What is it with heating contractors?

So today I started to understand that among contractors, the greatest variation, at least thus far, seems to be in heating contractors. They all have vastly different opinions on what we should do with our oil-fired forced hot air furnace to make it more efficient and hopefully heat the office on the 2nd floor (which has no air duct) and the three bedrooms on the 3rd floor (which all share one air duct, which is in the floor in the hallway between the three). We’d also like to eventually get air conditioning installed, which at least two out of three agree is theoretically possible with our setup.

Last week’s heating guy basically threw his hands up and walked out. Well, that’s a tiny bit harsh – he said he didn’t work on oil, but then scared the crap out of us by telling us that we didn’t have the proper fresh air returns and, if it were him, he wouldn’t live in the house because it’s too full of potentially toxic air. Super.

This week’s two heating guys both seemed less concerned with the returns; one had an excellent solution to the problem (repurpose unused air ducts), and the other suggested maybe bringing in some fresh air from outside. Beyond that, their approaches differened dramatically – the first one said we should keep the furnace, zone it for two zones, add ducts where they’re missing on the 2nd and 3rd floors, and then we’d have a good system that is efficient and also ready for A/C down the road. The second guy originally said we should switch the 2nd and 3rd floors to baseboard electric heat, but later called me and said he’d changed his mind and we should do a separate gas furnace on the 3rd floor with forced air ducts run through the closets.

Let me tell you, at this point I’m very confused. I think we’re going to have to talk to another one or two heating guys before we can feel comfortable about making a decision on this.

I also learned today that there is a hole in the first floor leading to the basement that needs to be patched. Yeah, it’s a nice round hole, about 15″ diameter. Goes straight down from a floor vent to the basement. It was covered with cardboard so not too noticable until you take the floor vent out. Used to be a duct, but now it’s just a hole. So it goes on the list with the other repairs needed to be made to the first-floor floor (basement ceiling), including putting back the subfloor the previous owners took out when they added a shower stall to the half-bath, and propping up the main staircase from when they took out a section of the first floor to add a set of stairs to the basement. It’s a wonder the house is still standing.






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