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Looking for sage advice re: chimney sweep services

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by mco_970, Dec 11, 2013.

  1. mco_970

    mco_970 New Member

    Joined:
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    Colorado
    Hi,

    I am new to posting on the forum, but have been lurking since before I bought my stove. I have a Lopi Yankee Bay, it's about a year and a half old.

    I hired a 'chimney sweep' service to come clean my stove. I have not used it this year, it was working when I last used it in the Spring. They are also the authorized Lopi dealer in my area. The guy did his part of the cleaning, and then tried to light my stove. It would not light, it flipped up an error code that there was ash build up in the motor. I got the manual out and the cleaner and I looked at the causes of the code. He assured me it did not have ash in it, and he ended up spending an hour or so 'troubleshooting' it before deciding I had a bad sensor, and he bypassed the sensor with a bit of wire. The stove then appeared to run and try to light, and he decided it worked and he left.

    The stove then erred out again before it would run and fully light. So I went back to the manual and read up on the initial error, pulled out the stove myself, and decided to open the smaller motor as indicated in the manual and verify that it was clean. Turns out it was packed full of ash. I contacted the company, and also put a stop payment on the check because I wanted the issue resolved reasonably. I also sent them a photo of the motor chock full of ash.

    The owner of the company called me and gave me one lecture, then another, then another, then yelled, then demanded payment, then screamed. I won't go through the whole call details. I was very calm and courteous through the call, but I told him I was not paying for anything until it was reasonably resolved and my stove was working again. And he ended the call by saying he was going to sue me for non-payment.

    My husband is out of town, so I went through the whole manual and cleaned myself, and the stove is operating fine now. So yay for that.

    The question I have is - first and foremost - should the motor have been cleaned during service? If not, should the guy who worked on it have notifed me that cleaning that motor was outside of his scope rather than bypassing a sensor??

    The owner seems to think I have unreasonable expectations, and so I am just looking for some advice because I don't want to be an a-hole homeowner who is in the wrong. If I am in the wrong and owe them full payment, then I will make it so.

    Thanks in advance,
    Michelle

    and PS. I did hook the sensor that he bypassed back up, so everything is fully working. Not just kludged together. :)
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2013

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  2. briansol

    briansol Minister of Fire

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    A chimney sweep is a chimney sweep. These are generally for wood stove people.
    A pellet stove cleaning is a pellet stove cleaning. There's usually 2 types, regular (ash pan, pipe) and full, (reg + motors, insides, etc)

    Which did you order? If you aren't sure, the guy coming to clean should have been specific about what his service entails. If you expected a full service, is that what you ordered?
  3. mco_970

    mco_970 New Member

    Joined:
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    Colorado
    I have noooo idea. I just called them, told them I have a Lopi stove, and they said they would clean it. I guess because I had a fireplace before, I didn't know there are different services. They don't really have any info on their site about what is entailed. If it gives any information, it was a $200 service and they did open some things on the stove and clean them. Thanks for trying to help me sort this out.

    If nothing else, I do know how to fully clean my stove now. :)

    PS if it adds any info, the form they left just says "system is clean in good working condition". Don't know if that really means anything or not, though.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2013
  4. briansol

    briansol Minister of Fire

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    I wouldn't say having a tech leave with a jumper hooked up as 'good working condition'. But, you also didn't have him out there to fix a problem....


    IMO, I'd offer half $100, because he did do the service, just not completely. But again, I didn't see your invoice to see what you actually ordered. If you got what you ordered for $200, then pay in full.
    In the future, just do it yourself.
  5. mco_970

    mco_970 New Member

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    Thanks Brian. Yeah, the invoice doesn't say anything about the specific service other than "inspection + cleaning". It has a condition report (all checked satisfactory), and that is about all.

    The owner actually was very specific to me that the guy who cleaned it and put the jumper was not a tech. But that they did me a favor by not charging me a 'tech fee' for that work - which did not actually fix anything. ??

    I am inclined to just pay it and be done. 'Tis the season. I think I just needed to vent (pun intended :)).

    Thx,
    Michelle
  6. rona

    rona Feeling the Heat

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    southwestern Minn
    I would give them a 100.00 check and say thats all they earned and thats all they are getting. Also tell them you recorded the entire phone conversation and that should prove to be evidence of what good customer service they give.
    All in all you learned how to clean it yourself so maybe call 100.00 cheap tuition. This is another instance or example of why I tell people to be prepared to do complete stove cleaning themselves so you don't have to depend on other people. You'll be a whole lot happier to know you can do it yourself.
  7. briansol

    briansol Minister of Fire

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    DO NOT say you recorded anything, as doing so without the other party's knowledge is illegal and will not hold up in court, plus you are now a target for illegal taping. that's why all those 800 numbers say 'your call may be monitored or recorded...' because they have to.
  8. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    You contracted to have a competent professional clean your stove. Your stove wasn't cleaned by a competent professional. And you have the pics and their report to prove it in any small claims court in the country. He in fact broke your stove, the jumper, and left it.

    They ain't going to court.
    RCCARPS and Madcodger like this.
  9. mco_970

    mco_970 New Member

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    I think in Colorado a private person actually can record things, it just requires one parties consent and that can be the recording party.

    I actually am not worried if he does sue me, the pictures alone look pretty bad and I have the pictures of where it was improperly jumpered. I will probably pay him most of it and indeed, call it a lesson learned. And hey, the chimney itself is clean, so... It's all good now.
  10. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Hogwash Internet lawyer. She is in Colorado. A state that has a one party consent law just like the Feds do. As long as one party, her, knows and consents it is perfectly legal.
  11. mco_970

    mco_970 New Member

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    I have been thinking about this a bit more, and think it's really pretty bad on their part.

    They jumped the sensor so it would dump pellets and ignite. Then the fan could not come on because of the ash. Fortunately, when I monitored it after he left, I had it on the lowest pellet setting, and it did ignite eventually with only a small amount of pellets to burn off. I turned it off when the fan did not come on.

    If I had started the stove, turned the auger up and left, it would have ignited and I can easily see either my stove being destroyed (best case) or my pets and home being destroyed worst case.

    Their actions really did put me in jeopardy. :(
  12. batchman

    batchman New Member

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    Loc:
    Backwoods MA
    I am astonished a "professional" would jumper a safety feature and then leave.

    If this happened to me I would send them something, maybe half (because as you say, they did do some worthwhile work), along with a letter detailing basically what's in your first post (along with the picture of your ash-caked motor) and pointing out that a defeated safety feature is not the way to leave an inexperienced customer who came to them for help. If you were feeling (justifiably) angry I would copy the Lopi customer service manager (even if you just send it to their address attention that title).

    Then I would seek another resource for next year. By the way, it's best to get the hygroscopic and potentially acidic ash out of the unit at the end of a heating season, not the beginning.

    Other than that, props for taking care of the situation by yourself. Nicely done!

    Cheers,
    - Jeff
    (another lurker turned recent pellet stove expert thanks to this site!)
  13. stoveguy2esw

    stoveguy2esw Minister of Fire

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    completely unprofessional on many levels, first of all, the sweep did not do a proper service , secondly jumping a safety switch is seriously bad work, you can do this to test something but for Pete's sake DONT LEAVE THE JOB SITE WITH A SAFETY BYPASSED! that's RETARDED!

    if the guy at the store gives you grief simply let him know you intend to notify Lopi that one of their "authorized dealers" performed a service not following the procedures in the manual and actually walked out of the jobsite after bypassing a safety system in order to shortcut a proper service, send them the pictures and a detailed description of what was done and what the dealer threatened you with for withholding payment for the service. by bypassing that safety had your stove malfunctioned and caused any damage to the home the dealer would have easily been held liable for any damages that occurred. if one of my techs did that i'd have his arse out to the job again as fast as I could get him there to complete the job, then i'd twist his head off when he got back!
  14. Lake Girl

    Lake Girl Minister of Fire

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    mco - well done on several fronts. Glad you got it clean and removed the jumper. I agree with Mike's suggestion of writing to Lopi and provide copies of the photos. Documentation is very important should the "sweep" try to give you grief. As to payment, it's up to you. Future repairs may be difficult anyway given the unprofessional way he handled your phone call. Find out where the next nearest Lopi dealer is.
  15. Madcodger

    Madcodger Guest

    My two cents:

    1) Absolutely do not pay this company
    2) Tell the owner you look forward to seeing him in court should he decide to go that route, and that you'll be happy to bring along your pictures and your copy of the paperwork
    3) Call Lopi and ask if he really is an authorized dealer, and tell them that you really, really need another one. Then relay your story, and offer to send them the pics
    4) Tell others - MANY others - about your experience. Post it on Google, Yelp, anywhere else you can. If you belong to Angie's List, definitely post it there.
    5) Personally, I would post the dealership business name here, but that's just me.

    Bad businesses deserve to be "outed". Good businesses deserve public praise and referrals. It protects other consumers, and rewards those who really do care about quality and service. I own a company in another industry, and just sold one in the services industry earlier this year. I would have been waaaay past unhappy with this service person, and probably wouldn't have seen him around after that day. This owner chose another route. Show him that there are consequences to that.
    Markus38 likes this.
  16. fmsm

    fmsm Minister of Fire

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    It goes to to show the frustration with service companies and the pellet stove industry. I use a company that the owner is very well respected in the industry. He is very knowledgeable and a frequent poster on this forum. BUT, he can't do it all himself, he sent a new hire to my house for my summer cleaning, when I did not see any pipe brushes I asked him about it, his response was that cleaning the vent pipe was NOT part of a pellet stove cleaning. His boss would have flipped if he heard that, I explained that it was most definitely part of the service and he could use my brush set with my assistance (to make sure it was done right) but he would need to get his own set for his next customer (I told him to go to Lowes and buy the set). When he went to clean my Harman insert he started to pull on the surround not knowing that the Harman slides out.
    All I can say is that I am glad I watching him. In retrospect I should have let the owner know but I did not want to see the guy lose his job. This guy charges strong money but has always done what I felt was a great job, now I am questioning a few things.


    When I bought my new stove last month I did the install myself (with my kid and his buddy doing the grunt work) because I did not want to chance my guy sending me someone who did not know what they were doing. Plus I am a cheap sob.....
    smwilliamson likes this.
  17. mrjohneel

    mrjohneel Burning Hunk

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    fmsm, just curious: I note your posts because we both got our P35i around the same time. Did you replace your stove? Or add another one in a differnt location of your house? Or another building? Just curious.
    Markus38 likes this.
  18. smwilliamson

    smwilliamson Minister of Fire

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    A perfect example of why sweeps are generally lousy technicians. As soon as he accepted the job he owned it. Let them chase you for the dough. If they start acting out of sorts feel free to let google, yelp, bbb and Angie know what you think of them. Bypassing A safety control and leaving it like that....hmmm sounds like some quality folk ... They'll worry about your safety after the check clears.
  19. fmsm

    fmsm Minister of Fire

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    Added a second stove, I had an old Whitfield downstairs and wanted the freedom of an automatic stove. They have changed a few things since our original stove;

    1. The exhaust plates are now slotted so they realign easier after cleaning.
    2. When you open the hopper there is no more pressure switch disconnecting the auger, it stays running while adding pellets.
    3. They now have a flame guide extender. I have already purchased the extender and am going to see how much the new slotted exhaust plates are.

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