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DYI Menace

Walt_4 Member Posts: 31
I have repeatedly seen comments that at least imply that DIY heating is always irresponsible and that seem to imply that DIY is a real threat to the abiliy of posters to make a living. One person asked, "would I but new brakes on my car and then put my family in it?!", or something to that effect. My answer to that question is "yes". I have replaced my own brakes and driven loved ones in that very same vehicle.

The sky is not falling. A small percentage of the population always has and always will work on thier own home....even their heating and electrical systems. this percentag3e may vary from time to time. Hopefully they will have the sense to get help when they need it. DIY does not reduce the market for high end tradesmen, it increases that market. I put in my own hydronic system, from the heat loss call to the boiler. The only thing that I did not do was fire the boiler and adjust the combustion. After learning all that I needed to learn to do this in a half decent way, do you think I would recommend a hack to a friend or would I recommend someone from the wall? If I ever buy another house and need a boiler put in and choose not to do it myself, who do you think I'll call?


  • S Ebels
    S Ebels Member Posts: 2,322
    No one is disputing

    the fact that some non-professional installs turn out OK. More than a few of them turn out badly though. Not always in a dangerous sense but more often in horrible efficiency and/or high repair incidence.

    I could fill a book with unbelieveable stories from furnaces running with no return air to boilers constantly blowing relief valves ("Oh, I thought that was normal")

    Just ran into one where the HO had replaced a water heater because the old one had "burner problems". Turned out he had over 2 1/2 PSI (yes you read that right) gas pressure coming into the house. The gas valve on the new water heater evidently could hold back some but not all the excess pressure and he still had the same "burner problem". As in flame blowing out the front of the water heater. Needless to say it had a very high recovery rate.

    I do not discourage homeowners doing or participating in their own installation in any way. I will give whatever help is needed to effect a safe, quality installation.

    The problem is the old saying "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing". Many who attempt these installations simply do not realize what all needs to be done or checked. It then becomes a very valid case of "What you don't know CAN hurt you".
  • Walt_4
    Walt_4 Member Posts: 31

    You make a bunch of fair points and seem to have a balanced approach to the issue. I'd hate to think of the botched jobs that you guys see.
  • Betz
    Betz Member Posts: 58
    One of the problems

    I've had is finding someone qualified to pay to work on systems. Seems like even the ones who want to work on something have either the exact ideas I have or no ideas at all. I guess I'm just in a bad area for people who really want to learn and do a job correctly.
  • don_52
    don_52 Member Posts: 199
    Needless to say...

    it had a very high recovery rate.

    and now i coffee comin out my nose ;)

    needed a chuckle, after i wiped the

    tears away i recalled the horror stories the gas co.

    service man had informed me of not 2 weeks ago, that

    gents lucky to be alive.
  • Mitch_4
    Mitch_4 Member Posts: 955
    my $0.02

    I have been following the DYI threads for a bit, and would like to comment on this topic.

    While there are many talented DIYers out there, there are some things that can not be completely DIYed. You lack experience and proper and neccessy tools (combustion analyser etc..).

    Home heating systems are one of them.

    It like cars. 15 years ago, I would tune up my old standard carburated 350 chev no problem. I will NOT even touch the 3.4l sequetial port fuel injected V6 in my wife's minivan. I will change the oil, brake pads and muffler etc, but I will not tune it up, mess with the ABS etc.. I lack the experience. (I was raised on a farm and am not afraid to split large farm equipment, rip the guts out and rebuild). But a modern vehicle...no way.

    Heating systems are the same way.

    Before flame rectification, ignition modules etc you could do repairs with a screwdriver and a jumper wire. gas valve, blower/pump, thermocouple and limit and that was about it. Air for combustion/dilution/ventilation was a non-issue.

    Now everything is a system. The average DIYer lacks the proper tools for a proper installation, and the experience to deal with many issues. Code and safety primarily.

    Another thing that has changed is house construction. Air for combustion and venting is more of an issue now that modern construction has tightened the building enveloppe. How many DIYers can say the required cubic feet of air is required for combustion per cubic foot of natural gas? Propane? 1 US gal of heating oil? Do you have enough? or are you willing to gamble your life and your families?

    Can you test the safeties? do you even knbow where they are and how they work? What the readings should be? These NEED to be checked, yes units come with an initial setup from the factory, but you must ensure they are rechecked in the field.

    This is where experience counts. The pros (real pros who do it right, not anyone with a licence)(like those here who train and share) spend THOUSANDS of hours learning their trade. You cannot read a manual and duplicate that!

    Many DIYers complain about the $$$. but sorry, that is the price of doing business. If you disagree, get licensed and undercut everyone in your area. You'll clean up, until you go under because you don't charge enough to cover insurance, permmits, vehicle costs, maintenence, parts TRAINING and more TRAINING (and still more TRAINING). (because modern systems require you KNOW what you are doing).

    The industry is not a rip off. but rather reflects the reality of doing business. $2000.00 for a heating appliance too much? you'll want 15-25 years from it. so you want a system that you can get for $100-200.00 a year(!). Compare that to your car (say $30,000 for 10 year life = $3000.00/year) this does not include maintenace, parts etc.

    If you want to argue that a car is more useful. go a week without your car in January. Can you cope? I think so. Now turn off your heat for a week and watch what happens. Believe me, it protects a lot of stuff in your modern indoor plumbed house from freezing. burst pipes, incredible damage etc. Wreck your car and the insurace can cover you, blow up your house on a DYI heating install ,and your insurance can tell you...sorry, not covered. Eat that cost and say $100.00 just to have it inspected was too much.

    Even if you install it yourself. The system should be looked over by a pro. Many insurance companies require this, and without a licensed pro looking at your DIY install, will have an out if it causes injury/death.

    There is also the liability of the situation. Not all (of course), but many DIYers have SUED (successfully) manufacturer's of equipment because of injuries sustained from their installations. The same with wholesalers, which is why many will not sell to the general public. Some will but that will stop once they get sued.

    Many want the right to go it alone, but want to sue if they screw up. Never mind the whole "it isn't working right".
    (i.e. I have serviced a DIY install for a manufacturers rep. He put an oil furnace into a 900 sq.ft cottage, new construction. The unit HE selected had 120,000 btu OUTPUT!, 1 8x8 trunk. 5 6" pipes, and he complained it wasn't working right. The manufacturer paid for my visit, but I felt that it should have fallen on the owner.)

    So, while many DIYers are competent at what they do, and can do much. They should get a pro in to inspect and do the burner setup, and all final tests. You can save money doing the install, and LIVES by having it checked.

    I apologize if I offend anyone, but I have seen the extreme at both ends. DYIers I would hire, and others that were so bad they could organize a trip for a pack of starving wolves to fresh dead meat. Many fall in between. Compromise exists. spend a few of your saved dollars and get a pro in to inspect.


  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    That happens

    and I understand why a homeowner would get frustrated to the point of doing it themselves.

    Unfortunately, some who come here for answers think that we are reluctant to hand out "free" info simply because we want to protect our income. What they do not understand is that there is NO WAY anyone can teach a person in a few posts what took us years to learn.

    There are just too many variables that can come into play.

    We will all help when we can, but sometimes the best advice we can give is to let someone else do it.

    Mark H

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  • Walt_4
    Walt_4 Member Posts: 31
    Fair Points

    I agree with a lot, if not all, of what you have said. I especially agree that anyone who is not willing to pay a fair price for a professional when they need one is being shortsighted to say the least. But, as you say, I do think some DIYers can bite off some of these jobs with success. ..and I don't think those folks are hurting good tradesmen. Those were my only points really.
  • Walt_4
    Walt_4 Member Posts: 31
    Gift Horse

    I hope that I did not sound ungrateful for the good advice I have recieved on the wall. It's an interesting area that you all work in and folks on this site have been generous in sharing knowledge with me.
  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    No problem sir

    You did not come off as ungrateful.

    Very best wishes!

    Mark H

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
  • Mitch_4
    Mitch_4 Member Posts: 955
    I agree

    Good DIYers will consult with pros, and do not hurt the field.. There are pros(?) who can do more damage.

    Good thread Walt
  • mark_40
    mark_40 Member Posts: 65
    My Father .....

    worked for the Gas Utility 37 years ... he rarely had a story that had to do with a Hack Job .... my cousin now works for the same utility ...he has a weekly story about red-taggin' some homeowner job .. they bought the materials at HomoDepot, internet, etc, etc ..... some of these people don't know they are lucky to be alive ...
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997

    On the idea of "saving our income". I would love for the call's to slow down...:) I don't know about anyone else but the idea of saving all the info for myself is not something I want to do. My biggest concern and something I have to look in the mirror and justify is keeping everyone who's system I work on safe. If I can give out information and not have to worry about that I will, if I can't know it will work right and fully understand what I am saying, then I don't.....Safety is all I care about, not the dollar bill...:) IMHO
  • Andy_14
    Andy_14 Member Posts: 121

    A large part of this is due to the internet web sites selling hydronic systems and insisting anyone who can turn a wrench can install one, and to a certain extent some have a one size/system fits all approach.

    I plan on doing my own install, after having a pro design it(which is a very hard thing to find) and I will hire a local boiler man to do the heat source. I see nothing at all wrong with a HO trying to save a few bucks doing it this way.
  • H/O point of view

    As a homeowner, and someone who wants to install his own boiler, (posted homeowner questions a little while ago), I think it boils down (no pun intended) to 2 things for DIY'ers. 1. People who enjoy doing, and take pride in doing there own work, and 2. Not being able to find good, reliable help (in any field).
    I don't think most people here bash diy'ers because they are scared of losing money. But some do, and I can understand that because I'm in the tech field and I’m seeing jobs go over sees and wages go down.
    I totally understand that experience, and equipment is worth $$$, and keeping up on new technology can be a pain in the as*, but for some it not just about saving money. For the people that are just concerned about saving money, they don’t go to forums like this, they just get the cheapest quote and go with it, because a boilers a boiler right?
    I went to a local trade show last week to be a fly on the wall and was astonished by some of the questions the "pros" where asking the reps. I even knew some of the answers. And that lead to my second point. Good service. After my post I took the advice of the wall and called 4 people. 1 was oil only, 1 never called back, 1 called, we talked but still hasn’t gotten back to me when THEY said they would, 1 came for an estimate, for which I had to make suggestions to him and hear things like "yeah that’s probably a good idea", “oh, you want a written proposal?”. It has gotten to the point where I am considering spending the money on going to a manufactures install class myself.
    I understand that there are areas of installing a boiler that I don’t know enough about, but I also know that there is plenty I can do myself (e.g., picking up material, rip out, soldering) that the average plumber could care less about, but I would take pride in when done. Maybe there are so many "hack jobs" because it is so hard to find someone willing to be paid by the hour as a "consultant" to check their work, so h/o try it on there own, especially after hearing some many time they can't :)

    That’s just my point of view...

  • I work with a lot of DIY installers. With professional input and guidance, they do great work because they care, and they are willing to put in the time. Many times I feel even more comfortable with a DIY installer working off of my plans than a contractor, because I know the DIY installer will READ the instructions and FOLLOW them!

    However, we draw the line at combustion appliances. I will fight for DIY'ers ability and rights to install tubing or even sweat copper/run basic wiring till the cows come home, but all bets are off when things that burn... and can explode, or cause dangerous fume leakage... are on the line.

    I think most on here would agree a DIY person with a good plan can install tubing just as good as anyone. I also think we all agree that boilers and water heaters are professional territory. It's not about income. There are just too many things that can go wrong. Things go wrong with pros too, but less often, less severe issues, and they are better equipped to diagnose and fix any problems that do occur!

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
  • Dean_7
    Dean_7 Member Posts: 192

    As a homeowner who does a lot of DIY I find this interesting. I still think the key is education. Usually educated consumers know what they can do and what they should leave to the pros. I won't touch the burners, gas valve, or venting on my boiler. It's serviced by a professional every year. As far as I'm concerned it's money well spent. This year the guy explained everything he did while doing it and I learned about things I didn't know existed. I still won't touch it though. The problem is it's really hard to get people to recognize their own limitations egos can and do get in the way.
  • Constantin
    Constantin Member Posts: 3,796
    Siegenthalers company designs systems

    ... give him a call, you ought not have any issues with a system designed by him!
  • Kal Row
    Kal Row Member Posts: 1,520
    completely agree -

    doing it for a living - or even having certification, doesn’t make someone a pro, having the knowledge and will and tools to do it right, is!

    our first call here, is to provide the knowledge to “ALL” that desire it, – second, is to warn of pitfalls and dangers, and last, is to discourage those, who in our experienced opinion, cant do a safe job, due lack of knowledge, test equip, or required funds

    – we don’t loose work from DIY’ers, DIY-RESCUE represents a good chunk of many a pro’s income

    – I’ve put some of the fanciest systems into homes, where the HO, was effectively a student/worker on the job – and I know, that I don’t have to worry about that location in the middle of the night
  • mp1969
    mp1969 Member Posts: 226

    As long as the work is done in one's own home with proper permits and inspection I have no problem with savvy DIY homeowners. Savvy is the key word here as one should know their limitations and abilities.
    I have a larger problem with partially trained moonlighters who take work away from their employers and even use the company's equipment and materials.
    More power to you Walt. I suggest you pay a true professional to do final startup and troubleshhoting. The message about proper combuston and tweaking should be taken to heart!
    Ever consider a career in HVAC or plumbing.

    MP 1969
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