Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

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harrington
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Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by harrington » Sat Sep 30, 2017 12:56 pm

I never do it but I hear all the commercials around this time for the service. Mine is 16 years old and have never even had a repair. I change the filter once a year and that's it. Same for the A/C. Thoughts?

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Sheepdog
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by Sheepdog » Sat Sep 30, 2017 1:06 pm

There are two reasons I have mine checked annually and one is safety. First is for gas burning efficiency and to check that the automatic ignition and thermostat is in good condition to last the heating season. Second, is for potential carbon monoxide poisoning . I know. A check one year found a leak in the fire chamber and CO was discovered and the furnace had to be shut down for safety. That furnace was replaced immediately with my present one (not by the firm who found the leak). It is not a waste of money for me.
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by oldcomputerguy » Sat Sep 30, 2017 1:13 pm

I have ours checked once a year prior to cold weather season. It doesn't cost all that much (less than $100), and the thought of finding out the hard way that something is wrong motivates me to have it done every year. It's not worth risking my safety and that of DW just to save a few bucks annually.
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mrc
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by mrc » Sat Sep 30, 2017 1:14 pm

A cracked heat exchanger can release CO into the home. Clogged ports can reduce efficiency. I would have it looked at more often than every 16 years. I consider a service plan for the A/C, oil furnace, oil water heater, and the above-ground tank to be a good value. It includes priority service calls, annual inspections/tune ups, and some parts at no-cost.
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mbres60
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by mbres60 » Sat Sep 30, 2017 1:18 pm

I hope the filter you change once/year is meant to be used yearly. Most are not.

harrington
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by harrington » Sat Sep 30, 2017 1:20 pm

Making the call today.....

Uniballer
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by Uniballer » Sat Sep 30, 2017 1:28 pm

Do you understand your furnace well enough to repair it if there is a problem (and you had the parts)? If so, evaluate it looking for potential problems. If you look inside and see a pile of rust where the heat exchanger is supposed to be, or a motor capacitor that is swollen or leaking, then you should address those issues.

I have dealt with several failing furnaces (family, friends, work, etc), and the problem is almost always something simple: motor capacitor, air pressure switch, power vent motor, blocked exhaust vent (or intake), spark igniter cable, etc. Once found a poorly glued PVC connection leaking condensate into the "door open" switch. Understanding the problem is generally 90% of the solution.

Unfortunately, not all of the practitioners of the HVAC industry are competent, capable and honest. A friend's furnace was acting up and a local repair tech told him he needed an $800 gas valve. That didn't sound right to me based on the symptoms he described to me so I took a look for him. It took about 15 minutes to figure out that the air pressure switch that ensures that the power vent unit is exhausting was failing. We cleaned the switch he had, and ordered a new one online. Not sure if the tech was incompetent or just trying to get my friend to buy a new furnace.

BanquetBeer
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by BanquetBeer » Sat Sep 30, 2017 1:35 pm

A CO monitor is much cheaper than a furnace check. I might have it looked at if you have issues or reduced efficiency. Like AC you should pour bleach down the drain line annually to eliminate mold - maybe some furnace annual check list?

My experience with the annual checks are you pay someone to try and sell you things you don't really need or top up refrigerant

whomever
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by whomever » Sat Sep 30, 2017 2:00 pm

We have never done so, over 40 odd years. We've had one furnace problem - the blower that provided combustion air started making funny noises. One of it's bearings had failed and the rotor was contacting the housing. I ordered a new blower online and replaced it. There wasn't an outage; the failing blower kept working until the replacement arrived. An annual check wouldn't have helped - there were no symptoms prior to the noise starting.

I wouldn't argue against a check every N years, though. There are some components - igniters, belts, etc, that can become visually degraded, and it's certainly more convenient to fix them before they fail.

(one comment on monoxide detectors - the first one we bought, right when they came out, would report any concentration above 1 PPM (or whatever the units are). You could pull the car into the garage and briefly see 1 PPM on the display, for example. All the ones I have seen since then don't report concentrations below the hazard level (of 15 PPM IIRC). If you're depending on a CO detector to catch incipient problems, having one that would report the low levels would be an advantage if you can find one; I wouldn't want to have the house at 10 PPM for an extended period and not know)

Small Law Survivor
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by Small Law Survivor » Sat Sep 30, 2017 2:06 pm

I do it every couple of years, in the Fall. Seems like a reasonable precaution up here in cold New England.

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samsoes
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by samsoes » Sat Sep 30, 2017 2:27 pm

For oil furnaces, annual service is a necessity. Heating oil is a dirty fuel and the very least needs to be inspected and cleaned annually.
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by Spirit Rider » Sat Sep 30, 2017 2:43 pm

samsoes wrote:
Sat Sep 30, 2017 2:27 pm
For oil furnaces, annual service is a necessity. Heating oil is a dirty fuel and the very least needs to be inspected and cleaned annually.
Oil isn't just dirty, it is extremely high in particulate. A significant part of the service is cleaning. Also, the nozzle tends to wear/clog over time and it is a good idea to replace the nozzle yearly. They will also check the efficiency which has a direct bearing on CO production.

Gas furnaces need far less maintenance. When I had one, I always put a CO detector with display in the basement, even though they recommend against it because of potential false alarms. Which is better, an occasional false positive or a false negative when it comes to CO. Besides, it makes an excellent CO drill at 3:00am on that 10 degree below zero night :twisted:

I would then check the high reading periodically to get any advance warning of any problems. That provides far more protection than yearly service.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by pennstater2005 » Sat Sep 30, 2017 2:52 pm

We have our furnace inspected annually. It's nearly forty years old. Mostly to make sure the firebox isn't cracked. Although the guy who does it said the firebox's in older furnaces use to be thicker and just don't crack easily.

Also, the thermocouple is replaced about every other year. Something I could probably do but don't really want to!

No plans to replace the furnace until it dies. Hoping it lasts for awhile.
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sport
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by sport » Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:02 pm

We have the furnace inspected annually. I have it done for some assurance the furnace won't fail during the heating season. If it should fail, there is a danger of frozen pipes, toilets, etc. I consider it inexpensive insurance.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by obgraham » Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:08 pm

I have mine done twice a year. I'm not sure it is money well spent. Last winter the blower motor seized up, and bent the squirrel cage fan also. That was just 2 months after the check. There is little warning when a motor goes. Repairs were spendy, as I don't do that myself.

The good part of that deal was that the savings on parts due to me being on a contract just about reimbursed the cost of the repair.

The bad news was that it happened while we were away for the winter. The system's safeguards worked well, but it could have resulted in a major fire. I detected it only because I have a wifi thermostat on the system.

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Watty
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by Watty » Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:16 pm

I have always had annual service for both my AC and furnace. Part of the service package I have is that I also get priority service if I have I ever have a problem. I live in Atlanta and one time my A/C stopped working on the just about the hottest day of the year. They were over within a few hours and got it working again.

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dm200
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by dm200 » Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:22 pm

True story: The old house I grew up in had a boiler and gravity radiators. As a child, it was a coal fired boiler and years later (long after I moved away after college), my father replaced it with an oil fired boiler.

He did not pay attention to having it serviced regularly and there was a serious malfunction that alomost burned the house down.

Various kinds of furnace/boiler risks are often discovered (and can be fixed) during an annual check.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by sport » Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:34 pm

dm200 wrote:
Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:22 pm
True story: The old house I grew up in had a boiler and gravity radiators. As a child, it was a coal fired boiler and years later (long after I moved away after college), my father replaced it with an oil fired boiler.

He did not pay attention to having it serviced regularly and there was a serious malfunction that alomost burned the house down.

Various kinds of furnace/boiler risks are often discovered (and can be fixed) during an annual check.
This tale reminds me of what happened when I was young. The pilot light on the furnace became dirty and the flame got to be very small. Since the flame was still there, the thermocouple did not turn off the gas. One time, the gas came on, but the pilot light did not ignite the gas immediately. The gas, of course, kept coming. Eventually the pilot ignited the gas with an explosion that did significant damage to the furnace. Fortunately, no one was injured.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by Spirit Rider » Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:37 pm

I would point out it is a false analogy to compare not doing an annual service to never doing service.

Never doing service is irresponsible. Doing a gas furnace service every two-three years is not.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by Woodshark » Sat Sep 30, 2017 4:11 pm

I think it is highly dependent on the type of heat you have, your willingness handle some checks and maintenance yourself and mostly where you live. We live in the Southeast so we depend on AC much more than we do heat. Our last house had gas heat and it worked flawlessly for over 24 years with almost no check-ups and minimal maintenance by yours truly. The original system passed an intense inspection when we sold the house. Our present home is heated by heat pump. Being a closed loop system it gets no annual check-up. I would call for service only if there is a problem and it's beyond my minor skills to fix it.

I cannot tell you about oil fired systems because we live in the south and that's just not common here.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by adamthesmythe » Sat Sep 30, 2017 5:58 pm

BanquetBeer wrote:
Sat Sep 30, 2017 1:35 pm
A CO monitor is much cheaper than a furnace check.
I don't think this way in the lab or at home. Engineer and maintain for no leaks and view gas detectors as backup.

munemaker
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by munemaker » Sat Sep 30, 2017 6:20 pm

harrington wrote:
Sat Sep 30, 2017 12:56 pm
I never do it but I hear all the commercials around this time for the service. Mine is 16 years old and have never even had a repair. I change the filter once a year and that's it. Same for the A/C. Thoughts?
I had a Carrier high-efficiency furnace (forced air gas) installed about 8 years ago. I don't have the annual service done by the installer, but I do change the filter twice a year and the dehumidifier pad once a year. Over the summer (furnace not running over the summer), a failure notice appeared on the controller. I had a service guy come out. Found a loose wire in the furnace that he said was probably caused by vibration over the years. I doubt they would have picked it up on normal service. Charged me $90 for the repair. If you have the annual service done, it is $90. May or may not prove to be the right decision, but at this point I am $720 ahead.

I think annual maintenance is gravy for the provider.

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dratkinson
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by dratkinson » Sat Sep 30, 2017 8:23 pm

When I bought my home, inspector identified central heater (Ruud Delux 80 Plus: NG forced air, direct drive squirrel cage blower, spark ignitor) had evidence of flame contact with heat exchanger; recommended having it looked at. Preferred HVAC/plumbing company came out, looked, said it was okay for now, but recommended installing "flame shields" to prevent crack in heat exchanger. Paid for flame shields (sheet metal tab that fit between flame front and heat exchanger).

Every year I oiled motors (internet instructions for positive exhaust and main blower motor). But it was a minor pain to remove main blower motor, so installed oil lines and cups (1/8" copper tubing, and fittings to act as oil reservoir) to feed each bearing. Now it's relatively easy to oil main blower motor; a Zoom flexible spout oiler helps.

At annual heating season startup, I replace filter, oil motors, ensure heater responds to thermostat and fires up/blower runs, and look at heater's general condition. But nothing much to clean or see: old-style direct drive blower motor so no ECM control board or fan belt, electronic igniter so no standing pilot light or thermocouple. So it's mostly checking that exhaust fittings are in good condition (tight, not bent, no rust,...).

The only trouble I've had was when the thermostat-operated control module failed during one heating season. I believe a paid inspection would have missed that. Probably could have changed module myself, but called HVAC/plumbing company instead.

Heater is so simple I'd like to keep it running. I believe it's 30-40 years old and my highest winter combined heating and electric bill has been ~$160, so upgrading to higher efficiency unit would come with more complexity and long payback. I'm in no rush to replace it.


I have AC-powered battery-backup CO detectors (I prefer these over battery-only units) on each home level. Detector displays have always read "0" (except when tested). "High-level" displays have always read "0".

My home has wired smoke/fire detectors on each level, but they don't talk to the CO detectors.

Wish someone would make AC-powered battery-backup smoke/fire and CO detectors that would talk to each other wirelessly, so it would be easy to extend the protection of such a wireless smoke/fire/CO network into each occupied bedroom. But as the alarms are loud, maybe a wireless network feature is overkill.


Reading this topic makes me think I should learn to identify and be able to fix problems with limit switches.
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hulburt1
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by hulburt1 » Sat Sep 30, 2017 8:54 pm

I have never had anyone check mine. 20+ years old.

MathWizard
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by MathWizard » Sat Sep 30, 2017 10:02 pm

I sign up for furnace and an A/C check down each year. $120 total.

If the furnace quits in the winter, I get to be front of the line, since I
have planned service, and nothing would be going wrong. Better than having to wait
with a broken furnace when it is 20 below out,

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TD2626
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by TD2626 » Sun Oct 01, 2017 2:52 am

Furnace inspection is important, as safety issues may occur. However, it may be possible to reduce somewhat the frequency of routine checks, or to, say, have a technician inspect things when something breaks down. But never inspecting things could lead to substantial issues.

Having working CO detectors is important. These should be tested regularly.

Having an ability to sort-of get by if the furnace breaks down is also reasonable. Space heaters can be safety hazards if not used properly and monitored carefully. However, they may prevent the pipes and the family from freezing in an emergency situation. They're relatively inexpensive and having one or two on hand may be reasonable - but again safety is important.

I think that one should have a working relationship with a local technician in order to have someone to call rapidly should the furnace break down.

I think that technically skilled individuals may be able to do some light maintenance themselves - like replacing a filter - but most major work likely needs done by professionals.

gtd98765
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by gtd98765 » Sun Oct 01, 2017 5:56 am

I don't know if it's necessary every year, but, especially if you have gas/oil heat I think it make sense to have the furnace inspected on occasion. During a check of our Carrier gas furnace a few years ago the HVAC tech identified a cracked heat exchanger that was leaking CO into the house. This was in year 18 of the furnace, which allowed us to get the heat exchanger replaced under its 20-year warranty. Before I found that old warranty document (the value of saving stuff in files!) I was seriously considering getting the whole HVAC system replaced, which would have been $8K; instead, we just paid a couple hundred for labor.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Sun Oct 01, 2017 6:16 am

I replaced my oil furnace with an efficient forced hot air gas fired unit 3 years ago, change the filters every 90 days. I haven't used a service. Shortly after switching to gas, local utility sent a serviceman to my home unannounced - they were concerned about high gas usage (never notified them about my choice of fuel). I asked whether they could service my unit and the response was "touching the unit before 10 years would void the manufacturers warranty". Basically he said, keep it clean and change filter every 90 days. That is exactly what i have done.
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by carolinaman » Sun Oct 01, 2017 6:32 am

I have both my gas furnace and AC checked annually. Gas for safety and to assure it is in good working order. AC the same plus cleaning the coils which extends the life of your system as well as improve efficiency. I have a friend who is an HVAC engineer and he recommends both be checked annually. He is independent of the firm servicing my systems.

In Charlotte area we now have several large heating and air firms who advertise constantly on TV. I had one of these firms install my last system a few years ago. it soon became apparent that the techs doing periodic service were like ex used car salesmen. They were constantly coming up with things to fix. I knew enough to know that most of this was hocus pocus. These firms all have their service people on commission. I wonder why they keeping finding unnecessary things to do? I suspect this business model is probably more widespread than just Charlotte.

I now use an independent service tech who is a one man company, very competent and trustworthy.

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gasdoc
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by gasdoc » Sun Oct 01, 2017 7:45 am

Watty wrote:
Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:16 pm
I have always had annual service for both my AC and furnace. Part of the service package I have is that I also get priority service if I have I ever have a problem. I live in Atlanta and one time my A/C stopped working on the just about the hottest day of the year. They were over within a few hours and got it working again.
This is our situation. The companies here aren't quick to do service on people that aren't regular customers.

gasdoc

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F150HD
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by F150HD » Sun Oct 01, 2017 8:25 am

harrington wrote:
Sat Sep 30, 2017 12:56 pm
I never do it but I hear all the commercials around this time for the service. Mine is 16 years old and have never even had a repair. I change the filter once a year and that's it. Same for the A/C. Thoughts?
When you call to order a service, make sure you know specifically what you are getting and what services will be performed (a simple inspection vs an actual cleaning).

Example: http://www.contractingbusiness.com/serv ... n-and-tune

munemaker
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by munemaker » Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:47 am

carolinaman wrote:
Sun Oct 01, 2017 6:32 am
I have a friend who is an HVAC engineer and he recommends both be checked annually.
I have a cousin who has a car dealership. He recommends everyone buy a new car every 3 years. I have a friend who sells insurance. He thinks everyone is underinsured.

ThriftyPhD
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by ThriftyPhD » Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:02 am

The answers are going to vary greatly based on type of furnace and geographical region. Someone in the northeast with oil heat is going to recommend yearly service because oil heat is dirtier and needs more frequent cleaning, and not having heat is a danger for both human health and property damage from frozen pipes. Someone in San Diego might not remember the last time they turned their furnace on, if they had one. If it stops working, they could get it fixed some time in the next decade, or not.

There are a couple big problems that service can catch. One is if it is running efficiently. This impacts your fuel efficiency, but also can impact your air quality. If the furnace isn't venting properly, and is instead back venting into the basement or crawlspace, this could increase CO in your home. Issues like this would not change how warm your house is, at least not initially, so you might not catch them.

The second, and probably more difficult thing for annual inspection to catch, is if some part has failed or needs to be replaced. They might be able to give you a heads up that some part is nearing the end of it's life so you can plan on a replacement in the near future.

If you want to think about this like a car, some people swear by changing the oil every 3 months or 3000 miles. Newer cars can likely go quite a bit longer with synthetic oil. But few would recommend driving the car and only getting oil changes when the car stops running.

The frequency by which you need to get your furnace checked will be determined by your climate, fuel type, and furnace age/condition, but whatever the recommended frequency of inspection, it is important to have it done.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by CedarWaxWing » Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:39 am

http://ths.gardenweb.com/discussions/24 ... ion-system

http://abc11.com/home/ac-repair-leaves- ... s/2289963/

Well, the Hvac industry has a new scam going... Voltage absorption system rejuvenation.

I suspect that one way to screen an Hvac company is to call them up and ask how much they would charge to do that job... and if they tell you there is no such thing, they are honest.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by michaeljc70 » Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:08 am

I think it is a waste of money. As to these safety things brought up, what happens if things go south in the 6 or 12 months between checks? I don't buy that argument.

My parents got a new furnace/ac unit. Apparently they have to have the annual checks or the manufacturer's warranty is not valid. That might change the dynamic of it.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by Nate79 » Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:31 am

We have natural gas furnace, heat pump, A.C. system. We do not use the natural gas furnace that much in the winter due to mild temps, heat pump, and also have pellet stove. We were only recommended to have inspection and cleaning service every two years.

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ClevrChico
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by ClevrChico » Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:42 am

I might consider it if you have a good HVAC company and have old equipment.

I'm not too impressed with the local companies I've worked with. With modern equipment and built-in safety mechanisms it's probably a waste.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by Mudpuppy » Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:20 pm

I get my HVAC unit serviced every 2-3 years, primarily for the cleaning aspect (I don't want to go on my roof to clean it). It costs about $200-250 (depending on company) to have them come out in spring to check the AC part and come out in fall to check the heater part.

I have several CO monitors around the house for that aspect of furnace safety, including a plug-in unit with backup battery in each occupied bedroom. As with some other posters, I don't trust my safety to a random HVAC company and there can be other sources of CO leaks than just the furnace. A good set of CO monitors is the best year-round defense against CO leaks. I even have a couple different brands of CO monitors, just to not trust any specific brand of safety product.

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bertilak
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by bertilak » Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:34 pm

I have a maintenance contract with the company that installed my Carrier HVAC (just this year). The contract costs $225 for two service visits per year, spring and fall. This starts next year.

For $225 per year I get ...
  • Carrier cannot invoke the warranty clause saying the unit must be properly maintained.
  • I am less likely to be surprised by unexpected problems.
  • If such a problems does occur I am more likely to get fast service.
Listen very carefully. I shall say this only once. (There! I've said it.)

rgs92
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by rgs92 » Sun Oct 01, 2017 1:09 pm

I have the thermocouple replaced each year for peace of mind on the heating system. It's a little over $110. They also clean out the little pipes.
The A/C needs to have its refrigerant checked and the air-cleaner needs a new accordion filter.

tbradnc
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by tbradnc » Tue Oct 03, 2017 6:08 am

We get a big 3 color brochure warning us about the need for an annual checkup every year... It takes them about 30 minutes and is an easy $80 for the HVAC company.

wrongfunds
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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by wrongfunds » Tue Oct 03, 2017 6:26 am

$225 * 20 years

That is a hefty chunk of the new system!!!

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by Pluto9th » Tue Oct 03, 2017 7:08 am

Assuming having the HVAC system checked every year or every 2-3 years is a good idea (for gas furnace. I imagine an electric furnace needs less maintenance while an oil system needs more), why can't there be a combined heating/cooling systems check? Can't check the A/C when it's too cold, but the furnace can be checked even when it's quite warm, and preventive maintenance at the end of a heating season should be nearly as effective as at the beginning of the season, right? If I were running an HVAC company in a competitive market, I might offer an optional "combined heating/cooling systems check up" package when it's warm enough, for a price that's 30-50% higher than a single-system check. Is there a flaw in my reasoning? I am assuming a typical HVAC tech can perform routine checks on both components, though more complicated repair/installation might require specialists.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by Mudpuppy » Tue Oct 03, 2017 10:49 am

Pluto9th wrote:
Tue Oct 03, 2017 7:08 am
Assuming having the HVAC system checked every year or every 2-3 years is a good idea (for gas furnace. I imagine an electric furnace needs less maintenance while an oil system needs more), why can't there be a combined heating/cooling systems check? Can't check the A/C when it's too cold, but the furnace can be checked even when it's quite warm, and preventive maintenance at the end of a heating season should be nearly as effective as at the beginning of the season, right? If I were running an HVAC company in a competitive market, I might offer an optional "combined heating/cooling systems check up" package when it's warm enough, for a price that's 30-50% higher than a single-system check. Is there a flaw in my reasoning? I am assuming a typical HVAC tech can perform routine checks on both components, though more complicated repair/installation might require specialists.
Many HVAC companies do offer "combo" packages that are a discount over stand-alone visits, but it's for a twice-a-year visit (one before summer for the AC and one before winter for the heater). One reason I can think for this is checking the temperature of the air coming out of the vents. People might not like turning on the AC, then a few minutes later turning on the heat, for the temperature check.

I suppose another benefit of coming twice a year is for the people who never change their filters. Most of the "annual" filters really aren't up to the task of working through both a summer AC and winter heating cycle. Changing the filter prior to each period of heavy use makes the system more efficient. Not really a concern for Bogleheads, most of whom know how to change their own filters, but it's probably a major consideration for the general public.

There's also the PR aspect.... "sign up for our annual contract and we'll be there twice a year to take care of everything". It's kind of like the "12 point inspection" that comes with a standard oil change for a car. It's not really anything unusual or special, but people respond to it positively on an emotional level.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by lazydavid » Tue Oct 03, 2017 11:55 am

We do each system once a year, at $89/shot. The first few years were included with our installation, and we just started paying last year. In addition to the obvious advantage of making sure everything is running in tip-top shape, annual maintenance is a requirement for this particular installer's lifetime warranty (parts + labor) on the system.

When my Father-in-Law, who lives with us, found out we were going to start paying for the service, he took it upon himself to take the covers off the condenser and clean it himself. He did building maintenance for 32 years before he retired, so this is not a job he was unfamiliar with. In the process, he fell and broke his hip, requiring surgery and rehabilitation at a cost well over $100k (insurance picked up much of the tab, but it still cost us a substantial sum). We had to cancel a pre-paid vacation and take a bunch of time off of work to help him through that.

The kicker? We STILL paid the $89 to have them come out and do the service, so all that suffering (literal and figurative) was for naught.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by iamlucky13 » Tue Oct 03, 2017 1:02 pm

Electric furnaces do not require it.

Oil furnaces should be cleaned and inspected annually. The soot build up on the burner does reduce combustion efficiency and cause more carbon monoxide to be produced over time, and it's slightly corrosive, so it shortens the life of the firebox.

For natural gas, I'd suggest doing it every few years. I wouldn't call doing it every year a waste, especially if it gives you peace of mind, but if you have a modern natural gas furnace, the odds are quite low of discovering anything seriously wrong with it.

Naturally gas normally burns very clean, and homes with natural gas furnaces and CO detectors only very rarely seems to come up in case studies of CO deaths. What comes up all the time, however, is using outdoor appliances like patio heaters or generators indoors during power outages, and using camp stoves or gas lanterns in tents while camping.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by obgraham » Tue Oct 03, 2017 1:34 pm

Something else to consider for those who don't want to get an "annual" inspection, and live in an area where a/c is important:

The drain pipe for the condensate can very easily get plugged. You'd be amazed at the amount of water that flows into the condensate drain, especially in a humid climate -- gallons per day easily. If that drain plugs, and your air handler is in some inconvenient location, like an attic, you've got a real problem. There is usually a secondary, or overflow drain, and that needs to be cleaned out periodically also. As long as you can get at them, this is something an owner can do pretty easily.

Ask me how I know this! When the tech comes out, that's the issue I insist on more than anything else. (Also I don't allow a contractor to place the unit in such a stupid location now!)

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by Y.A.Tittle » Tue Oct 03, 2017 2:42 pm

I have a gas furnace, no A/C.

I replace the air fitlers 3 times per year and hand vacuum the circuit board and plenum area annually.

I've had periodic inspections, but was once sold a new heat exchanger because it was "defective." Later discovered that was a scam. Now i wait until something breaks, which hasn't happened.

I do have a CO monitor of both floors of the house.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by downshiftme » Tue Oct 03, 2017 3:29 pm

I used to have my older gas furnace cleaned every year, as recommended. Every year, a few weeks after servicing, there would be a problem requiring additional parts and repairs as soon as the heating season started. After the last time this happened, I had a different furnace company do the repair and stopped with the annual cleaning. I do regularly change filters and have working CO detectors. Furnace has now run over a decade with no problems at all.

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Re: Is it a waste of money having your furnace checked every year?

Post by snodog » Tue Oct 03, 2017 3:46 pm

Used to get the furnace checked annually at our old home with an oil furnace. Now we've had a gas furnace for 4 year and haven't gotten it checked yet, but replace the filters every 3 months. So far no problems. We also have CO detectors and a fireplace that can heat the house if need be. At our old home we had an 18 year old AC system that never had an annual checkup and worked fine until the day we left.
Last edited by snodog on Tue Oct 03, 2017 4:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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