Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Morning Of Unexpected Expen$e

     The alarming odor that awoke me early this morning?  A component or components on the controller board for our furnace, with its nifty safety features, multi-speed blower, etc.

     And the furnace tech has just informed me that the replacement board is $550.  That's right, Five Hundred Fifty Dollars, American.  ...That's my money for a new mattress...that I didn't actually have and was putting off the purchase of therefore.

     I'm unhappy.  I might be able to fix the bad board myself, if it's stupid enough and if the active components aren't bespoke and don't have their identifying marks obscured.*   What I can't do is warrant that it'll have the same reliability and safety as the OEM part.  These days, that counts on matters like insurance.  It's why there's probably no "core credit" for the old board, too.

     It's galling to write this but -- Tam's got a tip jar.  I'm in a bind; the recent (and necessary) used-car purchase has my finances strained.  I can pay for this but it's gonna be costly money.  ETA: Your absolutely staggering response has solved this problem.  Completely.  I'm gobsmacked.  My attempt to begin to say thanks will be found a couple of posts on. 
 ________________________________
* Diodes, transistors and integrated circuits use a somewhat-scattershot assortment of European, JEDEC, trade-association and manufacturer's numbers that usually resolve down to one of a few thousand replacement parts per component type.  A competent electronics tech can usually find them.  But some makers remove the numbers and others -- big, vertically-integrated operations, mostly -- build their own parts and often won't sell them.  Passive components like resistors, capacitors and (less so) inductors are marked with common color codes or simple numeric shorthand.  Transformers?  Yeah, good luck with that.  Most OEM ones have nothing other than not-very-informative color-coded leads.

11 comments:

Bob said...

Sent a little bit, what I could afford. Sorry it's not more.

fillyjonk said...

Holy crap, that's almost 1/3 of what I paid this summer for a whole new furnace. Ouchie.

Roberta X said...

It's very much appreciated.

one_of_many said...

Sent a bit via PayPal to Tam's tip jar. You guys give me so much reading enjoyment and you should be warm! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Ebay. Or buy one locally. Replace it yoruself, save about 30%

CGHill said...

I'm definitely in favor of warmth, and the $400 I spent on my own furnace this winter didn't entirely break me, so I'm passing the savings (such as they are) on to you.

Roberta X said...

Anon: Good advice. However, I'm very wary of working on gas appliances. I know electronics. I know electricity -- but I won't work in a hot breaker box over 50A or so, either. I know only the least bit about gas. The price for getting it wrong isn't charged in dollars and cents.

Anonymous said...

No gas in that circuit board....Just, what, 10 wires?

and a sub 50 amp breaker can kill you just dead as one over 50.

Robin said...

The furnace control board gimmick is a huge ripoff but as you note, one with no shortcut.

markm said...

As an engineer in an electronics assembly plant, I'd have liked to see a picture of that board. $550 sounds way out of line. The little boards we build for automobiles are typically $15 on the loading dock - $12 for parts, $3 for labor, a few seconds share of paying for a million-dollar surface-mount line, overhead, and our tiny profit margin. The car company also has to amortize the design and tooling costs, but across quantities of hundreds of thousands that's only a few cents. When it goes to a part store instead of a production line, the car company will add a few dollars, distribution will add more than a few, and the part store has to add enough to make up for keeping it on the shelf for months, answering stupid questions from DIYers that don't know nearly as much as they think they do, etc., but it shouldn't be over $75.

How would that compare to a furnace control? A furnace doesn't have many sensors and actuators: 2 or 3 temperature sensors, on/off inputs from the thermometer, and three outputs for the fan (120VAC at several amps), gas valve (24V), and igniter (high voltage?). Most of these are more expensive than the typical I/O for automotive boards. The board is probably produced in lower volume than car parts, but not too much lower. So, I'd guess $30 cost from the factory. I could see distribution costs and reasonable markups to $100-$150, but $550 is just extortionate.

I've seen too many other examples of extortionate markups on repair parts, but think about this: what are the incentives when a company gets a 300-500% profit margin when their product breaks down!

Roberta X said...

I would not be surprised at a 100% mark-up. $225 wouldn't be atypical and...

These kinds of parts have gone up quite a lot of late, I'm not sure why.