HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

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Topic Author
Drew31
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Joined: Mon Oct 22, 2012 1:18 pm

HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Drew31 »

I've read some old threads and done some googling but seem to get conflicting advice. From old Boglehead threads I see all you need is -

1) Change your filters regularly
2) Spray the coils on the AC in Spring
3) Keep condensate drain line clean

That pretty much sums it up. Read something on Clark Howard's site somewhere that said don't cancel these in an effort to save money.

So I'm just re-evaluating. We have two units in our home and pay a fairly reasonable $28 per month on our contract which gets us a fall and spring service. Plus 10% off repairs and 24 hr priority status. That said, if I'm paying $28 for something that isn't needed then I want to understand that too.

Our 2 AC Units and both Furnaces (Natural Gas - One is High Efficiency) were are installed by previous owners in Oct 2011.
Chuck107
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Chuck107 »

If you can afford it, and it helps you sleep well at night knowing you have it, it's worth it.

Do you NEED it? ... Only when you have a problem :wink:

Tis a controversial subject, which you won't get a conclusive answer to. So I won't get involved... again.
jebmke
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by jebmke »

May depend on individual circumstances. Normally our tech checks outside units to make sure that the refrigerant is at proper levels and pre-covid, he would check discharge air temp at the floor vents. We didn't have him inside but he did check discharge air temp in the main duct. All our ducts are in a crawlspace so in a normal check he gives them a look to make sure none of the seals have broken or other issues. This last item I could do myself but my mobility isn't what it once was and I'm not generally keen on crawling around the crawlspace anyway.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
daheld
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by daheld »

Drew31 wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:57 am I've read some old threads and done some googling but seem to get conflicting advice. From old Boglehead threads I see all you need is -

1) Change your filters regularly
2) Spray the coils on the AC in Spring
3) Keep condensate drain line clean

That pretty much sums it up. Read something on Clark Howard's site somewhere that said don't cancel these in an effort to save money.

So I'm just re-evaluating. We have two units in our home and pay a fairly reasonable $28 per month on our contract which gets us a fall and spring service. Plus 10% off repairs and 24 hr priority status. That said, if I'm paying $28 for something that isn't needed then I want to understand that too.

Our 2 AC Units and both Furnaces (Natural Gas - One is High Efficiency) were are installed by previous owners in Oct 2011.
No. You don't need it. Do 1-3 above for the indoor furnace, and lightly spray down the outdoor condenser with a water hose to remove debris and dirt from the fins.
Topic Author
Drew31
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Drew31 »

Thanks. This is kind of what I was thinking. I've become less enthralled with the company. A year or two ago, not within a week after the Furnace fall service, the motherboard went out on one of our furnaces, then a few months later something else happened on our other furnace that wasn't quite as severe but still costly. Both were under warranty still so it was just labor, but the timing of it all made me uncomfortable.

They also just went ahead and replaced a part on I think the AC one year for $60 or so without asking first. Just little stuff.

daheld wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:16 am
No. You don't need it. Do 1-3 above for the indoor furnace, and lightly spray down the outdoor condenser with a water hose to remove debris and dirt from the fins.
Perhaps I'm getting my terminology mixed up. The #2 I reference were the outdoor fins. Are there another set of AC coils I need to be concerned with?
daheld
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by daheld »

Drew31 wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 11:01 am Thanks. This is kind of what I was thinking. I've become less enthralled with the company. A year or two ago, not within a week after the Furnace fall service, the motherboard went out on one of our furnaces, then a few months later something else happened on our other furnace that wasn't quite as severe but still costly. Both were under warranty still so it was just labor, but the timing of it all made me uncomfortable.

They also just went ahead and replaced a part on I think the AC one year for $60 or so without asking first. Just little stuff.

daheld wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:16 am
No. You don't need it. Do 1-3 above for the indoor furnace, and lightly spray down the outdoor condenser with a water hose to remove debris and dirt from the fins.
Perhaps I'm getting my terminology mixed up. The #2 I reference were the outdoor fins. Are there another set of AC coils I need to be concerned with?
Sorry, I read your post quickly. Yes, we're talking about the same thing. The coils people refer to to is what's typically called the A-coil of your furnace--where refrigerant that's been compressed by the outdoor unit passes through coils and cools them. Air being blown by the blower passes over these coils, is cooled, and blown throughout your house. You can remove the furnace covers and take a look at the coils to make sure nothing looks obviously wrong. The fins on the condenser outside just need to be sprayed down once a year or so to remove debris and dirt.

I'm always really suspicious of these annual maintenance plans. I suppose they have their place for very elderly folks or some in other similar situations who physically can't or shouldn't DIY this stuff. But it's very minor maintenance. I have zero HVAC expertise or qualifications, but I understand, very generally, how my system works and can keep it clean. That's all anyone can do.
sport
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by sport »

This is really two questions in one: Annual service for cooling, and annual service for heating. IMO annual service for cooling is optional because if the AC goes out, we can survive for a few days without it until it gets repaired. OTOH, if the heat goes out when it is really cold, we could have a serious problem with pipes and toilets freezing as well as significant discomfort. Of course, this depends on the climate where you live. In other locations, loss of cooling might be a worse problem than loss of heat.
Topic Author
Drew31
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Drew31 »

daheld wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 11:18 am
Drew31 wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 11:01 am Thanks. This is kind of what I was thinking. I've become less enthralled with the company. A year or two ago, not within a week after the Furnace fall service, the motherboard went out on one of our furnaces, then a few months later something else happened on our other furnace that wasn't quite as severe but still costly. Both were under warranty still so it was just labor, but the timing of it all made me uncomfortable.

They also just went ahead and replaced a part on I think the AC one year for $60 or so without asking first. Just little stuff.

daheld wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:16 am
No. You don't need it. Do 1-3 above for the indoor furnace, and lightly spray down the outdoor condenser with a water hose to remove debris and dirt from the fins.
Perhaps I'm getting my terminology mixed up. The #2 I reference were the outdoor fins. Are there another set of AC coils I need to be concerned with?
Sorry, I read your post quickly. Yes, we're talking about the same thing. The coils people refer to to is what's typically called the A-coil of your furnace--where refrigerant that's been compressed by the outdoor unit passes through coils and cools them. Air being blown by the blower passes over these coils, is cooled, and blown throughout your house. You can remove the furnace covers and take a look at the coils to make sure nothing looks obviously wrong. The fins on the condenser outside just need to be sprayed down once a year or so to remove debris and dirt.

I'm always really suspicious of these annual maintenance plans. I suppose they have their place for very elderly folks or some in other similar situations who physically can't or shouldn't DIY this stuff. But it's very minor maintenance. I have zero HVAC expertise or qualifications, but I understand, very generally, how my system works and can keep it clean. That's all anyone can do.
So this had me curious, so I took the cover off one of our units. Pic below. My thought here is A-Coil is in the upper chamber I haven't opened where I put the red arrow?

Image
Topic Author
Drew31
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Drew31 »

sport wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 11:34 am This is really two questions in one: Annual service for cooling, and annual service for heating. IMO annual service for cooling is optional because if the AC goes out, we can survive for a few days without it until it gets repaired. OTOH, if the heat goes out when it is really cold, we could have a serious problem with pipes and toilets freezing as well as significant discomfort. Of course, this depends on the climate where you live. In other locations, loss of cooling might be a worse problem than loss of heat.
True - Actually I guess I'm actually asking 3 questions.

1) Annual AC Maintenance
2) Annual Furnace Maintenance
3) Need a Service Contract (though kind of dependent on your views on 1&2
daheld
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by daheld »

Drew31 wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:26 pm
daheld wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 11:18 am
Drew31 wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 11:01 am Thanks. This is kind of what I was thinking. I've become less enthralled with the company. A year or two ago, not within a week after the Furnace fall service, the motherboard went out on one of our furnaces, then a few months later something else happened on our other furnace that wasn't quite as severe but still costly. Both were under warranty still so it was just labor, but the timing of it all made me uncomfortable.

They also just went ahead and replaced a part on I think the AC one year for $60 or so without asking first. Just little stuff.

daheld wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:16 am
No. You don't need it. Do 1-3 above for the indoor furnace, and lightly spray down the outdoor condenser with a water hose to remove debris and dirt from the fins.
Perhaps I'm getting my terminology mixed up. The #2 I reference were the outdoor fins. Are there another set of AC coils I need to be concerned with?
Sorry, I read your post quickly. Yes, we're talking about the same thing. The coils people refer to to is what's typically called the A-coil of your furnace--where refrigerant that's been compressed by the outdoor unit passes through coils and cools them. Air being blown by the blower passes over these coils, is cooled, and blown throughout your house. You can remove the furnace covers and take a look at the coils to make sure nothing looks obviously wrong. The fins on the condenser outside just need to be sprayed down once a year or so to remove debris and dirt.

I'm always really suspicious of these annual maintenance plans. I suppose they have their place for very elderly folks or some in other similar situations who physically can't or shouldn't DIY this stuff. But it's very minor maintenance. I have zero HVAC expertise or qualifications, but I understand, very generally, how my system works and can keep it clean. That's all anyone can do.
So this had me curious, so I took the cover off one of our units. Pic below. My thought here is A-Coil is in the upper chamber I haven't opened where I put the red arrow?

Image
Correct. What you're looking at is the manifold in the middle of the image--the three metal circular things. Your natural gas is plumbed to this spot, where ignition happens, a flame is created, and heat is extracted, to be forced through your ducts for heat.

The A Coil is in the chamber above that.
Topic Author
Drew31
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Drew31 »

Got it. I can turn to YouTube if I really want to take a look at that and check it out but I don't even think the HVAC guys look at that when they're here so may be completely optional.
daheld
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by daheld »

Drew31 wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:37 pm Got it. I can turn to YouTube if I really want to take a look at that and check it out but I don't even think the HVAC guys look at that when they're here so may be completely optional.
The only reason you'd really need to open it up is to check the back side of the condensation drain tube, which is the white PVC pipe. It should be threaded on with a PVC hex fitting, which you can back off and check. Sometimes the condensate will sit in the drain pan and get gooey and grimey and that drain can clog. It's not a pressing thing at all, but it probably makes sense to check it every once in a while.
Big Dog
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Big Dog »

Drew31 wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:57 am I've read some old threads and done some googling but seem to get conflicting advice. From old Boglehead threads I see all you need is -

1) Change your filters regularly
2) Spray the coils on the AC in Spring
3) Keep condensate drain line clean

That pretty much sums it up. Read something on Clark Howard's site somewhere that said don't cancel these in an effort to save money.

So I'm just re-evaluating. We have two units in our home and pay a fairly reasonable $28 per month on our contract which gets us a fall and spring service. Plus 10% off repairs and 24 hr priority status. That said, if I'm paying $28 for something that isn't needed then I want to understand that too.

Our 2 AC Units and both Furnaces (Natural Gas - One is High Efficiency) were are installed by previous owners in Oct 2011.
IMO, depends more on who teh contract is with. If its with your regular HVAC contractor, who you have high confidence in, then perhaps the peace of mind of worth it. But, if its a contract with a national company, maybe not. (The national service contractors have high turnover and you never know who you will get -- a rookie-in-training, someone who has never seen a unit from your manufacturer, or a seasoned vet who is knowledgeable).
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sperry8
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by sperry8 »

I rent a condo in Miami, so no service contract for me (landlord pays). But my A/C went out and we called the A/C guy. I believe it was a $150 call (maybe $200). He fixed it shortly. He said his company makes most of his money on calls like this. All I needed to do was buy a few bottles of AC Line Drainline Buildup Remover Air Conditioner Condensate and pour it in every 4 mos (April and Sept) and it would ensure my condenser doesn't shut down due to algae. I've been doing that for a few years and now, no further problems. Bottles cost ~$7 at Home Depot.
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snackdog
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by snackdog »

Annual maintenance can extend the life of your units and also detect small problems before they turn into big problems. I had a guy in earlier this year who detected one coil was a bit low on refrigerant in a 2-year old unit. He refilled it and said we'll keep an eye on it and if it has a slow leak it will be replaced under warranty before the 5 year deadline.

If you are getting annual maintenance, it is about the same price to just get a contract. That gives you dedicated service and quick response. I can get a technician out same day, at least on weekdays, for non-emergencies. The techs are good but always looking for things to fix or replace so you have to be ready for an informed conversation.

If you want to save money short term, do your own maintenance. You may get lucky, have no problems, and see your units last a long time.
acegolfer
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by acegolfer »

Drew31 wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:37 pm Got it. I can turn to YouTube if I really want to take a look at that and check it out but I don't even think the HVAC guys look at that when they're here so may be completely optional.
FYI, "A coil" is officially called "evaporator coil". You will get a better search result using the proper term. It can be really dirty, if one didn't replace air filter regularly.
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by tibbitts »

daheld wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:31 pm The A Coil is in the chamber above that.
I was confused by the way this is worded - not sure the OP realizes the coil can be partly or mostly out of the picture, at least in the installations I'm familiar with.

I don't see "three metal circular things."

Likely the OP can download a manual that will show the component locations including the approximate coil location.
Last edited by tibbitts on Wed Sep 16, 2020 2:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
tibbitts
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by tibbitts »

acegolfer wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 2:15 pm
Drew31 wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:37 pm Got it. I can turn to YouTube if I really want to take a look at that and check it out but I don't even think the HVAC guys look at that when they're here so may be completely optional.
FYI, "A coil" is officially called "evaporator coil". You will get a better search result using the proper term. It can be really dirty, if one didn't replace air filter regularly.
Actually mine was remarkably clean after many years, but the only practical way to access mine is to remove the plenum (above all the componenets in the OP's photo.)
acegolfer
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by acegolfer »

tibbitts wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 2:21 pm
acegolfer wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 2:15 pm
Drew31 wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:37 pm Got it. I can turn to YouTube if I really want to take a look at that and check it out but I don't even think the HVAC guys look at that when they're here so may be completely optional.
FYI, "A coil" is officially called "evaporator coil". You will get a better search result using the proper term. It can be really dirty, if one didn't replace air filter regularly.
Actually mine was remarkably clean after many years, but the only practical way to access mine is to remove the plenum (above all the componenets in the OP's photo.)
Unlike condenser coil, evaporator coil is in tight closed space. So it's less likely to get dirty over time. But without regular maintenance, it can get nasty, as you can see in the Youtube cleaning videos. Don't watch them unless needed, as it can be disturbing to realize the air quality you breathe every day.
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Watty
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Watty »

Just a reminder, a cracked heat exchanger in a natural gas furnace can result in carbon monoxide poisoning.

No matter who does the annual furnace maintenance be sure that you have carbon monoxide detectors both in your living space and in other spaces like unfinished basements where the furnace is located at.

Carbon Monoxide detectors will only last about seven years so they need to be replaced regularly.

One thing that has not been mentioned is that when we got a new HVAC system about eight years ago it came with a 10 year parts and labor warranty, but it required that we have the company do the annual service to get that longer warranty. We had to have the motor in the outdoor AC unit replaced when it was about six years old and that was done for free.

Before you drop your service contract be sure to check to make sure that it was not required to for an extended warranty like that.

(That longer warranty was part of the bid and not some extended warranty that I paid a third party for. )

I have always had the annual service done and getting the priority service has worked out well several times. Once the AC capacitor gave out on the hottest day of the year, I called in the morning and they were able to be out and have it fixed in less than four hours. That is likely something I could have done myself but that would had required that I take the day off of work.

You are most likely to have problems when it is unusually hot or cold when the HVAC people are very busy and it may take a while to get a company to come out if you do not have a service contract.
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Drew31
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Drew31 »

So got tinkering and took the top cover off both units to take a look. For most part, I think coils look ok at least to my untrained eye.

Noticed though rust and a little standing water at bottom. Condensate drains felt clear so they aren't clogged. Unsure if this is normal or poor install. I am noticing how poorly sealed the unit was to holes and gaps upon install. Noticed a dime size hole in the corner of one unit that I've got to figure out how to get some tape on.

Pics below are from our other unit, so not the same as earlier pic but thing I'm in the right place based on the conversation.

Image


Image
sport
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by sport »

snackdog wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 2:14 pm Annual maintenance can extend the life of your units and also detect small problems before they turn into big problems. I had a guy in earlier this year who detected one coil was a bit low on refrigerant in a 2-year old unit. He refilled it and said we'll keep an eye on it and if it has a slow leak it will be replaced under warranty before the 5 year deadline.
The company that services our HVAC told me that every time the refrigerant is checked, you lose some. So, they do not check it unless there is some indication of a problem. The previous company we used used to check it every year and occasionally had to add some, but never suggested any leak repair was suspected.
daheld
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by daheld »

tibbitts wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 2:20 pm
daheld wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:31 pm The A Coil is in the chamber above that.
I don't see "three metal circular things."
They're just above the black gas line that runs horizontally across the image. You sound as though you're very familiar with furnaces, given that you know exactly where the A coil is, so I assume you know what a furnace manifold looks like.
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Drew31
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Drew31 »

We do have carbon monoxide detectors though could always re-evaluate location.

If we do maintenance, it's just as cheap to do the contract. I'm just beginning to have second thoughts around the company and has me debating if the service is even worth it.

Also debating my Pest Control Service, but that would be a whole different thread :)
acegolfer
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by acegolfer »

Drew31 wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 3:09 pm So got tinkering and took the top cover off both units to take a look. For most part, I think coils look ok at least to my untrained eye.

Noticed though rust and a little standing water at bottom. Condensate drains felt clear so they aren't clogged. Unsure if this is normal or poor install. I am noticing how poorly sealed the unit was to holes and gaps upon install. Noticed a dime size hole in the corner of one unit that I've got to figure out how to get some tape on.

Pics below are from our other unit, so not the same as earlier pic but thing I'm in the right place based on the conversation.
Your A coil looks very clean. Hard to tell how clean your drip pan is. I'd just brush off, pour some vinegar and add some pan tablets (https://www.amazon.com/AC-Safe-Pan-Tabl ... B007I7KYGS) there.
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Drew31
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Drew31 »

Here's a better look at the pan. No debris or anything any it. Just brown, rusty looking water. Thanks for the link on the tabs. Wasn't quite sure, what, if anything, to do there...other than I did check to ensure there was no obstruction at the drain.


Image
njdealguy
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by njdealguy »

I had a full replacement of my home HVAC last year (2 Furnaces & 2 AC units) and under the purchase terms with the installer company it included a 10 year labor & parts warranty. But if annual maintenance is not performed by this same HVAC company the labor warranty would be voided to 1 year. For this reason only have decided to take the annual maintenance plan for about $350 a year including 2 maintenance services per year.

I saw this as a hidden "cost" for extended warranty since was only way to keep the labor warranty intact while the bi-annual maintenance probably will help in extending the life of the systems. The purchase cost for everything was about $15k, so paying $350 per year to maintain warranty felt worth doing.

If it were like OP's situation where purchasing a plan like this isn't e tied to a purchase labor warranty, would probably move to DIY maintenance.
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Drew31
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Drew31 »

Just pulled out the paperwork the old owner left and doesn't look like there is any sort of tie between the warranty and yearly maintenance. That box is left blank unless there is some fine print somewhere that says you have to have annual maintenance but I'm not seeing it. Warranty is only good for one more year then just the Heat Exchanger has the 20 year warranty.

We do have a "No excuses guarantee" too...so I've got that going for me.
daheld
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by daheld »

Coils and drain pan both look completely normal. The rust just happens. Those coils are super cold and have warmer air blowing over them, which causes condensation. The rust is inevitable. The pan will also get some rust, and the water will sometimes get slimy, and keeping that pan and drain line clean is important.

Everything looks good, and I'm definitely in the camp that says you don't need to pay someone to open this up every year to do basic maintenance, but you have to do what helps you sleep at night. :sharebeer
Call_Me_Op
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Call_Me_Op »

I found that the annual maintenance contract is worse than a waste of money. When they put gauges on the outdoor unit (to look like they're doing something), that causes leaks over time. Then the AC fails at the worst time (during a heat wave) and the company is swamped and won't come out to service the unit when your desperately need it. At least that's what happened to me.
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein
zlandar
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by zlandar »

I hire an HVAC company to do maintenance every other year. I change out air filters every 3 months myself.
carolinaman
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by carolinaman »

IMO, unless you have a decent understanding of your HVAC and know what to look for, annual service should be done by a HVAC Tech.

I have an independent HVAC tech check my system in spring (AC) and fall (gas furnace). I did not do this for my first 2 HVAC systems and I believe it reduced their life by several years. He is very honest and very conservative in making repairs. He has talked me out of doing things that would have made him money.

If you do have someone service your HVAC system, find a good HVAC tech from a small company, preferably he is a sole practitioner. These large HVAC companies that advertise heavily on TV are scams. Their techs are incented and pressured to find problems with your system and then propose expensive repairs which are usually not needed. Some I equate to used car salesman or a crooked auto repair business. Avoid them like the plague!
dsmclone
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by dsmclone »

I'm probably not the right person to ask but here has been my situation.

2,000 SQFT house in the midwest
House is 16 years old (we bought new)
Zero problems with A/C or Furnace
Two years ago I had the local HVAC company come out and do a yearly check. They said everything looked fine but told me I'd probably have to replace everything in 3-5 years. Total cost will be around $10k

Our best friends
House is 17 years old (bought new)
Zero problems with A/C or Furnace
Yearly maintenance of $200
They replaced everything this year for around $10k

So maybe we just got lucky but the $3,200 they've paid in service contracts seems like kind of a waste. On a side note, their new A/C unit is so quiet that I may end up pulling the trigger early.

I change the filter every 3 months and sprayed out the outside unit after being in the house for 10 years (it was pretty clean).
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Drew31
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Drew31 »

Pulled the trigger this afternoon and cancelled. We'll see. Cancelled Pest Control too and will tackle that on my own just spraying perimeter.

Decided I can just put that money towards savings specific for any service calls I may need on anything in the future.

Lot of good information shared by everyone here.
acegolfer
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by acegolfer »

Drew31 wrote: Thu Sep 17, 2020 8:09 pm Pulled the trigger this afternoon and cancelled. We'll see. Cancelled Pest Control too and will tackle that on my own just spraying perimeter.

Decided I can just put that money towards savings specific for any service calls I may need on anything in the future.

Lot of good information shared by everyone here.
This Youtube explains how the entire A/C system works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uElUCGNb6SY
Once you understand the mechanism, you will be able to make a better decision on whether to fix yourself or call for a service. Personally, I try to fix everything myself except it involves freon.
daheld
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Location: Midwest US

Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by daheld »

Drew31 wrote: Thu Sep 17, 2020 8:09 pm Pulled the trigger this afternoon and cancelled. We'll see. Cancelled Pest Control too and will tackle that on my own just spraying perimeter.

Decided I can just put that money towards savings specific for any service calls I may need on anything in the future.

Lot of good information shared by everyone here.
I also do pest control myself. I spray outside probably 3 times a year and inside (mostly just in the basement) a couple times a year. I honestly don't have much of a schedule when it comes to this. I know what I'm spraying cannot be healthy, but I at least know with certainty what's being sprayed.
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Drew31
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Drew31 »

daheld wrote: Fri Sep 18, 2020 8:23 am
Drew31 wrote: Thu Sep 17, 2020 8:09 pm Pulled the trigger this afternoon and cancelled. We'll see. Cancelled Pest Control too and will tackle that on my own just spraying perimeter.

Decided I can just put that money towards savings specific for any service calls I may need on anything in the future.

Lot of good information shared by everyone here.
I also do pest control myself. I spray outside probably 3 times a year and inside (mostly just in the basement) a couple times a year. I honestly don't have much of a schedule when it comes to this. I know what I'm spraying cannot be healthy, but I at least know with certainty what's being sprayed.

Getting ready to pick up a 2gallon sprayer and going to try out Wisdom TC. Saw it recommended so will give it a chance. Figure I'll just need to mix up a gallon or two and walk around the house. Worst case scenario I'll have to re-do the service but will try it myself for now.
Chip
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Chip »

As you can probably tell, those that have annual service think it's very necessary, while those that don't, don't.

My gas furnace/AC combo is 32 years old and has only had routine maintenance done by me since I bought the house. In 23 years I've owned it I think I've only cleaned the outside coils twice -- they were a little dirty the first time and pretty clean the second time. I've cleaned the gas burners a few times but they've never been very dirty. I've oiled the blower motor bearings a couple of times but it probably wasn't necessary. Obviously I regularly change filters.

I've had a few problems but only called a tech out one time. That issue would not have been found in an annual maintenance visit.
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ClevrChico
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by ClevrChico »

Annual furnace maintenance seems like a cash cow for hvac companies if you have modern equipment. It's a high price to pay for what likely will involve only changing the furnace filter.

It's easy enough to inspect the flames through the window. A modern furnace will lock out if there's unsafe conditions. (Of course have CO detectors just in case.)

The techs that work for hvac companies don't see very knowledgeable in my experience. I'd trust someone with their own name on their van much more. They don't seem to be the type pushing service plans either.
Lee_WSP
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Location: Arizona

Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Lee_WSP »

There's very little to go wrong with a modern gas furnace. Worst thing would be carbon monoxide buildup or a leak in the line. I think.

A compressor on the other hand has more parts that can go wrong including the condensate line, freon levels, and capacitors. That said, I'm not entirely sure you can proactively catch a failing capacitor. Thus, the one thing they can check for is freon leaks that you can't do yourself. Although crawling up into the attic to clear out the condensate line may be quite uncomfortable.

Joining the chorus, there's no reason to pay for the maintenance plan. You can just schedule checkups once a year or every other year.
illumination
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by illumination »

I'm not a fan of these aftermarket "warranty" type services because there's always fine print that seems to screw the consumer.
You've come close to buying a new unit when you've paid that warranty over the entire lifespan. And YMMV, but the manufacturer usually has a pretty strong warranty on the major components of a new unit anyway.

On these plans, what happens if say they come by for their "check up" and they use it as a sales opportunity to do some unnecessary, out of pocket maintenance (I'm guessing there's some deductible) and you refuse? My guess is they then void the warranty when you later make a claim?


Also, as was pointed out earlier, if everything is working properly, the last thing you want is someone hooking gauges up to it.

Hosing the outside condensing unit down with just something mild like Dawn and keeping the condensate line is clear is entry level DIY type work almost any homeowner can do. What I would say "not" to do is disassemble the unit like taking the condensing fan out to try and clean the coils from the inside out. That's the "right" more thorough way to do it, but more likely to have something go sideways and unless you have some heavy buildup, probably not necessary anyway.
Chuck107
Posts: 497
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Chuck107 »

Lee_WSP wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:13 pm There's very little to go wrong with a modern gas furnace. Worst thing would be carbon monoxide buildup or a leak in the line. I think.

A compressor on the other hand has more parts that can go wrong including the condensate line, freon levels, and capacitors. That said, I'm not entirely sure you can proactively catch a failing capacitor. Thus, the one thing they can check for is freon leaks that you can't do yourself. Although crawling up into the attic to clear out the condensate line may be quite uncomfortable.

Joining the chorus, there's no reason to pay for the maintenance plan. You can just schedule checkups once a year or every other year.
With the proper multimeter it's easy, must take care to turn off all power to the unit and properly short the contacts on the capacitor.
Mr. Rumples
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Mr. Rumples »

Drew31 wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:57 am I've read some old threads and done some googling but seem to get conflicting advice. From old Boglehead threads I see all you need is -

1) Change your filters regularly
2) Spray the coils on the AC in Spring
3) Keep condensate drain line clean

That pretty much sums it up. Read something on Clark Howard's site somewhere that said don't cancel these in an effort to save money.

So I'm just re-evaluating. We have two units in our home and pay a fairly reasonable $28 per month on our contract which gets us a fall and spring service. Plus 10% off repairs and 24 hr priority status. That said, if I'm paying $28 for something that isn't needed then I want to understand that too.

Our 2 AC Units and both Furnaces (Natural Gas - One is High Efficiency) were are installed by previous owners in Oct 2011.
You pretty have what I have. Its paid off having that relationship since my HVAC company does my electric and plumbing. Their regular service call to come out is $139; for the contract it is $99. I have the same techs come out and they have done a few freebees for me like when an item got fixed fast hanging a light fixture for free. When the main breaker failed on a Sunday, it was cold and pouring rain, the tech was here in 20 minutes, the cost was $99 for three hours of work - including going to get a temporary breaker that was rehabbed (on the far side of the county) since the line has been discontinued - and since I decided to get a new box they just waived it and then gave a 10% discount on the entire new box - yes, he showed me in their cost book where I was getting the discount.

In another case, something failed outside on the HVAC. They replaced it at about $350 and if failed about 6 months later. (The house had been flipped.) Even though their replacement failed outside of their guarantee period, they came out on a Sunday at no charge. (Why do these things happen on weekends?)

In short, yes, they might be milking me, but its paid off.
tibbitts
Posts: 11552
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Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by tibbitts »

Chuck107 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:59 pm
Lee_WSP wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:13 pm There's very little to go wrong with a modern gas furnace. Worst thing would be carbon monoxide buildup or a leak in the line. I think.

A compressor on the other hand has more parts that can go wrong including the condensate line, freon levels, and capacitors. That said, I'm not entirely sure you can proactively catch a failing capacitor. Thus, the one thing they can check for is freon leaks that you can't do yourself. Although crawling up into the attic to clear out the condensate line may be quite uncomfortable.

Joining the chorus, there's no reason to pay for the maintenance plan. You can just schedule checkups once a year or every other year.
With the proper multimeter it's easy, must take care to turn off all power to the unit and properly short the contacts on the capacitor.
It's not "easy", because of how difficult it is to find a good-quality capacitor discharge tool. Seriously, it's as if the instructions for checking refrigerant charge said "first, build your own manifold gauge set." Who wants to solder resistors or use little clips to hold them to a wire? I just want to attach a tool that evaluates the capacitor and displays when it's been properly and gently drained. And doesn't get 0.2 stars on Amazon. Okay 4 starts but then have a bunch of reviews claiming they don't work.
Chuck107
Posts: 497
Joined: Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:47 pm

Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Chuck107 »

tibbitts wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 2:20 pm
Chuck107 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:59 pm
Lee_WSP wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:13 pm There's very little to go wrong with a modern gas furnace. Worst thing would be carbon monoxide buildup or a leak in the line. I think.

A compressor on the other hand has more parts that can go wrong including the condensate line, freon levels, and capacitors. That said, I'm not entirely sure you can proactively catch a failing capacitor. Thus, the one thing they can check for is freon leaks that you can't do yourself. Although crawling up into the attic to clear out the condensate line may be quite uncomfortable.

Joining the chorus, there's no reason to pay for the maintenance plan. You can just schedule checkups once a year or every other year.
With the proper multimeter it's easy, must take care to turn off all power to the unit and properly short the contacts on the capacitor.
It's not "easy", because of how difficult it is to find a good-quality capacitor discharge tool. Seriously, it's as if the instructions for checking refrigerant charge said "first, build your own manifold gauge set." Who wants to solder resistors or use little clips to hold them to a wire? I just want to attach a tool that evaluates the capacitor and displays when it's been properly and gently drained. And doesn't get 0.2 stars on Amazon. Okay 4 starts but then have a bunch of reviews claiming they don't work.
You use the same meter to discharge if you like.
neilpilot
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Location: Memphis area

Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by neilpilot »

Chuck107 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:20 pm
tibbitts wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 2:20 pm
Chuck107 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:59 pm
Lee_WSP wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:13 pm There's very little to go wrong with a modern gas furnace. Worst thing would be carbon monoxide buildup or a leak in the line. I think.

A compressor on the other hand has more parts that can go wrong including the condensate line, freon levels, and capacitors. That said, I'm not entirely sure you can proactively catch a failing capacitor. Thus, the one thing they can check for is freon leaks that you can't do yourself. Although crawling up into the attic to clear out the condensate line may be quite uncomfortable.

Joining the chorus, there's no reason to pay for the maintenance plan. You can just schedule checkups once a year or every other year.
With the proper multimeter it's easy, must take care to turn off all power to the unit and properly short the contacts on the capacitor.
It's not "easy", because of how difficult it is to find a good-quality capacitor discharge tool. Seriously, it's as if the instructions for checking refrigerant charge said "first, build your own manifold gauge set." Who wants to solder resistors or use little clips to hold them to a wire? I just want to attach a tool that evaluates the capacitor and displays when it's been properly and gently drained. And doesn't get 0.2 stars on Amazon. Okay 4 starts but then have a bunch of reviews claiming they don't work.
You use the same meter to discharge if you like.
...or just a screwdriver :happy
Chuck107
Posts: 497
Joined: Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:47 pm

Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Chuck107 »

neilpilot wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:22 pm
Chuck107 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:20 pm
tibbitts wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 2:20 pm
Chuck107 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:59 pm
Lee_WSP wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:13 pm There's very little to go wrong with a modern gas furnace. Worst thing would be carbon monoxide buildup or a leak in the line. I think.

A compressor on the other hand has more parts that can go wrong including the condensate line, freon levels, and capacitors. That said, I'm not entirely sure you can proactively catch a failing capacitor. Thus, the one thing they can check for is freon leaks that you can't do yourself. Although crawling up into the attic to clear out the condensate line may be quite uncomfortable.

Joining the chorus, there's no reason to pay for the maintenance plan. You can just schedule checkups once a year or every other year.
With the proper multimeter it's easy, must take care to turn off all power to the unit and properly short the contacts on the capacitor.
It's not "easy", because of how difficult it is to find a good-quality capacitor discharge tool. Seriously, it's as if the instructions for checking refrigerant charge said "first, build your own manifold gauge set." Who wants to solder resistors or use little clips to hold them to a wire? I just want to attach a tool that evaluates the capacitor and displays when it's been properly and gently drained. And doesn't get 0.2 stars on Amazon. Okay 4 starts but then have a bunch of reviews claiming they don't work.
You use the same meter to discharge if you like.
...or just a screwdriver :happy
Well I wasn't going to mention that, it seemed like opening a can of worms. :wink:
tibbitts
Posts: 11552
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:50 pm

Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by tibbitts »

Chuck107 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:20 pm
tibbitts wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 2:20 pm
Chuck107 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:59 pm
Lee_WSP wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:13 pm There's very little to go wrong with a modern gas furnace. Worst thing would be carbon monoxide buildup or a leak in the line. I think.

A compressor on the other hand has more parts that can go wrong including the condensate line, freon levels, and capacitors. That said, I'm not entirely sure you can proactively catch a failing capacitor. Thus, the one thing they can check for is freon leaks that you can't do yourself. Although crawling up into the attic to clear out the condensate line may be quite uncomfortable.

Joining the chorus, there's no reason to pay for the maintenance plan. You can just schedule checkups once a year or every other year.
With the proper multimeter it's easy, must take care to turn off all power to the unit and properly short the contacts on the capacitor.
It's not "easy", because of how difficult it is to find a good-quality capacitor discharge tool. Seriously, it's as if the instructions for checking refrigerant charge said "first, build your own manifold gauge set." Who wants to solder resistors or use little clips to hold them to a wire? I just want to attach a tool that evaluates the capacitor and displays when it's been properly and gently drained. And doesn't get 0.2 stars on Amazon. Okay 4 starts but then have a bunch of reviews claiming they don't work.
You use the same meter to discharge if you like.
I have three meters at my house now with various resistance ranges blown out. I guess I need a meter that will know its objective in life in to drain the capacitor as rapidly as possible while still being safe. Remember the audience here is those of us who aren't professionals. It's sort of like the posts saying how easy and safe to replace your own brakes: it's easy and safe when done correctly.
Last edited by tibbitts on Sat Sep 19, 2020 5:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.
tibbitts
Posts: 11552
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:50 pm

Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by tibbitts »

Chuck107 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:31 pm
neilpilot wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:22 pm
Chuck107 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:20 pm
tibbitts wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 2:20 pm
Chuck107 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:59 pm

With the proper multimeter it's easy, must take care to turn off all power to the unit and properly short the contacts on the capacitor.
It's not "easy", because of how difficult it is to find a good-quality capacitor discharge tool. Seriously, it's as if the instructions for checking refrigerant charge said "first, build your own manifold gauge set." Who wants to solder resistors or use little clips to hold them to a wire? I just want to attach a tool that evaluates the capacitor and displays when it's been properly and gently drained. And doesn't get 0.2 stars on Amazon. Okay 4 starts but then have a bunch of reviews claiming they don't work.
You use the same meter to discharge if you like.
...or just a screwdriver :happy
Well I wasn't going to mention that, it seemed like opening a can of worms. :wink:
Some electricians check for a live circuit with a wet finger too, but that doesn't make it a good idea.
Chuck107
Posts: 497
Joined: Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:47 pm

Re: HVAC Service Contracts & Annual Service

Post by Chuck107 »

neilpilot wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:22 pm
Chuck107 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:20 pm
tibbitts wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 2:20 pm
Chuck107 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:59 pm
Lee_WSP wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:13 pm There's very little to go wrong with a modern gas furnace. Worst thing would be carbon monoxide buildup or a leak in the line. I think.

A compressor on the other hand has more parts that can go wrong including the condensate line, freon levels, and capacitors. That said, I'm not entirely sure you can proactively catch a failing capacitor. Thus, the one thing they can check for is freon leaks that you can't do yourself. Although crawling up into the attic to clear out the condensate line may be quite uncomfortable.

Joining the chorus, there's no reason to pay for the maintenance plan. You can just schedule checkups once a year or every other year.
With the proper multimeter it's easy, must take care to turn off all power to the unit and properly short the contacts on the capacitor.
It's not "easy", because of how difficult it is to find a good-quality capacitor discharge tool. Seriously, it's as if the instructions for checking refrigerant charge said "first, build your own manifold gauge set." Who wants to solder resistors or use little clips to hold them to a wire? I just want to attach a tool that evaluates the capacitor and displays when it's been properly and gently drained. And doesn't get 0.2 stars on Amazon. Okay 4 starts but then have a bunch of reviews claiming they don't work.
You use the same meter to discharge if you like.


...or just a screwdriver :happy
Like I said... :beer
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