Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Furnace on the way

After much debate and a few painful estimates we have decided to have Elkhorn HVAC replace our cracked and crappy furnace. The decision was a tough one. Sears had a good offer and what looks like a pretty good product for $1000 less. Ultimately we chose Elkhorn by some of the same criteria that Consumer Reports recommends.

To begin, the Elkhorn guy was just great. He answered all of the questions, even the dumb ones. He also caught a lot of stuff that the Sears guy didn't notice or care about (both code and safety violations or potential problems). Elkhorn will do a heat-load to determine exactly the right size furnace. Everything we've researched says the installation and sizing of the furnace is way more important than the brand. All of the other installers were going to size the furnace based on "experience" or the size of our rooms. Size of the rooms tells some things, but without taking into account the windows and insulation and other factors it's only part of the picture.

The $1000 cost differential is also slightly misleading. With Sears we would have gone with an 80% furnace. With Elkhorn we're looking at a 90%. If we did a 90% with Sears, the Elkhorn one would only be $500 more expensive. We decided to go with the 90% furnace because of the number of holes and their size (80% gives more and bigger holes) that would have to be drilled and because Mark is a tree hugging hippie werido.

Pro's and cons of each installer:
  • Pro: Very friendly and knowledgable
  • Pro: Candid and detailed about how we could save money doing some things ourselves
  • Pro: Answered all of the questions
  • Con: Little expensive and no deal on duct cleaning (was hoping to get that thrown in)
  • Con: No weekend installation w/o extra charges
  • Pro: Very flexible on time for estimate and installation
  • Pro: Fairly nice and reasonably knowledgable about codes
  • Pro: Nice warranty options
  • Pro: Offered duct cleaning as part of the package ($200)
  • Con: Didn't look at as many details as Elkhorn
  • Con: Really rude when we decided not to go with them
  • Pro: Great price
  • Con: Estimate took over TWO hours!
  • Pro: Gave printed estimate right on the spot
  • Con: Would only give estimate for one setup. Others gave multiple options

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Maginot Line is Complete!

viva la revolution!

After weeks of trench warfare, blisters and a jillion trips to Home Depot we now have electricity in the garage. Sure, when all of this started we had electricity in the garrage, but now it's confined to the garage and less likely to also be in the lawn, garden and any unfortunate shovel nearby.

One of the "handy" projects the previous owners left was a delicate wiring system. The garrage had power via indoor wiring burried about 4-6 inches under the sod. The wiring ran up the side of the house, allong the roof and down a post into the ground where it traveled to the garage. Somewhere along the line the 14/2 transitioned into 12/2 wire and then back into 14/2 but with no ground. The wire not in the ground was fairly brittle and starting to fall apart since it was indoor wire not rated for sunlight exposure. As per usual in this endevor, most connections were made with electrical tape. I counted a total of two wire nuts on six different junctions.

This fun project involved digging a 54' long trench 18-20 inches down and going under two sidewalks. Suggestions for next time:
  • do a utility locate and rent a trencher, the $100 that'll cost (trencher plus truck to tow it) is worth not digging.
  • they make these cool auger bits for drills that poke nice 3" holes. I seem to recall thinking "I wish someone made an auger bit for my drill" - buy one of those.
  • PVC conduit is the way to go. it's so much easier to work with than the other options.