Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

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4nwestsaylng
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Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by 4nwestsaylng » Mon Nov 05, 2018 4:30 pm

We had our trusted furnace company do its annual furnace checkup. Maybe not necessary every year, but we do it, they replace the filter, check the gauges,etc..

At the end of the inspection, furnace guy says "there is something I want to discuss with you, your ducts". He shows us a couple of photos he took of the bottom of the furnace duct, where the fan and fiter is, and yes, there was dust. He said that all the ducts should be cleaned, they use a vacuum system which has some "whips" that stir up the dust for removal, and it would cost $600. Our house is about 1500 sq feet, two story, with horizontal ducts spreading out in the basement and then going vertical to the upper floors.

We have lived in this house for over 40 years, never had the ducts cleaned. Is this really necessary or is it a high profit item which is pushed during the annual furnace checkup? We are in a northern climate, there is no mold or spore issue.

Would appreciate anyone's experience with this. I know there is a lot of advertising for this service, not only here but down in the SW when I lived in Phoenix.

Thegame14
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by Thegame14 » Mon Nov 05, 2018 4:39 pm

I feel like everything these days is high profit, $10 a pound for lunch meat, $125 an hour for a mechanic, dinner at non fast food $20 with drink and tax and tip, everything at whole foods, plumber charged me $175 per hour, electrician $100 per hour, lawn care $40 per week, pest protection $65 a month......

Problem is if you cant do it yourself, you pay market price, which apparently these days is high.

I think it is worth it if you have allergies and it probably makes the system more efficient, but that price does sound high, I am sure you can shop around and find someone who will do it for $300.

Silk McCue
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by Silk McCue » Mon Nov 05, 2018 4:39 pm

I personally wouldn't bite. As long as you aren't noticing air quality or hard running issues I would let it ride. Two cents provided.

Cheers

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fortfun
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by fortfun » Mon Nov 05, 2018 4:46 pm

4nwestsaylng wrote:
Mon Nov 05, 2018 4:30 pm
We had our trusted furnace company do its annual furnace checkup. Maybe not necessary every year, but we do it, they replace the filter, check the gauges,etc..

At the end of the inspection, furnace guy says "there is something I want to discuss with you, your ducts". He shows us a couple of photos he took of the bottom of the furnace duct, where the fan and fiter is, and yes, there was dust. He said that all the ducts should be cleaned, they use a vacuum system which has some "whips" that stir up the dust for removal, and it would cost $600. Our house is about 1500 sq feet, two story, with horizontal ducts spreading out in the basement and then going vertical to the upper floors.

We have lived in this house for over 40 years, never had the ducts cleaned. Is this really necessary or is it a high profit item which is pushed during the annual furnace checkup? We are in a northern climate, there is no mold or spore issue.

Would appreciate anyone's experience with this. I know there is a lot of advertising for this service, not only here but down in the SW when I lived in Phoenix.
I'd probably have them cleaned once and then if you are using good filters and changing them regularly, there shouldn't be much need to have it cleaned very often. One reason to consider having them cleaned once is that some builders will sweep sawdust down the vents during the construction phase of the house. I think it is a pretty competitive industry, I bet you can get them to come down on price if you ask them. I would monitor the cleaning process if you pay for it (to make sure they actually do the work). I think it can be a pretty shady business.

Calli114
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by Calli114 » Mon Nov 05, 2018 4:48 pm

Anecdotal - I had my ducts cleaned in the midst of owning a German Shepherd (lots of shedding) and right after a home renovation on the main floor involving lots of sanding and dust. The guy got out a surprisingly small amount of debris so I am not planning to do that again.
The exception would be occasionally making sure the dryer vent to the outside doesn't get a lint clog. This was included with the duct service but obviously could be a DIY thing.

Mike Scott
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by Mike Scott » Mon Nov 05, 2018 4:49 pm

Except for high mold / allergy or other unusual problems, duct cleaning is close to being a scam. If you made it 40 years without cleaning, you can probably go a while longer.

RickBoglehead
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by RickBoglehead » Mon Nov 05, 2018 4:51 pm

High ripoff industry. Relative paid $379 to clean dryer duct including new internal hose.

banhbao
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by banhbao » Mon Nov 05, 2018 4:57 pm

For questions like these, I turn to ThisOldHouse:

https://www.thisoldhouse.com/ideas/breathing-easier

Myth 3: Cleaning air ducts will improve air quality inside a home.

According to the EPA, there is no proof that duct cleaning reduces allergens and dust inside homes.
Improper cleaning can actually increase levels. Nor is there any evidence that a small amount of dust in air ducts is a health risk. However, insulated ducts that get wet should be replaced. Only ducts that are visibly clogged with an excessive amount of debris or dust or infested with rodents or insects, or those with substantial visible mold and mildew, should be cleaned.


And for a second opinion, here is Bob Vila:

https://www.bobvila.com/articles/cleaning-air-ducts/

Turbo29
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by Turbo29 » Mon Nov 05, 2018 7:15 pm

I have a heat pump split system so summer or winter all the air goes through the air handler and coil. I watch the tech open the air handler every time I have it serviced. No evidence of any type of dust making it past the filter. Even having cats, their fur, and the cat litter dust. The techs have event commented on how clean it is.

Yet, I got a call from their office wanting to schedule a duct cleaning. I declined.

I won't go into all the other up-sell attempts I have gotten over the years. I really think it is a crooked industry.

ThriftyPhD
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by ThriftyPhD » Mon Nov 05, 2018 7:26 pm

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality- ... me-cleaned
Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts. This is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space. It is important to keep in mind that dirty air ducts are only one of many possible sources of particles that are present in homes. Pollutants that enter the home both from outdoors and indoor activities such as cooking, cleaning, smoking, or just moving around can cause greater exposure to contaminants than dirty air ducts. Moreover, there is no evidence that a light amount of household dust or other particulate matter in air ducts poses any risk to your health.
It's worth reading the whole document; they do lay out a few examples where it could make sense to have them cleaned. When I've looked into it, I haven't found enough evidence to convince myself I needed to have my ducts cleaned.

Housedoc
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by Housedoc » Mon Nov 05, 2018 7:28 pm

Don't bite. Use a high quality filter and change every 2 months. If filter seems to be dirty or bent in due to air sucking through a partial clogged filter start changing monthly. I change mine every 3 months and used my basement as a wood working shop for 20 yrs.

Teague
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by Teague » Mon Nov 05, 2018 7:33 pm

What happens if an HVAC tech selling duct cleaning services crossed paths with a guy selling load funds and whole life? Would they annihilate each other in a great explosion, like matter colliding with antimatter? Or would it be more undefined, like the proverbial irresistible force meeting an immovable object?
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GerryL
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by GerryL » Mon Nov 05, 2018 7:38 pm

My neighbor across the street used to have a big truck come up to her house once a year and vacuum her vents out. As a new homeowner, I asked my dad for his advice and he said "Waste of money." I did have it done when I had my furnace replaced some years back. Maybe I'll do it again if I ever have to replace the new furnace. Maybe.

BTW, the duct guys said they normally add air freshener during the cleaning process. I think they asked me what scent I wanted. I said "NO. NONE. DON'T."

ediekrager
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by ediekrager » Mon Nov 05, 2018 7:47 pm

There is also a fairly strong argument that duct cleaning will make your system less efficient. Can’t remember where I read it, but dust “seals” areas in your ductwork where air can escape. More air escaping the ductwork (before it is supposed to) increases heating and/or air conditioning bills.

VGisforme
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by VGisforme » Mon Nov 05, 2018 8:31 pm

I'd pass there really is no reason to clean the ducts, I'd sooner spend that money on sealing the ducts however. The return air ducts will always be very dusty regardless since that air is all pre filter.

Sealing the supply and return ducts to prevent conditioned air from getting into unconditioned spaces and preventing introduction of return air from unconditioned spaces makes sense.

If you have a lot of exposed ductwork I recommend getting a roll of the $20 real foil tape and tapping up the seams and any holes you can find.

gtd98765
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by gtd98765 » Mon Nov 05, 2018 8:32 pm

banhbao wrote:
Mon Nov 05, 2018 4:57 pm
For questions like these, I turn to ThisOldHouse:

https://www.thisoldhouse.com/ideas/breathing-easier

Myth 3: Cleaning air ducts will improve air quality inside a home.

According to the EPA, there is no proof that duct cleaning reduces allergens and dust inside homes.
Improper cleaning can actually increase levels. Nor is there any evidence that a small amount of dust in air ducts is a health risk. However, insulated ducts that get wet should be replaced. Only ducts that are visibly clogged with an excessive amount of debris or dust or infested with rodents or insects, or those with substantial visible mold and mildew, should be cleaned.


And for a second opinion, here is Bob Vila:

https://www.bobvila.com/articles/cleaning-air-ducts/
+1
When in doubt, go with science!

4nwestsaylng
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by 4nwestsaylng » Mon Nov 05, 2018 9:02 pm

Teague wrote:
Mon Nov 05, 2018 7:33 pm
What happens if an HVAC tech selling duct cleaning services crossed paths with a guy selling load funds and whole life? Would they annihilate each other in a great explosion, like matter colliding with antimatter? Or would it be more undefined, like the proverbial irresistible force meeting an immovable object?
Great comment! I'm sure unfortunately that a lot of seniors or even computer geeks go for this duct cleaning. I figure the furnace guy,who works for major local firm, visits four homes a day doing the annual inspection, pitches duct cleaning at each one, maybe generates $2400 in business if they all bite.

I told the furnace guy, who had his iPad all ready for me to sign a contract and schedule, that I could not afford it at this time, since I just paid the tree guy $975 to trim branches near a power line and cable the tree (it has a double trunk). True story, and I don't begrudge the tree guy, he brought four employees, spent three hours, and most of that time high up in the trees with a chain saw, only held by a belt around the tree and spike shoes. They deserve risk pay.

Thanks to the other poster above regarding Bob Vila's thoughts. I have a lot of confidence in Bob, and need to check his web site more often. I think he was an honest, down to earth guy when he hosted This Old House.

No duct work, I will just change the filter frequently. We have no pets, nonsmokers, and as some of you say, the "cleaning" could in fact stir up more dust that is nicely adherent to the ducts minding its own business :D

Cyclone
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by Cyclone » Mon Nov 05, 2018 10:06 pm

I know someone who bought a house belonging to a heavy smoker, and cleaning the ducts did make a big (positive) difference with the smell.

Swansea
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by Swansea » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:32 am

Yup, my HVAC tech who just visited made recommendations for 5K worth of work: whole house dehumidifier, duct cleaning, dryer vent cleaning, and an extra return. I won't go for any of it, and am thinking about switching firms due to their pushing unnecessary work.

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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by unclescrooge » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:57 am

Swansea wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:32 am
Yup, my HVAC tech who just visited made recommendations for 5K worth of work: whole house dehumidifier, duct cleaning, dryer vent cleaning, and an extra return. I won't go for any of it, and am thinking about switching firms due to their pushing unnecessary work.
I recently called my HVAC sales person for a quote on a while house dehumidifier and his recommendation was to get a portable one for $200. :shock:

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jharkin
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by jharkin » Tue Nov 06, 2018 6:22 am

Mike Scott wrote:
Mon Nov 05, 2018 4:49 pm
Except for high mold / allergy or other unusual problems, duct cleaning is close to being a scam. If you made it 40 years without cleaning, you can probably go a while longer.
+1 Most I have read about duct cleaning is that its a total scam... just a cosmetic band aid like driveway sealcoating, etc.

Even the EPAs article on the topic wont make conclusions either way (and is worth a full read before shelling out $600 for a guy with a brush and a vacuum cleaner):
https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality- ... me-cleaned


If the spot where the tech showed you "dust" was in the returns, before the filter intake then it wasn't getting back into the house.....

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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 6:35 am

A good friend of mine is an HVAC engineer. I've always thought this was a scam, but the wife sees the pictures in the mailers that look like Sasquatch lives in the duct work. So my friend designs HVAC systems and creates documentation on how to maintain them. He tells me that nobody cleans ductwork. The filter catches the dust. If there were no filter and the dust made it into the system, it would simply sit there. It would not make its way back into the house.

If you're all that worried, pull each of the feed grates and vacuum inside of them. I did that and found far more Legos than dust or dirt. And we've had 2 cats since moving into this house 26 years ago (different cats, but always had 2). There was no cat fur in any of the ducts. I wondered why that was and thought about it. Hmmmm, a few cat hairs go into the grate. The air turns on and blows it into the house. A one time cleaning won't do anything about this. You'd need to add duct silos to get beyond the reach of the cats. Good luck with that. I picture my cats sitting on top of some 4 foot silo as they want to be at the highest point in the room.
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mrc
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by mrc » Tue Nov 06, 2018 6:51 am

I installed filters on the return grates and clean them weekly. The filter at the furnace still gets a little dirty, but the return filters prevent everything they catch from even entering the ductwork. We have dogs, which throw off a surprising amount.
If it’s not long term it’s small talk

Swansea
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by Swansea » Tue Nov 06, 2018 7:35 am

unclescrooge wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:57 am
Swansea wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:32 am
Yup, my HVAC tech who just visited made recommendations for 5K worth of work: whole house dehumidifier, duct cleaning, dryer vent cleaning, and an extra return. I won't go for any of it, and am thinking about switching firms due to their pushing unnecessary work.
I recently called my HVAC sales person for a quote on a while house dehumidifier and his recommendation was to get a portable one for $200. :shock:
Thanks, I have one and it does an adequate job. The 3200 for the whole house dehumidifier is like killing a fly with a cannon.

criticalmass
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by criticalmass » Tue Nov 06, 2018 8:28 am

When I had a professional high power hepa vacuum in the house for a few days, I opened the return grates and used it. The horizontal runs had at least an inch of filthy dust. The vertical runs weren’t much better. I couldn’t get everything due to geometry but I got a lot.

If you use professional cleaners, shop around. There are many deals offered frequently. Use Consumers Checkbook or similar to find a reputable cleaner.

killjoy2012
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by killjoy2012 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 8:55 am

I think some are being a little negative in response to the OP's question. Sure, HVAC duct cleaning is an "add on" and likely has a large profit margin, but that doesn't mean there aren't times where it's beneficial. I have allergies, and I replaced the furnace shortly after buying my home and I had my ducts cleaned -- both to clean them in prep for the new system, as well as cleaning the previous owners lint, skin flakes and other such dirt from entering my nostrils. It was well worth the $400 when buying a new used home and replacing a $7k HVAC system.

One could argue that washing or vacuuming out your car / home is worthless. And that hiring a cleaning service, or detailer, is "a high profit scam". Maybe. I guess it depends on the situation, and how much you value cleanliness, etc. Do I think you need to have your ducts cleaned annually? No. Once a decade? Maybe. A lot of this relative.

Someone else mentioned replacing your furnace air filter bi-monthly. Mine are $40 each. I'd be further ahead to replace them annually, as spec'd, and have ducts cleaned every 5-10 years... way ahead.

It's all relative...

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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by VGisforme » Tue Nov 06, 2018 8:14 pm

killjoy2012 wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 8:55 am
I think some are being a little negative in response to the OP's question. Sure, HVAC duct cleaning is an "add on" and likely has a large profit margin, but that doesn't mean there aren't times where it's beneficial. I have allergies, and I replaced the furnace shortly after buying my home and I had my ducts cleaned -- both to clean them in prep for the new system, as well as cleaning the previous owners lint, skin flakes and other such dirt from entering my nostrils. It was well worth the $400 when buying a new used home and replacing a $7k HVAC system.

One could argue that washing or vacuuming out your car / home is worthless. And that hiring a cleaning service, or detailer, is "a high profit scam". Maybe. I guess it depends on the situation, and how much you value cleanliness, etc. Do I think you need to have your ducts cleaned annually? No. Once a decade? Maybe. A lot of this relative.

Someone else mentioned replacing your furnace air filter bi-monthly. Mine are $40 each. I'd be further ahead to replace them annually, as spec'd, and have ducts cleaned every 5-10 years... way ahead.

It's all relative...
If you have allergies you're much better off getting a great filter and some UV lights and changing the filters more frequently then cleaning the ducts. What gets into the returns won't come back out. If you do buy a house cleaning the supplies might be a good idea if the prior maintenance was really bad.

I have allergies and I have a big 5 inch filter that I change every 6 months sometimes a bit sooner if it looks dirty. I don't get a super high MERV one but usually 13. Some of the really high MERV filters can clog quickly and strain your system unless you change them frequently.

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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by RudyS » Tue Nov 06, 2018 10:09 pm

Cyclone wrote:
Mon Nov 05, 2018 10:06 pm
I know someone who bought a house belonging to a heavy smoker, and cleaning the ducts did make a big (positive) difference with the smell.
This is one of the exceptional cases where the cleaning was worth doing. We have lived in our house for 40 years, never had the ducts cleaned. Furnace replaced once. No pets, but raised two kids here. Only allergies we have come from outdoors. So I vote for "don't do it." I do clean my dryer vent sporadically though. DIY, no cost.

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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by carolinaman » Wed Nov 07, 2018 8:18 am

There may be situations where the duct cleaning is warranted, but generally speaking it is a waste of money and grossly oversold.

I have had asthma most of my life. A few years ago it was bothering me more than usual. In an effort to find the cause, I put cheesecloth on the duct vents in bedroom and living room to see if excess dust was coming from vents. There was no evidence of dust or dirt after several days. That proved to me that this was not the problem. I learned this trick from my childhood when we put cheesecloth in vents for coal furnace during winter. They would be black in the Spring.

4nwestsaylng
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by 4nwestsaylng » Wed Nov 07, 2018 6:02 pm

carolinaman wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 8:18 am
There may be situations where the duct cleaning is warranted, but generally speaking it is a waste of money and grossly oversold.

I have had asthma most of my life. A few years ago it was bothering me more than usual. In an effort to find the cause, I put cheesecloth on the duct vents in bedroom and living room to see if excess dust was coming from vents. There was no evidence of dust or dirt after several days. That proved to me that this was not the problem. I learned this trick from my childhood when we put cheesecloth in vents for coal furnace during winter. They would be black in the Spring.
Pretty convincing test.I am not naive,but still kind of sad,that when I have trusted a company which has provided furnaces in the past,and I know that the annual checkup for $114 is probably not necessary every year but and is probably quite profitable, that these companies come in the home and then try to upsell such a marginal but profitable service.

It’s like they read in their professional magazine,or at the annual convention they take marketing courses on how to push services.

It really turns me off and makes me want to just not do the annual checkup.So they will lose that gravy!!

SaveStrong
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by SaveStrong » Thu Nov 08, 2018 7:56 am

ediekrager wrote:
Mon Nov 05, 2018 7:47 pm
There is also a fairly strong argument that duct cleaning will make your system less efficient. Can’t remember where I read it, but dust “seals” areas in your ductwork where air can escape. More air escaping the ductwork (before it is supposed to) increases heating and/or air conditioning bills.
Fairly strong? Even if the joints weren’t sealed with tape or mastic when they were installed seems nominal unless the whole system was just poorly installed.

Turbo29
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Re: Furnace Duct Cleaning-a high profit game?

Post by Turbo29 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 4:38 pm

4nwestsaylng wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 6:02 pm
carolinaman wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 8:18 am
There may be situations where the duct cleaning is warranted, but generally speaking it is a waste of money and grossly oversold.

I have had asthma most of my life. A few years ago it was bothering me more than usual. In an effort to find the cause, I put cheesecloth on the duct vents in bedroom and living room to see if excess dust was coming from vents. There was no evidence of dust or dirt after several days. That proved to me that this was not the problem. I learned this trick from my childhood when we put cheesecloth in vents for coal furnace during winter. They would be black in the Spring.
Pretty convincing test.I am not naive,but still kind of sad,that when I have trusted a company which has provided furnaces in the past,and I know that the annual checkup for $114 is probably not necessary every year but and is probably quite profitable, that these companies come in the home and then try to upsell such a marginal but profitable service.

It’s like they read in their professional magazine,or at the annual convention they take marketing courses on how to push services.

It really turns me off and makes me want to just not do the annual checkup.So they will lose that gravy!!
+1

At my last check up the tech tried to sell me a $600 add on that literally would have taken him 2 minutes to connect. I declined and look the exact same part up on Amazon after he left and the price was $50. But it's not even worth $50 because it's not necessary.

This is from one of the biggest and most well-known companies in the Phoenix area.

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