Getting a Heat Pump Screw Job

By Karen

I awoke 2 a.m. last frigid Thursday night when my face froze. My 3 ½-year-old Trane electric heat pump (HP) had tripped its circuit breaker and died.

At 7 a.m. Friday, unshowered and dressed in layers, I phoned Guirkin Plumbing & Heating, who installed the HP, and was reassured that rescue would be on the way by 7:30.

At 9:30, now wearing gloves because the indoor temperature was probably in the 40s, I called Guirkin to learn that my call had never been placed. Their highly solicitous answering service apparently employs an asshole.

Guirkin arrived close to 4 p.m., just as I was beginning to panic over another freezing night. The repairman replaced 3 blown fuses, turned the HP on, and I thought we were done.

Then he disappeared outside for a few minutes, returning to tell me that basically every component but the outer casing needs replacing, but parts are still under warranty. However, labor for this ½-day job would be $1,800. And it couldn’t commence until Monday at the earliest because parts had to be ordered.

This news sent me over the edge, and I went postal on the guy. To his credit, he stood there and took it like a man who’ll do just about anything to net nearly $2K.

He left me running for the weekend on electric auxiliary emergency heat.

I’ve been trying to line up an electrician to find why fuses blew, and another HVAC company to provide a second opinion.

Then yesterday my electric bill came. It averages $87, but it took a sudden jump to $166 for 1,638 kilowatt hours (kWh), the highest it’s been ever.

To check the bill’s accuracy, I just read the meter, and in 6 days, it clocked 10,382 kWh, which translates to roughly $833.

What’s causing it? Three days of emergency heat? Am I powering the neighborhood? I have no idea.

But I do know these 2 things for sure:

That “Nothing can stop a Trane” is total bullshit.

And “When it’s not workin’, call Guirkin,” only when you want to receive a royal jerkin’.


19 Responses to Getting a Heat Pump Screw Job

  1. 1. Probably should’ve called another company if they didn’t show by 9:30. I understand if the warranty is held by Guirkin, but then labor should be free as well – $1,800 my butt.

    2. Report Guirkin to the Better Business Bureau of Central Virginia.

    3. Your HP is probably gobbling up electricity. I would contact Dominion Power to ensure a surge didn’t knock your gauge out of whack.

    4. I pray you get heat back and no ramifications. My HP is older and has conked out here and there, but warranties have saved us too much in parts, and labor is much less. I’m sorry you’re going through this.

    5. HPs suck.

  2. Bob says:

    Well Just Chilling out … Ha Ha…
    Not so funny eh,, Well Canadian Humor.

    I think your getting fucked over on the heat pump thingy.

    I hope you get some satisfaction out of the BBB. Honestly seems like your getting back ended in a most unholy manner..

    But Chin up girlfriend, only 10 more sleeps if my fuzzy math is right… Just got off the road and having a beer so I may be a day off.

    Hope everyone at home is wearing a fur coat or two,
    Remember Cats make excellent space heaters!!!

    Take Care and Stay warm

  3. Adele says:

    Good that the guys are checking in on this one. My plumber brother-in-law, btw, started out my question about heat pumps with, “I don’t know much about heat pumps, but I’ve always heard they suck.”

    Hope the cats are cuddling with you to keep you warm.

  4. catsworking says:

    I just talked to Dominion Power and they said if the breaker was switched ON (which it was, by the Guirkin repairman Friday before he left), it’s entirely possible that the inoperable HP AND the emergency heat I used only 2 nights sucked up more power than this house consumes in a year. Too bad. Nothing they can do. I owe the money.

    I’m waiting for another HVAC company right now, and an electrician is coming this afternoon. I hope between them we can get this sorted out.

    I also spoke to Mr. Guirkin this morning and he said, “Good luck on finding someone who will work on a time and materials basis,” like he’s the best deal in town.

    This is far from over, but thank God the weather is warm this week. Stay tuned…

  5. catsworking says:

    Bob, oddly enough, Guirkin has an A+ rating with the BBB and only 3 complaints in the past 3 years. Maybe all the other dissatisfied customers froze to death.

    I just had another HVAC company here and they say my fan motor is fine (Guirkin said it needs replacing). The compressor IS bad, and who knows why or how? So I’m getting an estimate from these guys. They also showed me that the whole heat pump was never properly grounded when Guirkin installed it.

    I’m expecting an electrician this afternoon, and with luck he’ll be able to get to the bottom of the monstrous power drain that sucked up a year’s worth of juice in 6 days.

    And to add insult to injury, Saturday I went to a cheapo chain place to get my hair trimmed. Saved $33 over my regular hairdresser, but got a total botch job that didn’t leave enough hair to even allow anyone to fix it. She seemed to think she was trimming a 5-year-old boy. No way it can grow out enough to look decent before I meet Bourdain.

    The way I’m getting boinked from every direction these days, I can hardly sit down!

  6. Adele says:

    Karen, so sorry for your mounting troubles. A hair suggestion — call your regular hairdresser, throw yourself on his/her mercy, and see if you can get in for just a blow out,(if you’re seeing TB the same night as you’e driving to Durham, maybe you could even go that morning) so you can see if there’s some styling trick you can use. I know it’s more money, but it shouldn’t be that much more, and maybe you can figure out how to salvage the situation. You’re going to need to cut back on the cats’ allowances and see to it that Fred doesn’t place any bets on horse races.

    Bob, I’m glad your dad is doing better. I hope this week is better for everyone.

  7. MorganLF says:


    Get hold of Trane:

    Better Business really cannot make you whole, but get a statement from the new HVAC co stating the unit was improperly installed. Then hit your state website & see how to file a complaint:

    Play nice to Guirkin and get the estimate in writing. If they will not, reaveal that you intend to pursue against him for improper installation and intent to commit fraud. Remember the heatiing bill is also part of the damages you need to recover. If they do not respond to you resonably f’ them ..full speed ahead. You were the victim of an attempt to scam AND poor workmanship.

  8. catsworking says:

    You guys are great. Thanks so much for your research, Morgan.

    I’ve spent most of the day outside with the heat pump. First, some good news. The electrician read the meter and said I’ve only used about 1,500 kWh, which will still result in a bill of several $100s by the end of the month, but not $1,000+. I guess I talked to an idiot at Dominion Power this morning, who seemed to verify my reading and said it was tough.

    All the wiring in my house is sound and working exactly as it should.

    I’ve had the heat pump checked by 2 professionals today and both agree that the only thing that’s bad is the compressor. How it happened, nobody knows without dissecting it. And it appears that Guirkin installed it properly. The grounding was done kind of funky, leaving a strange green wire dangling to nothing, but it IS grounded where it needs to be.

    The electrician is getting an estimate for me on a compressor replacement (using my warranty) from a REPUTABLE HVAC company he knows that shouldn’t try to scalp me on the labor. (Thankfully, since I was literally scalped at Fantastic Sam’s.)

    I’m going back to Guirkin to give them a chance to provide a reasonably-priced solution. Since the HP is still under warranty, it may be to replace the whole thing since it’s a quicker install. When I spoke to Mr. Guirkin himself this morning, he was dismissive that I could get a better deal anywhere than his $1,800 quote, so I can’t say I’m optimistic.

    When all is said and done, if Guirkin doesn’t do the work, they have tried to get me to replace a component (the fan motor) that has nothing wrong with it, so I guess there is some deception there. I also found out that they seem to have repo’ed the 2 fuses I thought had been replaced and put the blown ones back in on the outside unit when I wasn’t looking.

    At this point I still don’t have heat, but this week is going to be spring-like, with some nights only in the 50s. I’ve got two good little space heaters, plus feline insulation, so I think we’re in good shape.

    Morgan, I will contact Trane if Guirkin doesn’t come through. It’s Trane’s warranty. They should make good on it.

    Adele, as for my hair, it’s mostly the bangs, although the sides are so short, it’s a man’s haircut — no poof whatsoever. I look like Mr. Spock. The only hope for the bangs is to muss them up so it looks like they’re not there.

    Fortunately, Fred has never been a gambler. He just likes to watch the horses run.

  9. MorganLF says:

    Mr. Spock LOL! Can you at least do the vulcan hand greeting?

  10. Bob says:

    Glad you are getting the heating issues sorted out.

    As for your bangs, I am sure you can figure something out. only 8 more sleeps afterall….

    Glad I came home yesterday, the roads here are ice, Just watching the news people are lacing up skates and Skating on the ROADS…. Not good for Rubber.

    By lucky chance I took today off of work. Slept till 11 popped my head out for some basics.

    Glad that your not going to loose your house on Fred’s Horse fixation.

    Looking forward to Food Porn tonight… well for me tomorrow when I can down load it…

    Stay warm

  11. catsworking says:

    Morgan, yes I can, and it will be coming in handy because these suckers are so short, it’s going to take several months for them to reach my eyebrows.

  12. catsworking says:

    Bob, I’m thinking my best bet is a bag over my head for meeting Bourdain. If he’s gracious enough to pose for a picture with me, you all will see for yourselve how bad this haircut is. To add insult to injury, as scalped as I am around the sides, the left side is longer than the right, and the bottom of the back is too long and squared off, like Herman Munster.

    Think Mr. Spock meets Herman Munster. That’s me.

    The person who cut my hair should never be allowed to hold a scissors again.

    The heat pump situation is looking grim again. Had the 3RD HVAC guys out this morning, recommended by the electrician. They seemed to know their stuff and are saying there may be crap floating around in the compressor that got into the duct work (won’t know until they remove the compressor and dump it out), which will all need to be cleaned out, as well as replacing the coil on the inside unit. If that’s the case, we’re basically talking about another whole system, and I’ll be at Trane’s mercy on how much they cover under warranty. I’m waiting to hear the verdict now.

    If there’s no crap, then it’s a straight compressor/capacitor replacement.

  13. Oh God, what a freakin’ nightmare! And I thought I had problems with Best Buy. Hope you have it all together soon! BTW…what did you think of Food Porn? I loved it!

  14. catsworking says:

    Mom, I’ll be watching Food Porn in a little while. I’ve been looking forward to it all day.

    This morning I had a 3rd company, Adams Heating & Air Conditioning, recommended by my electrician, out to look at the HP. They sent 2 guys (one turned out to be the owner’s son) who obviously knew what they were doing. No hemming and hawing. They pulled the lid off that sucker (which neither of the previous 2 guys did), checked everything out, and said the compressor is bad and the fan motor is fine.

    Hopefully the new compressor will arrive early tomorrow and it and some related parts will be installed. Thursday at the latest, I hope, because it’s supposed to turn cold this weekend. If there has been no melt-down inside the compressor that pushed debris into my pipes (which I’m told is rare), that’s that. If the pipes have to be cleared of debris, then the coil inside the house will need to be replaced as well. Cost-wise, we’re talking about 1/3 to 1/2 of what I was originally quoted. I feel I can trust Adams to be thorough and do it right, so it’s worth every penny.

    This afternoon I realized it was warmer outside than in the house, so I opened the windows to gather some heat for tonight. The cats loved that, of course.

  15. Bob says:

    Hi all!!! Karen hope you have your heat back on and working. Just found a Video on-line of our weather here yesterday… Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…

    8 more sleeps for you!!!
    Lucky Ducky


  16. Bob says:

    Here’s a link that hopefully works this time..

    Yes He’s on the Highway!!!

  17. catsworking says:

    The second link worked. That was really bizarre. How did it happen? Did you get a heavy rain and then a quick freeze?

    I think it may have hit 70 here today, or it’s supposed to tomorrow. If I HAD a heat pump right now, it would be taking a rest.

  18. Bob says:

    Yea freaky eh… Normally Jan and Feb are Well Below freezing ( 0 Celsius, 32 Fahrenheit) But we just peeked up above 0 on Monday with Rain… So it hit the roads and thus the video.

    I had Good Cat Sense yesterday and stayed in bed after my weekend with my Dad.

    Going to work today was lots of fun, had my Jeep’s tires spinning for fun on the ice, Trying to freak out the Traction Control. 🙂

    Four wheel drive makes no difference in this, Loads of fender benders and closed highways!!!

    Glad you liked the Video…. Trying to down load Food Porn GRRRR Its not up on the net yet 😦


  19. catsworking says:

    Bob, the roads here are clogged with SUVs, minivans, and pickups, and the drivers all think they’re immortal with 4-wheel drive. No matter how wet or slick the roads are, they’ll be tailgating and passing my little Saturn like they’ve never heard of a speed limit. And when we have really bad weather, I swear they try to break all previous records for crashing into each other. We’ve been known to have HUNDREDS of fender-benders around town during rush hour on snowy mornings.

    By the way, you’re gonna love Food Porn!

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