Not that they ever really had it.
Let me explain.
Many of you know, Amber and I bought a home in Woodbury prior to getting married. We did so in May. Part of the process involved in buying the house is getting the home inspected.
The inspector we hired came out, and looked the place over. He said that we should have the furnace inspected and certified by an inspector who specialized in that, as it may be damaged more than he could see, and that wasn’t his area of expertise. He had also told us that he doubted the Air Conditioner would last much longer (both were 25+ years old).
Making sure we got our money’s worth out of the home, we told the home owner that we weren’t really interested in buying house unless the furnace was inspected and certified.
The home owner (a very nice couple) hired McQuillan Brothers Plumbing and Heating to come and inspect it. At the time, they said the furnace was in good working condition, and THEY DID NOT RED TAG IT. That was the key thing. For those of you who don’t know what a red tag is, it’s basically a red tag they put on your furnace right before they shut off your gas… It simply says, your furnace isn’t working properly or is broken in some way, and therefore, if you turn on the gas and blow yourself up, it’s not our fault. They are supposed to put this tag on when any major component involving the gas is broken.
We took that to mean everything was ok, and proceed to buy (and close) on what is now our home.
Fast forward 3 months. Our air conditioner dies (go figure). As part of that, the company we hired to inspect our air conditioner also provided an inspection for the furnace (since they are interrelated). During that time, they found cracks in the heat exchanger, and red tagged our furnace. Trying to understand what happened here, and thinking that this firm might just be trying to get me to buy a new furnace, I asked how this could be given that it was inspected 3 months ago prior to the home sale.
They told me this: most firms don’t take the time to visually inspect the heat exchanger, and instead just check the flu gasses to see if it’s leaking carbon monoxide. At this point he promptly pulled out a video scope and showed me the cracks, and the rust forming around them. And although it wasn’t showing signs of bad gas (CO) getting into the flu in large quantities, he said that if something didn’t burn properly, or if those holes got worse, we would have a problem on our hands bigger than what we had now.
Given that I know how heat exchangers work (thank you Physiology 1001, yes I learned about it in my health class)… I know you don’t want these things to leak.
So the next question on my mind is, how does something like this develop cracks in 3 months without being in use… Sure the rust would make them worse, but the start of the cracks should have been apparent, and that alone is enough to red tag.
And that’s when I learned exactly what it means that some firms skip over this visual test.
That left me with trying to figure out if i had any sort of recourse to go after McQuillan… And really, it seems that there really are no requirements for these inspectors. Minnesota doesn’t regulate them. And the type of inspection they do regulate only involves the initial install. Washington County and Woodbury don’t regulate either.
That said, when you get a furnace “certified”, the only guarantee is the one you can get in writing from the firm that did the inspection… and I’m pretty sure we didn’t get one that covered the heat exchanger from McQuillan Brothers Plumbing and Heating of Minnesota, and if we did, they aren’t mentioning it to me now.
I suppose I could go after the home owners at this point and say they didn’t get it properly inspected… but then I start to feel like a jerk. This business was given the task (and paid to do so) of making sure that the furnace was in a condition that did not warrant red tagging. They failed. They didn’t perform a visual inspection of the heat exchanger, and who knows what else they didn’t do. The woman I spoke with at McQuillan said that all they would have done was an Osat (sp?) test to verify it was within acceptable numbers.
Shame on me for not being there during this inspection. Shame on them for not getting it right.
If someone from their company reads this blog post, I want them to take one thing away from my post for future customers… The state of Minnesota posts on their energy website the guidelines for what “Professional Furnace Inspectors” should do… I will quote them here:
Check-List for Professional Furnace Inspectors
Your qualified furnace contractor or service provider should include these steps in the inspection and cleaning of your furnace. An oil furnace should be inspected and cleaned yearly and a gas furnace should be tuned-up every other year.
- Perform a test for carbon monoxide. If carbon monoxide is found, have the situation thoroughly diagnosed and corrected.
- Inspect and clean the flue, the chimney, and the connection from the furnace to the chimney. Look for obstructions, cracks, or other deterioration.
- Check the combustion air inlet for proper sizing. Make sure that the air inlet is not blocked and that the supply of combustion air is sufficient.
- Check burner performance and make adjustments if needed. Clean burners to maintain efficiency and safety. Check fuel supply and the filter in the fuel supply line (applicable to oil systems only).
- Look for and remove any dirt, soot, or rust in the heat exchanger. The heat exchanger should be checked using a non-destructive method. Inspect for cracks, seam failure and warpage.
- Have your inspector perform a flue gas analysis and give you the results to keep for future reference. The results will help you determine the efficiency of your system.
- Test all controls for proper operation. If possible, optimize on-off settings for energy efficiency.
Please take this time McQuillan Brothers to note the bullet I put in bold… You didn’t do that… And if you did, you did it poorly at best. Also, to the man who took my call the first time I called, you told me you would call me back the next morning, and did not… The fact I had to call back to continue to follow up was also yet another strike against your professionalism.
And lastly… McQuillan Brother’s Plumbing and Heating… Get a website that details out your mission, your guarantees, etc. Odds are you will because this will most likely be top ranked here shortly, at least for people doing searches in Minnesota.
If your someone looking for top of the line amazing service, I strongly recommend O’Connor’s One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning. Their ability to answer my questions, and help me track down what I could for this scenario was great. Their turn around time was amazing (next day or sooner in all cases, including from ordering to install of the new Air Conditioner and Furnace). And on top of that, they put on booties when they come in your home. Tell them Justin Gehring sent you, and who knows, if you get Matt or Jake, odds are they may just remember me :-). And check out their guarantees… much much stronger.