HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

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stevethefundguy
Posts: 63
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HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by stevethefundguy »

Hi all. We've had a HVAC maintenance contract with our service provider for many years -- twice annual check/cleaning (supposedly) maintenance visits and 10% off repairs (with some qualifications). Two units (AC and heat/furnace) on 4-story townhome. It's renewal time, and the annual cost has been increased, to $382. I can't recall if they've ever found a real problem and fixed it during these visits -- we've had other issues throughout the years, discovered because something wasn't working, and called them in. Anyway, wondering if the twice-annual visits and small discount on repairs is worth nearly $400 annually. Are others doing this, or doing without? Thanks.
Doctor Rhythm
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by Doctor Rhythm »

Curious if you've been pushed to buy additional equipment or replace equipment before it has failed. There are several threads where the main effect of the maintenance contract has been to spend thousands more on upgrades. We don't ever buy warranties or maintenance plans. Our furnace has had its induction motor burn out twice in 25 years. Combined cost of replacement was less than $1000.

Quick Google search says a new furnace is $1000-2000. Maybe add another 50% for installation. If this is correct (and I'm just guessing here), you could have a new furnace every 5-8 years based on what you're paying.
Last edited by Doctor Rhythm on Fri Apr 26, 2024 4:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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NCPE
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by NCPE »

All ways have been a "pay as you go" type and forgo the extended warranties / service plans.

Current HVAC systems are 24 years old and have had to replace a capacitor on one of the outside units, other than that no expenses other than filter changes.
Topic Author
stevethefundguy
Posts: 63
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by stevethefundguy »

Yes, they do try to upsell -- new water pans, a new gizmo that shuts off water if there's a leak. Sometimes it seems to make sense, other times we say no. Been here 3 decades in the house and have replaced both units during that time, but only when they developed major problems during the year. But does make you wonder. Would be nice to know if the cleaning/flushing (with bleach or vinegar) they sometimes do has prevented problems from developing, but who knows.

Our neighbors are split on whether this is a reasonable safeguard for the cost, or unnecessary, and one calls in a service provider just once a year to check things out, no contract, about $75-150.
Last edited by stevethefundguy on Sat Apr 27, 2024 1:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Doctor Rhythm
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by Doctor Rhythm »

I replace the air filter on a loose schedule (meaning I often forget to do it). That's it. I didn't even know people did anything else until I read threads on this forum. My usual attitude is that they need to prove to me that something extra is necessary, rather than me needing to prove that it isn't.
Conch55
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by Conch55 »

This is not a new topic for this forum. Using the search feature will likely give you plenty of experiences with HVAC maintenance contracts. I have had them at times, currently do, but don't believe they are worth it. The reason for the current contract is the system is relatively new (<2 years) and the contract was offered for a reduced amount. It's unlikely I will renew. Over the years under contract the techs never found anything wrong but on a couple of occasions we had issues resulting from the service call. YMMV.
gotoparks
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by gotoparks »

I've only been under a contract when the company I used to use offered a discount for signing up for one year to do a heating and air cooling check. They sold me on getting some kind of shut off system if the power goes out. It wasn't that expensive and I would probably get it again because it sounded like a good idea. I haven't had my heat pump checked in over five years so this summer I'm hiring a company to check my system out. The company I want to use charges about 70 and says they do a thorough job rather than the usual 20 minute in and out that a lot of companies do. I would decline 400 dollars a year but if I was concerned about it, I would put the money in a HYSA or the S&P 500 and save it that way. I'm starting a house fund and part of it is for heat pump replacement.
Woodshark
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by Woodshark »

I cannot tell you what to do, but I've never had one and probably never will. There is little annual maintenance that can be done by a tech that you can't do yourself. Change filters, hose off outside condenser coils,etc. Now sure, a bi-annual inspection might show something is close to failure but not that often. The things tend to work or not work. The only major exception I would grant is a visual inspection by them could catch a crack in the heat exchanger if you heat with gas or oil and that could be potentially dangerous.
steadyosmosis
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by steadyosmosis »

stevethefundguy wrote: Fri Apr 26, 2024 3:40 pm Hi all. We've had a HVAC maintenance contract with our service provider for many years -- twice annual check/cleaning (supposedly) maintenance visits and 10% off repairs (with some qualifications). Two units (AC and heat/furnace) on 4-story townhome. It's renewal time, and the annual cost has been increased, to $382. I can't recall if they've ever found a real problem and fixed it during these visits -- we've had other issues throughout the years, discovered because something wasn't working, and called them in. Anyway, wondering if the twice-annual visits and small discount on repairs is worth nearly $400 annually. Are others doing this, or doing without? Thanks.
For me, never been worth it.
Never had a maintenance contract.
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tibbitts
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by tibbitts »

Doctor Rhythm wrote: Fri Apr 26, 2024 4:23 pm Curious if you've been pushed to buy additional equipment or replace equipment before it has failed. There are several threads where the main effect of the maintenance contract has been to spend thousands more on upgrades. We don't ever buy warranties or maintenance plans. Our furnace has had its induction motor burn out twice in 25 years. Combined cost of replacement was less than $1000.

Quick Google search says a new furnace is $1000-2000. Maybe add another 50% for installation. If this is correct (and I'm just guessing here), you could have a new furnace every 5-8 years based on what you're paying.
You have to differentiate between the cost of parts that you buy direct from online retailers and those that you buy from someone servicing your unit. The parts you're talking about are commonly marked up 2x or more from the prices you mentioned if you buy them from a repair service. You can buy the parts yourself and ask someone to install them, but that person is free to make up the loss of margin by charging more for labor. It's no different than with other services.
livesoft
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by livesoft »

Never paid for such a ridiculous thing.
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popoki
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by popoki »

I get it done, both spring and fall visits with $190 annual charge that is paid after the fall visit. Never had an upsell attempt. The only extra charges I've paid are for pre-emptive capacitor replacements when they didn't test within range.

Supposedly I'd get priority status if repairs are needed, and a discount. Where I live it is so hot that if the AC goes out, you go to a hotel until repaired.
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Watty
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by Watty »

Be sure to check the terms of your warranty. The last time I bought a system it came with a 10 year parts and labor warranty but you had to have the bi-annual service to keep the warranty in place.
stevethefundguy wrote: Fri Apr 26, 2024 3:40 pm Two units (AC and heat/furnace) on 4-story townhome.
Having two units helps because if one fails the other would make at least part of the house usable until you could have it fixed.

I live in the Southeast in Atlanta where you would be pretty miserable without AC for several months of the year because of the heat and humidity. We only have one system so if there is a problem with it then the impact would be pretty significant.

We have the service contract but since it is for only one unit it is less than $200 a year($180 ???). Part of it is that if you have a service call you get priority and that seems to be true. I had one call that I placed at maybe 10:00PM on Memorial day when we returned home from being out of town, they were out at the house by 10:00 AM the next morning and had a temporary fix until they could get a new outside fan motor ordered, which was replaced under warranty. In another case we called in the morning and they were out at the house within about four hours.

In someplace like Atlanta you would have a hard time finding an HVAC company to come to your house on a hot day if you did not have a prior relationship with them.

Compared to a lot of posters here I am pretty middle class but I can afford the $200 a year.

If we do have a problem that also means that I don't have to explain to my wife that it is 90 degrees in the house because I tried to save $200. :mrgreen:

I have not had to use it but I do have a spare air conditioner capacitor and in a pinch I could install it myself in about ten minutes since that is one of the most common problems. It looks pretty easy on Youtube.
soretired
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by soretired »

Not worth it to me. Warranties rarely make sense. I pay as I go.
zlandar
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by zlandar »

Replacing a compressor capacitor is not hard. Plenty of YouTube videos that will show you how. I purchased some Amrad capacitors and installed them in my 3 HVAC units.
I learned how to replace a condensate pump.
Rinse off the outdoor compressor coils with water 1-2 times a year.
Regularly replace the air filters.

What else would a HVAC tech do for maintenance? I would rather put the savings towards a new system when the old one dies.
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TexasPE
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by TexasPE »

zlandar wrote: Fri Apr 26, 2024 7:27 pm
What else would a HVAC tech do for maintenance?
In my area they make sure the condensate pan drains are open - blowing the drain lines out and adding bleach or vinegar to the pan to kill mold and mildew. In our area the units are mounted in the attic (no basements) and we have a humid Gulf Coast climate.

A friend came home from a one-month vacation to a collapsed ceiling when their pan overflowed. Of course this can be an owner maintenance item.
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beyou
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by beyou »

I am generally not interested in any maintenance contracts but this is my one exception. Have had a furnace repaired same day at 6-7pm in winter “because i am a contract customer”. Otherwise you wait or call someone else.
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by Mr. Rumples »

I do it and as noted above, I too had an issue with extreme weather and they came out. I also request the same person which makes it easier rather than someone who might be new.
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by zlandar »

TexasPE wrote: Fri Apr 26, 2024 9:02 pm
zlandar wrote: Fri Apr 26, 2024 7:27 pm
What else would a HVAC tech do for maintenance?
In my area they make sure the condensate pan drains are open - blowing the drain lines out and adding bleach or vinegar to the pan to kill mold and mildew. In our area the units are mounted in the attic (no basements) and we have a humid Gulf Coast climate.

A friend came home from a one-month vacation to a collapsed ceiling when their pan overflowed. Of course this can be an owner maintenance item.
There is supposed to be a kill switch in the pan if water starts to fill it. Kills power to the unit until the water is emptied out of the pan.

Can also add a switch attached to the drainage pipe from the condenser to the condensate pump. If water backs up shuts the unit off.
MorgansRun
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by MorgansRun »

Think of HVAC and other household appliances like your car. Do you have an extended maintenance contract on your car, keep up with regular maintenance and service? I replace my major appliances before they breakdown so that I’m not at the mercy of potential price gouging when the HVAC goes out in the middle of summer. This gives me time to price shop and get exactly what I want. Like everything, it’s a personal decision.
popoki
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by popoki »

This is what I'm getting for $190 per year. It doesn't seem like a DIY/"Youtube" project and worth the expense to me.

AC Maintenance Checklist
Spring/Summer Maintenance Checklist
1. Wash Condenser
2. Remove/vacuum debris from condenser
3. Change Filters
4. Check MFD on air conditioner capacitor
5. What size is capacitor
6. What is it reading?
7. Recommend replacing?
8. Check Contactor
9. Is there pitting?
10. Recommend replacing?
11. Turn cooling on:
12. Volts
13. Compressor amps
14. psi suction
15. psi liquid
16. subcooling
17. Return air
18. Supply air temperature
19. Clear drain line with nitrogen or CO2, pour cup of bleach or vinegar in drain
20. Inspect indoor blower
21. Recommend pull and clean?
22. Inspect evaporator clean coil
23. Recommend cleaning
24. If Yes: Pull and Clean or Clean in Place
25. Thermostat properly calibrated?
26. Inspect attic fan, check ductwork
27. Tighten electrical connections
28. Would I recommend any of the following:
29. Notes:

Gas Furnace Checklist
Fall/ Winter Maintenance Checklist
1. Change filters
2. Check for Carbon Monoxide
3. PPM
4. Inspect Heat exchanger, flue pipes, (include H2O Heaters) and combustion air vents
5. Check and tighten gas
6. Clean Flame sensor connections
7. What is the Return air temp?
8. Supply air temp?
9. Delta T?
10. Calibrate thermostat
11. Inspect blower: Recommend pulling and cleaning?
12. Check indoor fan motor, Amps
13. Capacitor in range?
14. Check safety switches
15. Check transformer: proper volts?
16. Tighten electric connections
17. Would I recommend any of the following:
18. Notes:
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MathWizard
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by MathWizard »

Your cost seems high. We do have a maintenance contract, mainly because it gets us priority if we have a problem.

We've only had 2 items replaced , a limit switch and a drain line for the AC.

The units are in their 25th year, so I expect to need to replace them soon. I don't know if the regular maintenance helped with their longevity.
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illumination
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by illumination »

No, they're largely a ripoff and just allow these companies upsell opportunities. Just pay as you go. Also, many times a tech poking around can cause an issue, just opening up the lines to check for pressure introduces a potential failure and loses some refrigerant. The few things you can do are (usually) easy for anyone without any technical knowledge. Like changing the filter, etc.

Sometimes though these service contracts are required for any sort of extended warranty. Which is why I usually pass on the warranty as you've probably paid the same amount for any potential repairs anyway. And these places can be slimey about what they cover under their warranty.

I just had a friend tell me his new-ish AC unit stopped cooling. He had a warranty, it was something really basic like a leaking Schraeder valve. So they covered the schrader valve but not the refrigerant. What did they charge him for the refrigerant? About a thousand dollars. Actual price of R-410 refrigerant? about $15 a pound (I just bought a tank of it). His repair should have been something like $60. So even with this warranty, they completely screwed him on the most simple repair.
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by zlandar »

popoki wrote: Sat Apr 27, 2024 8:48 am This is what I'm getting for $190 per year. It doesn't seem like a DIY/"Youtube" project and worth the expense to me.

AC Maintenance Checklist
Spring/Summer Maintenance Checklist
1. Wash Condenser
2. Remove/vacuum debris from condenser
3. Change Filters
4. Check MFD on air conditioner capacitor
5. What size is capacitor
6. What is it reading?
7. Recommend replacing?
8. Check Contactor
9. Is there pitting?
10. Recommend replacing?
11. Turn cooling on:
12. Volts
13. Compressor amps
14. psi suction
15. psi liquid
16. subcooling
17. Return air
18. Supply air temperature
19. Clear drain line with nitrogen or CO2, pour cup of bleach or vinegar in drain
20. Inspect indoor blower
21. Recommend pull and clean?
22. Inspect evaporator clean coil
23. Recommend cleaning
24. If Yes: Pull and Clean or Clean in Place
25. Thermostat properly calibrated?
26. Inspect attic fan, check ductwork
27. Tighten electrical connections
28. Would I recommend any of the following:
29. Notes:

Gas Furnace Checklist
Fall/ Winter Maintenance Checklist
1. Change filters
2. Check for Carbon Monoxide
3. PPM
4. Inspect Heat exchanger, flue pipes, (include H2O Heaters) and combustion air vents
5. Check and tighten gas
6. Clean Flame sensor connections
7. What is the Return air temp?
8. Supply air temp?
9. Delta T?
10. Calibrate thermostat
11. Inspect blower: Recommend pulling and cleaning?
12. Check indoor fan motor, Amps
13. Capacitor in range?
14. Check safety switches
15. Check transformer: proper volts?
16. Tighten electric connections
17. Would I recommend any of the following:
18. Notes:
A lot of the listed items is padding. For example 1 + 2 are the same thing.
3 any home owner can do.
4-7 is one step. Note I can replace a capacitor for $30-40 vs $180-200 a hvac company will charge.
8-10 is looking at a item that rarely goes bad before the unit dies.

I could go on. There are certain things I will pay a HVAC company to do because it’s not worth my time or beyond what I am willing to learn. But there is a lot of low hanging fruit I would rather do myself.
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by snackdog »

popoki wrote: Sat Apr 27, 2024 8:48 am This is what I'm getting for $190 per year. It doesn't seem like a DIY/"Youtube" project and worth the expense to me.

AC Maintenance Checklist
Spring/Summer Maintenance Checklist
1. Wash Condenser
2. Remove/vacuum debris from condenser
3. Change Filters
4. Check MFD on air conditioner capacitor
5. What size is capacitor
6. What is it reading?
7. Recommend replacing?
8. Check Contactor
9. Is there pitting?
10. Recommend replacing?
11. Turn cooling on:
12. Volts
13. Compressor amps
14. psi suction
15. psi liquid
16. subcooling
17. Return air
18. Supply air temperature
19. Clear drain line with nitrogen or CO2, pour cup of bleach or vinegar in drain
20. Inspect indoor blower
21. Recommend pull and clean?
22. Inspect evaporator clean coil
23. Recommend cleaning
24. If Yes: Pull and Clean or Clean in Place
25. Thermostat properly calibrated?
26. Inspect attic fan, check ductwork
27. Tighten electrical connections
28. Would I recommend any of the following:
29. Notes:

Gas Furnace Checklist
Fall/ Winter Maintenance Checklist
1. Change filters
2. Check for Carbon Monoxide
3. PPM
4. Inspect Heat exchanger, flue pipes, (include H2O Heaters) and combustion air vents
5. Check and tighten gas
6. Clean Flame sensor connections
7. What is the Return air temp?
8. Supply air temp?
9. Delta T?
10. Calibrate thermostat
11. Inspect blower: Recommend pulling and cleaning?
12. Check indoor fan motor, Amps
13. Capacitor in range?
14. Check safety switches
15. Check transformer: proper volts?
16. Tighten electric connections
17. Would I recommend any of the following:
18. Notes:
In our old house, I cleaned the AC condensers myself once per year and also vacuumed out the furnaces and cleared the condensate lines. I even replaced a fan motor and capacitor on a 22 year old AC unit myself. A pre-sale checkup on the system found no issues aside from one weak furnace capacitor and two AC units 1/2 pound low on freon.

We are now on Trane heat pumps, so no furnace, but the check list and report out is similarly comprehensive to the quoted one. Cost is $87/unit which includes outdoor heat pump and crawl space air handler for each couple. Service time is about 2.5 man-hours per unit. Heat pumps have the entire cover disassembled for thorough cleaning of the coils. We have them checked twice per year. At the last check up all the units (16 years old) are running fine but two had oil leaking from the heat pump fan motors. On these old units, a dead fan can overload and kill the condenser requiring a new heat pump $$$$. So, we replaced the fan motors as we would like to keep the system running at least another five years if we can. This service company is family-owned, fairly priced, and the techs are fabulous at communicating what they are doing and seeing.
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HVAC Maintenance Plans

Post by ShadowCat »

[Thread merged into here --admin LadyGeek]

My wife and I recently became homeowners (have been renting until now) and are going through the rather steep learning curve of home maintenance. With respect to our furnace and A/C, my friends and new neighbors have recommended "maintenance" plans.

The specific local company and plan I've been recommended costs $22 a month but then covers a once a year furnace inspection and a separate once a year A/C inspection for no additional cost. On top of that, having a maintenance plan immediately gives me 15% off of all labor for anything, even for things unrelated to furnace and A/C. This company does electrical and plumbing so in principle they'd discount 15% off of anything we ever needed for those. They also have a dedicated after hours/emergency line for people on the maintenance plan.

Honestly, I'm skeptical. The specific company everyone is recommending is pretty well regarded, but my general philosophy is to just "pay as you go" as opposed to having what seems like a recurring membership to me. I'm leaning towards using the company but not having the maintenance plan. As an aside, do I really need to have my furnace and A/C inspected every year? The units are only 7 years old so that seems a bit excessive for a new-ish furnace and A/C.

Thoughts?
Last edited by ShadowCat on Sun May 12, 2024 6:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
popoki
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Re: HVAC Maintenance Plans

Post by popoki »

This has been discussed many times. See viewtopic.php?t=430586
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ShadowCat
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Re: HVAC Maintenance Plans

Post by ShadowCat »

popoki wrote: Sun May 12, 2024 6:55 pm This has been discussed many times. See viewtopic.php?t=430586
Apologies, missed that. Thanks.
Afty
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Re: HVAC Maintenance Plans

Post by Afty »

We’ve owned our home for 7 years, have not had an HVAC contract, and have never missed having one. I’ve also never had my furnace and AC unit inspected. A few years ago our AC capacitor went out, and I was able to fix it own my own by watching a YouTube video. That’s the only HVAC issue we’ve had in 7 years.
MadDwag
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Re: HVAC Maintenance Plans

Post by MadDwag »

My neighbor had a “preventative maintenance” appointment for his furnace where they adjusted the gas flow and did some other stuff. Long story short, they broke stuff in the process and, either knowingly or unknowingly. I’m firmly in the camp of change your filters but otherwise if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
livesoft
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Re: HVAC Maintenance Plans

Post by livesoft »

This has been discussed many times. If your neighbors are giving you this advice, then I suggest you ignore it and be very careful about other such advice from them.

We have been in the same house almost 30 years. It has 2 completely separate HVAC systems: One for the upstairs and one for the downstairs. Over those years we have never ever paid for any maintenance plans on any of our HVAC systems, household appliances, irrigation systems, cars, etc. We even have washable air filters in the house, so no money spent on filters after the first month of home ownership either.

Just say no! Instead you can "self-insure" by putting money in investments that go up over the long term.
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by LadyGeek »

I merged ShadowCat's thread into a recent discussion.

(Thanks to the member who reported the post.)
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Cheez-It Guy
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by Cheez-It Guy »

It was never worth it.
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by Parkinglotracer »

I think somehow the performance of passive index funds with low fees achieving a higher rate of return on the average than the funds that have an high expense ratio is related to pay on your own maintenance do it yourselfers paying less on the average than those with the added cost of hvac insurance policies.

It’s got to be more expensive on the average overall to have the insurance. Just like the higher expense funds have to have a lower return overall on the average.
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by andypanda »

I don't buy warranties. But a wifi controlled fully variable heat pump system seemed a bit complicated compared to the Burnham gas boiler I had in my old home for 40 years.

"Sometimes though these service contracts are required for any sort of extended warranty."

That's true. When we had a Lennox XP20 fully variable system - plus new galvanized steel duct work in the crawl space - installed about 5 years ago the large dealer sold me a $600 labor contract good for 10 years. It requires a service contract.

So far between the 10 year parts warranty and the labor contract, we have had a new control board on the outside unit, a new compressor (we are apparently the only customer who has ever needed one for an XP20 in the known universe), and two or three other small things like the system wouldn't work at all after a 12 hour power outage. Last week I noticed the outside unit was buzzing to beat the band - running or not running. Turns out it's energized 24/7. They had someone out to fix it in 2.5 hours.

When the compressor locked up they had someone there on a Sunday.

Total additional cost other than original install, service contract and the free labor for $600 for 10 years? Zero. $0.00.

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PoorPlumber
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Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by PoorPlumber »

Overall, it is known in the mechanical trades business that maintenance contracts provide almost zero to the customer and are cash cows to the business owner.
Get as many as possible.
Collect money,
Invest money.
Fight claims, make them "not covered", and/or adjust pricing on the fly so that the business wins.

No I never participated in this practice.

Costco doesn't make money on the case of potato chips you buy. The money is in the membership. :wink:

Did you know that according to my Googlefu, Amazon makes over $1,000.00 a second on Prime Memberships alone? And the clock never stops.

The most money in the wold currently is in Memberships, licensing, and revolving fees....
Broken Man 1999
Posts: 8675
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 11:31 am
Location: West coast of Florida, near Champa Bay !

Re: HVAC maintenance contract still worth it?

Post by Broken Man 1999 »

I have a maintenance agreement for both our heat pumps. The one that would be the hardest to DIY has the air handler in the attic.

Keeping the condensation line open is important. Although the drip pan wouldn't overflow, the unit would shut off.

Not to mention the filter needing changing. For some reason DW is no longer willing to crawl around the attic, though she does have two new knees, and balance problems.

I have only had Trane and American Standard heat pumps, they have proven to be very reliable.

The cost is negligible. Another benefit, domestic tranquility! A small price to pay. :D

Broken Man 1999
“If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven then I shall not go." - Mark Twain
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