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HVAC and mechanical contractors, in regard to new home construction or renovation projects, in the Calgary area in particular, have been astounded at the prices quoted by builders for the completion of boiler systems, furnace and air conditioning systems and other home mechanical systems. Numerous people, who are either in the midst of building or are planning on building a new home, have been asking me whether certain prices provided by builders are fair. In some cases the prices were good and in other cases they were drastically over priced. Why? The reasons are numerous, but markup is the key here.

Builders who use their preferred HVAC and/or mechanical contractors apply a markup to the price provided by the contractor. In some cases 75% or higher. Now that is just plain greed, in my opinion, no matter how you look at it. Perhaps the builders are vacationing in Mexico off the fruits of your labor, who knows. There can be no justification for a builder to markup prices by that margin. None! We advocate fair pricing and provide more than fair pricing to builders who ask us to quote on projects. Also, we have been asked to look over pricing that builders have provided. Not all builders mark prices up like this, but there are enough of them out there that do, and that should be a concern for all. It is no wonder that we have some of the highest building costs anywhere, associated with home building and mechanical system completions. And I, more than anyone, understand the costs associated with conducting a legitimate business, what with the cost of liability insurance, licenses, staff and other business related costs. However, there is no excuse for the high markups I have seen on some products and services.

Homeowners who are planning a major renovation or those people planning on building their dream home should be aware that there are alternatives to high pricing. I would advocate dealing directly with your HVAC or mechanical contractor of choice. Do your due diligence and get second or third opinions before accepting the builder supplied pricing.

Another pet peeve of mind has to do with home inspections. Most banks, during their mortgage approval process, demand a home inspection — doing their due diligence in ensuring the home has no serious issues with problems such as structure, roofing, mold and moisture finding its way through the building envelope. However, the most important components in your home are the mechanical systems — the heating, cooling, drainage and plumbing system in the home. These are big ticket items in that they can cost tens of thousands of dollars to rectify. Most home inspectors have little or no knowledge of these critical systems, yet they play a major role in the comfort and value of your home. Overlooking these items can be expensive and annoying in particular since you laid out enormous amounts of money to buy or renovate your dream home. Most of these issues can be discovered with a home mechanical inspection by a reputable company. And while this process might not be cheap initially, it pays off in the long run. How old is the furnace, hot water tank or air conditioning unit? How would you know with just a home inspection? Insisting on a mechanical inspection is key. Due your due diligence prior to purchasing, renovating or building.

A little bit of homework is well worth the effort to ensure minimal problems. No one wants a lemon except perhaps as garnish.

James Rolfe, Calgary Hydronics Solutions

James Rolfe has been in the plumbing and heating industry for 20+ years, working in the Calgary, Alberta, Canada area. After having worked for numerous plumbing and heating contractors over the years James went out on his own in 2009 to form his own company primarily to specialize in Hydronics. From the design stage to final system commissioning he enjoys the challenge of properly designed and installed hydronic heating systems. His bread and butter so to speak is in the service and repair field. Calgary Hydronics Solutions install about 8 to 10 new systems annually, most in the retro fit market. The bulk of our business is repair, maintenance, hydronic system consultation, evaluations and system upgrades. James emphasizes energy efficiency in all hydronic installations which includes proven and reliable equipment choices for installation and repair. James enjoys the opportunity to compile blogs based on his observations and experiences in the Hydronic and HVAC industry. He welcomes any comments or feedback from others in the industry and any opportunity to answer questions. James can be reached at 403-796-4768 or at

The views of this blogger do not necessarily reflect the views of Mechanical-Hub. Our goal is to bring news and information that is relevant to the industry. You are encouraged to continue the conversation by adding your comment below. As always, please be respectful of the author and their viewpoint of the subject at hand.

~Thank You, Mechanical-Hub

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