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What's worse? DIY Radiant/DIY Scorched Air?

John R. Hall
John R. Hall Member Posts: 2,246
M.E. made a point in another RadFest thread that got me thinking. Do you believe a DIYer is more apt to tackle a radiant floor heat job than a gas furnace system install? It seems obvious that the task of installing (and SIZING) ductwork would be more daunting but I'm not sure if there is any proof that more DIYers are doing one over the other.

If it is a "simple" replacement job where equipment is swapped out, the furnace may be less daunting. I would just hate to think that experienced radiant heat contractors would get out of the installation business because they are frustrated or because they see more money in fixing the DIYers mistakes.

As always, I value your experienced opinions.


  • Ranger
    Ranger Member Posts: 210
    Nothing good can come of this...

    ...someone once said.E-V-E-R-Y D.Y.I. install (radiant,scorched air or otherwise) that I have ever come across that was not supervised by someone in the know was at best comical,at worst dangerious and criminal.Now I am not saying that we are all not D.Y.I.'ers to some extent.But I feel medical proceedures and HVAC/R work should be done by professionals only.Now I conceed that on rare occasion there are in fact individuals that can tackle this,thay are usually well read and know when to ask for help.(some are friends here on the wall)I will say if it is installed correctly,you'll never know anyway.
  • Boiler Guy
    Boiler Guy Member Posts: 585
    My only

    question is: What about litigation and insurance? I am sure there are many DIYers quite capable of installing their own systems but who ensures everything conforms to code and "best practice"? I recently attended a discovery hearing where a furnace was installed 8 years ago by the previous owner - beautiful install - except the place burnt down due to failure to adhere to specified clearances. No permit or inspection was ever done. The insurance Co walked away now the new owner is forced to sue the previous owner to "try" to recover. What a mess!
  • Dave Yates (PAH)
    Dave Yates (PAH) Member Posts: 2,162
    from my perspective

    Granted, my perspective is from a professional's point of view and from that vantage point, I have yet to run across a DIY installation that meets my own standards. That's not to say they all were deficient, defective or dangerous (although many are/were).

    I'm actually more appaled by the levels of deception I see from those who sell to DIYers and their self-serving poor advice intended to denigrate professionals and their skills/knowledge as something not worthy or needed.

    By far, the worst work (and most dangerous too) that I've seen this past year has been performed by the "pro" installers hired by the big box DIY stores.

    So a DIYer installs a sub-standard system/device/etc. No big deal cause their home is their domain - right? Stats indicate folks in the US move every seven years. So, now the sub-standard work is foist upon some unsuspecting new homeowner.

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  • ed wallace
    ed wallace Member Posts: 1,613
    dyi installs

    in my area metro boston worse installs are steam boilers done bye keyspan local gas co. they dont do headers bullhead tees no equalizers
  • Geno_15
    Geno_15 Member Posts: 158
    Excellent point

    the "BIG BOX STORES" are not getting good techs for install, those people are busy,

    stupid is as stupid does

    you get what ya pay for

    do it yourself, then pay to have it fixed

    case in point..

    had a guy come into the school last year to ask what we thought about his situation, seems he got a guy he knew to put in A/C real cheap, he bought the stuff, the whole job cost was around $4,000 for central in 2400 sq ft home, hmmmm, so then he had problems with it being too cold or hot in different areas, guy came back, guy came back, yada yada, finally this h/o gets mad and calls in pros to find out whats wrong..

    what this fly by night did was throw an air handler in the attic and attach 14" flex for a supply, off of that he somehow got 6" flex to attach to that 14" for runs, some of which was falling apart or popping off the 14" flex,..

    one company he said came out and performed a heat load calculation and said for $7000 they could fix it and keep his indoor and outdoor sections, evrything just needed to be done over and he needed real ductwork................

    we told him to go with them

    he didn't save any money by saving money
  • Boiler Guy
    Boiler Guy Member Posts: 585

    too many people get taken advantage of by unscrupulous characters (including some contractors). Big boxes only care about margins and with a lot of hungry or greedy second rate installers out there, they get their pick of "litter". Eventually the problem will become severe enough that big brother will be drawn into the mix. JMHO
  • Sweet_2
    Sweet_2 Member Posts: 143

    someone will have to pay a pretty big cost for that to happen. I dont wish any harm on anybody but somethings got to give with these half /;S contractors doing this sub-standard work. Its about the bottom line, and lack of ethics.
  • jeff_51
    jeff_51 Member Posts: 545
    here we have to have an inspection

    before you can sell a house and that means an inspection by a licensed heating contractor on boiler or furnace. We have pretty strict licensing here in Minnesota so the installs from the big boxes have to be licensed installers. Not always are the best or permits pulled, but at least they are licensed contractors. Have seen some REALLY scary DIY jobs, then they want us to come in and correct it. We will, but of course always pull everything apart and start over again from scratch. Cust ALWAYS pays more.
  • Boiler Guy
    Boiler Guy Member Posts: 585
    We have strict

    inspection criteria too, BUT, how do you control the mind set of "I can do it myself and NOBODY is gonna tell me otherwise!" There is always HELL TO PAY when bad stuff happens!!
  • Plumdog
    Plumdog Member Posts: 18

    This whole license-inspection thing has got me down in the dumps. The other day a local paper had half a dozen ads reading "Paint, Tile, Electrical, Plumbing, you name it we do it ALL!" or other such nonsense. I have approached all the inspectors that I come across about this advertising for plumbing and electrical by unlicensed individuals over the past 13 years; and have been told repeatedly that it is not illegal unless they claim to be licensed, but are not. So why not "Cheap rates on APPENDECTOMY and HEAD INJURIES, we have low overhead and pass the savings on to YOU!"
    Why couldn't all licensed HVAC, Electricians, Plumbers, etc. hand in their Drivers License and paint "Unlicensed Driver" right on the side of their truck? If I make no claim to be licensed driver then in a parallel world I would not need any knowledge of road rules or laws; nor would I need Insurance. I could drive just as fast as I want and the State Patrol would watch me go by and smile because I'm just a fool and they haven't got time to enforce the laws on everyone; only those that sign up to play by the rules.
  • John Shea
    John Shea Member Posts: 247
    No place scarier than Detroit!

    Just when you think you've got it bad in your major U.S. city, just think of Detroit, and you'll be happy to live and/or work where you do.

    You guys will really get a kick out of this one:
  • Dave Yates (PAH)
    Dave Yates (PAH) Member Posts: 2,162
    It's a topsey-turvey world!

    Man, I feel your pain. While those of us who are the pros and hold licenses are required to play strictly by the rules, those who chose to work outside the rules and thumb their noses at the "system" get a free pass with no worries about fines or getting busted.

    As I explained to a code official last Friday: the days of seeing me at the permit dept window - wasting 90-minutes to obtain a permit are over until they fix the system and begin pursuing the hacks.

    We've lost a number of jobs to unlicensed hacks following the astronomical increase in permit fees last year. In one case, I stood with an inspector within smelling distance of PVC cement odors wafting through the air as an unlicensed hack was installing a bath & kitchen & he told me point-blank he wasn't interested in walking the 50 feet to catch the guy in-the-act. Had that been a licensed plumber, on the other hand, he'd have left no stone unturned in his effort to catch and fine the offender.

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  • Boiler Guy
    Boiler Guy Member Posts: 585
    You can be sure

    someone has been pocketing cash for 28 years. Can you say License to Steal!!
  • John Shea
    John Shea Member Posts: 247

    was none other than mayor Coleman A. Young. and now this new stooge:
  • S Ebels
    S Ebels Member Posts: 2,322
    Inspections are a joke, my license is nearly worthless here (SE)

    Here's a couple examples. We're doing a large new home which really needs a staged cooling system. I decided to install one of the MZ-Cool units from Pete Caruso because by nature, a chiller is much more flexible than a DX system. With the buffer tank system on the MZ-Cool the load can vary a lot without messing things up. Ssssooooooooo....... on my permit application I checked the little box for chiller. Big mistake, a couple weeks later I get the app back in the mail and it says I am not licensed to install a chiller. WHAT THE HECK????!!!! I have a universal certification for refrigerant!!!!

    I called the mechanical division down in Lansing and the Philistine woman on the other end of the phone basically says my certification doesn't mean squat! I have to come down and take a specific test for chillers and to do that I have to prove that I worked for a licensed chiller installer for three years!! Well duh!! I'm not about to close down my company in order to work for someone else for three years, so I'm thinking "what can I do?"

    Long story short, I had the homeowner pull the permit. Yep that's right, the homeowner can pull a permit for anything he wants to put in as long as it's for his/her personal dwelling. Where's his experience and refrig. cert. card or his mechanical license in the first place? Make's a lot of sense to me...... NOT!!!

    Here's another one. This evening, I get a call from a guy in a nearby town that says he smelled gas in the house. He had called the gas company, they came and told him he had a vent problem, shut off and disconnected the gas line, then told him to get it fixed. I went over for a looksee and find an 80% Rudd furnace vented out through a basement window with 3" light gauge galvanized stove pipe. It's rusted into chunks, I mean real big chunks laying on the floor. This furnace is not approved for sidewall venting in the first place let alone in regular stove pipe. The gas cock is leaking around the stem and the return air opening for the 125,000 btu furnace is 6"x18". Yes this job was inspected by the local mechanical authority. It passed evidently because it's been hooked up that way for 3 years according to the current resident of the house. WHAT'S UP WITH THAT!!!!!?????? I wouldn't let my dog sleep in there for fear of CO poisoning let alone humans.

    Like I said before............don't get me started on codes and/or code officials. About all my license does for me is penalize my checkbook for trying to do things right and by the book.
  • Dave Yates (PAH)
    Dave Yates (PAH) Member Posts: 2,162
    Good grief!

    In my conversation with the new inspector last week, he said he's pushing for all trades to be licensed (only plumbing contractors currently require licensing) and each respective trade will be required to take HIS certification test. A Master Electrician was with us during the conversation & the inspector added that no low voltage wiring would be done without certification either - to which my electrician friend let out an audible groan. I offered to take Mr. Inspector for a tour of some of our work(G). He declined.

    I already have enough certs to wallpaper a room. If he's not going to recognize them, I'm not participating and won't support his efforts. I am not alone. Our local PHCC chapter members have all decided we're drawing a line and none of us will be bothering to obtain plumbing permits until we see changes in how things are being done.

    It's an interesting dillema. They know they can't possibly win a fight in court because they haven't EVER bothered to hammer scofflaws who, in more than a few cases, were turned in by name and location. We were willing to play along all these years because we are the pros and, in spite of the aggravations, we wanted things to be above board. For decades, we've put up with educating plumbing inspectors who are simply appointed, given a code book and unleashed without any training to go forth and inspect. Now that they doubled our license fees and increased plumbing permit fees by more than 500%, it's no longer a tolerable situation. They're charging fees now that can easily cost a customer more than the cost for the work itself!

    Time was, we patched a sidewalk if we installed a new water service. Not any more. Now that work must be done by a bonded cement contractor & that requires yet another permit and inspection - an inspection by an inspector who freely admits he knows squat about concrete except that it gets hard. Permit fee went from $30.00 to $175.00.

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  • Boiler Guy
    Boiler Guy Member Posts: 585
    More and more

    I am convinced inspections have NOTHING to do with safety and procedure but have EVERYTHING to do with finding "cash cows" and slaughtering them so enforcing authorities can get fat on free steak!
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514
    You got it

    Its all about the money, and keeping track of improvements made to dwellings for real estate taxing purposes.
  • Mitch_4
    Mitch_4 Member Posts: 955
    kinda like this?

  • Weezbo
    Weezbo Member Posts: 6,232
    this is an interesting post ....

    i have to think that from what i have seen, that people with some degree of ambition and an attitude will and are allowed to try anything at least once in America.......It interests me to watch the boob tube sometimes when i havent passed out from exhaustion and the mindless babbeling and commercial bombardments....and upon occasion i have heard stories like Dr. JackHack Quack is making 2.3 million a year doing closet eye surgery leading to malfunctions of the persons kidneys and severe bleeding from thier anal sphincter ....or some such equally ludicrous side effect from thier particular brand of medical help. now what i find difficult to belive is that there are so many people out there who will spend all kinds of cash to hire a quack to fornicate them over yet take a look at me and "oh no". 'he's probably the spawn of satan' or some approximate idea must roll through thier nimble minds. I cannot really see how there is so much of that line of thought rolling around in the American almost seems that it must be something that is taught in the formative years of early childhood developement. it is like theres this message "Dont Trust Anybody who is a plumber" 'better to get a near sober renta drunk to hack and chop and trash thousands of dollars of your hard earned money and mal form it into a non functional POS....' sorry i shouldnt be so harsh....seriously though , over the years i have seen some truly stunning formations of peoples dollars....i am inclined to think that it must be something i exude that makes the majority of people to first overlook me in favor of urinating their money down the drain.....go figure... that would have been my thought twenty years ago, nowadays,i just dont deal with JQ public.Pretty much for the most part i just hang in there with people and contractors i know,... from time to time one of my buddies says You Just Got to see This! :))) it is nearly as good as going to Disney Land or Magic Mountain :) it is my experience that F/A systems seem to be the majority of the really bad work that i have seen, however just last year i hate to say it buh i saw a buderas lashed up under the entrance stair way that was utterly astonishing :)))) and may honestly be the worst interpetation of radiant heating that i have ever seen ....maybe the worse on the planet...nah easily hands down ..It has Got to be the worse :))) it must be the full moon is doing this to me...sorry ...
  • Jeff Lawrence_24
    Jeff Lawrence_24 Member Posts: 593
    About DIY forced air

    I haven't seen any DIY radiant around here, but I have seen one forced air job.

    I got called out on a job a while back. The tenant in the rental house just could't stay warm. A freind went up into the attic and adjusted some duct work to give them some more heat.

    The picture below is a shot of the distribution box. It has a 12 inch flex run going into it and 2 - 6" runs coming out. Both runs take care of the rest of the house by splitting off of the 6" flex into 6" Tees!

    The attached pictures are another shot of the distribution box and the pile of 6" flex I pulled out of the attic.

    One other thing. The system was a forced air brand that is easily bought over the internet by anyone. The flex in the attic is R-4.2 and commonly bought at the local big box stores. I think the previous landlord wanted to get rid of the old floor furnaces and did the work himself. I have no proof of that, but that's how I feel.

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  • Plumdog
    Plumdog Member Posts: 18

    To be perfectly frank, I think I have seen more more forced air cobblejobs than hydronic screwups over the years. Although I must admit I have never seen so many internet-bought and engineered mishaps as in the last year.
    One guy installed an open loop system fired by two standard gas water heaters vented horizontally with single-wall galvy. He never admitted it, but the inspector told me he had to rip it out and hire a licensed contractor.
    Most big screw-ups come after the heating is done and somebody wants to "remodel". Combustion air and venting on the atmospheric jobs seem to be beyond the grasp of the handyperson. Nothing against handypeople; but why not get education out there so guys know the basic stuff?
    Home Depot is the worst. Remember Hugh M. Woods? They were pretty scary with the advice but God, I wish they were back. People love Home Depot and worship the advice and product they promote; ignorant of whether or not it is sound advice or good value.
  • S Ebels
    S Ebels Member Posts: 2,322
    Or this one I just ran across Saturday

    3 month old install. Goodman 125K 90% in a 1,600 sq ft house. (Guess they wanted enough heat) The three in PVC vent is just stuffed into the old cinder block chimney. That's right, just stuffed into the old 6" hole from the previous vent. Not sealed, just laid in there and literally held in place by wires and duct tape.

    The complaint was no heat. The installer had built himself a nice trap in the 3" causing it to flood with condensate. Needless to say, the venting issue was corrected before I left. They are lucky the thing was shutting down!
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