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There goes the plant budget

Thursday 11 September 2008 - Filed under Homes

And the Ikea budget, and the Christmas budget, and the…

Oil furnace

The big old oil furnace in my basement gave out this spring, and with fall approaching, it was time to get the repair guy out to take a look at it. I loved the big monster, because it made the house toasty in a matter of minutes, and I had it running pretty constantly in winter because Oscar shivers and looks pathetic when it’s 65 degrees.


I knew it was bad news when Mr. Service Man emerged from the basement, and he was VERY CAREFUL in trying to break it to me gently. “Well, you know, it’s old. Very old. It’s probably lasted far longer than it should have. You see, it has this pump, and they just don’t make them anymore…” and so that’s it. Furnace is done. I knew this day would come. The rudest part is that it died with a recently filled, obscenely expensive tank of oil. A tank of oil that would have halfway covered the cost of replacement. I see the silver lining, for sure. This furnace is the size of a room. I can use the extra space to remodel the laundry room some day, so that I don’t have to use a spare bedroom as a drying rack. The oil bill was getting comically painful. You might be able to say it’s all for the best. Except that I have to cough up a bunch of cash I don’t have to buy a new one, and I have no idea what I’m doing, I’m at the mercy of what the salesmen tell me.

My neighbor actually owns a heating & cooling company, and it’s always an awkward thing between us, because he’s right there, and loves to talk about it, and it would be so easy to just ask him to take care of it, but then I worry that something will go explosively wrong and then there’s this big weird rift forever, until one day, like in Justin’s childhood building, the 80 year old lifelong enemy neighbors end up shooting each other. That really happened.

My neighbor is a nice guy who loves to talk, and he is such a natural salesman. Not in a pejorative way, it’s just his nature, it makes him happy to talk people into things. He reminds me of Cosmo Castorini in Moonstruck, in the scene where he’s telling his skeptical but clueless customers, “There are three kinds of pipe. There’s aluminum, which is garbage. There’s bronze, which is pretty good, unless something goes wrong. And something always goes wrong. Then, there’s copper, which is the only pipe I use. It costs money. It costs money because it saves money.”

I was out weeding after the repair guy left, and I hear Dave’s voice over the fence. He’s quiet, calm, sitting with his back to me, smoking a cigarette. “So you’re having some trouble with your furnace?” And right then and there, I knew I was on a slippery slope. He’s all helpful, describing my options, what’s a hybrid, where to put the money, where to save it. “Just as an objective consultant, no strings attached!” He says, “You know, those guys you called, they’re OK, they’re perfectly fine. Of course they’re not what they used to be. They’ll sell you a great unit. They have all the same stuff we have. They’re certified, just like us. But then if you want the best deal in town, we can give you that.” I know, I KNOW it’s a bad idea to do business with your neighbor. But even though I know of his salesman ways, it is hard to resist.


2008-09-11  »  megan

Talkback x 5

  1. Cind
    11 September 2008 @ 7:50 am

    So sorry about your furnace. My advise to you would be to get as much info as you can and talk to a couple different people (including Mr. Neighbor). Then make an informed decision. I know it’s a pain meeting with a couple different people, but you’ll feel better in the long run.
    Good Luck!

  2. Chris
    11 September 2008 @ 7:53 am

    Wow – a Moonstruck reference and a cute picture of a pup – no way you top this post. You should just stop now.

  3. Patricia
    11 September 2008 @ 9:31 am

    Well, you might want to consider what we say to the scores of people who show up at our door, always at dinnertime, asking for money for one good cause after another: “We appreciate the fine work you’re doing, but we have a firm policy against doing business at our front door–or with our neighbors.”

    I believe this easily falls under the category of “you will rue the day…”

  4. Karen
    11 September 2008 @ 11:59 am

    Do you have the option to convert to gas? I know it’s a pain, but if you can, it’s soooooooooo much easier and cheaper in the long run. We had an ancient oil furnace in our old house and it was kept going practically on duct tape and baling wire by the time we left. Sorry you are having to replace yours, major bummer! – Karen

  5. JustinS
    11 September 2008 @ 1:26 pm

    That sucks.

    We had to replace our furnace a few months back and, against our better judgment, we ended up going with the HVAC company my mom worked for at the time. Thankfully, she left the place before we had our first problem…