sounds like these crowns sometimes rust, break, and need replacing. So, IF his intent is to charge me what a professional would charge in this case, what would be fair?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
LOL Technow :) Naw, maybe I explained it wrong: he only keeps the $20 markup for the part we use (if he has to eat the price of the part, I pay nothing for it) If we were to use the part, I would owed part+$20.

My intention is not too screw him but what does "screw" mean in this case? If I pay 100%, then as a consumer I think I have been screwed. If I pay him 100% of parts & labor, then I am screwed. Neither of us are trying to screw the other. If I was, I never would have been on this message board trying to figure out what to pay him,and investing so much of my time and asking you to invest yours - which I know is very valuable too.

The HVAC tech wants me to send him what I think represents the value of his service and makes me happy as a customer....like I have said, he's a nice guy and I am too :). Some people are telling me I am too nice, having now lived in a house for three weeks without heat due to this "wild goose chase", that this guy mis-represented himself, and that I should even be going after reimbursement for the part I purchased. (obviously not the path I am taking)

True, he was not licensed and now I know that I should have sent him on his way, but I had waited around for him with my only open time window, had already been without heat, and had a nice guy standing there telling me that he is far more technical than most HVAC pros (he used 8 out of 10 as the ratio) and often is figuring out things licensed HVAC guys can't, and was going to be fair about the billed hours given his lack of experience with this unit.

That is why I kept coming back to asking what would be a "fair" number of hours. I spoke with Ed earlier today, and he seems to think 1 of 10 licensed techs would catch this problem in the first hour and the other 9 techs could take 8 hours or more.


Ironically, I just spoke with an HVAC tech from the company I was going to use (but wasn't available for a service call the day I first used Ed) to discuss performing a service after the roofer puts on my new crown. I asked him, "if I told you the following: mobilehome, a recent re-reroof, and a furnace that would not stay lit for 6-8 seconds," does that give you any ideas what may be wrong? His immediate answer without hesitation: "6-8 seconds: I can almost guarantee those roofers don't know mobile homes and put on a cap on that suffocated the unit. Sometimes the homeowner does not tell us about a re-roof, and we ask if they had a re-roof. Usually no more than a 15 minute service call." On another note, he said I am fortunate - often the roofers will cut down the pipe almost level with the roof, so the entire roof jack has to be replaced.

Thanks again everyone for your valuable input. I have the information that I need to make a decision.
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
LOL...yes, lesson learned and education is a wonderful thing indeed. And this fool feels only more foolish for had he only posted a better initial question about a month ago to this forum, he probably would have had someone pointing him to check the cap...no need to leave his desk and quick web search would pop up the correct cap to compare

I'll continue to be cold another week or so waiting for the fix by the roofer to remind me of my lessons :(

The long winded guy who kept asking the same question in different ways is putting this to bed.

Thanks again for sharing the wisdom, and now please put your energy in helping others out there that need it. It's definitely really nice and generous to have you guys as a resource.

Cheers,
Marcum
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Tator, I notice that I did not answer your question, and since you asked it deserves as response. I have worked in high tech Account Management, Support, Sales, Project Management, and currently Partner relationship development, and I often end up at a new company with new technologies I am not familiar serving industries that are new to me (banking, video game development, manufacturing). My average employment has been about 3 years, so I am almost always facing that steep first year learning curve having to prove myself. I do make mistakes but they aren't the type that would get someone very p-off at work. I can very candidly say in 20 years in business I have only had one manager bring to my attention a customer complaint in which they were not happy with my service. In this case, I had been at the company only 2 months, and the customer was used to having a much more senior support person assigned to them who could almost always answer their question on the first phone call. My degree was in econ, not actuarial sciences and geology which were more applicable to the business, so my feelings weren't hurt :) And, 3 months later I actually transitioned back on to this customer, had the chance to prove myself, and had very good service relationship for the next 2-1/2 years.

I did get some great experience after the .com bust spending time working for a large building products manufacturer (not HVAC) for commercial and large multifamily residential developments in which I was responsible for sales, account management, and project management that included full responsibility for delivering on the basis of our bids and formal submittals. It was quite an experience going from spending a career working with large corp enterprises and no ability to read blue prints to visiting architects and builders, spending time with all the trades in jobsite meetings, and dealing with all the change orders & jobsite issues that crop up.

I got to witness all kinds of battles too, such as the framer upset :furious: with the plumber who used a chainsaw and overcut into a floor joist to fit his pipes.:eek:

Where my boss has really gotten on me the most :furious: and I have felt those major screw up moments on the job is those DIY "Honey Doo" projects where I think it will take a few hours to change the sink, and faucet and then 6 hours later it's...honey I thought you were going to be done, how am I going to make dinner?

Ever stained a double hung wood window with multiple coats of finish and sanding in between...never again for me..I prefer white vinyl please or pre-finished wood now. IKEA furniture? It is easy to assemble but takes so l o o n g to put those darn drawers together. Next time, I will pay to hire someone to put it together or buy real pre-assembled furniture.:thumbsup:
 
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