Come fall, many home improvement magazines remind homeowners to do right by their furnace, and call in an HVAC tech for an inspection. It typically costs around $100, though, and many homeowners resent having to shell out once every two or three years when there is nothing actually wrong with their appliance. Are such inspections really necessary, then, and do they really achieve anything? More importantly, should you get it done yourself?
First, the warranty
Whatever source of advice you choose to go with, there’s one thing that you need to remember: furnace manufacturers recommend yearly inspections and tuneups. Should something go wrong with your furnace, lack of evidence of regular care could make obtaining warranty coverage somewhat problematic.
The right inspection or tuneup
Not all inspections are the same. Buying a $39 inspection on Groupon, your furnace will usually get minimal attention. A $100 or $200 inspection, on the other hand, is more likely to be the real thing. It can be hard to tell what exactly you’re getting by looking at the advertisement, though. From certification and basic tuneup to complete tuneup and annual maintenance check, HVAC service providers use just about every term available. Before you buy, it’s important to find out what you’re getting.
What is an inspection supposed to include?
A number of steps go into making sure of the health of a furnace, and putting in preventive maintenance. The vent system, flue pipe and blower intake are checked for dust clogs. Combustion gases are analyzed for toxicity, parts are checked for rust, the flame is checked for correct formation, and amp draw tests make sure of the health of the motor. The blower’s access door is checked, electrical connections are tightened.
Couldn’t you do it yourself?
Some parts of the maintenance routine could certainly be done with no more than a little training. To a large extent, though, inspections are about looking out for early signs, a skill that requires training and equipment.
If it’s an oil fired furnace, you need to call in a professional. According to the National Oil Heat Research Alliance, it can take experts with specialized equipment two hours. Not only could the untrained homeowner neglect to notice important signs, they could cause damage, as well.
It’s important to remember that these procedures usually result in energy savings. They tend to be significant enough that most utilities offer consumers tuneup rebates. You need to ask your local utility.