Who needs heat anyway?

In November 2014 I closed on my first house. At the age of 23, buying your first home all by yourself is a pretty big deal in my opinion. My parents raised me to be a strong, independent woman who knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to go after it. I feel like I’ve done pretty well for myself. Long story short on this house, I bought it on a short sale and knew I would need to do a lot of work myself t get it where I wanted it. I was up for the challenge. Growing up lower middle class my mom and dad always did their own home improvements and encouraged me to work with them and learn the valuable life skills. I wasn’t intimidated by he thought of manual labor. As any wise homeowner knows everything that can go wrong in the house will and no project is ever without a snowball effect. I will save some of the other stories for a [different] rainy day, today I want to complain – I mean, talk out – my mission to convert my heating system.

Right now we have an oil boiler with steam radiators. The house was originally built in 1870 so the radiators weren’t a huge surprise. I grew up in an oil house with baseboards so radiators aren’t my first choice. RI has a great program where an engineering company will come in and give you a free home energy audit and provide you with recommendations. If recommended and approved one of the program perks is a 0% financing loan for energy upgrades. For me this would cover a new heating system. My hot water heater was already gas fired so I decided I wanted to do the full conversion (especially after Petro screwed me over all last winter) and have a tankless water/heating combo unit and replace the radiators with baseboards.

I had the home energy audit done in February and was approved to pursue the loan in March. The first step was to get and select an estimate to apply for a loan amount. I had 5 different companies come in form estimates. There was one company in particular that impressed me with their reviews and I was extra interested in receiving an estimate from. The estimates from the other companies were ranging from $10k to $14k. About what I expected. My favorite company kept telling me they would get me that estimate “by tonight” and after a week and a half of nagging they told me they were having a hard time sending to my Gmail account. I gave them 4 other email addresses to try and never got a quote. So Josh and I selected the most inexpensive estimate and I started applying for loans. I applied to several loan companies and was denied because of a high debt to income ratio (thanks student loans and credit card debt).

Fast forward September, I finally found a lender that was happy to approve me. I emailed the company we originally selected and provided them with my pre-approval letter from my lending company. A couple days went by and I hadn’t heard anything so I had Josh give them a call. They told him that they would need 1/2 the money (about $5k) upfront. How the heat loan program works is that the company is required to complete the work first and then the engineering company comes in to inspect the work. If everything is done correctly the lending company will cut the company the check for the full amount. So the fact that they are asking for half the money upfront, this would mean that I would magically need to come up with $5k to give them, the lender would cut them the check at the end, and then they would give me my fronted money back.

Seeing as how I don’t have $5k to magically pull out of the sky to give them, I now have to find another company who will do the job for the same amount I was already approved for. I decided to contact my same favorites from March and give them the chance to actually give me a quote this time. They said they needed to come out to the house again to make sure they remembered the job correctly. Fine, that’s understandable. They came out Wednesday and met with Josh. Told be I would have an estimate by “that night.” Wednesday night came and went. Thursday. Didn’t answer my calls until Thursday afternoon. Owner said the guy would have an email to me by “that night” because they had to wait on estimates from their suppliers. Whatever. Thursday night comes and goes. Friday. My exact text to Josh this morning was “call these fuckers please.” A little while later I got an email with the long awaited estimate. I was feeling good. I opened the email.

$17,000. Seventeen thousand dollars. 

My chin hit the floor. That was $7,000 more than the original estimate we selected. I emailed him right back and told him that was outrageous and that he was $7,000 over my other guy. His response was that no one could possibly do the job well for that little. He said it was $4,000 for the boiler itself and 4 days of labor. Where I imagine the disconnect to be was that the other companies said that the job should only take 2 days, these guys were saying 4. I’m not sure why they were talking so much longer but apparently they needed more time than the other 5 companies to do the same job.

I kindly said thanks but no thanks and started emailing other people to come out and give estimates. I have a guy coming tomorrow at 9am and Sears coming Wednesday at 7pm. I am hoping that one of them will be able to spot around the $10k mark. Otherwise, who needs heat anyway? Nothing a few space heaters and a sweatshirt can’t help.

If anyone has any suggestions for Plumber/HVAC guys in the RI/Mass area please let me know because I am just a little bit desperate with the cold weather creeping up fast. Thanks!

-AB 

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