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October 15, 2008


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We get ours checked every year. They give it a good cleaning and check all the parts to make sure none of them are near failure. It's certainly better IMO to have things fixed now rather than having it die on the coldest day of the winter. I've been happy with our service provider and in 5+ years they've never tried to upsell me on any repairs so I'm guessing my system is in good shape (it's not that old) or they're trustworthy.

Also, our furnace and blower have a 10-year warranty and one of the terms of the warranty is to get it serviced annually.

In my new house the furnace is 9 years old and the warranty is 10 years, I have them scheduled to come out on Monday for a check on the system. Of course it costs $99.50 for the service call. Back when I lived in MI I had mine serviced 2x year - of course I was flush being a DINK and now not so flush SINK.

I've never had mine checked but lately I've been wondering if I should. However, both my homes have been newer so there was never any fear of the furnace malfunctioning.

Yes, if your gas heater is 20 years old you should have it checked every year. The main reason I would have it checked is for safety, you want to make sure there is no problem with the combustion of the fuel and the gasses produced are properly exhausted.

A natural gas furnace (water heater, stove, dryer, etc.) will produce some carbon monoxide and large appliances such as a furnace, dryer, or water heater must be properly vented.

You should also have a couple carbon monoxide detectors
in you house to alert you to any problems.

This is more of a safety issue than a financial issue.

I've never had ours checked by a pro. My version of "checking" usually means running it during the fall on one of the cold days we always have & making sure it's actually heating. Is it really necessary to get a furnace cleaned? I change the filter monthly, but other than that I'm not sure I see the point.

We used to have our gas furnace checked every year. At that point, we were on a "service plan" where we paid a certain amount of money monthly for appliance services (I think it was between $20 and $25 a month), and the furnace check was free.

During our last check, the person inspected "red flagged" our furnace and shut it off. We had to get a new one, which we were able to get "scratch and dent" through a relative in a nearby state who does HVAC work. When the relative installed the new furnace, he claimed that the person who shut ours off had no call to do so; he said our problem was not serious enough for flagging the furnace as dangerous.

The end result is that my husband refuses to get a furnace inspection now for fear of this happening again. I don't have enough knowledge to know if this is smart or not. He and my father-in-law claim that the new furnace is computerized and its sensors will enable us to know if there is a problem before it is critical (I'm not sure how this would happen, and if they are being straight with me).

I love my husband and father-in-law dearly, but I don't know what to think. My father-in-law is frugal to the point of sometimes coming close to crossing safety and/or ethical lines, and as he gets older, my husband seems to be following in his footsteps (thankfully, less in the ethical direction than in what I consider safe and prudent). Maybe we are doing right to save money on an annual inspection, but maybe this is something that really ought to be done. I'm not too worried about CO problems, since we do have a CO detector.

If 20 years is the end of a heater's useful life then I don't know what to say about ours. It's been checked once and works just fine but I guess it belongs in a museum, it's probably 80 years old! But living in LA if the heat died on the coldest day, oh well, it's never that cold. It's on my replacement/upgrade list but it will be a year or two till it gets done.

I get my furnace cleaned every year. The $70 or so that it costs for a cleaning & check up pays for itself in increased effiency. Also, a cleaning will keep certain problems at bay, especially in an older furnace like mine, circa 1949.

We have oil heat and we have our burner cleaned and checked every year. We have a 3 year old burner and they don't have to do much to it, but it's good to have them come in and make sure all is good operating order. Our burner is new, our boiler is about 50 years old. :)

To those of you not sure about whether to get a yearly check-up, do you ever watch the HVAC repairman to see what services are actually done? Some may only replace your filter and make sure it starts correctly, but some will also do a thorough job by cleaning the blower and checking to make sure the gas jets all output the correct amount of gas. I clean ours every year before it gets cold and have a check-up done by a pro every other year and my furnace is still running the same it did 11 years ago.

We get ours cleaned - the filter, the motor & the blower. You can clean it yourself with a vacuum, toothbrush, rags (have to unscrew the cover) but we find it easier and safer just to have it serviced by a professional because they also check to make sure everything is working correctly and let us know if anything is wearing out (fine cracks, etc.).

I have a older (1960's) model tankless oil boiler. I have it serviced every year. They change the filter (which is only done yearly on such a system) and completely drain and clean out the boiler. They also check water levels and see if it is working properly. I would never recommend foregoing service even on a new boiler, as it will definitely increase the efficiency of the system. Think about it...if it malfunctions then you will be paying much more.

We have been having ours cleaned/checked for the last few years. This year they found part of the chimney was cracked and leaking exhaust gasses into the house. $25 part and a total of $140 later we have a furnace we know we can count on to not leak CO2 or is it just CO? into the house and to heat it. The chances of the furnace dying at 6pm on Friday night (when a weekend service charge would be extreme) is slim.

My BIL who works on heaters and air conditioners suggested that a yearly checkup is a waste of money. He said almost 100% of the time he just cleans it and checks the filters something that is easy for a homeowner to do.

Once when our gas heater stopped working we were able to figure out what was wrong and he recommended a place to pick up a $25 part and we fixed it ourselves. It would have cost $300-400 to have it fixed professionally.

If you truly know what you're doing you certainly can save money by doing these things yourself. That said, I pay a heating contractor to check my furnace every year.

I also change the oil on my cars regularly. But I do that myself.

I think scrimping on regular, routine maintenance is penny wise and pound foolish.

I did it with my old gas furnace - it was over 25 years old when I finally decided to replace it last year along with my central A/C condenser and coil.

I may consider skipping service for the next few years as well. As it is new...

I do think it is a safety issue with an old furnace, so I'd check it every year.

One thing to consider. Your furnace will probably serve you for a few more years, but when the time comes that you feel like it is really close to the end, you may think of replacing it before waiting for it to break. Two reasons - 1) with my furnace every inspector was telling for many years how we need to replace it and every time they'd quote higher and higher price. Their estimates were rising by 10% every year. 2) the best time to find a good deal is March-April when the companies have nothing to do. At the same time, you don't have any pressure to replace it fast, and you can look for better deals. When you need to do it ASAP, not only they are busy, know that you are desperate so they give you higher estimate. I saved over 20% from the most recent estimate from the guy who did the inspection and I got a better model (Trane rather than Carrier), also more efficient one. Again, I am sure your furnace will work fine for several more years - mine was older, but it is something to keep in mind.

This is a very timely article and I really enjoyed the comments, as I've been debating whether or not to do this. We live in a house that's about 10 years old. This will be our second winter and we have not had it done. No idea if the previous owners did either.

I think the comments are going to encourage me to pick up the phone and make the call.

Thanks, all!

We have our furnace and air checked every year for home warranty purposes. That said, this year we didn't have the air checked before the cooling season and we have been without air since May and we are in GA. The service guy had to order parts to replace just about everything in our furnace because the home warranty company will only replace the unit if it can't be repaired. Needless to say, our unit is 21 years old and getting the parts were not easy. It will finally be fixed tomorrow.

As for the heat, I would strongly recommend you find a good service company through your utitility company's recommended contractor's list, companies they might subcontract work to, or a company recommended through your home warranty company, to come and service the furnace. The service should include cleaning the blower, the fan motor, changing the filter and checking all working parts for wear and tear. When you make the appointment with the service company, ask them what their service checks and make sure the technician that comes to the house follows what you were told by the main office.

If the service tech does find a problem with your system, it will be cheaper to fix it now before it goes out on the coldest night of the year and you can't get service for at least a week due to the same problem with other customers. If you have a home warranty and need something repaired or replaced, you can check with them while the tech is at your house and find out if that company can do the work and you would only have to pay the small co-pay charged by the home warranty company for any repairs that need to be made.

Location, location, location.
a 20 yr old system needs serious checking out.
now, how serious depends on where you live. AK, ID, ND, MN, ME are different than FL, LA, TX, S.CA..
a 20yr old system in any location will fail just depends on usage.
the questions to ask - can you and weakest member of family survive cold for 2-7days? do you have enough CO detectors (working)? do you and family members know the symptoms of low level CO Posioning?
do you like paying higher operating costs on an inefficient (long & short) system?
do you want to replace under your control or will you wait until it fails and you are under its control? We spent 2 months with out heater in N. TX. (20yrs old) cause the whole system needed replacing not just the heater.
the choice is your's . Do get multiple bids for comparison shopping.

We just got a new furnance when we moved into our new house. It runs like a champ.

That being said, I don't anticipate calling anyone to "inspect it" anytime soon. I've seen how "inspections" have worked when I rented, and I thought they were a huge rip off. I can see, and predict I will have someone look at it once every five or six years; but unless it catches fire, doesn't heat, or the carbon monoxide alarm goes off, it's like any other machine. How often do you have your hot water heater or stove checked?

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