I would strongly urge everyone to avoid using Bell Heating & Plumbing for any emergency repairs. During a recent cold snap I had a copper line break that was part of my baseboard heating system. When I called Bell, they could come to my house, but as a policy, they would not give me any estimates over the phone even though they have flat rate prices for every fix imaginable (more on that later). They clearly want to get to your house so you feel obligated to agree to fixes at outlandish prices. For full disclosure, I discovered the leak when I came home from work, and Bell was able to service my call after hours. I would expect to pay a premium for such work, but not to such an extreme.
As for the actual plumbing work, I had already identified the leak areas prior to the technician arriving. Part of the leak was where copper pipe rounded a corner in the house through a section of drywall. The flat rate I paid to "expose frozen pipe"? $407. The work involved? Taking a crowbar to the wall to break maybe 2 square feet of drywall which took maybe 5 minutes. (This first charge was the only charge I was informed of in advance, by the way. All other charges were presented to me when the technician was leaving). Next up, the technician needed to fix the broken piping. During this work, he removed a section of heating register (the part that actually dissipates heat into your house) that was only replaced with straight copper pipe, something that would need to be replaced again later. He welded in two small sections of new copper pipe (~3 or 4 feet worth for a total material cost of about $10 at home depot). This took an hour plus, especially since some welds leaked the first time the system was reloaded. The "Freeze Break" flat rate? $597. The final step of the puzzle is draining and purging the system. As part of filling back up the heating lines, you must first remove all air from the lines. This takes some time (maybe an hour), because you have run water through all the lines and slowly bleed out all the air, and then you have to add enough water back to the system to get it at the right pressure. The "Drain and Purge" flat rate? $220. So everything included, we are talking about over $1200 in charges for a few hours of service (including drive times and some time to look over the system upon arrival) and about $10 worth of material.
At first, I chalked up these charges to just being an expensive after hours call, but it was only when I started asking around to other plumbers that I really started questioning the service. First of all, by not replacing the register, the heating capacity in my home was reduced. I even placed several calls back to Bell for quotes on fixing the register, but never received a call back from the technician. The second mistake I came to discover is that no glycol (antifreeze) was put back in my heating lines which is a best practice for boiler systems. Without the antifreeze, I ended up having a burst pipe again a month later in the same spot that was repaired (the piping with no register), even when I was extremely sensitive about keeping my heat pumped up in the house after my previous incident.
That was it for my dealings with Bell. I called up another outfit when my second break occurred (Mountain Aire, if you must know). They basically did the same repair, only it was completed correctly. They installed a new register, fixed broken pipe, improved my system by installing several ball valves so I could have greater control over my system, and then purged my system and reloaded it WITH a glycol solution. So with material (register, copper pipe, ball valves, and glycol), and a few hours of work, I got a bill for $526.50 ($215 of which is material). Admittedly, this call was handled during the day, but they did respond immediately.
Once you remove material cost (since Bell’s was negligible), we're talking about almost a $900 difference in price for the EXACT SAME SERVICE between two companies. Is the after hours premium worth that much, or is this price gouging a customer in a vulnerable position? I’ve made up my mind, and I won’t be using Bell’s services in the future.