Wednesday, February 9, 2011
...And it is a headache inducing doozey of a question at that. I'm talking about water tank rental vs. outright purchase.
What follows is my five day (thus far) saga/rant, documenting my attempts to replace our hot water tank.
We haven't had hot water in our house since last Thursday. (Which, by the way, quite sucks. Warming water on the stove top to wash both the dishes and my kids? Not fun.)
Friday morning when my husband tried to take his shower he found that we had only ice cold water on tap. I called the company we rent from and that same afternoon they sent out a repair person. He looked at our tank and announced that we would need a replacement. I specifically asked him if this was going to cost me anything to get a new tank installed and he assured me it wouldn't cost me a dime.
He went outside and spoke on the phone for a bit and then returned to tell me that the installation team would be coming tomorrow and that it would "take the whole day". Saturday morning two guys arrived to perform the installation. They looked at the old tank. Hemmed, hawed. Held several whispered conversations with each other, and then told me that my house wasn't up to code. Apparently the chimney is two large, and according to the new building code which came into effect in the past few years, I need a liner run up my chimney for the hot water heater to vent out of. They gave me the number of a contractor they recommended, and directed me to call the rental company back once I was up to code. Oh and when I call I had better tell them that I need a "CV 50" tank, because they had brought the wrong kind and they would have had to go back and swap out the one on the truck. Which really makes me wonder why the first fellow, the repair guy we had out on Friday, couldn't have 1)told me that I needed a chimney liner, 2)told the installers the correct specifications on my tank.
Next I called the contractor. He refused to give me any pricing over the phone, insisting he would need to see my house first. He came that same afternoon. Walked through my house, took a glimpse in the corner where the hot water tank sits, and announced that it would cost $395 (plus HST, total $446) for a chimney liner to be installed.
He then asked me if I had money, if I could afford $395? He gave me this spiel about how he understands times are tough, and many people can't afford this sort of thing.... and how if I would pay him cash he could cut me a deal. I must have looked appalled because he then actually went on to Suggest I call Someplace Else. Seriously, he told me that his prices are too high, and gave me the name of a local chimney company, one which I'd heard of before. He told me that they should be able to do it for a hundred, maybe a hundred and fifty less. Sort of odd behavior for a contractor, but nice I guess.
So I call this chimney company... again they refuse to give me any pricing over the phone. Now, when these guys showed up to give me the estimate they actually looked at my chimney, opened things up, and took a look in the vent in the basement. They used a mirror, shone a light up, and found there was a bend in the chimney. While they were here they also took a look at my fireplace, which I haven't used since I moved in because the home inspector said I needed to have it repaired. They told me there was absolutely no issue with my fireplace and that I should go head and use it. The fellow even gave me a quick fireplace tutorial. All of this was great, except.... 1) The fellow berated me for not having my driveway shoveled, and said that would have to be done before they would come on Monday. 2) They didn't ask me if I wanted to go ahead, and they didn't really quote me a price. Pretty much mid-sentence the guy just walked out my front door. Demanded my driveway be shoveled. Told me they'd be back Monday morning, and then sort of tossed over his shoulder as he left, oh and it'll be about... say $375.(plus HST, total $423).
I'm beginning to wonder how much it would cost to purchase a tank. I wonder if the installation might be included in,the purchase. Like maybe they'd toss in this venting, and it would end up costing me less overall. If I'm going to be spending $400 anyway, maybe I can get a water tank out of it and stop paying monthly rental fees.
It's now Sunday, and I start calling around trying to get estimates on purchasing a tank. None of the places do sales on Sundays, only repairs. They won't give me any figures. Call back Monday.
We try and shovel the driveway (something we normally never bother to do, much to my father's chagrin). My husband manages to break the snow shovel. It's 7pm on a Sunday, and we're trying to figure out where's open to go buy a shovel and finish clearing the driveway. I decide to tell the chimney company people that we're putting the venting installation off, and then call and get some estimates Monday morning on purchasing a tank. Since they won't be coming in the morning, we no longer need to worry about finishing the driveway.
Monday morning (which is now day four of no hot water, and so much fun, let me tell you) I called the company we bought our furnace/AC though and they gave me an estimate over the phone. $1995 for a conventional heater installed. Wow, that's more then twice as high as I thought it would be. Now I can't decide... is it even worth getting another estimate when that is right out of my ballpark? I decided to go ahead and I called a second company. They refused to give me any info over the phone. I begged for some ball park figures. After grilling me on the particulars of my tank, size, type, year it was made,etc, the guy insisted that one of their "comfort specialists" would need to come out to my place, inspect my home, look at the tank, look at the installation requirements, see how many water fixtures and of what type that we needed to supply, etc. etc, and only then could he provide me with an estimate. I reluctantly agreed to have someone come by and give me a price. I am told the "comfort specialist" will be at my place between 11am and 2pm. Then at 11:30ish I get a call from their dispatcher. She apologizes for the inconvenience, but explains that there has been a mix up as Their Company Doesn't Actually Install Water Heaters. She then suggested I call a plumber.
You Have Got To Be Kidding Me. I just got grilled over the phone by your rep. He asked me all kinds of questions about my water tank... and you guys don't sell them?!? I'm frustrated that this has now wasted another couple of hours of my time, waiting to discover that they aren't even coming to give me an estimate.
I decide to try one more place. A few people on Twitter had recommended Sears for purchasing a tank. When I call Sears I am told again that they can't provide any pricing over the phone. If I could just provide them with all of my info, someone will get back to me in 24-36 hours to set up a time for an appointment. I don't want to wait another two days! I explain that I currently have no hot water. The woman patches me through to "someone who might be able to help" me. I leave a message on some fellows voice mail. That was Monday afternoon, and I've yet to have anyone call me back from Sears. Lovely. So much for express emergency service.
All right, you know what. Screw getting another estimate. I'll just pay for the chimney venting, and continue with my rental. Let's call back the first guy and see what sort of deal he can cut me for cash. $350 straight, no HST, and he will give me a receipt. Ok, fine. This is the guy that the rental company recommended, so let's go with it. I schedule an appointment for Tuesday morning. I'm told installing the venting will take about an hour.
Tuesday morning, comes around. The contractor and his assistant arrive. After working at it for a little over half an hour, he tells me that they can't install the venting. There is a bend in my chimney, they can't run the vent up. (Note above how when he first came to my home and gave me the estimate, he didn't look up the chimney, or really look at anything.) He now tells me I need to call the rental company back and tell them that it's "impossible to install a chimney liner" and that I now require a "power vented" tank. He informs me that the rental company should install it for free, but that I will end up paying a higher monthly rental fee.
I call the rental company and talk to their sales department. I want to know exactly how much more I will be paying. My current rental fee is $13.50/month, +HST ($183 yearly). The new rental fee would be $22.99 + HST ($311 yearly). The woman tries to sell me on the fact that it's only an additional $8 a month. (Interesting math, that.) She's pretty pushy about getting me to commit on the phone. She suggests I have them install the tank for free, and then after one month's rental "buy out the tank" and own it, ceasing to rent from them. She's so insistent that I consider this, that I figure there's no way it's in my best interests.
I'm now wondering if I should call the chimney company back, and if they would be able to install the vent. They had noticed the bend in the chimney when giving me my estimate and seemed unfazed by it.
I decide instead to take one more go at getting an estimate on purchasing a tank. My father has given me the name of a plumber. I look up his website and see that not only does he do installation, he sells tanks, and he does the venting as well. I call and arrange for him to come by and give us a quote. I had to wait for him to come by at the end of the day. He looked at my furnace. Looked in the hole in my wall. Tisked about the damn bend in my chimney, and started to head for the door. Apparently he needs to go back to the office and work out the figures and he will call me back tomorrow morning..
Oh, and joy of joys. A new complication. While he assures me he should be able to get a liner down my chimney, he notes that the base price will "of course" have to include a "Mixture tempering valve". This is a very important safety feature. If he didn't install it it wouldn't be up to code. This has been the law for several years, in order to protect children from scalding, etc. etc. Base price $250. First I heard of this one. Oh joy. So was the rental company a)including the mix value in the price, b)not noticing that I didn't have one, c)ignoring that I didn't have one, or d)waiting to spring that added cost on me later. Sigh.
So now I am waiting on this guy to call me back tomorrow with pricing. This is stressing me out far too much. The novelty of playing at being Laura Ingalls Wilder while heating all of our water on the stovetop is really wearing thin. I need a shower. The baby has oatmeal in her hair. I want hot water. I want it now. I want it yesterday. I don't want any further complications! I just want to make an informed decision, and take whichever route is going to end up costing us the least overall.
If you guys have any suggestions, or opinions on the benefits of renting versus owning, I'd love to hear it.