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My furnaces don't pass the safety test....

  • Last Updated:
  • Apr 24th, 2020 12:54 am
[OP]
Jr. Member
Oct 26, 2015
156 posts
33 upvotes
Calgary, AB

My furnaces don't pass the safety test....

Hey guys,

I am located in AB and just closed on a house. This is a pretty big house with 2 furnaces that are both 23 yo.

I had a home inspection done prior to buying the house and nothing was detected. Since a home inspection is not enough to really check the state of a furnace, I had someone else coming to our place and doing a bunch of tests. They saw a couple things and had to replace 2 things that were pretty costly.

We also got our furnaces cleaned and the company did a safety test. Unfortunately, after running their cameras, they found cracks all over the heating exchangers. They told me that it would be impossible to say if these cracks could lead to fluids being released at some point but since it's a safety hazard, they told me that replacing the furnaces would make sense instead to repair them. Also, replacing the heating exchanger would cost $3.5K. So it obviously wouldn't make any sense.

I told our first guy about the findings and he wants to come back to do another check. He first questioned the validity of the other company but I told him that I had a bunch of photos that prove that the furnaces are damaged. He also did check if there were any leaks or any carbon monoxide in the house and he didn't find anything at all. But since he didn't see the cracks in the first place... That being said, we have our own carbon monoxide detector and couldn't find anything either.

Anyone had to face a similar issue? It's going to cost me a good $12K and it's not like I could get some money back from the sellers. I don't think they were aware of these cracks. And even if they were, good luck proving so! (From what I have been seeing, the last complete furnace check was back in 2019. Going to contact the company to see if they noticed anything)
44 replies
Newbie
Mar 18, 2012
52 posts
20 upvotes
Winnipeg, MB
Call your natural gas company, ours in mb will tell you for sure if they pass or fail.
Deal Guru
User avatar
Feb 11, 2007
14935 posts
15833 upvotes
Oakville
For your family's safety, wouldn't you want to replace 23 year old furnaces? Even if they are OK, they're not going to last much longer, so do you want to be caught without heat in in the middle of winter in a few years?
For sure get quotes from other companies.
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2009
18015 posts
4569 upvotes
Toronto
23 years is pretty good for furnace longevity. Just bite the bullet and have them replaced. Newer furnaces are generally more efficient too. Get a two-stage or multi-stage with variable speed fan, to maximize comfort and to minimize noise.
Deal Fanatic
Dec 5, 2009
5565 posts
3327 upvotes
Not sure what your question is. Sounds like you should replace the furnace but it might be worth getting a second opinion since some of the companies try and scam home owners into repairs they don’t need. If your inspector is willing to come back and look at it that an ok option but he probably isn’t an expert In this area so maybe get another hvac company to look at it.
Deal Expert
User avatar
Mar 18, 2005
20026 posts
2840 upvotes
Niagara Falls
engineered wrote: For your family's safety, wouldn't you want to replace 23 year old furnaces? Even if they are OK, they're not going to last much longer, so do you want to be caught without heat in in the middle of winter in a few years?
For sure get quotes from other companies.
To be fair, OP has two furnaces in the house, so OP could probably go a few days without one of them if needed.

At 23 years old, you probably should have expected to be replacing those furnaces pretty early on in the ownership of your house anyways.

Just get a few quotes and go from there.
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2009
18015 posts
4569 upvotes
Toronto
This is an example of flame rollout from a cracked heat exchanger.



My ~15 year old furnace had this problem but it was more severe. Luckily my furnace would shut itself down immediately. The tech had temporarily bypassed the shutdown switch to diagnose the problem and to show it to me. With the front panel removed I could see the flames coming right out of the furnace. He tagged my furnace and shut my furnace down permanently, awaiting either a repair (which he did not recommend due to cost) or a replacement (recommended).

If you’re really concerned you’re getting scammed, then get a second opinion but it is not unexpected with your 23 year-old furnaces. Yours got 50% more life span than mine did.
Deal Guru
User avatar
Feb 11, 2007
14935 posts
15833 upvotes
Oakville
Evil Baby wrote: To be fair, OP has two furnaces in the house, so OP could probably go a few days without one of them if needed.

At 23 years old, you probably should have expected to be replacing those furnaces pretty early on in the ownership of your house anyways.

Just get a few quotes and go from there.
Half the chance of going cold, but twice the chance of CO poisoning. See EugW's post.
Deal Addict
Nov 17, 2012
2858 posts
1862 upvotes
Toronto
If the house is big enough for 2 furnaces, $12K should be a drop in the bucket. The new furnaces should last another 20+ years so just go with new ones and move on. I'd skip anything fancy. I replaced a 25 year old furnace when we bought our place 20 years ago with a simple mid-efficiency Lennox. Atmospheric venting. Nearly 20 years later it's running smooth as silk. Never had a problem.

But if you have to go high efficiency due to lack of chimney etc. then just keep it simple.
Deal Expert
User avatar
Mar 18, 2005
20026 posts
2840 upvotes
Niagara Falls
engineered wrote: Half the chance of going cold, but twice the chance of CO poisoning. See EugW's post.
I'm not saying it should be ignored, I was saying with 2 furnaces there is very little chance they'd be stuck without heat in the middle of the night like your post suggested. Beyond that, not all heat exchange cracks release carbon monoxide, OP already had the house tested for CO and it was fine plus OP has a CO detector, I assume near the furnace to mitigate the potential issue already.
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2009
18015 posts
4569 upvotes
Toronto
torontotim wrote: If the house is big enough for 2 furnaces, $12K should be a drop in the bucket. The new furnaces should last another 20+ years so just go with new ones and move on. I'd skip anything fancy. I replaced a 25 year old furnace when we bought our place 20 years ago with a simple mid-efficiency Lennox. Atmospheric venting. Nearly 20 years later it's running smooth as silk. Never had a problem.

But if you have to go high efficiency due to lack of chimney etc. then just keep it simple.
$12000 for two furnaces is pretty expensive unless it’s a ginormous house or something.

And no, in this environment $12000 is not necessarily a drop in the bucket.
Deal Addict
Nov 17, 2012
2858 posts
1862 upvotes
Toronto
EugW wrote: $12000 for two furnaces is pretty expensive unless it’s a ginormous house or something.

And no, in this environment $12000 is not necessarily a drop in the bucket.
My point was any house that needs 2 furnaces is likely a 'ginormous' house, probably cost $1.5M or so and yeah, $12K would be a drop in the bucket of the cost of purchasing the house. Anybody buying a house with 20+ year old furnaces should expect to replace them.

Chances are the A/C unit(s) are also 10-20 years old, along with the water heater. So if it was me, I'd be looking at it all as a package.
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2009
18015 posts
4569 upvotes
Toronto
torontotim wrote: My point was any house that needs 2 furnaces is likely a 'ginormous' house, probably cost $1.5M or so and yeah, $12K would be a drop in the bucket of the cost of purchasing the house.
Average house price in Calgary is only around $450000. Even twice that for say a 5000 square foot home would be well under a million.

And I love the flippant declaration that $12000 is a drop in the bucket. Perhaps the OP should have known better but it sounds like this may be an unexpected expense for the OP, in the middle of a pandemic when many people have reduced incomes.

PS. My 3800 square foot home has two furnaces.
Deal Addict
Jun 16, 2009
2254 posts
772 upvotes
Woodbridge
@Badiha what is the furnace offered ( make and model) for $ 6000? What is an average price of a furnace if you take three different quotes ? I do not expect prices to be at par with GTA, but 6K appears to be quite steep anyway.
As many other have mentioned, 23 yo furnace is better to be replaced. I am not sure what doubt you have in mind after you were shown the crack images. ONLY IF your budget does not allow, than go for HEX replacement, otherwise its a money waste on 23 yo furnace.
In GTA, you can get a very descent furnace for around 3500 ( which is the quote of your HEX replacement).
HVAC Professional. Committed to customer, not brand.
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[OP]
Jr. Member
Oct 26, 2015
156 posts
33 upvotes
Calgary, AB
Hey guys,

I had someone else coming to our place and he confirmed the cracks. I am getting quotes today to have them both replaced asap. Certainly not taking the risk.

Since it was the company that originally serviced the furnace last year, I asked them if they noticed anything when they did and they didn't. They may not have checked everything either at the time... hard to say. Or all the cracks started to happen in just 9 months. Unsure if that's possible. In any case, I will replace them. It's a good investment anyways juts FREAKING expensive and certainly not expected. I thought I had a good 1-2 years.

Getting 3 quotes today, will get back to you with pricing. From what they told me, one would need to be modular and the other one for the basement is more basic. They gave me a $12-13K ballpark.

It's a 4,500 square feet house so......... (including walkout basement)

Edit: the guy who replaced the 2 parts on my wonky furnace (and didn't see the cracks) agreed to refund everything.

Edit 2: the guy decided not to refund one of the part (after all) since for him there is no issue. I called ATCO gas to double check with them and they essentially told me that as long as no carbon monoxide was detected, it wouldn't be considered a safety issue. So anyways, I think the guy should have noticed the cracks (apparently it was easy to spot) and should have told us and he failed to do that. Since he changed his mind about refunding us, I think it's just not professional but whatever.
Last edited by Badiha on Apr 21st, 2020 8:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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