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Question DetailsAsked on 7/15/2016

HVAC system was installed incorrectly and needs replacing after only 2 years...who's responsible for cost?

had furnace replaced 3 years ago and AC 2 years ago, called another repair company who said furnace wasn't installed correctly and AC had wrong coil, outside unit useless....needs all replaced! this is an elderly lady that had the work done and doesn't know what recourse she has to pay for new unit!

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I would be inherently suspicious, and before geting into a likely $5000-10,000 replacement of both units, I would get a second opinion from the best repuration, best-reviewed Heating and A/C contractor you can find - and ask for the boss or most experienced installer, not just a service tech.

A "mis-installed" furnace that has been there 3 years presumably works, maybe just not perfectly or exactly as designed - so likely no damage to the unit itself, might just be a venting or ducting issue that needs resolution.

A/C having the wrong coil would be typically $1000-1500 charge to replace it, presuming it actually is the wrong coil. And outdoor unit being useless - unless he left the oil out of the unit or grossly undercharged it or something like that, again some minor repairs and adjustment and correcting the gas might be in order, but totally trash - not likely, though could be.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


Ok - sorry about that - had to break away mid-answer.

If the furnace and A/C have been working for 3 and 2 years respectively, I would be at least somewhat suspicious of the guy who said they need replacement again. I would be alert to the possibility that advantage is being taken of her lack of knowledge of the subject and age, as well as possibly because she is a woman - that happens all too often.

Sounds like you are helping this customer out - a BIG help would be if someone could be with her when talking to the recent tech about EXACTLY what is wrong and why if needs replacement, rather than modification or minor repairs only - and how much he is talking to make it all right. If she cannot have you or another younger person on the phone with the first tech, and in-person if a second opinion is brought in (so the tech knows he is not talking just to an old lady who probably knows exactly zero about HVAC systems), then perhaps hiring a Home Inspector for $100 or so to be there at the appointment time (which would have to be a fixed committed time, not a 4-hour "window" so theassisting person or inspector would not have to wait around for 4 hours) might be worth it to avoid being scammed.

On the second opinion - presumably the first tech offered a price to replace both units - might get free assessment from the second one by asking directly for a bid to bring the units up to factory spec and to code, telling him what the first one said or provided but that you are not sure it is right and want his cost to correct whatever is wrong.

Couple of other thoughts -

I would go only with an ACA (Air Conditionong Contractors of America) certified contractor - not a guarantee of good or fair work but a good initial way to start to weed out scammers and incompetents. Locator webpage here -

Also, if looking for competitve bids to assess the need for and cost for the work, providing them the first contractor's written assessment of what he said is wrong, one could establish a an hour or two window for contractors to come look at it, during which time the assisting second person could be there to help field the contractor comments and input. One might want to talk to 3-5 contractors about coming to do this and get pretty firm time committments to that time, and even then maybe only a couple or three might actually show up. Hard to say when best time would be - some contractors like 4-5 PM timeframe, some prefer 8-9 AM, some prefer Saturday AM. If I was doing this I would say 8-9AM probably on a weekday, though Saturday might not limit the interested firms unduly - just be sure to get committments to the time you choose or go onto the next one.


Now - as to who is responsible for cost of replacement IF the installation is so bad it needs to be redone or totally replaced (or some of each). I am assuming these are out-of-contractor-warranty period (typically 3-12 month range from install date) because if in-warranty then the installing contractor is responsible, and if he screwed it up she could file a claim with his bonding company within the warranty period to have it fixed at their cost.

So - assuming they are both out of contractor install materials and labor warranty, one could still try to get the bonding company to cover it under implied waranty of fitness for the job (i.e. if you pay to get an HVAC system installed it should be done functionally and at least substantially per manufacturer instructions) - and if they balk then possibly - but only possibly - by his insurance company. If the bonding company balks would likely take a lawyer to get attention from them, and almost certain to need a lawyer if trying to get it out of the insurance company because generally his insurance does not cover this sort of thing unless he has an Inland Marine policy, which generally also covers the functionality of his work. The problem with the bonding company and insurance company is if beyond his warranty period, especially if they have been functioning at least nominally for that period, is they will fall back on the warranty and say it is not covered.

An attorney in the picture, depending on the $ involved and whether we are talking replacement or just reinstallation of the units, could probably also shake some money free from the contractor to pay for the rework, as a refund from the original work fee to make the issue go away. You do NOT want the original guy doing the work if he actually did really swcrew it up the first time around.

Pressure points that could be put on the contractor, assuming the current tech and any follow-up one say teh work was incompetent as opposed to just a bit faulty - threatening to file a complaint with the state licensing board for incompetent work, threatening to get the city/county building inspector to look at it to see if it is out of code as installed (and also checking if required permits were pulled when the units were first installed), and threatening to give the contractor an F rating on Angies List (which if unresolved with the customer would result in getting him kicked off the list).

It might be interesting to find out how much she paid for the new furnace and A/C several years ago. Depending on efficiency and make and model and such of course, but if a few thousand each probably in the range. If $5000 or more each then that in itself, unless very high efficiency units (like 95% plus furnace efficiency or SEER 18 or above on A/C) could have been a scam or gross overcharge too, in which case the local or state (as applicable for your area) consumer fraud or elder fraud unit (commonly in DA's or State Attorney General's office) might take an interest - and if they do, the contractor and his bonding and insurance companies would probably be quite quick about coming to a reasonable settlement to get them off their back. However, likely to take an attorney to get that ball rolling, so would have to be need a substantial $ at risk (overcharge plus rework cost) to justify an attorney's involvement unless she could get some or all of it done pro-bono. If eligible for public assistance or medicaid (not medicare) then might be able to get free legal aid on this from free Legal Aid Services in your area.

Sorry I can't help more - I can appreciate your helping her out, because all too often this sort of thning happens to elderly and disabled and such people. I am thankful my brother and I were around to help our parents with situations like this.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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