Heater manufacturers all recommend annual inspections and maintenance by a qualified technician. They also have language in their warranties saying that damage to the units caused by improper maintenance is not covered under the warranty.
Are annual heater inspections really necessary?
Heater manufacturers all recommend annual inspections and maintenance by a qualified technician. They also have language in their warranties saying that damage to the units caused by improper maintenance is not covered under the warranty. Does this mean that an annual furnace checkup is really required, or the warranty is voided? Yes! The best analogy is going to the dentist every six months for a checkup and cleaning; probably not necessary, but recommended.
All Equipment new or old requires maintenance from the day it begins to work just as your car needs oil changes and belts checked. External items like your chimney affect the operation of the heater and could cause a problem if a bird makes a nest or old brick falls to the interior causing a blockage.
What do HVAC technicians actually do to the furnace to “tune” it up?
It depends. Farrel Shuster, a heating guy who has worked on systems and operated a company for over 30 years says, the service you get when you purchase a $29 Groupon deal is going to be quite different from a $200 “full safety service & tune-up.” . A few services you may have heard of are “safety check,” “certification,” “checkup,” “tune-up,” “basic tune-up,” “complete tune-up” and “annual maintenance checkup.”
Beware of the phony techs that are there to sell you a new heater you may not need. There are good reasons to replace your system. A knowledgeable service tech is the best person to explain the age ,condition and efficiency reasons for replacement. Farrel suggests you not wait until a failure . Freezing pipes, flame rollouts and bad drafting of flue gases can be a dangerous situation in the worst of weather. Emergency replacements are also much more expensive than a well planned heater replacement.
There is no industry standard for a furnace (or boiler) tune-up, so what’s included in a “tune-up” will vary.. If you’re going to hire a heating contractor to do a tune-up on your furnace, ask them what they’ll be doing. Included below is a partial list of generic items that different furnace manufacturers recommend be performed annually by a qualified heating technician:
- The flue vent system needs to be checked for blockage and/or leakage. This includes the outside termination and the connections at and internal to the furnace and chimney.
- Combustion gases must be analyzed and compared to the unit specifications.
- The blower access door needs to be checked to make sure it makes a tight seal at the furnace.
- The fresh air intake grills and louvers need to be checked for blockage.
- The heat exchanger needs to be inspected for rust and corrosion.
- The burners need to be checked for proper ignition, burner flame and flame sense.
- The drainage system needs to be checked for blockage and/or leakage. This includes the hoses internal to the furnace. The condensate drain and trap need to be cleaned, and the water replaced in the trap.
- The blower wheel needs to be checked for debris and cleaned if necessary (this requires complete removal of the blower wheel).
- An amp-draw test should be conducted on the blower motor and compared with what is listed.
- The wiring needs to be checked for corrosion and damage.
- The temperature of inlet vs. Outlet temperatures need to be monitored.
- The filters need to be checked (but this needs to be done much more frequently than annually).
In addition to this list, heating contractors say that they regularly do static air pressure checks, gas pressure testing and temperature rise checks to ensure a safe warm winter.
Could the homeowner do this?
Of course, but the only homeowners who are knowledgeable enough to do all the tasks listed above also happen to be heating contractors. If the only thing your furnace tech does is stick a vacuum nozzle into the furnace and suck a little dust out, sure, do it yourself. If your furnace tech does half the stuff on the list above, they’re earning their keep.
Before you hire a company to do a tune-up on your furnace, ask what’s included. The company doing the work should be able to quickly rattle off a long list of stuff they’ll be checking.
Should I really pay $125-$200 every year for a professional to do it?
In short, yes. This is what a professional charges — maybe even more. For most heating contractors, $125 barely covers the trip charge. Keep in mind, this isn’t just about safety; it’s also about preventive maintenance. It’s about sometimes catching a problem before your furnace quits working in the middle of the night. When you have to hire a heating contractor to show up on a Sunday evening because the furnace stopped working, you’re probably going to end up paying emergency rates.
A great contractor will have Annual Heating & AC Protection Plans. Visit us at FamilyHvac.com to get info on our Family Comfort Protection Plans that include FREE Emergency Service as a client.
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