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Thread: Outrageous furnace repair charges

  1. #1
    DIY Member bobbobwhite's Avatar
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    Default Outrageous furnace repair charges

    HVAC guy replaced the electronic circuit board controller in my American Standard unit that is 8 years old that cost $2k total to install in 2002. One 15 cent transistor(HVAC man said that!!!) burned out on the board and he said "he had to replace the entire controller". He said that years ago you could get things fixed separately, but not now. My previous furnace lasted 25 years with no repairs and still worked fine when it was replaced. We replaced it due to "greater energy efficiency", but guess how much energy we could buy with that $600 repair cost that we never spent on the old furnace in over 25 years???

    Thanks for any suggestions on a better/less costly way to repair my furnace instead of spending $600 for a replacement controller made on the cheap in Mexico that may not even last as long as the previous one.
    Last edited by bobbobwhite; 02-26-2010 at 08:54 AM.

  2. #2
    Nuclear Engineer nukeman's Avatar
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    If he/you knows which transistor is the dead one, take it to someone who works with electronics and have them fix it. I'm into that kind of stuff, so if it were me, I would troubleshoot and fix the board myself.

    Repairing electronics is really becoming a lost art. With electronics becoming cheaper and labor becoming more expensive, people throw items away when they break instead of fixing them. I remember when RadioShack was filled floor-to-ceiling with repair parts. Now they are nothing but a cellphone store with a tiny case of repair parts in the back. Most of the people who work there don't even know anything about electronics. If you say you are looking for ******, you get a blank stare and they ask you if you want a new phone.

    I would say that most people probably just replace the whole board because they don't know how to fix it. It would be worth a Google search to see if someone has pulled something together for troubleshhoting/repairing that board. Like most things, there are probably just a couple parts that are the weak link on the board. Fix those, and you'll be in business.

  3. #3

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    The first question should be, "Why did the transister go bad?"

    Could be on board, or off board, or just a weak transistor.

  4. #4
    DIY Member bobbobwhite's Avatar
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    HVAC guy said reason board failed "could be a lot of reasons", which is the same as "I don't know". These repairmen today are not repairmen as we used to know them, they are replacement men, as all they do now is test for bad parts and then replace them. And, if you can replace a board made in America with one made in Mexico that gives the shop 300-400% more profit on it than using a board made in America, you know that 99.9999% of all HVAC shops are going to do that in this brand new America where money rules all things, no matter how you make it and how crummy your work is that made it.

    "So it's a crummy board and won't last, so what? We made a lot of money off you."

    I would have tried to find a cheaper way to repair the transistor on the control board if not for my wife who wanted it fixed now. Damn woman wanted instant heat.

  5. #5
    Nuclear Engineer nukeman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobbobwhite View Post
    I would have tried to find a cheaper way to repair the transistor on the control board if not for my wife who wanted it fixed now. Damn woman wanted instant heat.
    This is the main reason why they can just replace the whole board for a lot of $$$. People do not want to go without heat and are willing to pay to get it fixed ASAP. I suppose he took the old board with him. If not, I would be willing to take a look at it and try to fix it for a backup for you.

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    Plumber krow's Avatar
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    You can also look at your situation from the other side of the coin..

    The minute that repair man touches that board......., he owns it. If something goes wrong with it (whether its related to the component or not) he has to come back and fix it for free. So, if he spends 2 hours trying to figure out which component is dead, he also has to determine why, and if the why isn't fixed the same transistor will cook,,,,,,,,, again. So now you have paid for a 15 cent transistor and 2 hours of his time , if it worked,.... (if not, tag on more time to the bill)

    In the end, its still an 8 year old board. anything else can go wrong with it.

    I don't know how many times I have taken electronic equipment in the get repaired and I get the same story all the time ........ I'm told,
    " its not worth fixing, just replace the entire thing". (I'm not suggesting you do that)

  7. #7
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    If you have the tools and knowledge to fix a board, and can get the parts, then repair is reasonable. Often, especially with multi-layer circuit boards, it is too easy to mess up an internal connection or trace the logic to figure out how to fix it as the manufactuer often won't release that information. I've had luck replacing cooked components on occasion, but then I've got a degree, and multiple years fixing electronics in the military and lots of old Heathkits (anyone remember them?). If you try to fix it and then you fry something else in the unit, then you've made that cheap repair into something a lot more expensive. It's rare that you can do a good comprehensive test out of the circuit. Also note, it's not uncommon for some of the parts to not even be labeled as to what they are, so even if you can find one burned, you may not know what to replace it with.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    I just bought 2 new package units - 3ton ac with 90M btu gas furnace for 817$ Then a 36M btu unit with 2 ton AC for 617$. Made by York in the USA, major supplier with warranty. So your 600$ repair is a real statement on the mendacity and mediocrity of American technicians and contractors.

    Call the MFG and get a cost on the board that was replaced just to see how far bent over you were.

  9. #9
    Nuclear Engineer nukeman's Avatar
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    I agree it may be difficult to repair, but is worth a shot, IMO. Even if you try and can't fix it or you screw up, you are not anything but some time since you would be buying as new board anyway if you hadn't tried to repair. However, if you did fix it, it is a pretty awesome feeling knowing you fixed what would have been a $600 repair for under $1.

    For life, there is no reason why a properly designed/built board couldn't out live the furnace itself.

    If some people took the time to test/repair, they could post up the info online which could help others repair their problem. Often, there are a couple weak links in a design. If you know what these are, it makes troubleshooting much easier.

    I don't expect the HVAC guy to know how to fix the board and I can understand the reasons why he would rather replace the whole thing. I just don't like the mentality these days where people throw things away and replace without even taking a look into what the problem might be. They assume it isn't worth the time or whatever. Even auto repair has gone this way. Instead of testing and figuring out what the problem is, many shops just list what it might be and start replacing parts until it is fixed (at your expense).

  10. #10
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Now, WHY would he spend the time to find the bad transitor(s), unsolder it, assuming he could even do it in the field, put a new one in, ditto for having it and doing it in the field, then reinstalling the board only to find out it still does not work, but now the customer does not want to pay him for the considerable time he has already put into it or to continue diagnosing that one, and wants him to just replace the board at the originally quoted price? If for no other reason than it is house is very cold by now, and getting colder. IF circuit boards were meant to be repaired the components would be "plug ins". My Toyota Cressida and Supra both had wiper motors with a 25 cent gear that stripped, but I still had to buy a $150.00 motor to get the wipers working again.
    Last edited by hj; 02-27-2010 at 02:31 PM.

  11. #11
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Component level repair of electronic equipment is nearly a dead prospect. If the circuit is relatively simple, as the control board on a furnace is, the cost of the entire board is FAR less than a couple of hours labor from a trained technician. You cannot expect an HVAC field repair tech to be able to do that. And I don't know how you would get hold of an actual circuit schematic for trouble shooting. That kind of thing is seldom available.

    If the board is more complex and costly, it is conceivable that a manufacturer would "exchange" and do the repair at the factory. But by the time you factor in logistic costs, this really just doesn't pencil out in anything less than mulit thousand dollar components.

    Such is the way of the world. Get used to it. Better yet, BE the technician!

  12. #12
    Engineer Furd's Avatar
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    One more reason (if you need another) is liability and "listing" by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory, usually UL. The original board is listed as a component part of the furnace and if some change is made in the field then that listing is no longer valid, even if a "like for like" component is changed. Since the board and furnace are listed as an assembly having an unlisted component installed (the field-repaired circuit board) would void the listing of the furnace and if something happened, even something unrelated to the board or its repair, your insurance company could deny the claim since an unlisted furnace/component was in use.

    At that point you would likely consider suing the HVAC tech and/or his company. The company's liability insurance would likely not cover them for the field repair of the NRTL listed board. The company simply can't expose their company or employees to osuch a possibility and THAT is a major reason why circuit boards are not repaired.

  13. #13
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    That could be a specious arguement unless the repair was obvious, which might not be a factor if the entire board were destroyed by a malfunction.

  14. #14
    DIY Member bobbobwhite's Avatar
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    Default Circuit board repair

    If not busy with other things, I would have looked at the board ID and model number and tried to buy it online. The install was virtually plug and play, very simple, plus a couple of screws. He said they "toss them" but I should have kept it for reference.

    We sure pay a lot for convenience, and these repair shops know that all too well. Wonder how much profit they made off me for a simple board that could not have cost them much? Thanks for all the replies.

  15. #15
    DIY Senior Member zl700's Avatar
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    The tootpaste that my dental hygenist uses, Im sure costs pennies so why is the dentist bill so high?

    More to business than selling you a "plug and play" board!

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