In early December, we were having some guests come for Christmas and wanted our basement to have some heat. We had been looking at various solutions, but nothing seemed really feasible (either too expensive or required major home renovations). I was talking with a buddy of mine who works for a local HVAC company and he asked if he and the owner of his company could come take a look to see if there was something they could do.
They came and proposed a damper system with three zones in it that would allow the basement to be heated with the same heater as the rest of the system. They advised that the heater may be a little under-powered, but it would work. They gave me a bid that I thought was reasonable, so we had them come install they system. It took a little longer than they hoped, but not a big deal.
Immediately after they finished, we began smelling gas in our home. Anytime the system turned on there would be a significant smell. I called them to check it out and they had a technician come out who said he couldn't find anything wrong, and it could just be the system flushing itself out. He said if I smelled the gas again, I should call back. He also said it would be easier to diagnose if they came out while the smell was there.
The smell continued to be there, but I didn't want to have them come out unless I was sure the smell would still be there when they got there. After a few weeks, it was still there, but I wasn't sure what to do. Finally, last Friday, our CO monitors went off and I called them to come take a look. The technician brought a gas detecting device and it was beeping like crazy when he came in. He had to open all the windows to clear out the gas before he could identify where the leak was coming from.
He said he identified a leaky valve in the furnace that had gone bad, but it had nothing to do with their work. He said he could replace it, but since it had nothing to do with their work, I would need to pay for the repair. It was only a couple hundred, and I didn't want to worry about the gas anymore, so I agreed. I thought maybe the owner would remove the charges for this repair, since I had them do the original service.
The next day, Saturday, the smell was back. I went straight to the owner and asked him what he thought I should do. He called me back on his way back from taking his daughter to the temple for the first time. I didn't want to interrupt an important family event, so I told him I didn't think it was life-threatening, so we could deal with it on Monday. Yesterday (Sunday) our CO alarms went off again. My family went to a friends house for the evening and I texted him again. I explained the alarms went off and that now I felt my family's safety was at risk. The owner offered to come out that night (last night) to take a look. I accepted his offer and met him at my house around 10:00 pm.
He brought the original technician and they began to troubleshoot. After a couple of hours and removing the connection to the water heater and furnace, they finally discovered the leak in a valve near the furnace. As they began working on fixing it, I asked how he thought this happened. He said it was probably faulty installation by whoever built the house. I explained that I thought it was a little bit of a coincidence that it happened at the same time as the work they did on the system. He immediately became irate and asked in a confrontational manner, "What are you implying?"
I said I wasn't implying anything or questioning anyone's work, but there had never been an issue before and I wondered if maybe one of his technicians accidentally caused the leak. He got really defensive and said there was no way it could have been them because they wouldn't even have touched that part of the line. I pointed out to him that the ducts they installed were right next to it and they would have had to have worked in that area. He replied that there was no way that could have happened and I was going to receive a bill for the work he was doing, so what did I want him to do. I acknowledged that he was out at my home at 11:30 on a Sunday night, but asked him to try to understand the situation from my point of view.
At this point he was really upset and said, "I think the best thing is for us to turn your gas off so you're safe and leave." At that point, he picked up his tools and took off. So last night, we had no heat, and no hot water this morning. In January, in Utah.
Thinking back to last night, I felt like I handled it calmly and professionally. I wasn't trying to stiff him or anything, I just wanted him to maybe consider that they had a caused a potentially life-threatening situation for my family. At a minimum, I'd hoped he'd fixed the situation last night and let us negotiate a solution later.
Now I'm sitting here in my house with no hot water and no heat, trying to figure out who to call. Is this worthy of litigation? Do I call a plumber to fix? What do I do?