June 27, 2014 by phicks2012
Ever had a home repair issue that just made you want to go postal? I have, and since my first “rodeo” years ago I’ve learn to take copious notes whenever things start drifting into the realm of the bizarre.
So, recently we found standing water in the basement between the furnace and the hot water heater. We determined the water to be coming from the main furnace unit, which is a heat-exchange type that in the winter draws it’s heat from pipes running through it from the hot water heater. During the summer, the water lines to and from the furnace are shut off with gate valves, and the system drained, so there should not have been water in the lines, but, even if there were, that water should not have been leaking out. I called Sears, because the unit was covered by my MPA Warranty Plan, told them the problem (in lurid detail), and requested a repair appointment. So far so good.
A technician (Clarence) was scheduled to show up between 8am and 1pm on Tuesday June 3rd, 2014, and I stayed at home waiting for him all day when I could have been doing other things. Then, at nearly 1pm I got a call from Sears dispatch telling me that (surprise!!!) the tech was running late. He finally showed up at 3:45pm, thinking he’d been sent to work on an Air Conditioner (because that’s what the work order said), and after poking around for a few minutes told me that he wasn’t qualified to fix the problem, which he eventually decided was a leaky radiator. In an attempt to stop water from getting into the closed system at all, he over-tightened the old input gate valve with a wrench, breaking it and causing water to pour out into the furnace, and through the drain into the laundry room. I had to close off the water main to stop water from flooding through the leaking system, and then Clarence informed me I needed to call a plumper because there was nothing else he could do. I all but chased him out, I was so furious!
I had to make 2 trips to the hardware store for $100 worth of plumbing parts to use to isolate the system, and we discovered when we started work that Clarence had also neglected to replace the drain cap before he left. Jason cut the pipes, installed 2 new 1″ gate valves with shark bites on either end, getting totally drenched in the process, and left the furnace entirely disconnected. This stopped any water dripping, but did not address the original issue, and Sears said they could not schedule any other follow-ups until the original tech (remember Clarence?) closed the ticket he had. I was told to call back the following day. Good thing the system wasn’t still leaking, huh?
I called back on 06-04-14 and scheduled another repair visit for 06-05-14 between 2pm and 7pm, stating that I DID NOT WANT THEM SENDING CLARENCE BACK, since he patently did not know how to fix the unit and had made matters worse on his last visit. They agreed, and verified that the work order read FURNACE.
I was then was transferred to Robert in the Customer Solutions Dept., because I felt that Sears really ought to be at least partially responsible for the damage Clarence caused and the resulting money I had to spend to correct it. I was told by Robert (who, by the way, was very conscientious, and by the end of our call was very nearly as frustrated as I was) that the original tech had had gone out being told by dispatch that mine was an A/C repair, when that was not what I told Sears Home Central. He had closed his ticket eventually by stating that parts to repair the unit had not been available, and suggesting replacement. But Sears had no record of his having called their Stacks unit to inquire about any parts.
Originally, Robert suspected that since the broken valve already was old and would have needed replacing anyway it wasn’t really something Sears would cover, but after spending a considerable time on hold, I was told that the tech should have called Stacks and also should have called his supervisor to report the new problem — following protocol — and apparently did neither, so some restitution might be in order after all. Robert could not get through by phone to the Tech Manager, and so assured me he would email him and have him contact me. I was told to expect a call from Mark, the tech manager, who would be calling me about the issue. But, Robert also said that since he had no guarantee of Mark getting the email (it later bounced, by the way), and since he had already been given a number of non-functional telephone numbers for the man in question, he set up a 3-way with another supervisor (John). John gave me a case number and assured me that something would be resolved, so I figured I was finally set. WRONG.
At 11:30am, after I got off the phone with them, the Sears Service Dept. called and said they had a tech available for 06-04-14 (rather than 06-05-14), but again they said it was for my “Air Conditioning”. I corrected the dispatcher AGAIN, explained AGAIN that it was a FURNACE, and rescheduled for between 1pm-3pm on 06-04-14 for “the furnace”. Again, I thought that would do it. Again, wrong.
At 11:50am Clarence, the tech who broke the valve in the first place, called me saying he would be the one coming back, but stated flatly that my whole problem had been in asking him to work on something that was not covered by my MPA. <Insert primal scream here>. I told him it most definitely WAS covered, that I had verified that, and that the job needed someone who actually knew how to work on the unit, which he clearly did NOT. I then hung up on him. Maybe not nice, but understandable.
When I called Sears Home Central back, immediately afterwards, I was told that my A/C unit was not covered (which I knew), and that apparently the scheduler had AGAIN made that mistake. I was put on hold while they tried to transfer me again to someone who could help. They really have obnoxious Hold Music, by the way.
I got Crystal, had to explain the whole thing yet again, and was finally told that she had scheduled a different technician for 4pm on 06-04-12 with the work order clearly stating that the repairs were to be on my furnace, which WAS covered by my MPA. Scheduling issue resolved? Well, hardly!
At 1:15pm another tech called, saying he was being sent out to work on my hot water heater. See the pattern here? I AGAIN explained that it was my FURNACE, and told him in detail AGAIN about the problem. He said he’d only worked on a similar system once, and would call someone else to meet him here to consult and help. Would that do it? Not quite.
At 1:30 I got a call from yet another tech (Chris) who said he was coming instead, and that he had worked on hundreds of similar systems. He said Clarence had told him he’d need to be bringing all sorts of Plumbing parts, so I had to correct that as well. He also said that my unit ought to have an additional Check Valve that stopped water from coming in even if the gate valve was bad, and that this probably needed replacing as well. It was a real relief to talk to someone who actually knew why he was coming, and knew something about the system, let me tell you!!
So, Chris finally came, but the final word was the the radiator leak happened because it’s old and spots are rusted out. My MPA is specifically voided by rust on such a unit — just imagine a system that works on heat exchange from hot water NOT eventually having some rust — so I either had to find the part (which Sears said was no longer made) and replace it via other means, or not use that unit for heat. Hey! But Sears is going to reimburse me for the plumbing parts, because Clarence (remember him) left me with my water main turned off and instructions to “call a plumber” rather than staying and at least fixing the valve he busted — so there’s that!!! Unfortunately the receipts had vanished from where I’d left them, but I got copies by going back again to the hardware store — bless you, Cowan Ace — so now I’m golden on that, providing the email address they gave me for their contact person actually works.
But anyway, recalling that in 2008 I was told the same thing about repairs on another identical unit– parts no longer available — and that I subsequently found a place LOCALLY that did carry them, I called those folks again, and was told that yes, they still did carry parts for those units. They don’t sell to the public, but Ryan at Conyers Win Air directed me to a Heating and A/C contractor that he swore wouldn’t gouge me, and I called Dan Pearson Heating and Air where I spoke to Sue. She said she would check into parts availability, and get me an estimate and call me back when she knew something, though they would probably want to come out and check to make sure they would be ordering the right part.
She called back the next day to report that, unfortunately, they did not work on systems like mine.
A friend suggested that after I got an estimate from SOMEONE I also go through Pat Astrin (my rental property manager) and see if her HVAC guy would give me a better deal, so I’ll probably do that too — once I get a price on the part itself.
I emailed a friend who used to work on HVAC, and he said he’d try to find someone who would work on my system, but no matter how I go I’m going to have to pay a diagnostic fee to get someone out even to get the part number right.
I at this writing, things still look dire. I still need to figure out how to repair the unit for less than the gross national product. Either that, or it’s likely to be a chilly winter.
If I have any HVAC-trained friends who might relish a challenge, PLEASE let me know, okay?