The (Furnace) Transplant was Successful

A long and arduous process (far longer and far more arduous that either of us expected) is finally over.  Early last spring we began smelling an oil and soot smell from the heating system whenever the furnace fired up (we have an oil-fired forced-hot-air system with integral 2-stage AC). We called our regular furnace maintenance folks to come fix it, and the technician delivered the bad news; there was no more tweaking and adjusting that he could do, it was time for a new furnace. We’d been expecting this to happen sooner or later; the old furnace was a bottom-of-the-line machine installed when the house was built in 1985. To make matters worse, it also had a separate wicking humidifier attached which was a) cheap, b) lousy, and c) cheap. It leaked when we bought the house, and dripped water onto the top of the furnace, which had rusted out over the years. I shut off the water feed to the humidifier soon after we bought the house, but the damage had already been done.

So, we didn’t do much except talk about it for most of the summer, but in September I put together a request-for-quote for a new furnace, condenser and AC unit (the in-line condenser looked as bad as the furnace, and the outside compressor wasn’t much better) and sent it out to three residential HVAC companies in the area.  And then the wait began…

After about a month, we got one answer back from one of the companies, another company said thanks but no thanks (didn’t want to do the job), and the third company was non-responsive.

I was finally able to get an answer out of the non-responsive company after about another month and had the two companies come in for an inspection prior to building a quote, but I really wanted 3 quotes, so I hunted down an independent HVAC guy in the next town over and called him in for an inspection and a quote.

So now it was early December, the old smelly furnace had reluctantly been put back into service, and I had three quotes I could lay down side-by-side to compare. We asked a few additional questions of the companies for clarification and to better be able to compare apples to apples, and by the end of the year we had picked a company (the independent guy from the next town over), but he was booked solid through mid-February. We got on his calendar for 22-24 February.

22 February came, and he and 2 other guys arrived around 8:30 am to begin work. It had been cold the night before, but the 22nd was a sunny day so we benefited from solar warming during the day while the heating system was off-line. They were able to remove the old furnace and condenser and install the new ones, AND remove the old compressor outside and install the new compressor on the same concrete pad, all in one day. We didn’t have to spend a night without heat!

We panicked a bit when the new furnace was first fired up, because the smell (and some smoke!) was worse than the old one had been, but the furnace guy was quick to explain that this was a brand new furnace so the fire-box had never been fired up and the smell was the burning off of the machine oil and residue from the outside of the fire-box, sort of like the smell when you first start up a car with a new muffler. Sure enough, after ten minutes or so the smell was gone and everything was working well.

So now we have a new heating system with an electronic air cleaner and high efficiency filter, and the BEFORE and AFTER pictures (full view and inside) show the improvement (you can see the air cleaner/filter in the AFTER picture full view, on the floor between the return-air duct and the furnace). On paper, the new furnace is much more efficient, so I’ll track oil consumption to verify that over the months and years to come. The cost to run the AC unit during the hot and humid summer days should also drop dramatically.


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