Building/moving to a new home – day 96

Burned by a stove dealer

Some otherwise reliable companies exhibit a strange dichotomy. They pay attention to you during the sales cycle and seem to answer questions intelligently. Then, during the delivery/installation cycle things begin to fall apart and you get strange nonsequitur answers when you start asking questions.

We bought two stoves from Blue Ridge Heating and Air in Christiansburg. One is a pellet stove and one is a wood stove. We paid in advance, which may have been a mistake because the sales part of the business seems to have lost interest in seeing that we get an adequate installation.

The installation people we have met are friendly and try to be helpful, but they tell a different story than we hear from the sales people. They are also unreliable when it comes to delivering what is promised.

We got the first clue that we might be in trouble when the installation crew showed up the first time without one of the stoves and missing half a ton of hardwood pellets which they had lost in a ditch on the way to our house.

They installed the pellet stove without the fresh air intake we ordered and were going to leave without testing the stove. I got them to fire up the stove and it seemed to work, so they left with a promise to come back with the other stove, the missing half ton of pellets, and the missing fresh air intake.

I asked them about the fresh air intake before they left and they said those were sold only on gas-fired stoves. I immediately checked with the salesman and he said they came with the pellet stove also and would be installed when the installers cam back again.

We ran the pellet stove for a few hours and noticed that the workshop was filling up with smoke. I called Blue Ridge Heating and Air again and was assured by Bob Martin that it was the oil burning off the stove pipe. When I asked how long this would take, he said he had one which had smoked for months!

I now knew that I was dealing with an extreme case of poor customer service and I had better get busy if we wanted a working installation.

I got a flashlight and examined the stovepipe. Small jets of smoke was spurting out of every joint in the stovepipe. I talked to the installer and he said he could use high-temperature silicone to seal the joints in the stove pipe. I did not bother asking him why this wasn’t a standard practice for pellet stoves, since the stack runs at a positive pressure because of the blower that forces air through the combustion chamber.

When the installer came back he did not bring the fresh air adapter I had purchased. He said that the fresh air adapter would not fit on this stove! My confidence level was reaching new lows.

He told me he was going to drill another hole in the wall to let the fresh air in. When I checked later, he had marked the hole position where the air inlet would be covered by snow drifts! Fortunately, he had not drilled the hole in the wall.

I am going to have a meeting of the minds with these people Tuesday morning. I want to know exactly what it is they sell and who is telling the truth. If I do not get good answers, we are going to get a competent crew to finish installing these stoves and will deduct the charges from our final bill.

These people claim they cannot guarantee or service a stove they don’t install, but from what I have seen so far, their guarantee and their service is highly suspect. I have had three conversations with Bob Martin and with someone named John and I continue to get reassuring statements and no results.

Unless I see a change in their operating basis, I would have to say that Blue Ridge Heating and Air carries a good line of stoves, but I would get someone else to install them. This really does not make sense, because these people have been in business for years. Surely these issues would have been sorted out long ago.

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, I owe Fred an apology as he warned me about this company and I did not heed his advice.

I have questions for my readers who may have had similar experiences:

What do you think? Is my stove dealer just blowing smoke?
How have you solved this kind of customer support problem?

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0 Responses to Building/moving to a new home – day 96

  1. Jonathan Austin says:

    Well, I’m not sure how a pellet stove is suppose to work, but if you need someone else to install it, give Air Doctor in Christiansburg a call. They did my heat pump and I was very satisfied. I would bet they would do stoves too but not sure. Tell Mark (the owner) I sent you.

  2. fred1st says:

    Dave, you shouldn’t have smoke coming out from any joints or openings in the pipe. There should be enough negative pressure created by the rising hot air–provided your draft is adequate (this related to configuration of the chimney cap, trees/hills/wind direction and importantly, that stack gases stay hot all the way to the top of the chimney. Sounds like you’re getting backdraft for some reason.

    And yes, new pipe and new cast iron of a stove give off an odor for a few hours, but not smoke. We generally fire ours up in late summer to burn off the fresh coat of stove black and it only takes one firing.

    So sorry about all your woes with these folks, but I got bad vibes from several perspectives with them years ago, and am SO happy I went with Kanode’s Hearth Shop in Salem. Hope your meeting tomorrow brings resolution.

  3. stove pipe says:

    Great post. I will have to bookmark your site for later reading.

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